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5 May 2017

Wildflower San Franjisco Psych Rock

Wildflower  San Franjisco Psych Rock
Wildflower “ “Forty Years in the Blink of an Eye” new  CD….listen…..
Wildflower were formed in Oakland in 1965. All of the band members were students at the California College of Arts and Crafts. Francisco folk rock group who released one single in 1966. They contributed 4 tracks to a compilation in 1967, two of which were the tracks from the single. Uncertain when the group formed or split up…………… 

The Wildflower were pretty big players in the San Francisco folk-rock scene – they played the opening night of the Avalon Ballroom with the Grateful Dead, played some of the earliest gigs held at the Fillmore Auditorium and Straight Theater, toured Canada with the Youngbloods, and were one of the first SF groups to tour on the East Coast. They had connections in the literary world of San Francisco as well; famed Beat poet Michael McClure was known to collaborate with them. They appeared in The Maze, a 1967 TV documentary about San Francisco music. 

Despite these credentials, they only managed to release one single, “Baby Dear“, which failed to chart. They released a few more tunes on the compilation album A Pot of Flowers, but their recorded legacy still only includes four songs. I’m not sure why they recorded such little material – perhaps they preferred to concentrate on their live act. 

The band formed in October 1965. The core lineup included Stephen Ehret on rhythm guitar, Michael Brown on lead guitar, John Jennings on bass, Teddy Schneider on bongos, and Tom Ellis on drums. Ellis left for about a year to go to school and was replaced by Larry Duncan, and Schneider left in January of 1967. The band broke up in the winter of 1968, and would reform in 1971 for about a year with Roger Cruz on bass. 

The band reformed again in 2008 (sans Schneider) and are active today…………. 

Around 1960 a folk music scene began to emerge on the SF peninsula around the learning centers of Stanford and the College of San Mateo. Keplers bookstore, St. Michael’s Alley and the Tangent in Palo Alto, the Off Stage in San Jose, and the Gaslight in San Mateo became centers for pickin’ and singin’. By 1963 a full fledged folk music scene with groups like The Faux Pas, Mother McRee’s Uptown Jug Band Champions, The Black Mountain String Band, Orpheus’ Children, The Liberty Hill Aristocrates and The Southgate Singers were playing at venues like the La Honda Folk Music Festival or the Peninsula YMCA alongside soloists like Cathy Poole, Chuck McCabe, Jim Docker and Karen Wendling. 
The musicians soon ventured north to San Francisco’s North Beach to Coffee and Confusion, the Coffee Gallery and The Drinking Gourd playing with SF folk groups like the Town Cryers while the Kingston Trio were playing the Hungry I and Peter Paul and Mary were playing The Purple Onion. 
In 1964 a grand folk festival was held at The College of San Mateo featuring Jessie “Lone Cat ” Fuller who wrote San Francisco Bay Blues, Ellen Faust, Pat Kilroy and bands like The Black Mountain String Band with Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead) and David Nelson (New Riders of the Purple Sage), the Liberty Hill Aristocrats with Peter Albin (Big Brother and the Holding Co.) and The Southgate Singers with Stephen Ehret (Wildflower). This was the turning point. Dylan had just played here and the Beatles were playing on the cafeteria sound system. 
Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters set out on the Magic bus in June and returned in August to begin holding Acid Tests. From here the music moved north to San Francisco and rock bands formed and began playing small clubs like the Matrix and in Berkeley at the Bair’s Lair. 
By 1966 benefit concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium were organized and bands from across the bay…Country Joe and the Fish, the Mystery Trend and Wildflower, joined the Jefferson Airplane, Gratetful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Co, Sopwith Camel and the Charlatans. 

The San Francisco Sound and Scene was being born.. 

In 1965, “The Wildflower” began at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland with John Jennings on bass, Stephen Ehret on rhythm guitar, Tom Ellis on drums, Teddy Schneider played percussion, Lee Chandler on guitar and the whole band sang. Stephen wrote songs for the band and also collaborated with poets, Michael McClure and Michael McCausland as well as the rest of the guys. Lee Chandler left to persue an acting career and Michael Brown joined on lead guitar. The band was soon playing venues all around the Bay Area and was one of the original psychedelic 60s groups developing the San Francisco Sound that reached maturity during the Summer of Love. 
In the summer of 1966, they alternated weekends with Big Brother & the Holding Co. at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City. They played both the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms, The Matrix, Straight Theater, The Tripps Festival and toured extensively. (see Wildflower Live Performance History link at the top of the page) 
In late ‘66, Tom left to finish his education and Larry Duncan took over drums until his return. Teddy left the band before a tour back East. Following that tour, “The Wildflower” went to Canada with “The Youngbloods” and recorded with producer Jerry Corbitt. While Jerry was in New York negotiating a contract with Vanguard, after 4 years and just when it seemed their commercial success was secure, they disbanded (a story in itself). 
Michael Brown became a cast member in Hair. Stephen built a recording studio at the legendary Project One in S.F., documented in the book: How to Build a Small Budget Recording Studio. And it was there that the newly reunited Wildflower, with the addition of Roger Cruz of Hair fame, made the “unplugged” recordings you can hear on the “Archive Music” page. 
Featured in movies and documentaries about the S.F. rock scene and immortalized in psychedelic poster art, the Wildflower remains a part of the colorful tapestry that was the magic of the sixties.. 

Of all the bands that made up the mid-‘60s San Francisco scene, the Wildflower may have been the perfect conglomeration of Haight Street expectations. Combining the streamlined, jet-age folk-rock sound of Takes Off-era Jefferson Airplane, jammy aspects of the Grateful Dead, the pretty harmonies of Sopwith Camel and We Five, bluesy numbers like Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the folk punk of the Harbinger Complex, the Wildflower were not some cheap imitation of these groups. They were contemporaries of them, sharing smoky nightclubs and ballroom stages from day one. And though they were there from the beginning, were courted and trotted out with the best of them, the Wildflower never landed “the big one,” and thus, sadly and unfairly, have remained but a footnote in San Francisco music history. 
The Wildflower was born in a time before the whole world knew about San Francisco and the fun its denizens were having. The Beat scene of North Beach had been slowly evolving into something new. The area around Haight and Ashbury, near where the universities were, was a low-rent paradise filling up with creative young people, recently untethered from their families and ready to try just about anything. But as more and more people arrived to take part in the celebration, things started to take a turn. By the time Surrealistic Pillow hit the racks at Magic Flute, exploitative articles declaring the Haight a hippy haven filled the pages of mainstream rags like Look and Life. People began piling into the City by the busload and things quickly became messy and overcrowded. “Not since the California Gold Rush had San Francisco been flooded with such a large group of outsiders carrying dreams and little else,” wrote Pam Tent in her Cockettes memoir Midnight at the Palace. Listening to Love is the Song We Sing, Rhino Record’s recently released history of the Bay Area rock scene, you can actually hear the dissolution of the fraternity. Things get horny and more bombastic post-‘67. For the most part harmonies go out there door in favor of scorching leads and caterwauling vocals. By 1969 the best days of San Francisco were way behind it. 

The Wildflower got their start in Oakland in ’65 and quickly got to gigging ‘round Bay Area venues like the Straight Theatre, the Fillmore, Avalon Ballroom, and even the Red Dog Saloon up in Virginia City where the Charlatans did their thang. Like the Dead, the Wildflower had a poet on the payroll—Michael McCausland—who, as Robert Hunter did for Jerry and co., tossed down heady lyrics for the guys to twang behind. And twang they did. Their harmonious Frisco folk rock is pretty much what you’d describe if you were trying to nail down a definition of “that” sound. Only better. The bad news is the only thing ever released back then were four tracks they contributed to the A Pot of Flowers comp—Mainstream’s stab at documenting the Frisco hippy scene (two of ‘em came out as a single as well). But what songs they were. Jangly and oftentimes mystical, they sit confidently alongside the other (absolutely killer) Bay Area groups on the record, the Otherside and Harbinger Complex. 
The good news is that lead Flower Stephen Ehret thought it would be a good idea to go back in the studio now and record all the old songs that never made it to tape. My own modern recording prejudices aside, the results are pretty darned good. The harmonies are still there, in that haunting post-folk way that only kids who lived crowded together in Victorians could achieve. First there’s “Message to You”—uncannily catchy, a little mellowed with age, but take away the feelgoodness and it’s a Markley-esque ditty with great self-introspection lyrics (something the Wildflower is good at if you’ve heard their “Wind Dream”). “Please Come Home” suffers the most from… uhhh, technology, but underneath the Heavy Metal Pedal the secret’s revealed as to where Paul Kantner got his ideas for Blows Against the Empire. “Of Planets, Mirrors, and Men” has a haunting New Age Native/American vibe (in a good way!) and is reminiscent melody-wise of “Ripple” which it probably predates. “On Even Red” is a simply fantastic combo of Brautigan sincerity and get-chicks harmonies (pretty much the same thing I guess)—a tune criminally missing from our psyche for the last forty years. A song like “In My Mind,” with its “Hi–de-hi” verse easing into the heavier chorus must’ve been a trip live had we all been around to catch it. You can’t have it all, but stuff like this kinda makes up for it. 

ERIC BLUHM Ugly-Things magazine………………….. 


Stephen Ehret vocals/12 string/bass 
John Jennings vocals/bass/guitar 
Michael Brown vocals/guitar 
Tom Ellis drums/percussion 
Felix Bannon lead guitar 
Robert South keyboards 
Kenny Blacklock penneywhistle 
Michael McCausland lyrics 

The Songs 
1. Message To You 
2. Please Come Home 
3. Look Out Your Window 
4. A Change Today 
5. How Fast You Got To Go 
6. Funny Too 
7. Ancient Blue 
8. Lonesome Don’t You Fall On Me 
9. Wind Dream 
10. Saturday’s Mind 
11. Coffee Cup 
12. In My Mind 
13. On Even Red 
14. Of Planets, Mirrors and Man 

Baby Dear / Wind Dream, The Wildflower, 1966, Mainstream 659 

A Pot Of Flowers" Various Artists, 1967 
“"Forty Years in the Blink of an Eye” CD 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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