After the Summer of Love in 1967, audiences expected to see immersive light shows at Rock Concerts.
San Francisco’s seminal Rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, featuring ground-breaking female lead singer Janis Joplin, performed at the Terrace Ballroom in October of 1967, almost immediately after the Summer of Love — with a light show — according to film shown on Salt Lake’s nightly TV news and a noted eyewitness.
Introduction to Popular Light Shows
Major San Francisco artist Jerry Abrams, of Head Lights fame, lit up the first three Numenor concerts at the Fairgrounds Coliseum to universal acclaim. Numenor Productions was Alan Covey’s bold project, which brought first-rate performers to Utah for full-scale concerts, immersed in saturated colors by high-voltage displays of light. Electric Luninescence did Numenor’s fourth concert with It’s A Beautiful Day, Smoke, and Holden Caulfield at the Fairgrounds Coliseum on May 10, 1968. Garden of Delights did the last Numenor concert with Quicksilver Messenger Service on September 7, 1968.
Jerry Abrams Head Lights returned to Salt Lake at least twice — lighting a Credence Clearwater Revival concert at the Salt Palace Assembly Hall downtown, plus another show in conjunction with the Sons of Champlin in the historic Old Mill at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
The widespread desire for this additional visual entertainment lasted only for a few years, but Cosmic Aeroplane founder Steve Jones researched local light shows during the time that they were in demand, and listed: Five Fingers On My Hand; Flash and Edison (also Kenvyn and Edison); Rainbow Jam; Frank & Stein Visuals; Maynard Associates / Total Environment; Wherehouse Ltd; Aurora Borealis; Electric Umbrella; Salt Lake Brain Company; Colorstone; Cosmic Power & Light; Bandersnatch & Company; Stopp Light; Visual Arts; Up Against The Wall; Kaleidoscopic Latitudes; My Mother’s Flagg;
Others shows on Steve Jones’ list included Neon Moth, whose name was seen by Jones on a poster for a concert in Northern Nevada, plus Shane’s Electric Light Show who appeared at the Abyssee in July of 1967, during the Summer of Love, and “might not have been local,” according to Steve.
Steve Jones and Charley Hafen put the Michael the author in touch with some of Salt Lake City’s prolific light show artists for interviews which occurred before and after Steve’s passing.
East Coast Light Artist Maynard Keller writes:
The Cosmic Banana Peel of Life
I was born James Howard Keller. I was dubbed Maynard when I was 15 — against my will — after the Maynard G. Krebs beatnik character, played by Bob Denver before “Gilligan,” on “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” The “Dobie” cast were all good actors, including young unknowns Warren Beatty and Tuesday Weld.
Maynard was the only non-plastic person (thank you, Frank Zappa) in that TV show’s world. So I embraced “my inner Maynard,” and when the light show became a collective, put those two friends, and other helpers, under the umbrella of the Maynard construct as we tried to extend reality from what it had been, seeing us together as “Maynard Associates.” It WAS the right, or rightest, name we came up with, and I’m happy about that now.
The Andy Warhol-mounted ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’ tour featuring Nico and The Velvet Underground and a multi-media display partially designed by Warhol came to the Rhode Island School of Design (locally, RISD, pronounced ‘Ris-dee’) on March 31st, 1967 in Providence, RI.
Fresh from the U and SLC, and my first time east of the Mississippi, I was attending Brown University, which adjoined its grounds, as a grad student. It was the first light show I ever saw — in an intimate, no seats, walk-around-close-to-the-stage setting with a few hundred people — with lots of Warholian polka dots! It was also the first time I’d heard psychedelic rock live, and it was utterly, well, yeah, mind blowing.
Montage with RISD’s “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” poster, thanks to Maynard; An advertisement from a New York newspaper; Images of Nico in 1966, originally photographed by Andy Warhol’s associate Paul Morrissey — Fair Use images used according to International Law.
Note: Nico had top billing over the Velvet Underground on the posters (as per Warhol’s wishes). Nico and the VU parted artistic ways after the release of the famous banana cover LP, The Velvet Underground and Nico. And sometime after that, Lou Reed (acting for the group) sundered their working arrangement with Andy, but they remained in each other’s worlds until Warhol’s death.
I walked out of that event (it was called that instead of a concert) knowing what I wanted to do with my life in a way I’d never felt before.
There’s lots of fascinating info on this at the links below. For example, the light show was so intense from the performers’ point of view (projectors and strobes aimed at them, e.g.) the group had to wear sunglasses, which also became part of their image. And that iconic album, which is still selling in various forms, cost all of $3,000 to produce.
Andy Warhol‘s lights engineer Danny Williams pioneered many innovations that have since become standard practice in rock music light shows. From May 27–29  the EPI played The Fillmore in San Francisco, where Williams built a light show including stroboscopes, slides and film projections onstage.
At Bill Graham‘s request he was soon to come back and build more. Film maker Jonas Mekas (who pioneered film projections during concerts at New York’s Cinematheque), Andy Warhol, and Danny Williams’ influential ideas contributed much to the legendary Fillmore Auditorium’s prestige and were also used at the Fillmore East and Fillmore West, both opening in 1968.
And then all sorts of dominoes began to fall improbably into place …
… on what would quickly become the best roller coaster ride in my life from Rhode Island, to Massachusetts and then back home to Salt Lake where I would start the Maynard Associates light show.
My own personal magical ’67 “P-Town” Summer of Love
Within months I had my first psychedelic lighting display installed in the historic village of Provincetown out on the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the Act IV dinner theater.
P-Town was literally as far away as you could get from San Francisco’s Summer of Love and still be in the US, but as a long-time host of an avant garde artist’s colony, it was very much connected to the spirit of the time.
Maynard remembers the theater: “… being in an annex that abutted the main building in the back downstairs (on the right of the photo). I suspect those windows are the ones you see in the other photo looking out …” (see below)
I fell into this amazing gig — a source of many stories in and of itself, when, while working on another avant garde theatre production as a budding volunteer lighting tech at Brown, after attending that RISD show. I was improbably offered the position of being the theater’s Technical Director (lighting and sound) by the producer Robert Costa.
That first lighting display took up one whole wall of the dining/watching area. The producer had bought a number of antique stained glass windows from an old demolished synagogue. I installed hundreds of small colored bulbs behind the windows. These were wired to respond to three different frequency bands of sound with different colors using circuits I’d learned to build in Providence. This display was on — with music playing — during the two hours the dinner theatre was open before the evening’s play.
Maynard says in 2018: “I remember the theater’s interior clearly. The plays were presented against the wall in the direction those windows are facing, with the tech booth on the opposite side. And in fact I helped build the light board and assembled the “spot lights” out of #10 cans and ceramic light fixtures from the local hardware store, then just screwed in PAR 38 bulbs and mounted them on the ceiling.
That was where I learned how to do that, and why I was able to have my own set of colored spot lights in addition to the Terrace’s own (fixed, white) lighting — and so those were connected to the “light piano.” (described further below)
… surely don’t remember any windows and curtains at any time during the season.”
” …the theater was more our own little magical cave… ”
The whole period — from getting involved with theatre (and lighting) at Brown, to dropping in on the concert, to the whole musical, cultural, psychedelic, anti-war explosion, to falling into my own personal magical ’67 “P-Town Summer of Love,” to returning to S.L.C. for grad school, switching from experimental psychology to social work, and using that accumulated momentum to launch my own small contribution to the era all led to the incredible privilege of working with some of the top acts in the country — and remains the best and most lucid dream in my life to date.
It really was, well, trippy. For example, during that Cape Cod summer I worked with two not-yet-but-soon-to-be-very-well-known actors, Al Pacino and John Cazale, (John later played Pacino’s brother “Fredo” in The Godfather) and worked with more people who are well-known in literary, movie, television, and theatrical circles.
One other highlight of that summer: Richie Havens was playing at a nearby Provincetown blues club and happened to drop into the dinner theatre near closing one night. He loved my installed lighting display — and took out his guitar and jammed to it as I added other manual effects with the stage lights.
And that was my first light show – a totally impromptu gig with one of my heroes.
I had arrived back in SLC after an eventful year east — coming from my summer theatre gig on Cape Cod … I was just settling into getting an apartment and starting social work grad school, so not really integrated into the area scene yet.
Once White Rabbit offered me a chance to do a real concert show, I got the Maynard Associates light show off the ground with the help of two new friends — Paul Vogeler and David Paul. David was our photographer and went on to help with every aspect, as did Paul, our artist. We moved into the house at 584 3rd Avenue, corner of 3rd Avenue and I Street, as our world headquarters (thinking big and all) and we three remained the core, although as the show grew, so did the show crews.
In the early days of light shows, no one knew what a “Light Show” was or “should” be – and there were no equipment or content companies serving the producers, so they were all being created and worked out on the fly — mostly on budgets that wouldn’t pay for a single piece of modern light show equipment, but with lots of ingenuity and creativity – shows influencing each other, but also with each developing its own wrinkles, much like the new music itself.
Several things made the Maynard Associates shows distinct from others of the time. One was that while abstract oil and dye projections were used extensively as many shows did, they weren’t the primary focus – rather MA used them as an undulating pulsating background on which they projected numerous images – stills and films, sometimes three and four deep – and much of their non-show time was dedicated to photography and filming to build up content.
The other was something that Maynard Associates came up with — less than an “invention,” but still an innovation — that I called a “light piano.” This device used about 25 long throw micro-switches set up like piano keys, each controlling a separate projector or projectors (overhead, slides and film), or stage lights. Our biggest shows thus required many thousands of feet of wire which had to be set up in the 36 hours before the shows, as soon as the Terrace allowed us access.
The result was that the device allowed me to “play” the entire show in real time with the bands, turning anything to everything on and off as we jammed along. This made the light show essentially another instrument, and while such control is now central to today’s sophisticated digitally-controlled shows, which also emphasize control of the stage lights and much of the whole auditorium environment as integral to the shows, Maynard Associate’s version was new at the time.
I hired an agent a friend hooked me up with when I started the Maynard Associates light show in late 1967. The agent only got us two gigs, but to be fair, he mainly specialized in getting go go girls placed in various bars around the area.
Both were strange events, but one was utterly bizarre: Doing a show for the Officer’s Hippie Party at the Dugway Biological Warfare Proving Ground near Tooele, Utah — where 6,000 sheep were once accidentally killed by Anthrax! The number and actual agent are arguable, but the event definitely happened –- more below on this …
The Army sent 6 soldiers ( five privates and a corporal as I recall ) and a big camouflage truck to cart all the Maynard Associates equipment out to the show from the house on the SW corner of 3rd Avenue and I Street (584 3rd Ave). The privates all called me, “Sir” and followed my every instruction to a ‘T’ (My partners, David, Paul, and I were 24 year old hippies). They drove us out to the base – about two hours out in the west desert, helped set everything up, and then the party started — All the officers had bad hippie wigs and “peace” buttons – put in quotes here because their version had jet engines on the “wings” part of the peace sign, so they looked like B-52’s more than peace signs, and the slogan on them read ‘Make Love AND War’.
I felt like we stood out more than your usual aliens in the Star Wars Cantina scene, but the music was good, real ’60’s stuff on a huge PA, booze flowed plentifully, and as the men started to freak out on the dance floor in earnest, we realized a lot of their wives were more interested in the — to them — exotic “real hippies” behind the projectors than in their hoo-hah-ing husbands jumping up and down in front, and for sure some cross-cultural flirting occurred, which was fish out of water stuff on both sides of the stream.
Afterwards, the soldiers packed it all up again (easiest gig we ever did!). We were put up on base for the night, then trucked home to my Avenues house in SLC at 0800 hours the next morning, and no sheep died that night (that I know of).
PS: I still have the key to the room I slept in that night …
Back story about the story:
That Dugway place was really kind of scary for us in SLC in the ’60’s. We didn’t know the details of what was happening out there, but we knew no one would say. And then, of course, winds got hold of some airborne anthrax (or whatever version of the story one accepts), and SHAZAM! (up to) 6,000 dead sheep. That couldn’t be hidden and was a big local story.
After that, and I’ll never forget this, and it’s the nub of this story — Someone, a group I suppose, put up a full-size billboard on State Street, around 6th to 9th South, on the east side of the street as I recall, so it really hit you in the face if you were cruising north on State. It was a cartoon sheep on its back with its eyes “x-ed” out and the text read: “What a shame. They meant to use it on people.”
The event changed the way I felt about the country and government ever since. I already knew there were monsters in the world, I just hadn’t lost my naivete about the fact that they included “the good guys,” i.e. — us.
So with that billboard seared in my mind, you can see how going out to do that show really felt like we were truly descending into “the belly of the beast.”
Maynard Associates (Total Environment) produced the light show for White Rabbit’s Country Joe / Moby Grape / Spirit concert of November 1967
I had my first contract within two weeks, leading to a scramble to find people to help me actually mount a show, starting with a few hundred dollars in working capital and zero equipment (and all the experience I just noted) — and somehow, on time, we set up in the Terrace to welcome Country Joe and the Fish, Moby Grape, and Spirit, and gave it an adrenaline-fueled go.
And having pulled that off, we kept growing and getting better right up through our biggest and best show with Jefferson Airplane, which had dozens of various kinds of projectors, stage lights, strobes, maybe miles of wire and a crew of over a dozen people sloshing liquids, loading slide trays, threading super 8 films and more … ! It was crazy and loosey goosey, but it worked.
Maynard Associates (Total Environment II) lit up the Jefferson Airplane / Taj Mahal / War of Armageddon concert in February of 1968
Future Cosmic Aeroplane partner Bruce Roberts wrote two articles about Jefferson Airplane’s upcoming concert in February of 1968:
Roberts mentioned Maynard Associates in the first article, and expressed the eager anticipation of their fans to see and hear “The Airplane” performing live with a light show in his second article:
Daily Utah Chronicle February 2, and February 9, 1968 — Preview articles about Jefferson Airplane’s first concert in Salt Lake City, by Rock Editor Bruce Roberts.
The Jefferson Airplane show (also with Taj Mahal and SLC’s War of Armageddon) was simultaneously the high point and low point of the whole experience. We had big plans and I had used whatever money I could beg, borrow or use from student loans, etc. to gear up to the next level – over $3,000 (over half on credit I barely had), and big money for us at the time. I’d planned to use the fee from the show to pay for most of it. But there was no payment, as in (to my knowledge at least) no one got paid in full, including the Airplane and I don’t know about the Terrace — other than what had been advanced up front (a third maybe.)
To this day I still have to pinch myself sometimes, and there were some rougher to much rougher times in all our lives after that and other paths we ended up on — including that, after this high point, the wheels were to come off the whole MA wagon in fairly dramatic fashion. But yeah, that all happened, as well as more off-beat side stories I relish.
There was one more light show with enough advances to keep things going with Spirit (now headlining), the Flamin’ Groovies, (better music than the name sounds today, ha ha — you can find them online) and again the local War of Armageddon. And we loved every bit of the work — and still love Spirit’s music.
Maynard Associates put on their light show one more time for the Spirit / Flamin’ Groovies concert on February 21, 1968
Bruce Roberts of the Daily Utah Chronicle published a preview of the Spirit / Flamin’ Groovies concert — including some words from Paul (Tree) Black, partner of Richard (Dick) Bagley of White Rabbit Incorporated, on February 21, 1968.
Here’s a review of Maynard Associates’ light show, thanks to the Electric News:
Read the full review of the Spirit / Flamin’ Groovie’s concert on Page Ten of the Electric News Number Two —
NOTE: Steve Jones and Sherm Clow (S.C.) were co-publishers of the Electric News, as well as partners in the Cosmic Aeroplane at the time.
“I also wrote a review of Blue Cheer for the Electric News …”
Read Maynard’s review on pages 12 and 13 of the Electric News #3 (April, 1968)
More about the Blue Cheer concert in April of 1968
Maynard writes about his “Travels with Alan Ginsberg”
I ‘met’ Allen Ginsberg at a Blue Cheer concert in Salt Lake City in 1968, or rather found myself amazed to be standing next to him. The concert was in the Utah State Fair Grounds, better known locally as ‘The Dirt Palace’ during those heady concert days.*
I was standing there thinking, “Damn, that’s Allen Effing Ginsberg, should I say something? And if so what?”
After some minutes of contemplating and getting nowhere cogent in particular, I finally blurted out, semi-voluntarily, “You’re Allen Ginsberg!”
He turned, contemplated me and my remark a moment and then replied calmly, “Yes, thank you. But I already knew that.”
Dead silence (well except for the concert of course). Then after maybe five seconds, we broke eye contact and both returned to taking in the music and light show …
End of travels … but for sure the perfect comeback to a stammering would-be groupie.
I always wondered what he was doing there. That was what I couldn’t process in the first place. Allen Ginsberg. Salt Lake City. Me standing right next to him. WTF. One of these things was VERY much not like the other … and I think the cognitive dissonance between what I plainly saw before me and how unlikely it still seemed logically is part of what froze me up.
There was another complicating factor. Actually there was something I could have brought up that might have piqued 30 seconds (of conversation) at least.
I had lived on the grounds of Rockland State Hospital back in New York State (in employee housing), and that was the hospital that played such a large role in “Howl,” because it was where his friend, Carl Solomon had once been hospitalized (the line that clearly references this is: “I’m with you in Rockland where you imitate the shade of my mother,” also referring to his mother’s long history of hospitalizations for mental illness going back to his childhood.) So one “ice-breaker” there.
Just so you know, in those days, there were patients at Rockland who howled all night — I could hear them many nights through my window, though why I was living there is another story.
As Salt Lake’s resident light show producer, I went to the (Coliseum) during the afternoon before the show, and had spent some time with the crew of Jerry Abrams’ Headlights out of the SF scene. So I’m sure (Allen Ginsberg) knew them too, and so there was another way I could have established some bona fides.
Demise of Maynard Associates’ Light Show
We never made up what we’d spent. White Rabbit closed its doors. Dick and Tree left town for at least awhile, (to Vegas from what I heard) but I had no way to go after them, and other matters at hand to deal with, plus I soon left Utah for many years on a whole other trajectory.
“Spectacular” advertisement from White Rabbit, and a mysterious article in the Daily Utah Chronicle announcing a concert on March 15, 1968 that never took place:
So no light show, no money, no job, and debt, and that was … that. Fiasco. Disaster. From top of the town to out of business. And no way to stay in school (and keep my deferment.) And with nothing else left to do, we three split up.
David was always the most stable of us, and went on in time to a professional career and raised a family in Colorado. We still correspond intermittently. Paul went through some difficult personal changes, and after things had come back together, was tragically killed in a motorcycle/train accident in Woods Cross in the early 1970’s not long after becoming a husband and then a father.
As for me, the east coast still beckoned. I dropped out of my social work program at the end of the school year to take a job in NY for a year as a SW assistant. I came back to the U and finished my master’s degree in social work in 1971, met a wonderful woman, and being done with school, free from the draft – and in love, was very much preparing to get back into lighting arts.
But there was one more surprise from the cosmic banana peel saga begun by attending a show in Providence, and it turned out to be a slip on said peel. A few weeks after graduation, while traveling back east with my gal, I took a fall that was to leave me semi-disabled with a back injury for the next 30 plus years. I managed to keep working in the mental health field in NY, however, my plans of coming back bigger and better than ever in lighting didn’t happen, the marriage didn’t happen, and I call what happened next my ‘grey years.’
Some friends helped me participate in a 1981 ‘psychedelic revival festival’ at Long Island University, so Maynard Associates did perform one more time. I still have the whole show in storage, btw, and hope to donate it to a museum and have it conserved as a small piece of 1960s history.
Many thanks to Maynard Keller! (All photo captions by M.E.) We actively request your contributions of artwork, music, corrections, memorabilia, and oral histories concerning the Cosmic Aeroplane — please contact our blogmeister.
Blogmeister Michael Evans is an author and historian.
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