The National Guard Armory in Nevada City went up for sale last week. The old tin shed has gone through many changes over the years, having housed the Imaginarium and NCTV, and now the state has declared it as surplus property. They plan to sell it for whatever the current market will bear.
The Armory holds a lot of memories for me. Back in 1970, I aspired to be a concert promoter, mainly because no one else was doing it. During my high school years, there was a fellow (whose name has unfortunately been deleted from my organic data banks) who filled that role. He brought many of the up and coming NorCal bands to the Nevada City Elks Hall, then located above what is now Friar Tuck’s. There was Group “B”, whose bass player, Dickie Peterson, went on to found the heavy metal band Blue Cheer. Then there was the New Breed, who later became Redwing without bassist Tim Schmitt, who joined the band Poco and later The Eagles. There were many other bands who never amounted to much, but we were hungry for anything new during the explosive musical years of the mid-sixties.
The promoter used to let me in free for distributing posters for his dances. He finally quit the music biz after a few years of great shows, and so I decided to pick up the slack myself. This was during the period when many of my friends were starting their own bands, but there were few venues available. Sometimes there were dances at the Seaman’s Lodge in Pioneer Park, but Seaman’s was too small for the kind of psychedelic spectacles we wanted to see.
At first, I rented the Armory directly from the National Guard, but after the guard left, the building was left under the jurisdiction of Nevada City. I rented the building from City Manager Beryl Robinson for $100, and was required to hire an off-duty police officer for $25. I didn’t mind, because the building was big enough to hold two to three hundred bodies and we could accommodate more than one act.
There were some great Northern California bands performing during that period. Trakstod was a heavy metal band originally from Redding, but they had taken up residence in the larger Sacramento market. Sundance was what we called a “horn band” because of their sax section. They were from Chico. Another band was called Brotherhood Rush, featuring a midget keyboard player named Bruce Lee. They were all popular draws in NC, and all of them eventually moved here for a short time.
Trakstod’s wild and crazy singer/guitarist Jimmy Berick eventually recorded an album with Masters Of The Airwaves, and Sundance made one album. Neither band was very successful and both have faded into obscure rock history.
But during that short period of 1970-71, we had some good times and great shows. I partnered with an anti-drug organization called Mother for several shows, titled “Mother’s First Ball”, “Mother’s Second Affair”, and “Mother Goes Into Labor (Day)”.
Eventually, the friends I started bands with years earlier formed new groups like Absalom and Carrie Nation. Their first shows were at the Armory, and later I would travel to Georgia with the Nation on a four year rock’n’roll odyssey.
I gave up promoting shows by 1972. The stress of worrying whether I would make enough money to cover expenses was too much for me, since I didn’t have many resources (or even a job) by that time. Most of the music had moved into the bar scene by then anyway. (I did return to concert promoting briefly in 1980. One show at the Nevada Theatre with Charlie Williams’ band, Mistress, and Thomas Jefferson Kaye.)
I’ll always remember those shows. I doubt that anyone will ever put up a plaque to commemorate those historic dance/concerts, but those of us who were there will never forget.