Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2012
QUESTION: As a gift, I received a concert poster for a September 22-24, 1967 concern held at the Avalon Ballroom, located at Sutter & Van Ness, San Francisco, California. The Charlatans and Buddy Guy were the featured acts. The North American Ibis Alchemical Company provided the light show. The poster is signed “Fried 67,” “No. 83-1,” and “1967 © Family Dog Productions / 639 Gough St. / San Francisco, Calif. 94102.” Four lines at the bottom indicate ticket outlets. The poster is in very good condition. What is it worth? – RS, Mohonton, PA
ANSWER: In the 26-year history of “Rinker on Collectibles,” I do not remember devoting a question and answer column to a single question. I am breaking precedent to demonstrate how researching a single object can lead in many different and fascinating directions.
In the Fall 2010 semester at Western Connecticut State University, I joined with Prof. John Briggs, Prof. Ruth Gyurer, Prof. Edward Hagan, Prof. Richard Halliburton, Prof. Christopher Kukk, and Professor Eric Lewis to teach an honors course entitled “Wunderkammer of Knowledge: Exploring the hidden spirit behind science, art, creativity, and rational thought.” My role was to share with students the sense of wonder I found in objects. Using a Jack Armstrong All-American Boy decoder as an example, I spent 30 minutes showing students how to find dozens of stories inherent in this single object.
Over the years, I have encountered 1960s psychedelic art Avalon Ballroom posters at antiques and collectibles appraisal clinics, malls, shops, and shows. For the past several years, Pomegranate has issued a series of calendars featuring the poster art. When taping material for Discovery’s “Pop Nation” in Austin, I encountered a person with more than fifty 1960s Avalon Ballroom posters. One does not have to be stoned to appreciate the avant garde quality of artwork produced by the illustrators.
In 1911, The Colin Traver Academy of Dance erected a building at 1268 Sutter Street in the Polk Gulch neighborhood of San Francisco. In early 1966, Robert E. Cohen and Chet Helms leased the two top floors of the multi-story building. The ballroom dance area, approximately 100 feet by 180 feet and surrounded by an L-shaped balcony on the second floor, holds up to 500 participants. The performers play on an elevated stage in the northwest corner.
The Avalon Ballroom competed with concerts held at the Winterland Ballroom and The Fillmore, both larger venues. Concerts were held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and typically featured two bands playing two sets each. Cohen and Helms lost their lease in November 1968, each moving on to other ventures.
[See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalon_Ballroom for more information]
Chester Leo “Chet” Helms (8/2/42 to 6/25/05), the father of San Francisco’s “1967 Summer of Love,” founded and managed Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin, helped developed many other bands, and produced psychedelic light-shows at the Fillmore and Avalon Ballroom. Active in the Civil Rights movement, he arrived in San Francisco in 1962. In February 1966, Helms created Family Dog Productions, a concert promotion company. Its first Avalon Ballroom concert was in April 1966.
[See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chet_Helms for more information.]
Robert Cohen, a member of the Haight Ashbury Hall of Fame, created the sound system, noted for its high noise environment, at the Filmore. He carried his talents over to the Avalon Ballroom, expanding his interest to psychedelic lighting.
[Read Joe Selvin’s Summer of Love for more information.]
The North American Ibis Alchemical Company included Ben Van Meter, Marc Maxman, and others. Macman would eventually join Bob Pullum and Brian Eppes to found Ariel Transit, a light show company. Ariel Transit eventually became the Brotherhood of Light. When the North American Alchemic Company folded in 1968, the Brotherhood of Light bought 12 of its carousels.
Rick Griffin, Alton Kelly, Victor Moscovo, and Stanley Mouse are among the many illustrators who created the psychedelic art for the Avalon Ballroom posters. Bob Fried (4/7/37-1/1975) was the artist for the September 22-24, 1967 poster. Fried’s father was a well-known writer of scholarly works on horology. These books featured precisely drawn illustrations, some of which were done by his son Bob. Fried was a formally trained commercial artist, taking classes at the Pratt Institute when he was in his early teens and eventually studying graphs at New York City College. He won a scholarship and studied with Nicholas Crone at the Cooper Union. He received two consecutive Fullbright scholarships to Spain. After Spain, Fried and his wife Penelope moved to San Francisco so he could attend the San Francisco Art Institute. Fried was befriended by Victor Moscovo and Rick Griffin. His first poster work was for Family Dog. Penelope and Bob attended concerts at the Fillmore and Avalon Ballroom, often hanging out with performers back stage.
[See http://www.michaelerlewine.com/viewtopic.php?f=225&t=1119 for more information.]
The Charlatans were one of the first San Francisco psychedelic rock bands. The Charlatans break came in the summer of 1965 when they became the house band for the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada. The group held several recording sessions between 1965 and 1968, releasing “The Shadow Knows” as a single. Unfortunately for the group, it was not picked up by a major record label.
[See http://www.danhicks.net/amazingcharlatans.htm for more information.]
Buddy Guy, an American blues guitarist and singer, is one of the pioneers of the Chicago sound, influenced by the work of Muddy Waters. His career was well established by the time of his 1967 Avalon Ballroom appearance. Guy received his first record contract in 1958, eventually recording for Cobra Records. Chess Records released his “Left My Blues in San Francisco” album in 1967. Guy is viewed as a link between the blues and rock ‘n roll, impacting the work of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
[See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_Guy for more information.]
Robert Fried’s Avalon 1967 Ballroom September 22-24 poster, measuring 14in x 20in, was printed on uncoated index stock. In addition, three postcard versions, each measuring approximately 5in by 7in, were produced. The first has “place stamp here” on the reverse, the second a bulk rate permit, and the third the bulk rate permit and a mechanically produced address.
In researching values, I had difficulty distinguishing between values for reproductions and period pieces. The difficulty arose over the use of “original” in the advertisements. Original is one of those words in the antiques and collectibles trade that needs careful interpretation. Technically speaking, every object is original, whether reproduction or period.
Having researched other Avalon Ballroom posters in the past, I expected to find prices ranging upward from $250.00. If I interpret the listings I found correctly, this Fried poster is one of the least desirable and, hence, least expensive of the Avalon Ballroom posters. Prices for period examples in near mint condition range from $60.00 to $75.00; a bargain.
When asked what is sold in the antiques and collectibles trade, I often respond with “stories and dreams.” It is the stories that make objects come alive. The stories immerse the owner into a distinct time period, introducing him/her to the characters, mores, and values that comprise the era.This column just scratches the surface of one what can be learned from this Avalon Ballroom poster. While I lived during the Haight-Ashbury era, I was not an active participant in the “Summer of Love.” I was working my first job, paying a mortgage, and supporting a wife and child. I was tuned out when I should have been tuned in. While life is full of regrets, objects such as this Avalon Ballroom poster enable the formation of “what might have been” memories. Maybe another thing we sell in the trade is fantasies.
Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the twentieth century. Selected letters will be answered in this column. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Point Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You also can e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered.
You can listen and participate in WHATCHA GOT?, Harry’s antiques and collectibles radio call-in show, on Sunday mornings between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM Eastern Time. If you cannot find it on a station in your area, WHATCHA GOT? streams live on the Internet at www.gcnlive.com.
SELL, KEEP OR TOSS?: HOW TO DOWNSIZE A HOME, SETTLE AN ESTATE, AND APPRAISE PERSONAL PROPERTY (House of Collectibles, an imprint of Random House Information Group, $16.95), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via www.harryrinker.com.