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The practice hall was the Heliport. This was a huge, cavernous building on the edge of the bay between Mill Valley and Sausalito which housed a commercial chopper and seaplane service. The air service only took part of the building, and the rest was rented out to bands for practice halls. The helicopters made so much noise that a few rock bands didn't make much difference. We had one of the biggest rooms, at the top of a flight of stairs, and Terry lived there off and on even though no one was supposed to stay overnight. I contributed one of the decorations of the practice hall, an enlarged x-ray plate of my skeletal hand flipping the bird, a souvenir of working in an Army hospital. It was commandeered and hung in the window to entertain the troops in the parking lot.

Fat Tire Flyer

Kelly Moving


Sons of Champlin



The Ace of Cups had the primo location, a ground floor practice hall with a garage door, formerly occupied by Mike Bloomfield's Electric Flag. All our equipment had to be hauled up a flight of stairs to the hall, and when it came to the Hammond Organ, that isn't easy. The organ was topheavy, awkward, and had no handles. One guy had to get into the truck and pick up his end in a pose that no orthopedic specialist would recommend, while the other guy dragged an end out of the truck, then we both picked it up and staggered up the stairs. If the band was all there, four guys took it up, and it was easy, but after a gig Tooth and I had to put the gear back in the hall, because we had orders not to leave it overnight in the truck. This was a reasonable policy unless you had to do it at 4 a.m. after a 20-hour day. One of the factors that got me the roadie job was that I could take my half of the B-3 up the stairs.

Some of the other bands which practiced there were Quicksilver Messenger Service, Freedom Highway, and the Ace of Cups. These bands had in common the fact that they were managed by West Pole, a company loosely led by Ron Polte, the Quicksilver manager, and his brother Frank, who was the chief Quicksilver roadie. Ron also managed the Ace of Cups, an all-female band whose guitar player eventually married Fred Roth. West Pole associate George Smith managed Freedom Highway, a trio whose drummer, Bruce Brymer, would later sing a track on the third Sons album. Sons' manager Fred Roth worked for a time out of the West Pole offices in San Francisco during the period leading up to the first Capitol album.

Hanging around the hall one night, I was in the right place to catch a ride with Gary Duncan and David Freiberg of Quicksilver over to the Avalon. We rode in one of the generic Dodge surplus government cars that West Pole had bought at auction, and which were driven by the Quicksilver guys as well as the Ace of Cups women. Parking at the back door of the Avalon, we walked in with just a nod from Ben, the perennial security guard who knew who paid and who didn't. Quicksilver was San Francisco royalty. I don't even remember who was playing.



Although my time with the Sons overlapped Janis Joplin's career with Big Brother and the Holding Company, I only ran across her a couple of times. She was, along with Grace Slick, the local diva, and was herself royalty. The Sons never to my knowledge shared a bill with Big Brother, and I didn't run in Janis' circle, which by then included Albert Grossman and big industry wheels.

Big Brother was giving what was billed as a farewell performance at the Avalon Ballroom, which must have been late in 1968. On my way back from a gig in Palo Alto I dropped into the Avalon to catch some of their show, but I only saw the last few notes delivered to a wrung-out hysterical crowd, with no reference to what the band did to get them that way. Weird.

I hung around for a while after the show, because there were quite a few other people there whom I knew, and I saw Janis drop an empty Southern Comfort bottle into a wastecan. I retrieved it, and kept it for a number of years, but in the end it was just an empty booze bottle, and I discarded it.


The second time I met Janis made up for any I might have missed. By 1970 the Sons were in hiatus, and I was working as the sound guy at the Lion's Share, the local den of iniquity where a girl I knew to be all of 14 was working as a cocktail waitress and drugs were somewhat freely exchanged in the stinking cell that the bands retired to between sets.

The house band was the Nubugaloo Express, a loose-knit group of temporarily unemployed rockers. Keyboards were handled by either Bill Champlin or Mike Finnegan, later to play with the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, Dave Mason, Steve Stills, and a long list. Terry Haggerty shared the guitar duties with Danny Nudelman and Dave Schallock, who split their time on guitar and bass., and Dave Getz, late of Big Brother, was the drummer. As the sound-guy, freelance roadie, I handled whatever gear they needed moved, so when early in 1970 Big Brother planned to do a reunion show for huge money, Dave asked me to take his drums to Janis' house.

I found the house, which had a three-foot sculpted penis in the front yard, but no one answered my knock.

I drove back to a pay phone and called David. "What do I do? No one is home."

He told me, "They're in there, but they never answer the door. You have to just walk in."

"Okay Dave, if you say so."

So I went back and walked in Janis' front door, and Janis was indeed home, standing ten or fifteen feet from that same door. She was talking with another member of the band, and I cannot to this day say which it was, except I was reasonably sure it wasn't David because I had just talked to him at his house. Janis was wearing red panties and red shoes that matched her panties perfectly. I remember thinking, "Why the shoes?"

And I had my only ever conversation with Janis Joplin, and it went along these lines:

"Where would you like these drums?"

"Over there." And over there was where I put them.

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