Sunday, April 29, 2012


My version of an alternate cover for the first LP . Cut and Paste is so wonderful!
An early photo by Herb Greene of the newly formed band. The LaFlammes, Santos, Holman and Fuentes.

Now with Hal Wagenet1962: David LaFlamme, who has been playing violin since the age of 7 and has performed as a soloist with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, moves to San Francisco following a brief stint in the US Army Reserve. His intent: to become a professional musician. Over the course of the next two years he plays a variety of music in a number of different line-ups, including the John Handy Ensemble.

1963: David meets and marries his first wife, Linda, a talented composer and pianist.

1965: David puts together a group which performs rock music with an emphasis on both jazz and classical elements. He names it named The Electric Chamber Orkustra (the group's name is soon shortened to The Orkustra).

What starts as a weekly jam gathering in a metal-corrugated, dirt-floored tool shed off Cole Street in the Haight district of San Francisco gradually evolves into a stable six-person configuration as the same people keep showing up. In marked contract to the folk-rock/Beatlemania craze sweeping the nation at the time, the Orkustra features violin, oboe, and drums - no guitar. David writes most of the group's music as well as playing his innovative electric violin; his wife, Linda, is the group's manager and pianist. Jaime Leopold, later with Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, is a member, as is Bobby Bobosol, who four years later gains renown of another sort as a member of the Manson family.

Listen to an early version of "Bombay Calling" by the Orkustra.

1965-1967: During the period 1965 to the Summer of 1967, The Orkustra plays several times at two of the most popular concert halls and clubs in San Francisco: the Avalon Ballroom and the Matrix. The group performs as a part of a CBS special called "San Francisco Scene", televised in 1965 and highlighting various upcoming rock groups and artists in and around the San Francisco area. The Orkustra also appears in a movie produced by Dick Clark about San Francisco and its burgeoning music scene, and performs on several programs on the local education television station in San Francisco as part of the station's fund raising activities.

Early 1967: While keeping The Orkustra going, David begins playing with Dan Hicks, at that time still a member of The Charlatans. As The Charlatans begin to fall apart, Hicks forms his own band, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, a quintet featuring old-time "hokum" music. David joins the new band, as does Jaime Leopold. With the addition of two female singers, Hicks and the Licks open for The Charlatans at a show at the Matrix in San Francisco. In April, Ralph Gleason of the San Francisco Chronicle catches a Hicks performance and gives the band "a positively glowing" review.

June 1967: With the Summer of Love coming to life all around, David realizes that, although The Orkustra has been somewhat successful, it needs the services of a personal manager. Linda has decided to concentrate on performing music, and the group basically is without a manager and suffering from a lack of business direction.

July 1967: In June Linda hears of someone with a reputation of experience in managing rock artists. David, frustrated by The Electrik Orkustra apparently going nowhere, is convinced by Linda to talk to this person - a certain Matthew Katz. Together they journey to Washington Street in San Francisco to meet Katz at his offices.

Until recently Katz has been managing Jefferson Airplane but has run afoul of them . Emerging battered but not beaten from his experience with the Airplane, the would-be rock impresario decides to apply his dubious talents in a new direction. Billing himself as "the behind the scenes pied piper of the love generation", he has come up with a sure-fire thing: think up some catchy band names and then get musicians to fill in. Katz has created names for these as-yet-non-existent bands:

Moby Grape

Indian Puddin' and Pipe

Tripsichord Music Box

… and It's A Beautiful Day

As the Summer Of Love starts to gather momentum, Katz, having successfully spun off Moby Grape, begins to assemble the musicians who will be It's A Beautiful Day. He has already made a rare find in Pattie Santos, then only 18 years old and working as a check-out clerk in a supermarket. Recognizing her talent Katz has gathered some backing musicians to support her and the band has begun to rehearse.

In their first meeting with Katz, David and Linda explain their situation to Katz. They have been performing with The Orkustra, but with Linda devoting less and less time to managing the group, they need a manager. Is he interested? Katz listens intently; he tells them he can certainly provide the managerial services they need.

But after several meetings it becomes apparent he's not all that interested in The Orkustra. He has loftier goals - he sees the potential in the LaFlammes. He tells David and Linda that he believes they should place a greater emphasis on the vocal sound in their music. The Orkustra, he implies, isn't the vehicle for their talents.

Katz tells them of his idea for a group using male and female vocals and performing light music such as that which had been used with great success by The Mamas and Papas, who were still very popular at the time. He has gathered some musicians to rehearse with and be the backing band for a talented 17-year-old vocalist named Pattie Santos, who Katz had found while she was working as a check-out clerk in a grocery store.

Katz finally asks the big question: Are David and Linda interested in rehearsing with the musicians he has assembled under the name It's A Beautiful Day? Will they audition for him?

Until Katz mentions the name It's A Beautiful Day, neither David nor Linda had heard of the group. David later says that he personally had an instant dislike for It's A Beautiful Day because in his opinion it was too "airy" and lacked substance. He tells Katz that he prefers to keep the name The Orkustra which already has some established value and recognition.

But under Katz' pressure David decides to give up using the name The Orkustra as the name for the group and to take the steps necessary to form what he hopes would be a successful group, under the name It's A Beautiful Day. Katz, in turn, states that he will provide managerial services for the group.

August-November 1967: By August , David and Linda have begun rehearsals with Pattie Santos and certain other members of The Orkustra. During the autumn months of 1967, they rehearse virtually every day with various musicians with the idea of attempting to develop a sound of their own.

In addition to writing almost all of the music which the group rehearsed (some of the songs being co­written with Linda) and playing the electric violin, David is also fully in charge of auditioning and developing the other artists who were to perform in the group.

As was Katz, David is immediately impressed by Pattie Santos. While she already has a fine voice, she has only just graduated from an all girls high school where her only singing experience is in an a cappella choir. She has no stage experience or presence and David undertakes to develop this aspect of her career.

During this time of crafting the It's A Beautiful Day sound, David concludes that the drummer and bass player from The Orkustra ,who have been rehearsing with the group, should not be part of the new group he is trying to form. He begins to hunt about for replacements.

Among the many musicians who have flocked to San Francisco are a drummer named Val Fuentes, and a bass player named Mitch Holman, both 18 years old and living in a paneled truck where they keep all of their equipment. David is introduced to Mitch and Val by a mutual acquaintance. Shortly after meeting them and asking them if they would be interested in auditioning for the group, their truck is broken into and all of their equipment is taken. Mitch and Val are forced to move into the apartment Linda and David have rented until David is able to arrange for loans for them so that they can purchase new equipment. After several audition sessions, Val and Mitch become members of the group which now consists of David, Linda, Pattie, Val and Mitch.

By this time David has emerged as the group's musical director. He is the one who will usually originate the idea for a song, explain how he believes it should be developed, and try to blend the instruments and voices into a coordinated sound. Pattie, Linda, Val, and Mitch are excellent and talented musicians in their own right, but David has taken on the task of developing the group's sound.

Meanwhile, their "manager" is noticeably absent from the scene. According to David, at no time does Katz compose any music for the group, nor does he take an active role in rehearsals: in fact, he attends rehearsals only on a sporadic basis and has no meaningful input into the direction of the rehearsals. It begins to appear to the band that Katz does not really know anything about music or to be able to make a contribution to their sound.

Not only that, Katz' shortcomings as a concert promoter are becoming evident. By November, Katz appears to still be making no progress toward obtaining any performance dates for the band in the San Francisco area; nor has he started negotiations which might lead to a recording contract for the group with a major record label -- both of which are expectations by the band of performance on Katz' part.

By early November, the band's strained relationship with its manager is becoming very troubling for David and Linda. At the time they first had conversations with Katz, they put their trust and confidence in him since they thought he would lend a direction that The Orkustra lacked.

In a stormy meeting, expectations of the band about Katz' role are made clear to him: the group needs direction and management and someone to start opening doors for them; the group is interested in making major appearances in San Francisco; and the group expects him to use his influence to obtain a major recording contract. Katz continues to assure them that he has the necessary connections and is taking steps in those directions. However, as the months pass with no contribution by Katz, the relationship deteriorates. During this period the band is receiving virtually no income from its music, and David has to take on an outside furniture moving job to support himself and Linda.

December 1967: Katz arranges for It's A Beautiful Day to play a series of concert dates in Seattle at a ballroom called The Encore Ballroom. However, Katz says, he cannot guarantee the group any compensation for the concerts, except that certain of their expenses will be paid. The idea of playing in far-off Seattle does not go over well with the band. They don't understand how Katz is able to land a concert date in Seattle but can't get them any engagements in San Francisco They also tell him of their concern over spending several weeks away from San Francisco without any guarantee of compensation.

Katz replies that the group should rely on his judgment, that it is important for them to get some exposure and that paid engagements and a recording contract would come later. Naively, they believe him.

The group performs at The Encore Ballroom in Seattle under the name It's A Beautiful Day each Friday and Saturday night for four or five weekends ­ two shows per night ­ during the month of December. For those performances, each member is paid $20.00 -- for the entire month, not per night or performance.

While in Seattle, David and Linda compose what will become their most well-known song. David tells the story:
"We were living in the attic of an old Victorian house in Seattle, and performing at the Encore Ballroom. t was a typical Seattle winter day, rainy and drizzly, and we were looking out from the attic window over the street in front of this old house. It was on Capitol Hill, the old section of town across from Volunteer Park. There was a statue of some famous general right across the street in the park.

"The song describes the picture Linda and I saw as we looked out this little window in this attic. We had a little Wurlitzer portable piano sitting right in the well of this window, and I'd sit and work on songs. When you hear lines like, 'the leaves blow across the long black road to the darkened sky and its rage,' it's describing what I was seeing out the window.

"Where the 'white bird' thing came from ... We were like caged birds in that attic. We had no money, no transportation, the weather was miserable. We were just barely getting by on a very small food allowance provided to us. It was quite an experience, but it was very creative in a way."

January 1968: After returning to San Francisco from the Seattle concerts, matters with Katz come to a head. The band confronts him with their frustrations: he has contributed virtually nothing to the group, that whatever they have attained is a result of their own talent and hard work, and that he has taken advantage of the band regarding the Seattle concerts.

By this time the band members have been in the music business long enough to know what to expect from a manager who is doing their job, and they've concluded that he has little or no interest in providing the management services they contracted with him for. At best, they feel, Katz' activities during the period of August to December 1967 have been the sort of activities a second-rate concert promoter might perform.

For these reasons, the members of the group decide to terminate their association with Katz and go on their own. After January 1968, they have no further association with Katz -- other than in the long-drawn-out legal nightmare he later creates for them.

History Of A Band Compiled by Chuck Flood


bd said...

Very informative and interesting, and please, continue the story of IABD.

Funny, I'd always associated 'White Bird' as being part and parcel of the San Francicco scene, when in fact it's a Seattle-oriented song!

so what happens with them and Katz?

Anonymous said...

I live in Seattle,(.."rain grey town, known for it's sound"..(Byrds)! I do know of the area where IABD must have been in, looking out a window at Volunteer Park across the street. 1972, I was living and studying modern dance in San Francisco, a girl friend of Hal's asked him to compose and record a piece of music for us. We performed the dance with his song. (a rare opportunity!) ("Aphrodite" is mentioned in the song that is all I remember)

24HOURDEJAVU said...

A very fascinating remembrance. thanks for your comment and story of....

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