Great Moments in Rock – La Bamba (Richie Rosenberg)

Anyone who is a fan of the Conan O’Brien TV show (link for original show here) is familiar with trombone player Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg. You may not know about his history before the show. He got started as a member of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. The Jukes were part of the New Jersey scene that included Bruce Springsteen (who gave La Bamba his nickname). In fact, E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt was a member of the Jukes in the early days. That also explains how La Bamba knew E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg, who recruited him for the Conan O’Brien Show band.

Below is a link for the Jukes’ song When You Dance, written by Springsteen and Van Zandt, which first appeared on the 1977 album This Time It’s For Real. This shows that La Bamba had a flair for comedy 35 years ago. At the beginning of the song the band is chanting “La Bamba, La Bamba, …” while La Bamba does a crazed elephant impersonation on his trombone. It’s hilarious and it’s a great song; give it a listen:

Click here to listen


My wife and I have been collecting posters, mostly for rock concerts, for many years. We’ve covered the walls of our rec room with the collection. The top of the page in this blog shows some of them. Highlights include:

  • a poster for the Beatles’ first concert in the US
  • a Woodstock poster autographed by Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane
  • a Hot Tuna poster signed by band members Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen, plus artist Kenny Pisani
  • a poster for a joint poetry reading by Patti Smith and Allen Ginsberg signed by both of them
  • a sheet of blotter acid autographed by Timothy Leary
  • We’ve acquired them for various reasons over the years. Some just looked good at a poster store; others we obtained though mail order.

    I’ve done most of my work on this blog while sitting on the couch in the rec room. I’m facing the east wall, so those posters are what I see when I look up. I’ll start there and go around the room.

    East Wall

    (1) The Doors, Lavender Hill Mob, Joint Effort and Captain Speed. August 5 1967 at Earl Warren Showgrounds, Santa Barbara, California. A dance concert presented by Kacy and Jim Salzer. Tickets $2.50 in advance, $3.00 at the door. Light show by Family Cat.

    (2) Little Feat and Robben Ford. Thursday, September 1 1988 at the Fillmore, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (3) Youngbloods and Ace of Cups. January 5-6-7, 1968 at Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco. Presented by Family Dog.

    (4) Iron Butterfly, Indian Head Band, The Collectors and The Electroluminescence. July 4-5-6-7, 1968 at Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco. Presented by Family Dog. Alice in Wonderland characters on the poster.

    (5) Sheet of blotter acid autographed by Timothy Leary. Obtained in 1995 from Artrock as part of their Blotter Acid Art show. Has images of Felix the Cat (and no LSD).

    (6) We’re All Mad. Found this poster back in the mid-1980s in North Beach, San Francisco. It seemed appropriate.

    (7) Timothy Leary in Wonderland. An Exhibition of Blotter Acid Art. August 10 – October 10, 1995 at Artrock Gallery in San Francisco. Dr. Timothy Leary hosts a reception 5 – 9 pm 10 August.

    (8) Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage and Blues Brothers. December 31, 1978 at Winterland, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham. Breakfast served at dawn. This was the final show at Winterland, and is available on DVD as The Closing of Winterland. I included some notes about the show in my post about the Grateful Dead — click here. I’ve used the blue rose from this poster as a gravatar on WordPress and as an avatar elsewhere.

    (9) Spirit, Piewacket and Stillborn Time.  July 4-5-6, 1968 at Sound Factory, Sacramento.  Show on the 6th is a special dance concert.  Tickets $3.00.

    (10) A Wonderful Invention. Poster for the Library of Congress exhibit A Brief History of the Phonograph from Tinfoil to the LP, July 19 – October 30, 1977.

    (11) Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. September 9, 1988 at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (12) Dinosaurs, Commander Cody and New Riders of the Purple Sage.  September 10, 1988 at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    Included the above photo to provide a closer look at these two posters near the top.

    (13) Little Charlie and the Nightcats, The Paladins and Ruth Webster. July 15, 1988 at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (14) Robin Hitchcock and the Egyptians, Game Theory and Monks of Doom. September 8, 1988 at the Fillmore, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (15) Days of Sounds, December 26 – New Years Eve, 1967 at the Fillmore, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham. December 26-27-28 — The Doors, Chuck Berry and Salvation, lights by Holy See. December 29-30 — Chuck Berry, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service, lights by Glenn McKay’s Headlights. New Years Eve (9 pm – 9 am) — Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Freedom Highway.

    (16) Buffalo Springfield and Eighth Penny Matter. October 6-7, 1967 at the Family Dog, Denver. Presented by the Family Dog.

    (17) Grateful Dead. Fall Tour 1995 — Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Toronto. Tour didn’t take place because of the death of Jerry Garcia on August 9, 1995.

    (18) Big Brother and the Holding Company, Iron Butterfly and Booker T. and the M.G.’s. April 11, 1968 at the Fillmore, San Francisco, and April 12-13, 1968 at Winterland, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (19) Bryan Ferry. September 8, 1988 at Sacramento Community Theatre, Sacramento, and September 9, 1988 at the Greek Theatre, U.C. Berkeley. Presented by Bill Graham.

    North Wall

    (1) Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. October 31, 1975 at Paramount Theatre, Oakland. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (2) Canned Heat, Lothar and the Hand People, Allman Joy and Super Ball. November 3-4-5, 1967 at Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco. Presented by Family Dog. Note: the Allman Joys were an early band fronted by Duane and Gregg Allman, before the Allman Brothers Band.

    (3) Bill Haley and the Comets, the Drifters and the Flaming Groovies. August 16-17-18, 1968 at Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco. Presented by Family Dog.

    (4) On Halloween, the Dead Rise Again. Promotional poster from Arista Records for the release of the Grateful Dead’s CD Built to Last on October 31, 1989.

    (5) Jefferson Airplane, Charlie Musselwhite, the Ceyleib People and Clear Light. February 23-24, 1968 at Pinnacle Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles.

    West Wall

    (1) California Music Fair. August 18 through August 25, 1972 at the Fox, Long Beach. 80 bands including Wishbone Ash, El Chicano, Spirit, John Stewart and Ballin Jack, plus old flicks and stage comedies.

    (2) Art of the Dead, a 30-year Retrospective. November 14, 1996 – January, 1997 at the Artrock Gallery in San Francisco.

    (3) Grateful Dead. August 17, 1986 at Boreal Ridge, Donner Summit, California (ski resort near Lake Tahoe). The highest Grateful Dead concert in the world — elevation 7200 feet (2200 meters). Good Food, Cold Drinks, Tall Pines, Cool Breeze, Trip & Slide.

    (4) Hole, Veruca Salt and Star 69. November 11, 1994 at the Fillmore, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    (5) Led Zeppelin, Bonzo Dog Band and Roland Kirk. November 6-7-8, 1968 at Winterland, San Francisco. Lights by Brotherhood of Light. Tickets $4.00.

    (6) The Beatles, the Caravelles, Tommy Roe and the Chiffons. February 11, 1964 at Washington (DC) Sports Arena. Tickets $5.00. This was the Beatles’ first concert in the US. Their first performance in the US was on the Ed Sullivan TV show on February 9. My wife saw them later that year (September 2) in Philadelphia — it was her first concert. Tickets for the Philadelphia show, with no opening acts, were $3.50.

    (7) Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Charlatans and Blue Cheer. March 31 – April 1, 1967 at Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco. Presented by Family Dog.

    (8) Patti Smith and Alan Ginsburg poetry reading. April 5, 1996 at Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Poster is signed by both of them. Presented by Jewel Heart, which is “dedicated to the preservation of the endangered Tibetan culture, and to Tibetan Buddhist studies and the practice of this rich tradition within the context of contemporary life”.

    (9) R.E.M. Green World Tour 1989. Poster is for the tour (after release of the album Green) rather than for a single show.

    (10) Captain Trips Festival. The Dead Heads, Grateful Dead Music, Eyes of the World Light Show and Surprise Guests. A Gathering of the Tribes — En Hommage à Jerry Garcia. January 14, 1996 at Parc de la Villette in Paris.

    (11) Bo Diddley, Lightnin’ Hopkins, New York Rock Ensemble and Beefy Red. October 22-23-24-25, 1970 at Fillmore West, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham. Also mentions special Wednesday shows for $3.00 — October 21 Pink Floyd and October 28 Small Faces with Rod Stewart.

    (12) Woodstock Festival poster autographed by Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane. August 15-16-17, 1969 at Max Yasgur’s farm near White Lake, New York. Three days of peace and music. My wife, who was a college student in Pennsylvania at the time, was going to go with some friends, but couldn’t because her father was in the hospital.

    (13) Watkins Glen Summer Jam — Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead and The Band. July 28, 1973 at Watkins Glen speedway, Watkins Glen, New York. Noon Till ?. $10 includes concert, parking and camping. Drew a larger crowd than Woodstock — estimated at 600,000. For what it’s worth, my spot on the couch for working on the computer is right under this poster.

    (14) Grateful Dead, Miles Davis Quintet and Stone the Crows. April 9-10-11-12, 1970 at Fillmore West, San Francisco. Presented by Bill Graham.

    South Wall

    (1) Furthur Festival. Ratdog (Bob Weir, Rob Wasserman, Matthew Kelly, Jay Lane, Joanne Johnson), Bruce Hornsby, (Electric) Hot Tuna, Mickey Hart’s Mystery Box, Los Lobos, Flying Karamazov Brothers, John Wesley Harding, Chalo Eduardo and Alvin Youngblood Hart, June 20 – August 4, 1996 at many US locations. Saw the Sacramento show of this tour on July 29 at Cal Expo along with my wife and daughter, who was 9 at the time and for whom it was her first rock concert.

    (2) The Other Ones (Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bruce Hornsby). June 25 – July 23, 1998 at many US locations.

    (3) Hot Tuna. November 26, 1977 at the Palladium, New York City. Signed by band members Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen, plus artist Kenny Pisani, #293 of 400. Top part was also the cover art for their 1985 album Historic Hot Tuna (album contains performances from 1971). According to the artist on his page on the site b-uncut: I airbrushed this album/CD cover for the band “Hot Tuna” when I was still in jr. high school, earning the gig when I got hold of some “bad acid” backstage and the guys in the band wanted to make it up to me. I was like the kid in “Almost Famous” but a lot less lucid.

    In Conclusion

    I’ve enjoyed putting this together. I found out quite a few things about images I’ve been looking at for years. I would love to hear from readers who have more information about any of these shows.

    I should add that as I looked over the pictures it occurred to me that maybe I should have straightened the posters up before getting the camera out. Then the perfect excuse came to me — Hey, it’s California, the ground shakes here sometimes.

    Amazing Performances

    I went to a lot of concerts in the 70s and 80s. That covers the time from when I started college (actually fall 1969) through the time my wife and I became parents in 1987. Suddenly the logistics were more complicated and there were more things going on, so we haven’t gone to as many since that time.

    When I think back over all the concerts I’ve gone to, there are two performances that stand out for me as the coolest things I’ve seen. There were others concerts I enjoyed more overall, but these two performances were amazing.

    I saw the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble during my freshman year in college, so this was during the 1969-70 school year. Their performance of the Chuck Berry classic Roll Over Beethoven blew me away. The band was started by students at the Juilliard School (link to school website), so they were of course outstanding at classical music. They sat down as a string quartet (2 violins, viola and cello) and started a Beethoven piece. Then, one of them picked up an electric guitar and played the Chuck Berry riff that starts the rock song, and they all switched instruments and became a rock band. They went back to the string quartet for the bridge, then back to the rock band to finish the song. The playing, in both formats, was very impressive. For me it focused on how musicianship can make rock music more enjoyable to listen to — it’s more than just getting your hair and your attitude right. There was an energy that made their performance special. When I listened to their records later, their playing seemed to restrained by comparison, that energy was missing.

    At a Weather Report concert in the early 1980s at Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, Maryland, I saw bass player Jaco Pastorius play Jimi HendrixPurple Haze as a bass duet — WITH HIMSELF. He set two speakers facing each other with a guitar stand in between. With the first bass he played the repeating notes (octaves?) that start the song (click here to refresh your memory). He set the bass between the speakers so that the notes repeated in a loop. Then he picked up a second bass and played the lead of the song. I found it mind-boggling that not only could he play it on a bass but that it sounded just like the Hendrix original. I don’t think he sang, and I don’t remember anything about the end of the song. It was that WHAM moment at the beginning of the song that stuck with me.

    In addition to being awesome performances, another thing they have in common — unfortunately, in this case — is that there doesn’t seem to be video available. At least not that I could find. So all I have to share with you is the memory. I hope you have also experienced a magical in-concert moment like these.