‘Imagine us dressed up like the Beau Brummels’
Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady are among the 90 musicians and crew members interviewed in the new book Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever. In this excerpt Casady and Kaukonen, who played Fillmore East with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, discuss the outsized presence of impresario Bill Graham.
Jorma Kaukonen: Bill was such a force in everybody’s life. His world revolved around him but if you’re in his planetary orbit, it certainly served your purpose as well as long as he liked you. He did like us most of the time. Bill was the most organized, obviously, of the San Francisco promoters. You can talk about Chet Helms of the Family Dog or any of these other people and they were certainly significant but what Bill did had very long legs and outlasted the ’60s by decades.
We had him on our side for much of the time and then he was our manager briefly, so he could guide us. But Bill didn’t play well with others. And one of the things when we parted company with him, he was always trying to move people in an image that he thought was suitable for whatever purposes he had in mind. And I remember that he started talking about a look, a band look, a band uniform. Imagine us dressed up like the Beau Brummels.
Jack Casady: That was very, very early on. Bill Graham became our manager within the second year of us being together. That’s all talk stuff. Obviously, it didn’t work. We had our uniforms but they were all different.
Jorma and I had band uniforms that we got in 1958 for our little band called the Triumphs where we went down to National Shirt Shop in Washington, DC and got these little V-neck things like Buddy Holly would wear or something like that. And that was the closest thing I think we ever had to uniforms.
We had fun in those days, we’d get clothes made by two different women, two Jeanne the Tailors, one in LA and one in San Francisco. I’d go down to fabric shops and pick out fabric and bring bolts of fabric and give it to the Jeannes and say, “OK, I like this fabric here.” I remember one time I got a moiré pattern upholstery material. I mean, this is something you’re supposed to upholster the sofa with in the living room. And I thought, oh jeez, wouldn’t that be great because the moiré pattern would move around the lights and all that.
Well, she makes this pair of pants out of it and I think some sort of jacket and I wore it one time. The pants and top by itself must have weighed a good twenty-five pounds. Because it was so hot, I practically asphyxiated onstage, because there’s no breathing at all. So much for my great idea.