Here is a little history about Chet Helms that you may find a little interesting. First of all I have to say I was not living in San Francisco during the original Summer of Love during the summer of 1967. But I came to San Francisco a year later on July 4th 1968. A few days after I got a job working for Bill Graham at the Fillmore West and a week later I help running the restaurant & bar as well as took care of acts backstage with food and drank and a few other things. One day I met a young lady up on Haight-Ashbury the week I first go paid and did not know who she was at the time and later on a little later I heard this ban started to tune up and I went out to see them play a song I hear over the radio station that I liked a lot and when out to hear them start to play. To my big surprise it was Big Brother and the Holding Company and the lady I met was none other than Janis Joplin. That very night after she played she came over to the restaurant and we became good friends. Janis use to come to the Fillmore West a lot and one night she asked be if I would like to go up to the Avalon Ballroom and met her manager Chet Helms. I asked her what is the Avalon Ballroom and she laughed and said, Well its like the Fillmore but smaller. So, at the end of the night drove me up to the Avalon on Sutter Street in her car and we parked and got out and a guy who was the guard went and parked Janis’s car and she took me up to the office and introduced me to Chet Helms for the first time. I found Chet to be a really nice guy and very intelligent. Janis and I use to hang out together a lot on our days off and another night she and I went back to the Avalon and as I became real chums with the guard, I told Janis to go on up and I will come a little later. I wanted to just relax and take with the guard a bit. The here come along this hippie looking guy riding up the street on Sutter St riding bicycle with no shirt and came up to the guard and said I have a Wester Union telegraph massage for Chet Helms. As this guy look stoned and a mess the guard said give it to me and I will take it up and then the guy said No I have to hand this to Mt Helms in person. There was a little argument going on and I stopped it by saying to the young man. Hey give it to me and I will take it up and hand it to Chet myself. I work for Bill Graham at the Fillmore West. The guard agreed and so did the young man and I took off just then and took the unopened telegram into the office and hardened it to Chet Helms himself and and said here is a telegram for you Chet and he opened it up and read the letter out loud to me a 4 other guys in his office, It said:
Dear Chet Helms,
We have heard the news about noise problems and the city of San Francisco is going to close the Avalon Ballroom down and you are fighting the case. We are sending you a check for $50,000 and we hope this will help you pay to help fight the case.
That wowed us all out and to see that Paul McCartney and The Beatles cared that much about Chet and his Avalon Ballroom mad me feel really good that he was getting help from them.
I did not hang out with Chet all that much or even Bill as I was working all the time. The last time I saw Chet was at his Atelier Doré art gallery on Bush Street in San Francisco. and not long after that I was told by a street artist friend of mine that Chet Helms had died and there is a plain of doing a Chet Helms Memorial for him and asked me if I would like to help out and he gave me the phone number of Boots Hughston and I called him up and asked if I could be of any help and he asked me what do I do and I told him, well I use to work for Bill Grahan at the Fillmore West and told him my name and he said are you the Tony that helped Bill put on that show for Jimi Hendrix when he was so stoned he could not even walk? I said yea! and then he said what would you like to do, Help with the cooking back stage for the bands, Help the stage crew with the sound or help put of the acts backstage? I told Boots well I don’t know anything and running the sound for the stage I never did any of that, And Helping the Cooks well I did enough of that! Lol! Do you mind if I help put the acts on stage? He then said I was hopping you would say that! So, I came and worked with Boots and the others and planed out all the set times for all the acts to be read and go on stage. That was my first time in so many years I got to help out putting on concerts and this one was called the Chet Helms “Tribal Stomp” that took place at the Speedway Meadow. Latter on I also did backstage for the 40th Anniversary Summer of Love and the West Fest 40th Anniversary of Woodstock for Artie Kornfeld too. I am going to do the 50th Anniversary Summer of Love this coming year in 2017, but this time at the Golden Gate Park, Polo Field if my health last. You are all welcome to come and it like all the rest is free!
You can find out more at the 50th Anniversary Summer of Love here:
Peace and Love,