The former Deseret Paper Mill, built at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, south and east of downtown Salt Lake City in 1883, opened its doors for Rock Music and Alternative Culture during the late 1960s, and was simply known as the Old Mill.
Former owner and manager Ed Huntsman wrote a chronicle in 2017 and furnished pictures from his personal collection for Michael Evans, who has adapted them for the Cosmic Aeroplane Archival Site:
Huntsman writes about times before the Old Mill: I grew up near Mount Olympus, Mill Creek Canyon, and the Motor View Drive-in, attending both Olympus and Skyline High, and graduating in 1963. Leasing The Old Mill and promoting Rock Shows was never something I envisioned for myself when I began as a young freshman the University of Utah.
Since my earliest school years I was drawn naturally to the arts, literature, and music, . In high school my heroes were Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut, Hemingway, and all the Impressionistic painters of France. Like most young teenagers I fell in love with rock and roll, folk music, and jazz., and attended most of the popular music artists headlining at the terrace ballroom and the outdoor concerts at Lagoon. The Beach Boys were at the top of the charts. I wrote and starred in the senior assembly featuring myself as “Jack Star” and four friends as ‘Chub and the Shifters” lip-syncing the Beach Boys.
After a year of college classes and during a visit to San Francisco I saw the movie “Blowup” with David Hemmings. Inspired by the adventure of photography, I signed up for my first course in photography, taught by Borge Anderson, who worked for the Salt Lake Tribune. I bought a new Nikon F from the “Shutterbug Photo” and thus began a love of photography which would lead to the center of the Musical Revolution of the 60’s. Within two years I would be photographing such artists as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, the Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, and many other Rock Stars of the Psychedelic Age.
Huntsman writes about the Old Mill:
“My first apartment during college was a small secluded cabin near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, which put me just a short distance from the Old Mill. My cabin was located in a small community of cabins and summer homes on the bank of Big Cottonwood Stream surrounded by lush vines, oak trees , wildflowers, and canyon breezes. Three other friends would move almost next door.
After I moved in, Alan Covey rented the house next door. Allen would soon spend his inheritance on promoting Rock Shows using the name of Numenor Productions. One of my best friends from high school days, John Tyler, who worked as a disc jockey for KUER, would work with Alan Covey and later work with me at The Old Mill.
Coincidentally, another best friend named Richard returned from the Peace Corps, and later moved into an old white frame house across from the Old Mill. He rented his home from J.B. Walker (a successful businessman who lived on Cottonwood Lane). Richard got to know J.B. Walker, and became a groundskeeper and security guy for the Old Mill.”
“When the mill became available to rent, lease, or purchase, someone appeared interested in buying it … (but) when the sale fell apart, Richard Sheffield and I began slowly to consider leasing the mill ourselves from J.D. Walker. Since the Old Mill had recently been rented as a Dance Hall and Bar, almost everything we might need to open a new business was already present and available. There were no broken windows. The plumbing worked, the heating system (weekly coal deliveries) and electrical system needed no repairs. And most importantly there was a functioning bar (with an amazing stone fireplace), plus a hardwood dance floor and a large stage. Also there were tables and chairs. I arranged a $1200 loan from my mother, and paid it back before we opened.”
“On the night of the Grand Opening we had a giant sky light …”
“The Old Mill Family just seemed to show up” — Local bands like Wishful Thinking, employees like John, Richard, 7th Son Leatherworks manager Harlow Marks, Dee Dee the bartender, helpers like Kleave the craftsperson, and Rick Romney of the General Store.”
“I offered bands a guarantee against the net income from entrance, or “cover” sales, contacting bands from the West and East coasts. Allen Covey and John Tyler had contact numbers, so gradually I began to receive phone calls from agents with bands passing through on their way to Denver or beyond, like Jim McNeil, college fraternity boy and local promoter who eventually founded United Concerts.”
“My favorite shows were Black Pearl, Flaming Groovies, Sons of Chaplin,
Alice Cooper …”
Alice Cooper performed at the Old Mill in 1969.
The group was on tour promoting their first album — “Pretties for You,” on Straight / Bizarre Records, which was Frank Zappa’s label in partnership with Warner Brothers.
The Alice Cooper band crashed at Ed Huntsman’s cabin while gigging at the Old Mill during the summer of 1969.
Popular local bands like the Foremost Authority, Wishful Thinking, Holden Caulfield, and Spirit of Creation regularly played at the Old Mill.
The Foremost Authority were a familiar name because of their single “Dance Dance (Keep On Pushing)” on GNP Crescendo Records, which was a Top Ten hit on local AM Radio in 1967. They also moved to the Salt Lake Area in late 1969 —
Nights at the Old Mill
Prolific band Wishful Thinking headlined many shows at the Old Mill.
Eric Williams asserted in 2017: When we went to the Old Mill, before it officially opened, there was no stage. So my band, Wishful Thinking, built it.
(Verified by Wishful Thinking’s manager Ole B. Jensen in the comments below.)
Wishful Thinking played at home and on the road, often opening for national and international groups, and earned first place in a mail-in contest for Best Band, run by local radio station KNAK AM/FM in 1969.
Mike Foster led the light show “Five Fingers On My Hand,” and as his enterprise evolved, it became the regular “house lights” at the Old Mill — Foster even moved to the Big Cottonwood Creek neighborhood, although he continued to run his remarkable and ingenious light show at concerts elsewhere around the Intermountain West.
Kenvin Lyman of “Lyman and Edison,” also known as “Flash & Edison,” joined up with talented graphic artist Richard Taylor to form the unique “Rainbow Jam.” They ran lights for the first time under that name at the Old Mill’s Black Pearl concert. (See Lyman’s poster of said concert above.)
The “Frank & Stein” team was comprised of a lady named Toni Covey, plus photographer and graphic artist Mikel Covey — who created concert posters for performances by Steppenwolf; Canned Heat / Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; Initial Shock / Aum; and Led Zeppelin / Vanilla Fudge in other venues around the Salt Lake City Area.
Other creative light shows in the Salt Lake City Area included Maynard Associates / Total Environment, Wherehouse Ltd, and Aurora Borealis.
Read more about Salt Lake’s light shows, and the Old Mill, on the Cosmic Aeroplane Archival Site:
The Old Mill in the Media
Huntsman bought advertisements on local radio stations, voiced by popular Disc Jockeys like “Skinny” Johnny Mitchell on KCPX, and Michael G. Kavanagh on KNAK.
FM Radio was rapidly outpacing formerly-dominant AM Radio in popularity, but these stations were in the Top Five on both AM and FM.
Hit-makers Crabby Appleton performed at the Old Mill and they spoke about the place fondly, if not eloquently, on National TV — starting at approximately 1:20 minutes in this video clip —
(Graciously contributed by Michael Fennelly, lead singer and songwriter of this fine band, via our Comments Section at the bottom of this page.)
The Daily Utah Chronicle regularly published articles about the Old Mill
Columns about the Old Mill and the bands who played there, plus advertisements during 1969 from the Daily Utah Chronicle:
Columns about the Old Mill and the bands who played there, plus advertisements during 1970 from the Daily Utah Chronicle:
This “Halloween Costume Party” poster below is notable for the fact that the Old Mill eventually turned into a seasonal attraction for two decades as the “Haunted Old Mill,” which raised money for local charities.
“Jammy Rush” actually meant Jamie Rush, a touring band from Los Angeles who played the Old Mill more than once. “Holden Caulfield” were stalwarts of the local scene, and James (Brother Music) Warburton made his presence felt around Salt Lake. “Yellowstone” was once named “Initial Shock.” They came from San Francisco, and had previously performed in Salt Lake City at the Fairgrounds Coliseum with Bay Area allies “Aum” — who later performed at the Old Mill as well.
The Old Mill presented Pop and Rock concerts from Thursday through Saturday — Sundays were usually given over to Acoustic and Folk Music. According to Utah law at the time, it was illegal to dance on Sunday.
Local authorities attempted a solitary “bust” — One night a group of police cars showed up with an empty bus and tried to raid the Old Mill. There was a single incident in the parking lot, but no known arrests.
“The story made it onto local news stations,” said Huntsman, “So we printed the bumper sticker to let people know that we were still in business.”
Huntsman also told about another incident with a smoke bomb/tear gas device in the stairwell, but nobody was arrested.
Ed Huntsman wrote: “Officer Don Strong, SLC Police Department, worked Friday and Saturday — he was a great guy, kept the environment safe, with no problems.”
According to the Daily Utah Chronicle, Alice Cooper played in the Summer of 1969, the Sons of Champlin played in September of 1969, and the Flaming Groovies played in December of 1969. Ed Huntsman recalls a group called the Animals playing for New Year’s Eve in 1969. Another group of musical imposters calling themselves the Zombies performed at Salt Lake’s Terrace Ballroom when “Time of the Season” was on the charts.
Eric Burdon, real lead singer of the actual Animals from England (who were disbanded at the time) would later perform at least twice in Downtown Salt Lake City with West Coast hit-makers War.
The Electric Prunes played “Just Good Old Rock and Roll”
at the Old Mill in 1969 —
A movie called “Bleep” was filmed at the Old Mill:
Ed Huntsman writes about his photographic career: “Began doing portraits, music group photos, and fashion photography. In addition to local rock groups, I obtained a press pass,which allowed me to get into local rock shows — backstage with the Jefferson Airplane, Donovan, etc.”
“I attended the Folk Rock Festival in Santa Clara, California with Jim Morrison headlining. It also featured the band “It’s A Beautiful Day,” who became good friends of mine during their week-long stay in Salt Lake.”
“They invited me to San Francisco, which I followed up on — attended shows, met other rock promoters, including Chet Helms, the first producer of light show and rock concerts in San Francisco at both the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore.”
“(Helms) and Bill Graham promoted the majority of Rock Concerts in San Francisco between 1966 and 1968. I only wish I would have tied to create a relationship with Chet who would have been a great asset for the Old Mill.”
More Photos by Ed Huntsman:
Jerry Abrams of “Head Lights” fame did a light show at the Old Mill in conjunction with the Sons of Champlin from San Francisco, and Ed Huntsman took this photograph of Abrams in action at the concert:
Two less-formal shots of Jerry Abrams in and around the Old Mill —
Players from elsewhere found refuge next to Big Cottonwood Creek —
like some musicians who successfully recorded hit singles and albums in a group called “Sea Train” on both A&M and Capitol Records, before performing again with a slightly more famous band from the late Sixties.
Roy Blumenfeld (center) and some other members of NYC’s Blues Project stayed near the Old Mill for awhile. (P.D. image)
Ed Huntsman writes: “I left for Paris with my new girlfriend Chris. (Richard) Sheffield took over the business, but I never saw those $100 weekly checks. I returned, and Sheffield was in trouble. He took off for Aspen, and I took over the Old Mill again.”
“I wanted to sell out and move to Aspen, Colorado too! Four of my best friends also moved to Aspen — Sheffield, Tyler, John Hicken, and Dave Ronniger.”
Steve Poulson, music columnist for the Daily Utah Chronicle, wrote about the Old Mill and one of Ed Huntsman’s last productions there in 1970:
As of July 22, the Old Mill is alive and well and seeking an extension of its lease. However, the possibility still exists that the owner is considering selling the place.
The actual outcome of the Mill will be known within a couple weeks.
Meanwhile Holden Caulfield (Skimmed Milk has deemed it financially and psychologically advantageous to change its name to Holden Caulfield *) and St. Thomas Axis are set to play for this week’s 24th happening.**
Officially titled “The 14th Thank God For Brigham Young Celebration” the event will include some weird lighting and musical trips commemorating the occasion.
* Holden Caulfield’s drummer Dennis Mansfield was explicit in his anger when he read that Skimmed Milk tried to use Holden Caulfield’s name after I published this page in 2017. The REAL Holden Caulfield band was still together and based in Los Angeles at the time.
** The 24th of July is a statewide holiday, commemorating the arrival of Mormon pioneer wagons in 1847 along with the region’s leading colonizer, Brigham Young, who originally commissioned plans for the Deseret Mill, built circa 1883 at the site of the later Old Mill dance club, which was erected on Big Cottonwood Creek circa 1923.
Read the Utah Daily Chronicle’s article about the (temporary)
closure of the Old Mill in August of 1970:
Old Mill Family and Friends
Members of the Old Mill Family near Big Cottonwood Creek — Clockwise from the upper left: Richard Sheffield, ‘Margo,’ Alan Covey, Mike Foster (center), Jeff Huntsman, John Tyler, Terry Feller, and John Hicken, perched next to Kerri Richards, seated at the lower left. Photo courtesy of (c) Ed Huntsman.
The Old Mill wasn’t closed for very long —
Ed Huntsman writes:
“Nathan Goodman showed up and bought the lease for the Old Mill …”
Nathan “Mad Dog” Goodman was a Salt Lake promoter who also organized the successful Mayfest for several seasons at Westminster College in the early 1970s. Concerts would continue at the Old Mill with local, national, and international acts after Ed Huntsman’s involvement ended.
Infinite Thanks to Charley Hafen for the handbills, and for beginning this project with Steve Jones. Much appreciation to Ed Huntsman and Brian C. Record for the use of their photos. Acknowledgements and credit to the Marriott Library at the University of Utah campus for articles from The Daily Utah Chronicle. Thanks also to Eric Williams for his eyewitness accounts. All double-quoted text is from Ed Huntsman.
The artists who made the handbills above are all unknown, except for Kenvin Lyman. Information about them is welcome!
We actively request your contributions of pictures, memorabilia, and oral histories concerning the Cosmic Aeroplane and related scenes on this site — please contact our blogmeister:
Blogmeister Michael Evans is an author and historian.