Inspired by the musical archives of the SFPL, Josh Kun's Hit Parade examines contemporary issues of gentrification, eviction, and neighborhood change through an engagement with local music history.
Open Rehearsals (For a New Song, For a New City) July 11-13

Join us for this special free, open to all performance by a super-group of San Franciscan musicians coming together for the first time to rehearse publicly one historic San Francisco song that they have never played before. The songs will be selected by scholar and artist Josh Kun from the sheet music collection of San Francisco Public Library.

The goal is to gather together as we watch a group of strangers from different neighborhoods as they get to know each other, listen to each other, learn how to play together, and learn to think collectively about how to interpret music from the past in the present of contemporary San Francisco. As San Francisco continues to struggle with crises of gentrification, eviction, and extreme neighborhood change, can music be a model for imagining a new city?

Musicians: Idris Ackamoor, Minna Choi, Akheel Mestayer, Diana Gameros, Marcus Shelby

Join us on:
Tuesday, July 11 @ Mission Branch Library, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, July 12 @ Bayview Branch Library, 7 p.m.

Thursday, July 13 @ Western Addition Branch Library, 6:30 p.m.

Hit Parade

 

   

What is the sound of your San Francisco?

What is the music of your neighborhood?

 

Led by Josh Kun, Hit Parade is a project of Public Knowledge, a collaboration between SFPL and SFMOMA. Inspired by the musical archives of SFPL, Hit Parade examines contemporary issues of gentrification, eviction, and neighborhood change through an engagement with local music history.

Hit Parade is where San Francisco memories meet musical memories. It is a project interested in community musical storytelling and grassroots musical memory. As the city continues to undergo rapid changes, the Hit Parade team will be gathering musical histories of the Western Addition, Bayview Hunters Point, and Mission neighborhoods.

 

What music has disappeared?

What music lives on?

 
 

 

Storytelling Day at Western Addition

Josh Kun and Inna Arzumanova interview Bobbie Webb, Tanya Yule, Josh Yule, Mohammed Soriano and John Santos at the Western Addition Branch Library on April 15, 2017.

Juan Trasviña

Juan Trasviña was a San Francisco radio announcer and broadcasting mainstay throughout the 20th century. Having begun his career in radio, Trasviña was one of the first San Francisco State University students to receive a Broadcasting B.A. and M.A. degree.

 

His 2013 obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle gives a small snapshot of his wide-ranging radio career: “His radio career spanned from announcing the first Trans Pacific short wave news from the 1939 World’s Fair at Treasure Island, to his Army unit transmitting sensitive information for the State Department at the Yalta Peace Conference, to sound effects work for popular old-time radio shows, to serving as engineer for 42 years at The National Broadcasting Company as KPO, KNBC and KNBR Radio, to assisting World Series broadcasts from Oakland to Latin America in 1972 – 74. Shortly before and after retirement, he trained the next generation of broadcasters in Spanish and English courses at the College of San Mateo.”

Below is a 1940 portrait of Trasviña working for KGEI broadcasting at the Golden Gate International Exposition, as well as photo of Trasviña and his wife Carmen, taken in 1945 at San Francisco’s Monaco Theater Restaurant. As the below brochure cover shows, the famous restaurant and nightclub was located at 557 Pacific Avenue, in what was briefly known as the International Settlement (the name was a rebranding of the old Barbary Coast entertainment disctrict).

Bayview Opera House

Built in 1888 by a Masonic Lodge chapter, the Bayview Opera House stands at 4705 Third Street, in the heart of San Francisco’s Bayview. The name on the entrance still says “South San Francisco Opera House,” a leftover from the hall’s first years, when South San Francisco was not yet incorporated as a city. The theater’s history is a full one – vibrant Vaudeville productions, disrepair after the 1906 earthquake, sales, functioning as a dance hall, a social hall, an arts space. In 1968, it was designated a city landmark (#8 to be exact) and in 1989, the Bayview Opera House began its most current life as a community arts programming destination (the programs are funded by the San Francisco Arts Commission).

 

Perhaps the Opera House’s most infamous scenes, however, are from September 1966, when Bayview Hunters Point community members started demonstrating, to protest the police killing of a sixteen-year-old boy. The protests lasted for three days, when the governor called in the National Guard. To protect themselves from police clad in riot gear, community members (including many children) took shelter in the Opera House. Below is an SFPL photo showing officers in front of the old Opera House. Next to it, is a contemporary photo of the renovated Opera House, at the center of Bayview Hunters Point community life (photo from https://www.bvoh.org/).

Cesar Ascarrunz and Cesar’s Latin Palace

There was a time when Cesar’s Latin Palace was the city’s salsa destination. The club hosted musicians like Hector Lavoe, Celia Cruz, Willie Colon, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, and New York’s Orquesta Broadway. Opened in 1977 and located at 3140 Mission Street, the club was a place you could hear legendary musicians, stop in for dance lessons, or just spend your weekend nights dancing beside both your neighbors and the city’s power brokers (club owner Cesar Ascarrunz told Chuy Varela of SFGate that Bill Graham was not only a frequent visitor but also, a great dancer). The club was shut down by the city in 1991 for liquor license violations. Roccapulco nightclub now occupies the space.

 

Perhaps even more well-known that the Mission neighborhood club is its owner – Cesar Ascarrunz, who arrived in the Bay Area in 1960 (first in San Jose and then eventually in San Francisco) in order to attend UC Berkeley and stayed, transforming from musician, to club owner, to politician and to community leader. He ran for mayor several times in the 1990s and as recently as 2011.

 

Check out Matt Smith’s piece in SF Weekly for a glimpse into Cesar Ascarrunz’s political life and the below photo of the man himself (photo is taken from a handout, per the San Francisco Chronicle).

“A Frisco Girl”

Published on November 7, 1897 as part of the Sunday sheet music supplement to The Examiner, “A Frisco Girl” was written and composed by James H. Marshall and Walter Wolff. It was performed by Don McCann and Lillian Leslie.

“A San Francisco girl am I, And only plain at that;

I’ve Been to Monte Carlo,

And have played at Baccarat, In Paris, London, and Berlin, And far away Moscow

I must admit they’re very fine, But give me dear Frisco

Where flowers are blooming the year round

And sun shines bright

Where girls are beauties to gaze on in broad daylight

For a nighttime or daytime, or Winter, or Summer

You’ll see pretty girls on the street,

For Frisco, you are quite a wonder,

And can’t be beat”

 

Sheet music is available at SFPL’s Dorothy Starr Sheet Music Collection.

Forbidden City Nightclub

The Chinatown we see today is not the same as the Chinatown that existed pre-1906. After the Earthquake destroyed the original architecture, anti-Chinese sympathizers went through great lengths to push the community to Hunters Point. As an effort to maintain its location, community leaders redesigned the layout of the neighborhood. These leaders created a Chinatown with red angled rooves and various other “oriental” signifiers in order re-create the space as a tourist destination. Using existing racist sentiments of Chinese otherness and “exoticism,” these leaders were nevertheless able to hold onto their real estate. With this reimagining of the area came the introduction of Chinese nightclubs. Nevada born entrepreneur Charlie Low started the first of these cocktail bars. Eventually, he created Forbidden City nightclub, which featured all Chinese entertainers, near Union Square. Noel Toy was a popular entertainer at Forbidden City, whose nude dancing ultimately brought fame to the nightclub. Check out the below spread from Beauty Paradise Magazine for an example of the kinds of narratives that dominated at Forbidden City.

Storytelling Days at the San Francisco Public Library

What is the sound of your city? What is the music of your neighborhood?

 

Join us for a day of community musical storytelling and grassroots musical memory.

Western Addition Branch Library  April 15, 2017, 2-5 p.m.

Mission Branch Library April 29, 2017, 2-5 p.m.

Bayview/Linda Brooks Branch Library May 13, 2017, 2-5 p.m.

The Fillmore

Known simply as The Fillmore since about 1952, the Fillmore Auditorium remains one of the most important music performance spaces in San Francisco and a major landmark in the Western Addition neighborhood. The list of recognizable names who’ve graced The Fillmore’s stage is endless: Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Otis Redding, James Brown, Tina Turner, and many more.

 

Aside from the big name headliners, however, the auditorium has also been an important neighborhood institution, serving the Western Addition community since well before the 1950s. After all, since its opening in 1912 as The Majestic Hall and Majestic Academy of Dancing, the space has been several different dance halls, a place for masquerade balls, and a roller rink.

 

Found in the “Shades of Western Addition” series of the SFPL Digital Photo collection, below is a photo of Clarence and Emma Jean going to a concert at The Fillmore in 1961.

The Screemers

While jazz is often seen as the North Beach district’s most prominent musical export, the neighborhood’s famous clubs played host to musicians from many musical genres. The Screamers, a punk rock band from Los Angeles, for example, performed at Mabuhay Gardens in 1978. The Mab was located at 443 Broadway and was a famous punk club venue, until it closed in 1986 and the building underwent several renovations as various clubs and currently, a rentable conference and performance space. The Mab didn’t constitute the building’s first life, however. Before it was a punk destination, the building housed a Filipino restaurant and club owned by Ness Aquino.

The SFPL has a recording of the “Screamers: Live in San Francisco” 1978 set and you can check it out on the 6th floor of Main. For a sneak peek, however, see the below video from Youtube.

 

 

Ever heard of the Cockettes?

Founded by George Edgerly Harris III Jr. – better known as “Hibiscus” – the group was a theater troupe of drag performers. The original troupe consisted of fourteen people, including an infant and specialized in vibrant, extravagant performances, full of glitter and over-the-top (often homemade) costumes. Often performing at the Pagoda Palace Theater (a vaudeville theater, which was located on Columbus Avenue, across the street from Washington Square, from 1907 to 2013), the Cockettes had a large underground following in San Francisco.

You might recognize Hibiscus from his appearance in the 1967 photo “Flower Power” (he is placing a flower in the barrel of a gun during a Vietnam War protest). Another Cockettes member, Sylvester, later went on to become San Francisco’s “queen of disco.” For more on Sylvester, check out Joshua Gamson’s book The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the Seventies in San Francisco.

More photos are available in the Peter Mintun collection at SFPL’s photo desk

Mabuhay Gardens

Laura Havlin, chronicling The Mab’s history for AnOther Magazine, writes that the club was a place for sexual exploration and experimentation, unfettered creativity and notably, “bad taste.”

“The venue in the North Beach area hosted punk nights, vaudeville-style cabaret, and, due to its location in the seedier area of town and its proximity to the stripclubs, became a hangout for off-duty strippers from nearby clubs The Galaxy, Carol Doda’s and The Roaring 20s. The club’s emcee was Dirk Dirksen – another local legend, who would welcome bands on stage with acerbic intros,” Havlin writes in “The Mabuhay Gardens: Where Punks and Strippers United Forces.”

 

The SFPL Digital Photo Collection – specifically, the San Francisco Historical Photograph series – has several performance photos from The Mab, including those included in this post. They depict frequent Mab performers, the Dead Kennedys, in 1982.

The Blackhawk

Established in 1949, at the corner of Hyde and Turk, this jazz club was known first as The Stork Club and then, more famously, The Blackhawk. Ted Gioia called it “the most illustrious jazz corner on the Barbary Coast.” The club hosted many famous names, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Dave Bruebeck and Cal Tjader. Derrick Bang, in his book Vince Guaraldi at the Piano, explains that the club was not just a performance space, but also a place where music was often recorded and then pressed. The latter was often managed by Fantasy Records, one of the city’s premier labels, known for helping develop and promote a uniquely San Francisco style of modernist jazz. “The club was also unusual in another respect,” writes Bang, “it maintained a section for minors, separated from the rest of the bar by chicken wire” (p.26).

Hunter’s Point Musical Mystery

There is both a mystery and a commercial industry surrounding this poster for the June 1967 Hunter’s Point Festival honoring Muhammad Ali. The poster announces the free two-day concert, featuring the Steve Miller Blues Band, the Sonny Lewis Quintet, Radha Krishna Temple, and others, including many special guests. The problem is that there is little to no record of the festival actually taking place. One of the bloggers over at Rock Prosopography has followed the trail closely and you can check out that post HERE. The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco, for example, lists the event but reviews of any kind are harder to come by.

In the meantime, this has not stopped entrepreneurial resellers from giving the poster, which is apparently a limited edition work of psychedelic art, a second life. One seller cites Christie’s as declaring there are only three posters available in the world.

San Francisco Welcomes You

Words and music by Chief Caupolican, “San Francisco Welcomes You” was published in 1945 in San Francisco. The sheet music lives in the San Francisco Public Library’s Dorothy Starr Sheet Music Collection.

Born in 1876 in Chile, Chief Caupolican was a major Vaudeville star and a well-known performer at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, where, as the New York Times put it in 1922, he “h[eld] vast audiences in thrall.” Among many other entertainment industry accomplishments, Chief Caupolican also starred in the Ziegfeld-Goldwyn Technicolor screen adaptation of “Whoopee” in 1930 with Eddie Cantor.

Chief Caupolican lived in San Francisco in the 1940s and 1950s, until he moved away to Seattle in 1959.

Bill Melander’s The Record Exchange

Known as “The Old Man’s” or “The Hangout” (ideal for record collectors because you could get records for 5 cents) Bill Melander’s The Record Exchange was located at 172 Eddy Street until 1965. It was demolished as part of The City’s program to renovate lower Eddy Street.

“Pops Melander’s Eddy St. establishment looks like a lesson in how not to run a record shop. Instead it’s become a favorite hangout of record collectors and familiar jazz musicians, who delightedly sniff the aroma of musty shellac and shuffle around the grimy floor, where the worn needles are sprinkled like sequins. Youngsters starting to peddle platters cannot hope to achieve this patrician air overnight: It’s taken Pops 27 years to get his shop into the state of homely chaos shown in the pictures above.”

KFRC Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Musical Festival

The Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival was held in June 1967 at the Cushing Memorial Amphitheater in Mount Tamalpais. It was a rock festival sponsored by KFRC and produced by Top 40 DJs. All proceeds went to the Hunters Point Childcare Center. The concert was intended to draw the Bay Area’s youth, or as the San Rafael Daily Independent Journal notes in anticipation of the event: the concert is “expected to draw 30,000 ‘teenyboppers’ and others to the mountain’s amphitheater.” In the end, some 36,000 people, including those ‘teenyboppers,’ adults, members of the Hell’s Angels, and others, showed up to listen to performances from more than two dozen Bay Area bands. According to The Times Standard, the Sheriff’s deputies testified that, “the crowd behaved ‘like ladies and gentlemen.’”

Keystone Corner

Introducing, the Keystone Korner Jazz Club. Located on Vallejo Street (and now transformed into a restaurant), it was first a blues club and then one of the most important jazz destinations in San Francisco and arguably, nationwide. In its heyday, the club hosted musicians such as Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey and Bill Evans. In her 2012 book Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club, Kathy Sloane calls the club the “World’s First Psychedelic Jazz Club.” What was so unique about the club, Sloane writes, was its informal, relaxed atmosphere: “People could go backstage and talk to the musicians, the musicians would come out front. The distance between performers and audience was totally permeable.”

Sheet Music Finds

“Out in San Francisco, where the Islam Temple lives, Ev’ry body’s singing, all the bells are ringing” (Official Shrine Song)

 

“Islam Greets You (The Official Shrine Song)” was written by Fanchon and Marco and published by Sherman, Clay & Company in San Francisco in 1922. The sheet music is available through the San Francisco Library’s Dorothy Starr Sheet Music Collection.

 

The song was the result of a 1922 contest organized and sponsored by the Islam Temple and the San Francisco Chronicle. “The Chronicle will pay a $100 cash prize to the writer of the best Islam temple march song to greet visitors to the Shriners’ golden jubilee convention… It is an open field to all. Musical reputations don’t count. What Islam temple wants is a great march song,” declared the city paper.

 

“Miss Fanchon” & Marco Wolff were a brother and sister team of producers, who ran a robust entertainment operation in Hollywood from the early 1930s to the 1940s. In the world of theater, Fanchon and Marco (as they were usually listed) were known for their spectacular, excessive productions. Miss Fanchon, in fact, directed Shipstad and Johnson’s Ice Follies for the 1939 World’s Fair in San Francisco.

 

Live in San Francisco

What does it mean to live in San Francisco today?

 

What does it mean – as these three covers below hint – to be live in San Francisco?

 

How can the musical memories of San Francisco’s past liveness – buried and relocated through waves of gentrification and out migration – help us imagine an alternative living in San Francisco’s present?