Disclaimer: I expect that many readers may express skepticism or simply call me out for pure name dropping bullshit so I preface this post with my sworn statement that this is not some drug addled fantasy nor a compilation of tales to compress time for poetic effect, but it is a true account of the actual events as best I can recollect. If you contact Grace Slick or Johnny Winter, they may recall what happened that night but I wouldn’t count on it.
Love Street after Work…: It must have been December when the Jefferson Airplane appeared in Houston. All I can remember is that I always had a major crush on Grace Slick and I was in a sour mood when I got to work that Friday afternoon. I’d already called in sick several times to go out on Friday or Saturday nights with Annika and I blew off buying tickets to the concert because I didn’t want to jeopardize my job at the Post Office. That particular swing shift was unremarkable with a fairly standard volume of mail, but the supervisors were pumping up the noise about the coming Christmas rush when we’d be on call to work twelve hour shifts six or even seven days a week. That meant we’d report at noon and work until after midnight. Christmas at the PO was not a happy season but with time and a half and double time there were fat paychecks in December.
My solace during my time at the PO was that after work I could always drop by Love Street or La Bastille, smoke a joint, catch the second sets and decompress before the drive back to Pasadena. On the night of the Airplane concert I ran into a dealer from Austin who had what he recommended as “some really cool acid,” so I bought two tabs for twenty bucks and dropped one before I climbed the stairs to the entrance to Love Street.
… Johnny & Edgar Winter…: To say that Johnny and Edgar Winter are a couple of easily recognized Texas white boys is an understatement. They are natural platinum blonde albinos who started out in 1959 playing and singing Everly Brothers songs when they were still little kids. Before they were old enough to drive, their mama hauled them around to sit in with players in Beaumont and Houston; and by the time I was in high school and started frequenting after hours clubs, they were legendary subterranean local blues royalty.
Johnny was the first to break out with an album recorded live in Austin in 1967 and by December 1968 he’d hooked up with Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper at their concert at the Fillmore East in New York. Winter played and sang B.B. King's "It's My Own Fault" to loud applause and, within a few days, Columbia Records signed him with what was then the largest advance in the history of the recording industry - $600,000!
I was feeling the long slow rush come on as I watched the acid blues rock band from another planet set up on stage at Love Street. The drummer wore a long fur coat and lime green satin bell bottom pants. The bass player was costumed a scarlet crimson Cossack tunic, brown corduroys and a fur hat, and I was prepared for yet another pretentious psychedelic pop group but then Johnny walked on stage to spend less than thirty seconds tuning with the bass player. He then whirled around and opened a ninety minute nonstop performance of extraordinary blues that included a great acoustic instrumental with Johnny on dobro and the bass player on twelve-string. I was blazing and completely blown away when they finished.
… Grace Slick & the Airplane: As far as I was concerned that extraordinary celebratory performance by Johnny Winter was more than karmic conciliation for missing the Airplane in concert but toward the end of their acoustic set, there was a buzzing rumble of excitement near the entrance of Love Street. We turned to scope out the scene and to our disbelief we saw Marty Balin, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick followed by the rest of the Jefferson Airplane enter the club. The audience allowed them wide berth and two tables came together as they all sat down listen to the end of Johnny’s set. Johnny and his crew came down from the stage and chatted with them and then to everyone’s delight Marty and the boys went up on stage, borrowed some instruments and after some intermittent fiddling around, tuning and sound checks, they began to play.
I watched, listened and waited for Grace to join them but after forty minutes she still sat at the table with their entourage, sipping her Minute Maid Orange juice laughing and talking with her crew.
I don’t know where I found the nerve, especially on acid, but as the boys on stage spent a few minutes BS’ing between songs, I walked up to the table and - this I remember word for word - said, “Excuse me. I know this is kind of like an insect beseeching a queen, but if you could find your way to just sing one song, everyone here would remember this night for the rest of their lives.”
Paul Kantner came down from the stage and before Grace could reply, he expressed his obvious irritation and told me to fuck off. Grace brushed his objection aside and replied, “I’m sorry, but we just finished our concert and my throat is a little bit sore so I can’t sing because I have to save my voice for the tour. Besides, I never really have a chance to hear the band play and I’m just enjoying sitting here in the audience.”
I don’t recall what I said but as I started to turn away, Grace insisted that I join her at the table where we talked between songs and she told me about their adventures in Texas. It seems, that among other things, they stopped by VA Medical Centers on surprise visits after their concert dates and very often ended up running wheel chair races up and down the halls with some of the younger vets from Vietnam.
After Marty and the boys wrapped up on stage and returned with Kantner, who was mad dog staring me down, I politely took my leave and wandered off into the night. Although I had no way of knowing it at the time, Paul was already falling in love with Grace and crazy jealous of any man to whom she paid any attention. A couple of years later Kantner became the father of Grace’s daughter, China.
Next up on JMac1949 - Memories, 1968 – November - Thanksgiving at Our House, Falling in Love with Annika
Except for attributed video, photos and text, all content is copyrighted © 2013 JKM (an apparently ineffectual boilerplate joke?)