1968 – Love Street after Work, Johnny & Edgar Winter, Grace Slick & the Airplane

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?)

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Comment by James Mark Emmerling on February 4, 2013 at 12:53pm

ah you bastard...how'd ya know i too had a (retroactive, i guess....) crush on mz slick...and a long personal history w/ johnny winter!?

i say

Retroactive crush cuz by the time the Airplane was in my ears, I was a doleful 80’s teen, and all there really was left of her was the Starship… “somebody to love”….the whole of Surrealistic Pillow the album…..and her shining hippy crushworthy face…from the old days…I kinda think my big sis the now respectable social worker hippy queen of Maine was a , uh, Slick double, back in the glorious day..


Don’t remember how I got into the airplane..maybe brother Paul? I do know that my (near albino-blonde ) bro gave me my intro to Mr. winter. Still alive and well, the name of the lp. I bought everything by him. His old blues, his advent into rock(a helluva version of dylans ‘like a rolling stone’ and ‘hiway 61’) , then his later blues lps… I associated him with my brother…. I could not get enough of that utterly uncanny guitar or that voice…and then..then…in 2008 I saw him…in a local  casino …he was in a wheelchair but that hardly made him less dangerous with that ‘axe ‘ of his..


I still play mr johnny’s song ‘still alive and well’ and it reminds me of him, my bro, and  me…and,,ha, u too I  guess.


 Did you ever look to see who is left around?
When I think about the past it only brings me down

Everyone I thought was cool is six feet under ground
Make love in the grass while the sun is shining down

They tried to get me lots of times and now they're
It feels so good your long blond hair baby

Coming after you I got out and I'm here to say
When you're down low make me shake make the whole earth quake

Baby you can get out to I'm Still alive and well
So everyone will know

I'm still alive and well
I'm still alive and well every now
and then its kind of hard
To tell I'm still alive and well

Comment by James Mark Emmerling on February 4, 2013 at 12:57pm

shit those lyrics are garbled..

Did you ever look to see who is left around?
Everyone I thought was cool is six feet under ground

They tried to get me lots of times and now they're
Coming after you I got out and I'm here to say
Baby you can get out too

I'm still alive and well
I'm still alive and well every now and then its kind of hard
To tell I'm still alive and well

When I think about the past it only brings me down
Make love in the grass while the sun is shining down so everyone will know

I'm still alive and well
I'm still alive and well every now and then its kind of hard
To tell I'm still alive and well
Read more at http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107858921621/#UFdZfbI...

Comment by Anne Armand on February 4, 2013 at 1:14pm

Back then, I was a suburbanite with two small children. I used to listen to the likes of Cat Stevens and adored Elton John.

You've lived an incredible life...and I enjoy re-living your adventures with you.

My only encounter with a real celeb was with Greg Morris of Mission Impossible Fame. He was dining at the next table and my friends recognized him immediately. I was the naysayer and bet them $20 that it wasn't him. Shorten the story..... He came over and collected the money.  Making it up to me and the girls he bought us a round of brandy and sang Happy Birthday to my friend. Nice Guy. He returned my $20.

Thanks for sending me the link. Easier to get to you.

Comment by koshersalaami on February 4, 2013 at 1:15pm

Still Alive and Well. I saw Johnny Winter in concert once, at Meriwether Post in Columbia, MD, then went out to buy his current album which, I believe, was Still Alive and Well. That got Cheap Tequila on it?

Edgar was by that time known for something rather different than straight blues. I saw him in concert too, on the Frankenstein tour. He and other band members were rather glammed up and there was Rick Derringer on guitar in like a white T shirt and jeans. Don't remember the venue (unless I saw them twice that tour, which is actually possible). I went down to some concert or other at Virginia Beach and I think I may have seen them there, along with Fog Hat and a few other people. Or it might have been Meriwether, or it might have been both.

Oddly enough, I saw all my concerts straight. That often put me in a distinct minority.
There's one where I was glad of that distinction because I might not have trusted my memory otherwise, and that's a concert I saw at Charlotte Motor Speedway just after Nixon resigned. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and the Allman Bros. headlined like nine groups. I'd seen ELP once before on that tour, up at the Capitol Center in DC, but in Charlotte they did something they hadn't done in Washington: the Spinning Piano. I've since looked this up on YouTube and found that there is footage of this part of the act. It involved Keith Emerson playing a horridly difficult Chopin Etude (I don't think that's what he's playing on YouTube but, as a piano player, I knew what I was hearing) while he and a full concert grand piano spun, end over end. Like watching the second hand of a clock, only much, much faster.

Never saw Grace Slick. Great story, by the way. Not that I was in love with her, but I'd have liked to have seen her.

Saw Hot Tuna once, so I saw some of the rest of the band.

Comment by Donegal Descendant on February 4, 2013 at 2:12pm

Surrealistic Pillow remains my favoirte Airplane album.  Several memorable tracks, each unique. I loved it when I first heard it, love it still. I still have it even thoguh I no longer have a turntable.  I also remember the controversy over the old Grace Slick poster done in  a kind of inrtricate, swirling design -controversial because she had one nipple exposed but so embedded in the design you didn't notice that at first. One of the most intriguing examples of psoter art from that era.

Comment by Abrawang on February 4, 2013 at 6:52pm

Well when I read the "You're not gonna believe this" disclaimers I was ready for a take of a promiscuous encounter with Grace and a wild drug debauch with the Winter boys.  What a gear evening though and it sounds like you knew it was special as it was unfolding.  Enjoyed this a lot, vicariously.

Comment by Zanelle on February 4, 2013 at 9:27pm

I believe every word.  What a night.  You are amazing.

Comment by Din Mutha on February 4, 2013 at 11:22pm

"Gracie insisted I join her...." She was one of my first true loves. Like JME says, "you bastard." What a night! What a story! I feel pretty darned famous via proxy right about now. 

Comment by Rosigami on February 5, 2013 at 12:43am

Ya can't make this stuff up. ..and you tell it so well! I once drank vodka with Leon Redbone (the man used a water glass filled right to the top) in a club on Long Island while his upright bass player hit on me. My boyfriend was dying with pride and hoping I would say "yes" for some kind of weird bragging rights. But oh my, Gracie! 

Comment by Jeanne Sathre on February 5, 2013 at 5:48am

Right place, right time. And enough confidence to go for it. What a night.


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