LOVE is but a song we sing …



Chester Leo “Chet” Helms (August 2, 1942 – June 25, 2005), often called the Big Brother of San Francisco’s 1967 “Summer of Love”, was a music promoter and a cultural figure in San Francisco during its Psychedelic  period in the late Sixties.

Chet was the founder and manager of Big Brother and the Holding Company and recruited Janis Joplin as its lead singer. He was a producer and organizer, staging free concerts and other cultural events at Golden Gate Park, the backdrop of San Francisco’s Summer of Love in 1967, as well as at other venues, including the Avalon Ballroom.

Big Brother & The Holding Company with Janis Joplin

He was the first producer of psychedelic light-show concerts at the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom and was instrumental in helping to develop bands that had the distinctive San Francisco Sound. Helms died June 25, 2005 of complications from hepatitis C. He was 62.

But there is sooo much more than just the Cliff Notes ……………………………

 **** And the “Psychedelic Scene” — Stories you’ve never heard

John Cipollina
Guitarist John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service

How it all came together …

The Great Society
The Great Society
Steve Miller, Norton Buffalo and Greg Douglass; Oakland Coliseum; photo by David Stahl
The Amazing Charlatans
The Youngbloods – Get Together

Do you know what was REALLY happening in the Haight during the early sixties ???

For those who’d like to take a Haight Street History Tour, here is a list of who lived where:

710 Ashbury St. — The Grateful Dead
719 Ashbury St. — The Hell’s Angels
635 Ashbury St., 112 Lyon — Janis Joplin
638 Ashbury St.— Country Joe McDonald and The Fish
1090 Page St. — Big Brother and the Holding Company
639 Gough St – Chet Helms/Family Dog headquarters
1550 Page St. — “Hippie Temptation” house (site of CBS documentary)
1828 Page St.— Ron Donovan (psychedelic concert poster artist)
1524 Haight St. — Jimi Hendrix
879 Haight St.— Flipper (famous punk band)
636 Page St.— Charles Manson
731 Buena Vista West — Graham Nash (and several owners later) Bobby McFerrin
264 Downey St.— Michael McClure (Beat-era playwright, poet)
1235 Masonic Ave.— Patty Hearst hid in Symbioses Liberation Army safe-house here
32 Delmar St. — Sid Vicious (site of non-fatal overdose after last Sex Pistols show).
2400 Fulton St. — Jefferson Airplane Rehearsal Space, house and office
200 Downey St.- George Hunter and the original home of the Charlatans.
225 Downey St. #1 – Michael Wilhelm in the early ’70’s.
318 Parnassus St. — Hunter S. Thompson’s Apartment (where he fired his shotgun at the Hell’s Angels)


What was REALLY going on in the West Village of New York ???

Cafe Wha? was located at 115 Macdougal St, in the West Village of New York, NY.

What was REALLY going on in Chicago?

Paul Butterfield Blues Band – 1966

What REALLY happened at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada?

The Amazing Charlatans
The Red Dog Saloon is located at 76 C St, Virginia City, NV

What was REALLY going on in Port Arthur, Texas?

Threadgill’s … where Chet discovered Janis was a gas station before it became a bar.

Janis Joplin – Early days in Port Arthur, TX

What was REALLY going on at the Family Dog in Denver, CO?

The Doors performing at The Family Dog in Denver – September 1967

Denver Family Dog was located at 1601 West Evans Street, Denver, CO

Light My Fire – The Doors Live At The Family Dog, Denver, CO. September 30, 1967. Possibly the only audio from the Family Dog in Denver. Video by Michael Stelk, Archivist

What was REALLY going on in LA?

Buffalo Springfield
The Byrds -1967
Whiskey-a-go-go located at 8901 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA – 1967
Pandora’s Box Coffee House; Sunset Blvd and Crescent Heights – 1967

What was REALLY going on in London?

Jonh, Paul, George and Ringo – The Beatles arrive in the USA


 The Gathering of the Tribes

“The Human Be-in (which we were all involved in the creation thereof) drew at least 35,000 people with virtually no conventional publicity, mostly word of mouth. We realized that by the time school let out in April or May that we would be inundated by literally tens of thousands of young people from all over the world.”

Tim Leary, Allen Ginsburg, Gary Snider, Big Brother and the Holding Company; The Gathering of the Tribes !!

Chet Helms and the Council for the Summer of Love preparing for the 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration
Photo by Gene Anthony


Drop out, turn on , but definitely stay tuned in.


51 thoughts on “The Psychedelic Scene

  1. ed chatham says:

    The short film you produced a few years back was the best tribute to Chet that I have seen and to create a full length feature with him as the topic is sorely needed. I get so sick of young hip media spokespersons belittling the experience we shared during those heady times that I can think of nothing that would better serve to shut their mouthes and open their minds.

    1. Bud Brown says:

      Right on Ed, those times made me what I am today,,,A 1/% still enjoying the music and thoughts of peace !love and working with Mother Nature ,,,,,,create beauty and help your bother ,,,,,,love ya guys,,,,,,,

  2. Dorene Fox says:

    My husband , Howard Fox was a good friend of Chet’s. My husband was part of the light show at the Avalon in the sixties. He had wonderful stories of the ballroom and of Chet. It certainly was a happy time for mr although I did not met my husband unti later.
    If you weren’t in the sixties then you have no idea what a special time it was.

    1. suzee carson branch says:

      oh yes, that train is still a coming and ain’t nothing nohow, noway able to stop it. it’s the LOVE train, people!!!!!

  3. Jmac2day says:

    There are so many stories of what the ” Scene” was about …… so far I have Interviewed around 84 True Believers who were there, and helped start the Tribes who roamed the Haight Ashbury, The Red Dog Saloon, Berkeley, Marin, The Village, etc.etc.etc…
    I’ve found film-footage never seen before, and have many people offering up
    “Beautiful Photography” of the period & events.
    *Please do leave comments ,stories, photos, and ways to get a hold of you – James Macleod, Namaste’

    1. Min Anderson says:

      Awesome Jim! Keep up the good work! Can’t wait to watch this great, historic film. Truly our legacy needs to be both remembered and passed on to the next generation!

  4. Goldie Vallance says:

    Thanks Jim…Chet was my close cousin…I am looking forward to seeing this film about him and his life in San Francisco..this will be good.

    He and I talked about it a lot…and how much he loved his life and all his friends…

  5. Kenny Lee Lewis says:

    As I go into my 36th year as a member of The Steve Miller Band, it’s ironic that I was actually too young to get into the Fillmore, Winterland and the Avalon Ballroom during their heyday. But I do recall the story of when Steve and his hot band from Chicago by way of Dallas showed up on the scene there in 1966. Though there were a lot of iconic and psychedelic bands playing those venues at that time, very few had seasoned, professional musicians playing in those bands.

    When the LA record companies came up to check out the counter-culture music scene going on in SFO at the time, they signed Airplane, Quicksilver, The Dead, Janis, Beautiful Day, and many other soon to be forgotten groups. But when they heard these hard drinkin’, shuffle slammin’ guys fresh out of Chicago called The Steve Miller Blues Band, Capitol Records snatched them up for a 7 album deal immediately and we are still going strong 50 years later.

    I grew up in Sacramento and started tuning in Tom Donahue coming up the delta late at night when the sun spots were cooperating and got my education to the SFO scene through pirate radio. One of my favorite deep tracks was “Songs for Our Ancestors” from Steve’s debut Children of the Future album. Then Sailor came out and I was hooked for life. Thanks to Chet Helms, Bill Graham and Tom Donahue for coloring my early world with the promotion, and sharing of a musical art-form that still lives on to this day and puts food on my table. Peace

  6. Min Anderson says:

    Thank you, Kenny. So good to hear firsthand how you joined up with The Steve Miller Blues Band — a band that Chet supported early on, and because of that, so many of us still do to this very day!

  7. april says:

    Can’t wait to see the film! I spent a lot of time there from 65-66, it was a dark brick cavern where Jimi Hendrix played as Jimmie James and the Blue Flames. Hippies moved into the East Village, a Ukrainian/Polish village, because the rent was really cheap, cheaper than the West Village. Once the Fillmore East opened in 68 the East Village really became a mecca. I first saw the Grateful Dead play June 1967 in Tompkins Sq Park and a few days later in Central Park. Here’s a link to a blog about what happened that June:

  8. Today (Loui) Malone says:

    We were at the corner of Height & Coal. The building Yana Zegri painted the amazing mural. Second floor corner apartment. The spots for the Straight Theater were mounted just outside the window. The spot where I first met the amazing Drapers; Marlene Dupont, Vicki Leeds, Allison Kaplan, Rebecca (Troia) Nichols, Kathi McDonald, Karyn Turner, and me. I think we were all on the guest list at the Avalon. The best of times! Loved Chet so much, and miss him terribly.

    1. Jmac2day says:

      We have met before, I worked on the re-make of “Revolution back in the 80’s. *Jesse Block & I were helping Jack do pick-up interviews back them. *Thanks for visiting the Site. This will be the Largest Theatrical Production Yet on the “Birth of the Psychedelic Scene & The Summer of Love. I would Love to interview you. Also, If you are in contact with any of the people you mentioned, please pass the word on to them – To contact me here thru the Site , or my email address : < > * When emailing me , tell them to always make the Subject Heading on the Email : “Chet Helms Film” .
      *please post a Story here in the comments section, and send any Photo’s , film clips , or URL’s to video clips online to the email address.
      Please pass the word, “This film is about the Tribal stories from those days, told by the “True Believers”( the people that truly believed in a positive social change, and made efforts to do so) — Thanks, James MacLeod

  9. Wendy k woody says:

    Thank you Was nice see what all memories y good time we had very nice done
    Iam glad I was there y experience lot of it I would not chane it
    4 the world it anyone knew me please stop by say hello
    Anyone have photo of bill gramhan please


  10. Angelina says:

    Wow this is blast from the past. What a great story and photos. Chet lived the greatest life anyone could ever have!

  11. robbi cohn says:

    Thanks for keeping those memories alive, James…the sixties were such formative years…I KNOW it for fact, at least as far as MY life was changed. The dream is STILL alive!! But the dreamers are starting to awaken…and Chet was one who dreamed LARGE!

  12. Janis Biggi Hug says:

    Ahhh…Haight-Ashbury!…I remember it well…I was but a young girl back then, but Ohhh the Memories! What a brilliant tribute, and nicely done! So many of the pictures here bring back that ole feeling! The Summer of Love! I loved the hippies! Thank You so much for Sharing, James! You Rocked It!

    1. Jmac2day says:

      Thanks Janis, We are out in the Field, filming interviews for the next couple of weeks , please do check in for updates ! , James

    1. Jmac2day says:

      Thanks Mine’,
      If you have any of your cool Designs, or Creations , that you would like to add to the site — please post them in the comments section, and I will Publish them on the Page ! Take, James

  13. Rusty Goldman says:

    Chet’s kind ways and BIG heart are still being experienced by the people that knew him and are continuing to share what message he shared with US! We ALL miss our Dear Brother/Friend and look forward to seeing this documentary that you and the many folks have worked on and contributed to. Cheers, Peace & Love from the “Prof”.

  14. Mike Somavilla says:

    I first met Chet Helms in the early 90’s. One day we were hanging out at his gallery. He was telling me how they were working on a benefit concert to raise money for his medical expenses, but didn’t know where to put the concert on. I said to him that the Great American Music Hall is a wonderful place for live music, but the place is too small and you’d have to do a weeks worth of concerts to make that work so that wouldn’t work. Then I said to him “Why don’t you have it at the Maritime Hall. He said “where” and I repeated myself. Chet said “You mean the Longshoreman’s Hall”. I said “No Chet The Maritime Hall”. He said “Where is that” So I told him where it was. A few days later I phoned Chet and asked him if he had found a place to hold his event. He said “Yes, The Maritime Hall”. On Saturday April 30th in 1994 a wonderful concert took place where a ton of fabulous musicians came out to support Chet and his cause. Aside from finding the Maritime Hall for Chet, I also booked a bunch of great musicians for this momentous occasion including Terry Dolan, Greg Elmore, Harvey Mandel, Peter Kaukonen, Mitchell Holman and several others including reuniting the legendary 60’s psychedelic band Frumious Bandersnatch. It was a great night of music. I’m very proud and happy to have had Chet as a friend.

    1. Jmac2day says:

      keep those stories coming — you have a treasure of information with all your work you’ve done over the years. When I’m asking about events, happenings, and dates – I ask my interviewees , and they always say; ” I’m not quite sure on that, you’ll have to check with “Fanman” !

    2. Michael Christopher Vogel says:

      I remember Frumious as I managed the AB Skhy Blues Band. Worked for Chet for 2 1/2 years doing Sound & booking. Started as a ticket taker! Met David Geffen at Avalon when he represented Laura Nyro & was an agent at Wm. Morris

  15. Kurt "Stix" Stine says:

    Nicely done on the website and gotta say you nailed something that most people from our time do not know.

    710 Ashbury St. — The Grateful Dead
    719 Ashbury St. — The Hell’s Angels

    Yep! The Angels lived across the street from the Dead. Heard a great story from the Hells Angel who invited me to Prospect. They were out on the porch on day and he fired an arrow across the street at the eve above the stairs roof (it stuck). Memory is foggy but i think i recall him saying to me the arrow was in the original foto of the famous foto of everyone on the Dead’s porch with PigPen holding his Model 70 Winchester?

    1. Jmac2day says:

      Thanks for your comments. Min is no longer with the Film Project, but please do add any stories you wish about this amazing time.
      I started this Film Project years ago with Chet Helms ….. then when Chet died , I shelved the project. Last year with the requests of Johnny & Jimmy Helms , I started the project up again. I am now compiling around 100 Interviews I’ve filmed over the last 10 years ( because even though I had shelved the project, something told me – I should record interviews with the major players before they passed)–what I ended up with ; “is a amazing oral history of that period, from the True Believers who were there at the inception of the original Happenings”.
      Please contact me at :
      I would love to interview you, and hear your stories first hand. Also , please send any photos , and/or film-clips of the period , and events you feel should be in the Film. Thanks for writing in, and please do stay in-touch !
      sincerely, James MacLeod

  16. Michelle says:

    This sounds amazing, the stories, the ppl, the experiences. I wish I would have had the opportunity to be a part of it all… Being a healer I would have definitely carved out a niche inside of that absolutely beautiful time in history…… Unfortunately the day I came into the world may 5th 1970…Kent state was taking place… Oh if only I could have been a part of those times…

  17. David Ferguson says:

    I heartfully support what you are producing Jim. I attended the Avalon Ballroom as a teen and met Chet then. Years later I was volunteering on the Council for the 30th SoL event. In fact I see myself in one of your great photos. I also volunteered on the 40th and now the 50th Anniversary SoL. As Jerilyn B says, and I agree, you are carrying the Flame.

    1. Bruce Spiegelman says:

      I too worked on the 30th. I grew up in SF and was 16 in 1966 and carried the Hippie Ethic into my late 20s but sidetracked. And now feel its Closeness. Once I asked Chet if I could be a Member of The Family Dog and he said, ” if You think You are, You are”.
      Peace Be With You.
      Bruce S.

  18. Gretchen Kryss-Peak says:

    Really nice website Jim! Incredible photos and you set the stage to tell some beautiful and moving stories about the impactful people and places during this era! Bravo! I can’t wait for the screening! Keep up the wonderful work!!

    1. Jmac2day says:

      Thank You for your support. I will be posting more recent updates , photos , Video Interviews, archival footage, as soon as I get time —- I’m am still setting up, and doing Interviews & research — while working my day job as Videographer on other peoples projects ( so I can pay for this film ……. I still haven’t started a funding campaign — but will soon …. looking for help on that , and on this site….. If you know anyone good who can work with “WordPress”( Manage this Site) , and also anyone experienced in Fund Raising … please let me know!

    1. Jmac2day says:

      Thanks Dave,
      I just got back to the Bay Area—- I will be getting a hold of you directly , or through Karl Anderson— hope this message finds you well. –James

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