Sunday, May 25, 2008

Charlatans (1969)

The Charlatans were the very first San Francisco underground rock band. At the start the group played Chuck Berry numbers and R&B standards like Got My Mojo Working and My Babe but gradually they evolved the folk rock repertoire for which they had become famous. Eventually the group were offered a residency at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada. Here The Charlatans acted as a magnet for the whole hippy scene. News of them soon got around and acid heads came from Reno, 'Frisco and as far afield as Seattle and Los Angeles to hear them play. The Red Dog Saloon predated any of the San Francisco venues, and at the time it was the only place on the West Coast where you could hear the new music. But things began to go wrong. Despite being packed almost every night, the saloon made a loss because no admission charge was levied so profits could only be made from beer and wine sales. The owner had left his 22 year old son in charge and was not pleased when he found, on returning to discover the reasons for this loss, that everyone was having a ball at his expense. To make matters worse his visit coincided with two members of the group getting busted on the way back from San Francisco with more drug supplies for the group. Eventually the band headed back to San Francisco for good, taking with them a reputation on a par with anybody. Before long, record companies began to take an interest in them and they eventually signed with the Lovin' Spoonful's label, Kama Sutra. In retrospect, they would have done better to wait for a company to offer them the sort of advance RCA had offered The Jefferson Airplane. The group cut a nine-track album for Kama Sutra which included the Buffy St. Marie song Codine (later recorded by many other 'Frisco bands), amazing versions of traditional songs like Alabama Bound and 32-20 Blues, and the old Coasters' song The Shadow Knows and two songs featuring Lynne Hughes, who worked as a barmaid at the Red Dog Saloon (and later sang with Tongue and Groove and Stoneground) on vocals - Side Track and I'd Rather Be The Devil. The Charlatans had wanted Codine backed by 32-20 released as a single, but the record company got cold feet because of the mention of 'drugs' in Codine and cut off all contact with the band. This was disasterous for The Charlatans and ironic when one considers that the song was condemning drugs rather than advocating their use. At this point, Mike Ferguson left the group to join Tongue and Groove with Lynne Hughes, to be replaced by Patrick Bogery, and Dan Hicks gave up the drums to concentrate on the rhythm guitar. So Terry Wilson, who had been playing with David LaFlamme and Jaime Leapold in a group called The Orkustra came in on the drums. But they struggled to get work and Hicks, Bogerty and Hunter left the group for good. Hicks to set up Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. The remaining three (Wilhelm, Olsen and Wilson) recruited a keyboard player Darryl De Vore and were determined to have a final fling. The tragic story of The Charlatans, probably one of San Francisco's most talented bands, that of a group taken for a ride by its record company, was sadly typical of this era.
(taken from "Fuzz, Acid & Flowers")

Their album (Philips PHS 600-309 / 1969) was a bit disappointing if you compare it with their earlier works but it's not a "mediocre affair" as it described in "Fuzz, Acid & Flowers". They did a competent version of Van Dyke Park's "High Coin" and "Time To Get Straight" is a fine folk rocker. Also notable is the last song "When The Movies Are Over", which is a weird and trippy number.

- High Coin
- Easy When I'm Dead
- Ain't Got The Time
- Folsom Prison Blues
- The Blues Ain’t Nothin'
- Time To Get Straight
- When I Go Sailin' By
- Doubtful Waltz
- Wabash Cannonball
- Alabama Bound
- When The Movies Are Over

Georger Hunter (vcls, harp) [ABC]
Mike Wilhelm (gtr) [ABD]
Mike Ferguson (piano) [AB]
Sam Linde (drms) [AB]
Dan Hicks (gtr, vcls) [BC]
Richard Olsen (bs) [ABCD]
(Lynn Hughes (guest vcls) [B])
Darryl de Vore (keybd’s) [D]
Terry Wilson (drms) [CD]
Patrick Bogerty (piano) [C]

Band origin:
San Francisco (California/US)

1. (B) Charlatans (Philips PHS 600-309) 1969

1. The Shadow Knows/32-20 (Kapp 779) 1965
2. High Coin/When I Go Sailin' By (Philips 40610) 1969

Get it here (Artwork included / vinyl rip)

Listen to High Coin


AgustinH said...

Oh man!...what a piece of album. I have it and it's wonderful...a must have for those who don't have it

Anonymous said...

Really a classic. Thankx for this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this album!