I first met Chet along time ago in 1967…now I host a radio show on the FM that streams on the web as well…with this music…and vibe…This a world of Spirit…Chet, thank you…Dan Wargo ‘The Stone Age’KHSU-FM 90.5…Wednesdays at Midnight-www.KHSU.org…click on Schedule and then on ‘The Stone Age’ Electric Music from the last Century…Seminal Sounds from the 60’s and 70’s…Music that doesn’t die .
Daniel Wargo of Arcata, CA USA on Tuesday, February 07, 2006
I was 12 years old when I first went to the Avalon Ballroom, in 1966. It was Christmas and my sisters took me there for my first experience. In those days it wasn’t who was playing as much as being in the scene and grooving with the people, even though it was the Grateful Dead and Moby Grape on stage. There was a Christmas tree in the hall and these wild looking people dancing all around smiling and holding out there hands handing me something. There seem to be a group of them swirling around with a wild look in there eyes. I found out later they were the Merry Pranksters. I was so swept up in looking at everyone and wandering around dancing. I also saw these women wandering around who were dressed so unusual with a lot of make up on in these beautiful clothes smiling at me.
From then on I went to the Avalon when my sisters took me. My other experience at the Avalon that really stands out in my mind was seeing this group called Big Brother and the Holding Company. I thought they were so groovy. There lead singer was so cool to me that I stopped dancing to look at them. Man, I thought they were beautiful. I use to see Janis in the park walking around and in some shops on Haight Street. I would study her movements and listen to her talk like I wasn’t paying her any mind but I really was. I was still to shy to speak to her but I thought she was so cool. I remember going to the panhandle and hearing music on the back of a flat bed truck, many times. I remember meeting these people who were feeding people and giving clothes to people in need. I thought that was so cool and went home and called these people called the Diggers and they came out and picked up clothes from me. I really called them because I wanted to see these people up close and find out about them but when they showed up I was too shy to speak to them and just smiled at them.
I remember when this guy came to town and starting putting on concerts at a place called The Fillmore. I had heard I could make 10, 00 dollars if I showed up to dance while they filmed us. It wasn’t till much later that I found out about Bill Graham. I remember thinking he is no Chet Helms! The vibe felt different and his “crew” where not people from the Family Dog genre.
When the Family Dog moved out to Playland I went there only a handful of times as San Francisco was changing. I left San Francisco in 1970 with a group of people I had met at the Straight Theatre to “get back to the land” in Tennessee and was gone for eight years. Upon my return to San Francisco I went to a concert at Winterland to see the Grateful Dead and was shocked and horrified how much the scene had changed. It was not a Family Dog scene! I never went back.
Chet Helms gave us a moment in time that I will always cherish. Most people think it was Bill Graham who made it all happen, but they are mistaken.
Peace and Love, my brother
Iverina Joyce Rasmussen on Friday, July 1, 2005
Chet, When I heard of your passing I wept like a child but I also felt relief for you. I visited Chet at his gallery in 1996 and we went around the corner for a latte. On the way back we noticed a man staggering and disoriented. Chet stopped and asked him if he was OK. The man had marks on his face like he had been hit by someone. Chet pulled a $20 dollar bill from his wallet and handed it to the man and said he should try to get home. We walked only a few more feet and I saw another man with a grocery cart going through a trash can looking for aluminum cans, etc. The man saw Chet and said Hi Chet. Chet stopped and talked for a moment and then turned to me and said that is the hardest working man in San Francisco. I see him everywhere I go and he is always working. Chet, I miss you and I want to thank you again for being such a GREAT inspiration to everyone who was around you. I love you. May we meet again. Johnny, it is up to you now. I know you can do it.
Darryl Kastl of Moscow, Idaho on Saturday, July 23, 2005
In memory of a wonderful friend:
For my daughter River and me, Chet’s pet name from us to him was ‘Chetters’. I met him in Anatomy Class at City College of San Francisco in 1976 and we became study buddies. He was studying anatomy because he was considering becoming a massage therapist. It was during a period where he felt burnt out by the commercial music scene and I was studying anatomy for my nursing pre-requisite. His brother Jim lived across the street from us on Clipper St in San Francisco and we found ourselves on the same bus line after classes, thus our friendship began. Chet was always extremely close with his brothers.At the time, I was not aware of his fame in the Rock n Roll world, only of his genuine wonderful personality and photographic memory for Anatomy. I also became great friends with his dog ‘Footers’. Footers was a German Shepard who once escaped from Chet’s house in the Richmond District of San Francisco. I called Chet to let him know that Footer’s was over, thinking he was at his brother’s house. Chet informed me that Footers had escaped from the front yard to cruise the neighborhood looking for him. This meant that Footers had journeyed all the way from the Richmond District to my house in Noe Valley, which was roughly 7 miles through city streets ! He was one of the smartest dogs I ever knew. Today, I have a German Shepard that always bring me memories of Footers.At the time when we met, I was a single mother with a 2-year-old daughter. Chet was a natural dad as he was great around children and it was not long before he won my daughters heart. He became a regular at my house on Clipper and our friendship flourished and grew. I moved to the Sunset District and many times I would come home from work in the evenings to find Chet over, reading bedside stories to River. Their favorite story was titled ‘Dinosaurs’. He had given her the story for her third Christmas and she had memorized the names of all the different dinosaurs, which he was very proud of. The bond between my daughter and Chet was so strong that he became her spiritual Godfather.Chet was always one of my most dependable friends. No matter how far I moved around the country during my life journey, I could always call on him during my good and bad times. He was a night owl, so when most of my friends where sound asleep, I could always call Chet, and if he was not out carousing the town, he always made himself available to listen or share stories with. His spirit was always full of love and kindness towards everyone with a genuine sense of honesty. He was one of my few friends that could correct me when I was wrong and I would accept the criticism with the love that it was given with. He walked his talk when it came to social justice. Chet was PEACE and LOVE. I will miss him dearly but I know that he is in Heaven as he was truly an Angel on Earth.Chet, your spirit will always live on for you touched the hearts of many.”Love ya!”
Cristina and River on Thursday, July 07, 2005
We were blessed and honored to have both Chet and Allen Cohen at our dinner table for one of our ‘yummy’ shots for our PBS cooking show. I remember vividly how the conversation at the table would move from topic to topic, sometimes heated between the large group of people assembled there- and how Chet was seated so quietly, patiently observing, smiling at something Allen would contribute- just happy to be there listening. I recall being so enthralled with this person who didn’t need to have his voice heard over the others, or to have to prove anything to anyone, but just to remember his smile as he ate the yummy poppies seed cake for dessert and to hear his soft voice just then to ask for seconds…
James Ehrlich of San Francisco, CA USA on Monday, July 04, 2005
I worked for Chet Helms and the Family Dog at the Avalon Ballroom from Fall of 1966 until the Avalon closed in December of 1968, at first helping out wth the light show (Roger Hilliard and Ben Van Meter’s North American Ibis Alchemical Company) then as upstairs janitress and lastly in the Coat Check. I lived for a while in a Family Dog House on Bourbon Street where Chet’s brother Jimmy and other FD folks lived, across the street from from Alton Kelly, the poster artist, until the SF redevelopment agency tore down all of those lovely old Victorians for the “Western Addition Redevelopment Area”. Working for Chet and the Family Dog is something I will cherish forever. A favorite image for me is Chet in his pale business suit, long hair flowing down his back, briefcase in hand. Such a fine and gentle person. Chet was the true “father” of San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll. I’m sorry I missed the gig at Great american Music Hall last month. If there are any more memorials or shows, please let me know. I still have light show equipment and still do light shows now and then. PEACE. Linda
Linda “Kitty” Braskat of Berkeley, CA USA on Thursday, August 25, 2005