The Bay Area’s rock and roll roots run as deep as its fault lines and authors Mike Katz and Crispin Kott are on a quest to prove it. In Rock And Roll Explorer Guide to San Francisco and The Bay Area, the duo put together a collection of the various local venues, homes, and locations where rock n roll music history was birthed. Along its pages resides a carefully curated series of intriguing anecdotes and fascinating interviews that I guarantee you’ve never heard before.
Let’s face it, San Francisco is most famous for its 1960s hippie generation. Artists like Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, and Creedence Clearwater Revival all created such unforgettable psychedelic sounds that still echo to this day. The book so beautifully illustrates this and shows the reader where the artists lived and performed, as well as where they struck deals and at which local eateries they collaborated into the wee hours of the night.
But did you know — and without revealing too much from the book — that Howard Hessman, who played Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati, bartended at a place in North Beach where Janis Joplin performed? Or take the 1960s style wood building on the corner of Columbus and Jones Avenues, which currently houses the Consulate General for Indonesia. It was once the band headquarters for the legendary rock group Journey.
What many may also not be aware of is that before San Francisco became that iconic hippie wonderland we all think about today, much of the Fillmore neighborhood faced Urban Renewal during the 1950s. But just like the Phoenix rose from the flames, the assault on the existing vibrant music scene spawned some major key players. Musicians like Johnny Ottis, Etta James, and Sugar Pie Desanto all broke through as a result.
Yet this tour wouldn’t be complete without taking a look back at the punk scene that started in the late 70s.
Singer and songwriter Penelope Houston not only made history as the lead singer for The Avengers but documents it as the archivist for punk rock ephemera for the San Francisco Public Library. In fact, her band opened up for the Sex Pistols at Bill Graham’s Winterland Arena at what would become the Pistols’ last show.
Other fun facts in the book include former venues like the Stone where Metallica performed in the 1980s, which is not around anymore but its ghosts still haunt the area. Like the memorial plaque for original bassist Cliff Burton that stands proudly on the Barbary Coast Trail.
Whether you are traveling to the Bay Area or just wanting to get some insight into its rock history this book is packed with unique information coupled with timeless photos and iconic Fillmore era posters. So the next time you’re headed to your local bookstore, make sure to pick this one up and embark on a musical odyssey through space and time. Learn a thing or two about the rich musical upbringings of the San Francisco Bay Area, and rejoice in its often underestimated glory.
Note: This is the second in a series of explorer guides by Mike Katz and Crispin Kott.
Rock and Roll Explorer Guide to San Francisco and the Bay Area (2021) Rock and Roll Explorer Guide to New York City (2018) is out now on Globe Pequot.