OK, so I lied.
In my previous post, I said that I would mostly be recounting my continuing effort to research and write the biography of Chet Helms and that I was going to begin at the beginning. But, as you will shortly see, that just ain’t happening. At least it’s not happening today.
So sue me.
In my flimsy defense, I can only say that while scrolling through the voluminous photo files that lurk somewhere deep in the cyber-bowels of my PC, I came across a picture that reminded me of an incident that occurred on September 2, 2007.
The place was Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park; the event was a free, day-long concert celebrating the 40th Anniversary of The Summer of Love. According to various published estimates, between 70,000 and 100,000 folks showed up for the festivities on a warm, sunny, cloudless day. It is rumored that a few of the attendees punctuated the experience with a toke or two of a certain herb, but those rumors are unconfirmed. (Yeah, right.)
Anyway, I arrived at the Park around 7:30 a.m., lugging a large, mounted portrait of Chet that was shot in 1997 by photographer, Jay Blakesberg. I had purchased the photo two years earlier from an on-line, fund-raising auction that was part of ‘Chetfest,’ a memorial concert for Chet at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on July 29, 2005, a little more than a month after he passed away. My plan was to ensure that Chet attended the Summer of Love 40th celebration in some way, shape or form.
Several hundred folks had already gathered at Speedway Meadows at that early hour and as I dragged my sorry carcass and bulky photo toward the backstage entrance, I was stopped and asked by more than a dozen people if they might have their picture taken with Chet. Naturally, I obliged each one. I eventually reached my destination and by 8:30 a.m. the Chet portrait was hanging securely on the backdrop behind a couch in the Media Tent, which was where the day’s performers and other notables were to be subjected to filmed interviews for a record of the event.
Flash forward to 12:45 p.m.
The Charlatans, one of the earliest SF bands, fresh from the stage that glorious day, settled themselves onto the couch in the Media Tent, and the camera began to roll. Five seconds later, one side of the Chet photo’s allegedly ‘secure’ anchorage suddenly became detached and it began swinging back and forth behind the band.
This decidedly eerie moment was captured on film and it is, well, decidedly eerie.
The consensus of everyone in the tent was that Chet had somehow managed to announce his presence and it was decided that the proper thing to do was to leave him hanging crooked for the rest of the afternoon.
And so he was. Here’s the proof:
The Amazing Charlatans (Dan Hicks, Mike Wilhem, Richie Olson, George Hunter)
Laissez les bon temps roulez!