Artist Workshop West: The Family Dog


“A substantial group of Workshop founders and regulars migrated to San Francisco during the 60s and, as a group, founded the Family Dog for purposes of creating concert venues for member bands and musicians. Among them were James Gurley (founder of Big Brother & the Holding Company), Jim Moilanen, Nancy Madison, David Homicz (David’s dog “Sancho” was the original family dog), Robert Dries, Stanley Mouse, Alan Stone, Martin Gorak and Rita Phelan. The Dog Tribe rented the Avalon, Fillmore and other ballrooms, effectively sparking the “Psychedelic” music and art movement in San Francisco.” –Richard Tobias, Tribes of the Cass Corridor

“On June 1, 1965, the Charlatans began an extended residency at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada, just across the border from Northern California. This two-month-long stint was important for at least two reasons. First, Charlatans guitarist Mike Ferguson produced a rock concert poster in advance of the residency to promote these performances. This poster — identified by poster art enthusiasts as “The Seed” — is almost certainly the first psychedelic concert poster. Later in the year, San Francisco’s Family Dog organization copied the idea to promote their concert productions. In 1966, when the Fillmore Auditorium began booking rock acts nightly, they, too, used the idea. Through to the end of the decade, rock concert poster artwork became a mainstay of San Francisco’s music scene, led by poster artists Wes Wilson, Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, and Victor Moscoso.” —The Flying Snail

“LSD manufacturer Owsley Stanley lived in Berkeley during 1965 and provided much of the LSD that became a seminal part of the “Red Dog Experience”, the early evolution of psychedelic rock and budding hippie culture. At the Red Dog Saloon, The Charlatans were the first psychedelic rock band to play live (albeit unintentionally) loaded on LSD. When they returned to San Francisco, Red Dog participants Luria Castell, Ellen Harman and Alton Kelley created a collective called “The Family Dog.” Modeled on their Red Dog experiences, on October 16, 1965, the Family Dog hosted “A Tribute to Dr. Strange” at Longshoreman’s Hall. Attended by approximately 1,000 of the Bay Area’s original “hippies”, this was San Francisco’s first psychedelic rock performance, costumed dance and light show, featuring Jefferson Airplane, The Great Society and The Marbles. Two other events followed before year’s end, one at California Hall and one at the Matrix. After the first three Family Dog events, a much larger psychedelic event occurred at San Francisco’s Longshoreman’s Hall. Called “The Trips Festival”, it took place on January 21–January 23, 1966, and was organized by Stewart Brand, Ken Kesey, Owsley Stanley and others. Ten thousand people attended this sold-out event, with a thousand more turned away each night. On Saturday January 22, the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company came on stage, and 6,000 people arrived to imbibe punch spiked with LSD and to witness one of the first fully developed light shows of the era…”

“In February 1966, Chet Helms formed a loose connection with the Family Dog, a commune of hippies living at 2125 Pine street who threw open dances and wild events.Helms was the ideal person to help this group organize their presentations and he moved into the Family Dog house. Their first formal production was a concert at Longshoremen’s Hall. Helms formally founded Family Dog Productions to begin promoting concerts at The Fillmore Auditorium, alternating weekends with another young promoter, Bill Graham. As the concerts became more popular, inevitable “conflicts” arose between the two promoters, based in part on the notion that public conflict and controversy could generate free publicity. Within a few months Helms secured the permits necessary to host events at the Avalon Ballroom, an old dancehall located at the corner of Sutter and Van Ness. Big Brother and the Holding Company debuted there in June 1966. Later Helms would get them the appearance that made them famous, the Monterey Pop Festival where Albert Grossman spotted Joplin and offered her a contract.” –Source: Wikipedia, Hippies / Chet Helms

“To spread the word about its live events, The Family Dog hand-picked a small army of graphic artists to design promotional posters and handbills. The most influential of the group became known as the “San Francisco Five.” This extremely creative crew was comprised of Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse and Wes Wilson. They would go on to produce some of the most iconic and memorable imagery in the history of rock and roll.

The art of The Family Dog captures the spirit of free expression. It reflects the bold experimental freedom of the era, and it serves as a guidepost for future generations who long for peace, love and understanding.” —The Family Dog, history

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