Where is she now?
Photograph from the Campbell Coe Collection
Latest Update: October 29, 2012
Copyright © 2004-2012 Ross Hannan and Corry Arnold. All Rights Reserved.
The Jabberwock, 2901 Telegraph Avenue (at Russell Street), Berkeley, CA
To keep this page a manageable size, the list of Jabberwock Shows and the page of Jabberwock Art now have their own pages.
All this great stuff has been researched and prepared by Corry Arnold and Ross Hannan
Grateful thanks are also give to Tom Weller, Earl Crabb, Jef Jaisun, the late Bill "Jolly Blue" Ehlert, David Bennett Cohen, ED Denson, Colin Hill, Jesse Cahn, Evelyn Miller Kerr, Hank Bradley, Denise Kaufman, Sandy Rothman, Joe McDonald, Bill Miles, Brian Voorheis, Barry Melton, Phil Greenberg, Bruce Barthol, Belle Randall. Thanks are also due to Cactus Pete Anderson and Campbell Coe who contributed significantly to the research, but don't know it.
The psychedelic rock explosion of the mid-sixties that first surfaced in San Francisco was the product of many colliding factors. The impact of the Beatles, funny smelling smoke and the Vietnam War would not have had nearly the impact on music that it did had their not been a ready supply of folk musicians already performing and looking for something new. The folk scene in the early 60s had been the strongest in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Greenwich Village. The successful performers from those scenes all had a chance to record and tour, and some of them—Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, most notably—became quite famous. Although every big city and college town had some kind of local folk scene in the early 60s, Berkeley’s scene was probably the most developed after the Cambridge/Greenwich axis.
Folk music was popular and successful in San Francisco in the late 1950s and early 60s, but San Francisco was (as always) a breeding ground for artists of all types, and folk music was just part of a scene of Beat poetry, jazz and other arts. San Francisco was also the incubator for popular folk music, like The Kingston Trio. Nightclubs like the Hungry i and The Purple Onion popularized folk music for a wide audience, but serious musicians were sceptical about popular music in general. Berkeley and its intellectual culture, on the other hand, always more of a Petri Dish than an environment (it is a Berkeley axiom that the counter man in a Donut Shop may have an advanced degree and read several languages) made it the western outpost for ‘serious’ folk music. Berkeley’s limits on alcohol sales within a mile of campus insured that jazz and nightclubs stayed in San Francisco, leaving folk music and strong coffee as the primary source of night time entertainment.
In the early 1960s, there was a “folk circuit” anchored by Cambridge, Massachusetts and Berkeley, California. Folksingers could play the Club 47 in Cambridge, go down to Greenwich Village, and work there way across the country, possibly hitchhiking, and sleeping on the couches and floors of other folkniks. The history of this circuit is best covered in the book Baby Let Me Follow You Down (Eric von Schmidt and Jim Rooney, UMass Press 1979).
The Cabale, and later Cabale Creamery, (2504 San Pablo at Dwight in Berkeley), founded by Rolf Cahn, Debbie Green, Howard Ziehm and Chandler A. Laughlin III, was a crucial stop on this circuit. In the mid 1950s Cahn had founded and run the Blind Lemon at 2362 San Pablo - a mainstay of the Berkeley folk scene for many years to come. By August 1964, the Cabale was partially owned by Carroll Peery, manager of the Chambers Brothers (later, after their souls became psychedelized, to hit with Time Has Come Today), who subsequently moved to Cambridge themselves. Carroll Peery had moved to Berkeley in February 1964 at the request of Barbara Dane who was, at the time, trying to buy into the Jabberwock from Mary Randall, Belle Stauber and John Stauber and wanted Carroll to manage it. Apparently, the deal fell through because of difficulties in obtaining a liquor license.
Bay Area bluegrass musician Sandy Rothman has written a brief but excellent memoir of the Cabale as part of a project on the great Clarence White.
When the Cabale finally folded some time in mid 1965, there was still a need for a folk club in Berkeley. The Jabberwock had opened in 1963, initially closed on Mondays and Tuesdays but soon to put on the first shows. The Berkeley String Quartet played at the Jabberwock in late 1964 or early 1965 and it would be a reasonable assumption that music was a regular on the Jabberwock menu at this time.
Campbell Coe captured the Jabberwock experimenting with performances from the new
psychedelic bands, such as Circus Maximus who are pictured above in October 1966 with
Barry Melton of Country Joe and the Fish (front centre). To the left is the poster of the event
Photograph taken by Campbell Coe
The Jabberwock was located at 2901 Telegraph Avenue at Russell (near Ashby) and was owned and run by Bill "Jolly Blue" Ehlert who bought it from Mary Randall, Belle Stauber and John Stauber on March 23, 1965. It was on the site of a former jazz club called Tsubo (where Wes Montgomery recorded his album Full House on July 25, 1962). Tsubo had been opened by entrepreneur Glenn Ross in September 1961 with the Berkeley jazz station KJAZ-FM was housed in the same building. Well liked by the city as it served no alcohol and minors were welcome, it was not sustainable. Driven purely by the economics of running such an establishment, Tsubo finally went out of business on October 15, 1962 - Ross having sunken his life savings of more than $35,000 in to the place, and he still came out of it in debt. At some point shortly thereafter, the name board was changed from Tsubo to the Jabberwock.
The Jabberwock initially followed the same booking policy as The Cabale Creamery where a typical month had mostly blues and folk, with some jug and bluegrass mixed in. Whilst the Jabberwock had a monthly entertainment calendar published as a handbill, the handbills and the posters themselves did not become ‘collectible’ until later, when the club started booking rock bands, such as Country Joe and the Fish, as well as folk groups.
While the list of performers at the Jabberwock were generally less well known than those playing the Fillmore at the same time, or even Greenwich Village, the years when the Jabberwock was the primary club venue in Berkeley serve as a useful primer for how music evolved from folk to rock, and in many ways subsequently returned in the form of singer-songwriters. In San Francisco, the presence of the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom in 1966 provided a venue that paid real money (by the standards of the time) for musicians to perform, and San Francisco folk music disappeared in a puff of green smoke. In the South Bay, many folk musicians with no chance of getting by financially in San Jose and Palo Alto coffeehouses were drawn to the San Francisco scene and joined rock bands as well (Jorma Kaukonen, University of Santa Clara class of ’64 and the Jefferson Airplane, and Jerry Garcia, Menlo Park High School and the Grateful Dead, are among the most prominent).
The Berkeley String Quartet
(Carl Shrager, Bob Cooper, Joe McDonald and Bill Steele)
on the Sproul Hall steps
Berkeley had its own material conditions that make the Jabberwock a useful point of reference. UC Berkeley had at least 20,000 students at the time, and with many former graduate students in a perpetual state of “taking a few years off,” there was a ready supply of highly intellectualized but still young fans anxious to consume interesting music beyond the Beach Boys. At the same time, since Berkeley was dominated by the University, the few available venues for rock concerts were University or city operated (the 3,500 seat Berkeley Community Theater was actually the High School auditorium), so there was little chance for a Berkeley competitor to the Fillmore, despite a few local efforts.
In any case, with the Fillmore and the Avalon in easy driving distance, Berkeley residents weren’t looking to Berkeley for rock shows, but rather for more casual local events. The Jabberwock filled this need, providing a low-cost venue, easily accessible (9 blocks from campus) and open every night, but still providing high quality music. The evolution of the Jabberwock from a folk club presenting hip music on the Cambridge (Club 47) model to a largely club catering to more specialized tastes provides a clear picture of the evolution at the time. The changing economics of clubs—remember, except for the Matrix in San Francisco, The Whisky A-Go-Go in Los Angeles and The Marquee in London, rock clubs had hardly been invented—was just one of many factors that made the Jabberwock an anachronism by the end of 1967.
From 1963 until March 1965, The Jabberwock was run by Belle Randall and her husband John Stauber, a classical guitarist and folk accompanist. Belle has identified Jesse Fuller, Bukka White, Ian & Sylvia, Perry Lederman and Don Crawford as artists who played the club during her tenure. She also mentions future Joy of Cooking guitarist Terry Garthwaite as a regular performer (playing as The Garthwaites, with her older brother Tim, not the younger brother David who was in Joy of Cooking). Terry Garthwaite also played the Cabale Creamery with a group called Crab Grass at this time. Every Sunday night was Flamenco night, led by “El Rubio,” in fact a former Berkeley High School classmate of Belle Randall’s named Davey Jones. Bob Dylan even came into The Jabberwock, in 1964, just before his Berkeley Community Theater show (on February 22). ED Denson's liner notes to the 1964 version of Blind Joe Death by John Fahey state "He has played to standing audiences in the Washington, D.C. Unicorn; in the Jabberwock, the Blind Lemon, and the Cabale in Berkeley".
Although the earliest posters, handbills and newspaper listings advertising shows at the Jabberwock date from 1965, a quote from Country Joe McDonald on Pete Frame's Country Joe and the Fish family tree alludes to the Berkeley String Quartet playing at the Jabberwock. The BSQ comprised Joe McDonald, Carl Shrager, Bob Cooper and either Bill Steele or Toby Lightheiser on bass and they were in business between September 1964 and February 1965.
Poster artist Tom Weller has even earlier memories: "When I came away to college in 1962, I lived in a rooming house around the block from the Jabberwock. It was a beatnik sort of place at that point, walls all painted black and espresso and cool jazz. A few years later it became part of the folk scene and then the hippie scene (but the walls stayed black)".
The University of California at Berkeley was ground zero for anti-war activism, and had been nationally prominent since the Free Speech Movement went national in 1964. Local folksinger Joe McDonald with friends Eugene “ED” Denson (who had produced records with guitarist John Fahey) and Mike Beardslee published two magazines as DMB Publications (Rag Baby and Et Tu). For their second Rag Baby issue, they had no written copy, so they produced a record instead (the "talking" issue). Barry Melton, McDonald and a few other members of the Instant Action Jug Band recorded two of Joe’s songs as Country Joe and The Fish. ED Denson made up the name, a reference to Stalin (“Country Joe”) and Mao (a reference to the revolutionary being a fish in the ocean of the masses). The record was laid down at the home studio of a friend, Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz, on September 24, 1965. “Rag Baby” EP #1 was released in October, 1965 as a 7 inch 33 1/3 rpm record. The A-side features the prototype Country Joe and The Fish playing “Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-To-Die Rag” and “Superbird” with the b-side containing "Fire in the City" and "Johnny's Gone to the War" by Bay Area folksinger Peter Krug. This ad hoc group of musicians could not have known at the time that I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die would become, in all probability, the best known anti-war song of the 1960s.
Amazingly, although “distribution” consisted of being sold by Joe and Barry Melton in Sproul Plaza during the UC Berkeley Campus Teach-In Against the Vietnam War (October 15, 1965) and being available at Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue, the independently released record started to sell a little bit. McDonald and Melton did a brief tour (laid down in legend as The Great Northwest Tour) in the fall of 1965 as Country Joe and The Fish, possibly sponsored by Students For Democratic Society (SDS), of campuses and other activist hotbeds in the Pacific Northwest. Over to Joe: As far as the "Tour" I will tell you what I remember. Calling it a tour is a stretch. Barry would still be 17 years old. We rode the Greyhound Bus, it ran a ticketed journey from Oakland up North. We played in Portland or Seattle or one of those cities at someone's house, like in their living room. To a group of people. I guess that the thing was set up by SDS?! We were at a college up there Reed College? Did we play ....I guess so. That is him and me both with guitars. What did we sing? I don't know. Even more amazingly, as a courtesy, McDonald gave Strachwitz’s company the publishing rights to “Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-To-Die Rag.” As a result of Fish album sales and the phenomenal sales of the Woodstock album (and its famous cheer), the song funded Arhoolie Records loving documentation of blues, folk and zydeco music for the next few decades. Another oblique reference found to The Jabberwock in 1965 is that Steve Miller, on a scouting trip from the Midwest in the fall, apparently discovered future bassist Lonnie Turner at the club. When Miller returned in October 1966, he would draft Turner to join his other Midwestern transplants (Curley Cooke and Tim Davis) to start the Steve Miller Band in December 1966.
Although no specific dates have been confirmed, The Instant Action Jug Band certainly played the Jabberwock regularly during the spring and summer of 1965. Many of the dozen or so "members" of the group lived in the apartment complex that was part of the same building.
The joke was that whichever members did not have another show or date were in the band for the night, and ready to spring into action instantly - hence the name. The band in particular played on nights when no one else was booked, so that locals coming in for a cup of coffee or a beer had something to listen to.
Bill "Jolly Blue" Ehlert (pictured left) with Spider John Koerner
Photograph taken by Campbell Coe
The Instant Action Jug Band has passed into legend since some of its members became Country Joe and The Fish, accounting for that group’s willingness to play The Jabberwock even when they were a regular act at the Fillmore Auditorium and Avalon Ballroom over the bay in San Francisco.
Both Joe McDonald and Barry Melton lived in Mrs Sherrill's apartment house (on Russell Street behind the Jabberwock) and played the 'Wock regularly before they became well known. Two other residents were Bruce Barthol and Paul Armstrong, soon to join Joe and Barry, together with David Cohen and John Francis Gunning in the fledgling Country Joe and the Fish. Joe, David, Bruce and drummer Chicken Hirsh are still in business today and have toured throughout the North America and the UK during 2004 and 2005 as the Country Joe Band. Barry has continued to play music during the course of his legal career.
Copyright for these "Jabberwock" images is vested in Tom Weller.
Thanks are due Tom who kindly gave permission for them to be reproduced here.
Another Berkeley group, The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band, was also formed out of the casual membership of The Instant Action Jug Band. Much later, The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band produced a couple of albums, one the infamous Masked Marauders, that included Gary “Chicken” Hirsch of Country Joe and the Fish, on drums.
1966 was probably the peak of The Jabberwock, although it was still largely a folk club at this time. While electric psychedelic bands were forming in San Francisco, Berkeley and elsewhere at this time, acoustic performers playing folk, blues and bluegrass were still the standard entertainment in college towns. Many of these same performers, peculiarly influenced by strange smelling smoke, would turn up in rock bands in the next few years.
At 1:45 am on June 4, 1966, twenty year old aspiring musician and photographer Jef Jaisun walked in to The Jabberwock for the first time, Perry Lederman was playing. Jaisun would go on to work for Max Scheer's Berkeley Barb and later become immortal in the Bay Area for producing the much-played and fondly remembered record Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent. This independently released EP from 1969, was later picked up Dr Demento, and the song reached an audience outside the Bay Area. Click here for the hilarious and unbelievable story of this song.
Jef recalls "The entire package was patterned after Country Joe's Rag Baby EPs, right down to using Sierra Sound as the recording studio. I figured if it worked for him, well... not to mention that people in the Bay Area, and Berkeley in particular, had become accustomed to that type of EP packaging, thanks mostly to Joe. Several other folkies released similar EPs about the same time".
This photograph, according to the annotation on the reverse, was taken "probably Summer 1966".
The photo stamp says, "Photography by Riley. Parties, Commercial, Children. 521-1096.
Thanks are due Jef who kindly gave permission for it to be reproduced here.
In late 1966 Jesse Cahn, son of Cabale founder Rolf Cahn and folksinger Barbara Dane, returned from playing drums for the Chambers Brothers on the East Coast to manage the Jabberwock for Bill Ehlert when he was called on to go over to The City (San Francisco) and manage the Matrix.
Jesse recalls "I also played drums with Lightnin' Hopkins at the Jabberwock while making sandwiches back in the kitchen ... it was a trip ... whip off my apron and run up on stage to play with po' Lightnin' and then back to the kitchen and try not to cut a finger off in the frantic transition...". Jesse continues "Country Joe and the Fish would rehearse in the afternoon while I swept up... Great times...".
Jesse also remembers Country Joe and the Fish coming back from the Human Be-In (January 14, 1967) "still buzzing on acid and Barry sitting on top of the cold case and rambling about what it had been like playing for all the tripped out people while tripping himself".
After a few months Jesse headed back east, travelling with Chan Laughlin, ultimately ending up in New York City. He later helped to road-manage the Chambers Brothers "off and on up to around early '69".
Photograph taken by Campbell Coe
Toward the end, the 'Wock had been through a series of unsuccessful co-operative managements before Sally Henderson took the helm for the last couple of months. Although the Jabberwock had survived financial difficulties since the start and a number of brushes with the authorities, it was the Berkeley Health and Building Departments that finally drove the Jabberwock out of business. The building was re-classified "due to increased occupant load" - the result of which was the need for remodelling that simply was not financially viable.
The Jabberwock finally closed its doors on July 8, 1967; Hank Bradley recalled that "the last notes played at the Jabberwock were by Rick Shubb, Doc Watson, and Hank Bradley" and this is confirmed by Jef Jaisun's "obituary" for the Jabberwock in the Berkeley Barb (Volume 5, Number 1 (Issue 99) dated July 7-13, 1967) and the listings provided in The Scenedrome therein.
The Berkeley Barb
The Jabberwock was remembered with an obituary in The Berkeley Barb (Volume 5, Number 1 (Issue 99) dated July 7-13, 1967) written by Jef Jaisun. The building was later torn down and eventually replaced with a car park. The Freight and Salvage, successor to the Jabberwock on the Berkeley Folk scene, opened at its original location of 1827 San Pablo in June 1968.
On July 25, 1969, Don Kaufman published an article in the Berkeley Barb entitled Flower Lady. This told the story of how seventy-four Mrs. Sherrill had converted an ugly, barren lot (previously The Jabberwock) on the corner of Telegraph and Russell into a bed of flowers, warming the hearts of hundreds of passers-by in the process. Mrs. Sherrill, who ran the apartment building behind the Jabberwock on Russell where the fledgling Country Joe and the Fish had lived during 1965 and 1966, was a retired kindergarten teacher who had been born in Alabama.
Mrs. Sherrill surveys her work on the site of the Jabberwock.
In April 2006 Sandy Rothman unearthed a wonderful collection of photographs of the Jabberwock taken by the late Campbell Coe. These photographs have been scanned and posted to the Jabberwock Yahoo Group by Tom Weller.
The list of Jabberwock shows is largely based on advertisements placed in The Berkeley Barb and from information provided by the posters and handbills that have survived. The Jabberwock was generally open six nights a week (including a Sunday “hoot” night with any locals who wanted to play). There are still a few of "holes" in the listings, not least the first six months after the Jabberwock was reborn under the Jolly Blue Giant.
Any informants with real or imagined information about other acts playing the Jabberwock are encouraged to contact us. This is an ongoing project always subject to revision.
There is a Jabberwock Yahoo Group that was started by the late Jolly Blue Giant.
Earl Crabb and Rick Shubb produced the Humbead's Revised Map of the World.
October 2005 saw the premiere of Bobby Roth's Berkeley, a feature film about music and protest in the 60s, at the Mill Valley Film Festival. The film features ten songs by Jabberwock favourites Country Joe and the Fish. You can see a trailer for the movie, which has now been released on DVD, here.
To keep this page a manageable size the list of Jabberwock Shows and the page of Jabberwock Art now have their own pages.
The Jabberwock as it is (or I guess, isn't) on October 7, 2005
The apartment house where Bruce, Barry, Paul Armstrong and Joe of Country Joe and the Fish lived and David and John Francis Gunning hung out as seen on
October 7, 2005. The house, located on Russell Street, right behind where the Jabberwock was on Telegraph Avenue. Originally, Robbie Basho shared the house with Bruce, Barry and Paul with Joe only moving in when Basho was encouraged to leave. Mrs. Sherrill, the
landlady, lived downstairs and was one of their biggest fans (although it is recorded that she had hearing difficulties!).
In Search of the Jabberwock