Finding a poster or a set of posters associated with a particular music venue is easy at Classic Posters. Whether you are seeking to collect a set of posters and handbills for a single venue, or looking for a single poster for a concert held on a specific date at a specific venue, by using Classic Poster’s Search by Venue Index you will have access to a comprehensive database of posters printed to promote events at more than 300 live performance music venues throughout the United States and Canada — places on the map for performers and bands on tour in the 60s and 70s.
The following section presents a chronology of the venue happenings, performers, and classic concert posters that marked the beginning of the psychedelic poster art era:
August 13,1965 — The Matrix presents Jefferson Airplane. The Matrix at 3138 Fillmore St., San Francisco, CA is opened by Marty Balin and his father Joe. Though they intend the pizza-and-beer establishment to primarily be a place for Marty’s new group Jefferson Airplane to perform, The Matrix — as the first “long-hair” club in San Francisco—goes on to feature the San Francisco debuts and critical early performances of many performers who would later become famous. Asked about the unusual name, they tell a reporter Matrix means “a place where something of value originates and develops.” In late 1966, Victor Moscoso contracts to provide the Matrix with several hundred posters every week, and thus is born the famous Neon Rose poster series.
October 16, 1965 — Chet Helms promotes the first Family Dog Dance at Longshoreman’s Hall, 400 North Point St., San Francisco, CA and presents Jefferson Airplane, Charlatans, Marbles, Great Society, Russ “The Moose” Syracuse is MC (FD-I A Tribute to Dr Strange, Ami Magill, Alton Kelley)
December 10, 1965 — The Fillmore Auditorium at 1805 Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, built in 1906, is first rented to Bill Graham for a show featuring Jefferson Airplane, Great Society, Mystery Trend, Warlocks, John Handy Quintet, Gentlemen’s Band.
1966 — All Year: Music, acid tests and 60s Counterculture—south of San Francisco, in the Santa Cruz mountains. At The Barn and other Santa Cruz Mountain clubs recently formed bands like Big Brother and the Holding Company and Country Joe and the Fish work out before lively and expressive audiences of bikers and hippies. Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters reside nearby, establishing this area as the home office for 1960s counterculture, Acid Tests and The Psychedelic Experience. Handbills for Prankster events often are designed and printed by Contact Printing Co., San Francisco, where printer Bob Carr and his assistant/partner Wes Wilson also print for the S.F. Mime Troupe and for the Family Dog Collective.
January 21, 1966 — The Trips Festival at Longshoremen’s Hall, a three-day event featuring the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Loading Zone, Chinese New Years’ Lion Dancers and Drum and Bugle Corps, Stroboscopic Trampoline, and Ken Kesey and His Merry Pranksters. Merry Prankster Stuart Brand orchestrates the event with S.F. Mime Troupe Business Manager Bill Graham, who runs the door. The Trips Festival is where Jerry Garcia meets Bill Graham.
Garcia recalled: “Here’s this guy running around with a clipboard … in the midst of total insanity. I mean total wall to wall gonzo lunacy. Everybody in the place is high but Bill. And I was having the greatest time in the world … It was a great, incredible scene, and I was wandering around. I had some sense that the Grateful Dead was supposed to play sometime maybe. But it really didn’t matter. We were used to Acid Tests where sometimes we’d play and sometimes we wouldn’t … Anyway, I was standing out there wandering around and my attention was drawn to this opaque projector projecting on to one of the many screens in the place. And the screen said, ‘JERRY GARCIA, PLUG IN!’”
Garcia discovered his guitar had been knocked over and the bridge broken off when Graham appeared and told him to start playing. “…I gesture to the guitar and I say, ‘It broke. Broke, you know?’ And Bill looks down at it. Immediately, without saying a word, he falls down onto the ground and starts picking up the pieces. He fumbles around with them trying to fix it for me. Nobody cares whether I play or not, you know. But here’s this guy trying to fix my guitar for me. I just thought it was the most touching thing I’d ever seen … Here’s this guy who doesn’t know anything about guitars and he’s trying to fix mine … I thought, ‘What a nice guy.’”
— From Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock And Out By Bill Graham, Robert Greenfield, Doubleday, 1992
February 1, 1966 — Bill Graham leases the Fillmore Auditorium. A watershed event for live music in San Francisco. He presents Jefferson Airplane on Feb. 4-6 as his first Fillmore show under the new lease (BG-1). Later in the month, Chet Helms forms Family Dog Productions to begin promoting concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium, alternating weekends with the Graham shows. Family Dog’s first show at the Fillmore, “Tribal Stomp,” is held on February 19, 1966 (FD-1). Wes Wilson works with Chet to create posters for the FD concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium. Wilson also becomes the primary poster artist for 1966-67 BG shows.
April 22-23, 1966 — The first FD show at the Avalon Ballroom. After a few months of public wrangling with Bill Graham, Chet Helms moves his weekly events to the Avalon Ballroom at 1268 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA. An old dancehall, Avalon Ballroom is ideal for the spectacular light shows he has become known for staging. His first concert features The Blues Project and Great Society (FD-5 Wes Wilson). In June, Stanley Mouse joins the FD poster design team; Family Dog Collective co-founder and poster artist Alton Kelley re-joins it to launch a series of psychedelic posters that energize the counterculture that is developing in San Francisco. They are in full swing when Victor Moscoso returns in October to design FD-32.
September 23, 1966 — Bill Graham presents his first concert at Winterland (BG-29), an ice arena a few blocks from the Fillmore Auditorium. Concerts at Winterland featured bands like The Byrds, Procol Harum, Pink Floyd, Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Doors, Donovan, B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, The Who, Chicago, Cream, Blood Sweat & Tears and Traffic, as well as all the top San Francisco bands. Graham’s last show at Winterland in the BG series (BG-282) was held on May 29, 1971.
October 6, 1966 — The Grande Ballroom is launched in the Motor City by “Uncle” Russ Gibb. Russ Gibb has been hosting regular dances at a Detroit club called the Pink Pussycat, and is a DJ at WKMH and WKNR, when, in September 1966 he attends the wedding of D.J. friend Jim Dunbar in San Francisco. An evening out on the town with the wedding party includes accepting a radio industry invite to Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium to see a new band called the Byrds. Russ is amazed at the “kids” paying to hear new groups perform original music at the Fillmore and queries Bill Graham on everything from ticket sales to strobe lights. Seeking to recreate the Fillmore experience in Detroit, he leases an old big-band ballroom located at 8592 Grand River Avenue, and the Grande Ballroom is born. Russ also teams with writer John Sinclair, who is managing a local band called the MC5. Gibb books the band to play the Grande’s opening night and is visiting MC5 frontman Rob Tyner’s home when he asks the singer if he knows of any graphic artists who could design a poster for the event.
Seated at Tyner’s kitchen table is Gary Grimshaw who gets hired and goes on to become the primary poster and light show artist for the Grande Ballroom in its early years. Grimshaw creates some of the most famous images connected to the Grande on his way to emerging as one of America’s most influential poster artists. The Grande Ballroom opens on October 6, 1966. By July 1967, Russ Gibb has booked Jefferson Airplane, the Chambers Brothers, and Cream, and is booking a string of major bands to present in 1968 at the Grande and at larger venues that include the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum and Cobo Arena in Detroit, and the CNE Coliseum in Toronto. While Gibb’s 1968 concerts feature Big Brother & The Holding Company, Byrds, Canned Heat, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Who, Doors, Procul Harum, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and many others, his stage is also open to the best local talent, including his now-famous house band, the MC5.
July 5, 1968 — Bill Graham opens Fillmore West soon after opening Fillmore East. Bill Graham takes over San Francisco’s well-known Carousel Ballroom, renaming it Fillmore West as a companion venue to Fillmore East, that he had opened in New York City on March 8, 1968.
August 15-17, 1969 — Dairy farm venue makes history. In 1969, four concert promoters rent the Max Yeager Dairy Farm in Bethel, New York, a town so small that the promoters name the event they are planning after the nearest less-tiny town — Woodstock. When 500,000 people find Woodstock to celebrate “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music,” the promoters’ event makes history and launches bands like Santana and Sly and the Family Stone on a national stage.
The Austin Music Scene Enters the 70s. Austin welcomes the decade of the 70s with the August 7,1970 opening of The Armadillo World Headquarters to provide a venue for local acts like Willie Nelson, Asleep At The Wheel, Eric Johnson, and others who might share the stage with talent like Bill Monroe, a young Bruce Springsteen, an unknown Emmylou Harris, Ray Charles, Frank Zappa or The Grateful Dead. The AWHQ is more than a performing hall — it is a main South Austin community gathering place and an arts collective. AWHQ artists include: Jim Franklin (JFKLN), Ken Featherston, Michael Priest, and Guy Juke, who create poster art and album covers that become known worldwide.