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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

13th Floor Elevators - Houston Music Theater, 2/18/67

Texas psychedelic pioneers such as the 13th Floor Elevators, Red Crayola and Doug Sahm returned to the Lone Star State, from touring California, reporting huge concerts and production companies run by freaks. Up until then, the psychedelic scene in Texas was experienced in bars and teen clubs.

Taking this information, psychedelic entrepreneurs, Gary Maxwell, Houston White and Henry Carr, along with 13th Floor Elevators' Booking Manager/Soundman - Sandy Lockett, began booking shows around Austin under the name Electric Grandmother. They would get bands, rent a hall, print posters and hope to turn a profit.

Their first show was a 1/7/67 show by the 13th Floor Elevators at Doris Miller Auditorium in Austin. This auditorium held over 2,000 people. Then there was a Conqueroo show, at the Methodist Student Center at the beginning of February. Flushed with that success, the Electric Grandmother promoted another 13th Floor Elevators show at the much larger Austin City Coliseum on 2/10/67.

After three good shows, the idea of the Electric Grandmother was seen as taking off. Rather than have a set place to promote shows, the people at the Electric Grandmother thought that they could be a mobile unit and travel around Texas, and then the USA, renting halls and putting on shows. Their partners in crime for this idea were the 13th Floor Elevators and the Conqueroo. Their first show, outside of Austin, was at the Houston Music Theater on 2/18/67.

Of course, International Artists was involved in this because they were booking/managing their Star Band - the 13th Floor Elevators. IA thought: "This would be a great opportunity to record a live album". The "magic" of the 13th Floor Elevators was really in their live shows and IA wanted to capitalize on it. The label had just purchased a, state-of-the-art, 8-track recording machine and it was arranged to transport this behemoth to the venue to record the gig.

The Houston Music Theater in Sharpstown seated almost 3,000 souls and sported a revolving stage. The theater is still in use today and people say there's not a bad seat in the house. This should have been the perfect opportunity for the Electric Grandmother, IA and the 13th Floor Elevators but, alas, the stars were not aligned right that night.

The day of the show the band spent time visiting record stores in Houston and signing autographs. Before the show, according one eyewitness, Tommy had some special, Sandoz, LSD and dosed the band. Stacy, obviously, took a massive overdose as related in his account from a 1974 interview with Joseph Kahn:

"... One time I was in a motel room; we were getting ready to play a show at the Musical Hall in Houston, and it was the biggest show we'd ever done in Texas, and we took some Sandoz acid. And all of a sudden, I lost control of my body and I got down on the floor and I'd never experienced anything like this before, and I looked up and Tommy and Roky were turning into wolves, hair and teeth, I mean wolves... man! And in my mind I was hearing the echo of space, and rays of light were shooting through the roof. And I kept remembering the scripture in the Bible, 'Beware the false prophets,' and all of a sudden here was a vision in light that we were wolves and we were spreading drugs and Satanism in the world, and I'd never realized it, because of an Antichrist influence."

"And all of a sudden I was bad, and these angels walked in the room and they had light shining on them, bright, and they all gathered 'round me and they were the jury at my trial. And this one angel stepped up, and he was offering me a job, and it was really just our lawyer [Jack McClellan], and Roky and Tommy and one of Roky's friends named Jack Scarborough. And I knew who they were as people, and I knew they were in a model level... you know, conception, and I was talking to God, and they were spirits in a position of influence on me and a decision that had to be made in my life. And I couldn't make it, know what I mean?"

"And we went to the show and all of a sudden Roky put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Man, you've been here before.' I knew what he meant, but I thought he meant, 'YOU HAVE been here BEFORE.' [Laughs.] He said, 'Man, I'm sorry you've just here because of me,' meaning 'I put you in a bad place'... possibly. I thought he meant my whole existence and purpose was to be a guitar player for his voice, I felt like I was going to turn around and a bolt of lightning come through the car and explode... and the spaceship would come."

"We got to the Musical Hall, and I went inside and the devil was there, and he had his tall pointed hat on, and he was the emcee for the show, and he was 'Weird Beard,' the number one disc jockey in Houston, and he looked at me and he had a goatee and a sorcerer's costume on... and I was bad and he knew it. And nobody else in the room could see, and this narcotics agent that we hired to travel with us had to guard us, because they were always trying to put pot on us, was standing beside me and I didn't want him to know I was freaking out."

"And the devil walked up to me and started asking me how his pointed hat looked, and every time he twisted his pointed hat his nostrils would flare... I ran outside and looked up at the sky and there were clouds of blood floating in the sky... and I call John Ike and Ronnie up and said I've got to go to the hospital, 'cos I lost it. And they kept saying, 'No, man, you don't want to do that, because if you go to a hospital the psychiatrist is going to see you flipped out on acid and they're going to start hassling. You might as well work it out yourself.' So, I said, 'Okay, I'm just going to try and go with it' and we went inside and the show was starting man, and it was the biggest show we'd ever done! [Laughs.]"

"And as soon as I took off down the ramp, man, I looked down and there I saw the light show and the revolving stage and it represented Hades, and Satan with his cape was leading us down into the arena. And all these kids were around, and I thought, we're going down there to tell people to get stoned and if the world ends right now I've had it."

"And I said, 'Man, I have to get to a preacher...' I was gone, I really thought it was the end, you know. I couldn't talk to either [Tommy] or Roky that night, see, because they were the wolves... I was a wolf too. I got on this rib and I ran for the door and one of these wolves jumped in front of the door. And I thought they were going to stake me on the floor, because I was a wolf too, see?"

"I said, 'Man, we're mad.' But anyway, that angel, he told me I was going to the penitentiary and that I was going to lose this chick [Laurie Jones] I had been going with for eight years... And we are planning on getting married. And when I came down about two or three days later I just blew it off, just said, 'Man, too weird!' and I never thought about it... and a few months after that I lost that chick, and a year and some and I was in the penitentiary. That really happened, I swear."

Another interview states: Stacy took a hit of pure Sandoz acid shortly before the Elevators were set to take the stage and almost immediately began to have a major episode. Jack McClellan, the band's lawyer, had traveled with them to the show and attempted to calm him down by having a massive office duty cop give him some cannabis. McClellan described this spectacle as thus:
"This friend of mine was saying, 'What's wrong with Stacy? You gotta take the sharp end of the acid off with some grass.' Stacy was lying on the goddamn floor, groaning. This guy [an off-duty cop] was about seven feet tall and three hundred pounds, and straight-looking, and he freaked Stacy out. He just looked like a big cop, standing there in that hotel room. Finally, this dude gave him a couple of joints and cooled him right out, but we practically had to carry him on stage. The kids loved it. No wonder the narcs considered it their sacred duty to eradicate these cats..."

John Ike Walton later recalled, "Just before we went on, Stacy comes up to me and says, 'John, I'm scared. I feel like a two-year-old child. I went and turned this over to Jack McClellan, my lawyer. I said, 'Jack, Stacy feels like a two-year-old child. He's dropped a bunch of acid and he's gotta go on in 30 minutes. So Jack takes him outside and sticks a joint in his mouth. He gets him even higher than he already was! [Laughs.] Needless to say, it didn't work."

Stacy also recalled, "I had taken some acid and I hadn't had any in quite a while, and it was a super strong dose, about a 1,000 micrograms or something. I had some bad trips before, but nothing like this. And then everybody turned into wolves, and I thought that our band was evil, because of some of the things we had advocated. I didn't know what I was gonna do, but I was gonna get out of there."

In an unpublished 2-hour interview with Stacy in Houston in the Spring 1977. Stacy also recounts the revolving stage incident. The tapes from the interview have been preserved, but the names of the two persons conducting it are unknown. This was first put out to the fans by the Roky CD Club.  Apart from Stacy, his girlfriend Bunny and former Elevators drummer Danny Thomas were present. Following the interview Stacy performs a few traditional songs with acoustic guitar. Listen to an excerpt from that interview HERE:

Here is a published excerpt from that interview:

Q: "What were some of the most mystic visions you had on acid?"

STACY: "Hmm... well, it's hard to say exactly, I just remember when I started taking acid... I guess the strongest visions I ever had were kinda bad actually, but they could have been because of my background and how I was raised."

"The most mystic vision I ever had was concerning a show we did here in Houston, Theatre In The Round [a k a Houston Music Theatre]. And I had taken some acid, I hadn't had any in quite a while, and it was a super strong dose, about a 1,000 microgram or something. And we had to do a concert, and all of a sudden everyone started glowing. They had a foot of light, like a neon light around them in the room… real bright. And everyone started glowing away, and I freaked out that I was going to die or something."

"I had some bad trips before, but nothing like this. And then everybody turned into wolves, and I thought that our band was evil, because of some of the things we had advocated. We had had a controversy going on quite a while about advocating drugs and so forth, and mixing it with religion, you know. 'Cause I felt like that was pretty dangerous ground to tread. And Tommy and I were arguing about that quite a bit."

"I got on a bummer about it evidently. And I was tryin' to escape the room, I didn't know what I was gonna do, but I was gonna get out of there. I didn't want anything to do with it 'cause everybody was turning into animals. And all of a sudden there were angels, and I couldn't move my body anymore. I lost physical feeling all over and I was laying on the floor. And everybody turned into angels, and everybody in the room was the judge at my trial to decide whether I was worthy to enter heaven or hell. Because it was absolute that I was going to die anyway you know. And there was one good angel, and I felt like I'd been there before, many times, not just once. But, I'd been in this circumstance with these same people, and the whole time that I was there I was..."

Q: "You'd been playing in the band?"

STACY: "Yeah, but I'm talkin' with these cosmic spirits you know, as judges. I knew who they were as people, as models, but I knew that they didn't realize what role they played in my existence on this earth. And this one angel told me that two or three different events were going to take place in my life. And every one of them came true within two years."

Q: "Major events?"

STACY: "Yeah, they were major. One of them was the end of an eight year relationship with a girl I'd been going with. One of them was when I was going to the penitentiary, and I went to the penitentiary. And the third one hasn't come true yet, and I hope it doesn't [laughter]. It was really a mystical experience, at the time I knew without a doubt that it was true, there was no denying it. I tried to convince myself when I came down a week later, it took me about a week to get off that trip, that it was all just a bad experience on acid and I didn't pay any more attention to it. Until these events would take place and then I would remember it because it's always with me. Always will remember that experience."

"And I had three or four like that concerning the group getting together. They were on a lighter scale about the fact that the timing and everything, it seemed like it was meant to be. And then we had some musical experiences that are hard to explain with words, about timing when we were playing that was just like, there's no way I can explain it, it's just something really magic in the group when we played that I could feel, it was like a power that I've never experienced before or since. It was some kind of musical communication that was just extraordinary, as far as anything that I've ever experienced..."
Q: "Do you feel like acid helped you reach God?"

STACY: "Hmm... well I think acid helped enlighten me quite a bit. Made me more aware at the time. I don't know if you can actually say it, "see God", you know…. but yeah I think acid really started me thinking about it, for sure. In less defined terms, before that all the religion that I've had was through the church and the way I was raised. The ideas that acid gave me were much more expanded. The words took on new connotations."

Later, Stacy used his wolf-morphing experience for some of the lyrics for the 'Elevators Swan Song LP: Bull of the Woods. As far as ill-omened angel that was on stage with him that evening, an image that continued to haunt the guitarist for the rest of his life. Stacy recounted many times that the angel revealed to him that three things would happen in his life. He said that two of them have already come true and he hoped the third wouldn't. The first two were the loss of the love of his life; Nobody to Love - Laurie and going to prison. It is speculated that the angel revealed to Stacy that he would die an early death but Stacy took that information to his grave.

Former Senior Vice President of Media Relations at Warner Bros. Records, Bill Bentley, was there and recalled, "Little did we know the theatre was in-the-round and the stage actually turned while the bands were playing," he told me. "But who cared? It was the Elevators in all their glory. Not to mention Austin's Conqueroo, who were almost as far-out. As the evening progressed it was pretty obvious as least half the crowd was on LSD, so whatever happened was totally mesmerizing. By the end of the night when both bands were jamming together, it seemed like our own Be-In, and the theatre felt like a spaceship hovering somewhere out in the cosmos. Confusion never felt so fine."

Conqueroo Member, Henry Wallace III, remembers the gig thus, 
"Man, my memory of that gig is different. I was the tambourine, Farfisa organ, and bass player for the Conqueroo, trading off bass and organ with natural bandleader Ed Guinn."

"We weren't tripping, but the Elevators were. But they always were, what difference did That make? A typical deejay came up to Roky's microphone, in his makeup and maroon crisp-creased slacks and slicked-back pomaded pompadour and started blabbing, as the Elevators were plugging in their instruments, and Roky moved suddenly, shoved the deejay out of the way. They started playing in perfect synch."

"The stage rotated one way, then it would lurch, and move back the other way. A little disorienting every now and then. The whole world was disorienting all the time in those days, what difference does a little lurch make when the walls are pulsating and the person next to your head has ballooned out bigger? or you're sitting on the front porch of your house and an orange tabby tom cat walks up to you and sits down, his head level with your groin and shoots a psychic blast of energy into your gonads? It's just an ordinary day, light your cigarette on a parking meter and walk on down the road. 
I remember clearly that I never got any money for that gig."

"…My future old lady and mother of our son Asia, Linda Lorrita Miller, was also there that night. Neither one of those beautiful women thought the Elevators were stumbling. I thought they were great, as usual. Perfection was not the goal."

"Joel" also remembers the gig, 
"My wife and I, who never used recreational drugs, were there that night, too. We also remember it differently. It was a spectacular show."

Christopher Bassist, Doug Walden, was there and remembers,

"I saw the elevators 3 or 4 times, but they always had the same line up, except for the bull sessions. Taylor Hall, Vulcan Gas co. at some theater in the round (they seemed a little lost, with the stage rotating), and maybe??? Love Street?"

This gig represented a turning point for the band. After this performance, John Ike Walton and Ronnie Leatherman quit the band as he recently said in the 13th Floor Elevators Facebook Group,
"Ronnie and I quit this band right after this freak out of Stacy's. Pitiful performance."

Danny Thomas and Dan Galindo were brought in as the new rhythm section and helped birth the 'Elevators' masterpiece - Easter Everywhere. However, this line-up also saw the swift downward spiral of Roky Erickson's mental health and eventual arrest and incarceration. 

Additionally, the 13th Floor Elevators never played outside of Texas after this gig. They were a "local" band afterwards; the first flush of psychedelic fame, that occurred after Monterey, had passed them by. Really, the career of the band now took on the look of a running gun battle with authorities with Erickson's mental health deteriorating rapidly.

The tapes of this gig were rejected by International Artists and languished for years until IA was bought out by Charly. The tapes were then licensed to whoever had some cash to pony up. Labels like Collectibles, known as "Contemptables to the fans, licensed the recording and put it out under a number of titles including: Magic Of The Pyramids. The source of the tapes was said to be sourced from "La Maison, Winter 1967".

One of the companies that licensed the tapes was a Japanese company that put out an LP. This is, by far, the best sounding version of this show to date. The sound is in crystal clear stereo. The Roky CD Club took this LP and put it out for the fans as: Reverberation in the Round.

Recently, Charly, cashing in on the 'Elevators as much as possible, along with the charlatan, known as Paul Drummond, put this show out from the "master tapes". Really? They took expansive stereo and crushed it to mono. They then "Charlyized" it by putting their fucked up compression onto it; the infamous Charly Effect overseen by Paul Drummond. What is interesting are the tracks from an after-show jam with the Conqueroo.

This concert WAS the 13th Floor Elevators' moment. IF they had risen to it, the latest technology was in place to capture the moment and produce an amazing live album. And live is where the 13th Floor Elevators were at. Then, maybe, John Ike and Ronnie wouldn't have quit. And, maybe, this amazing live record would have helped catapult the 13th Floor Elevators to national, and international, recognition.

Alas, it was not to be but maybe, on some parallel, Gurdjieffian universe, Tommy Hall tells the band that the gig is too important and maybe they should lay off of the LSD so as to get a good recording. However, in this universe, time space reality, that didn't happen.

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Denny Angelle said...

Wow, nice job. A lot of research went into this!

Henry Carr said...

sandy lockett was booking elevators at that time . electric grandmother was houston white,gary maxwell, henry carr.

Kiloh Smith said...

Mr. Carr, that has been fixed. Sorry for the omission.

Anonymous said...

What a great job putting that all together. Coming from N.C. and born in 67, I love to read about one of my favorite bands from that era.