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Family Dog
Nationality: 
american
Gender: 
Male
Birth Date: 
1965
Birth Place: 
San Francisco
Death Date: 
1979
Originally a collective that promoted rock concerts in San Francisco in 1965 and 1966, The Family Dog became the concert promotion organization owned by Chet Helms (1942-2005). Under his leadership The Family Dog first promoted concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium in partnership with Bill Graham (1931-1991), then on its own organized concerts at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom and later at the western edge of San Francisco under the name “Family Dog on the Great Highway.” The original Family Dog Collective was composed primarily of four persons living together at 2111 Pine Street, San Francisco nicknamed the “Dog House:” Luria Castell (d. 2014), Ellen Harmon, Jack Towle and the artist Alton Kelley (1940-2008). Castell and Kelley had spent the summer of 1965 in Virginia City, Nevada, working at the Red Dog Saloon which featured a San Francisco band called The Charlatans. Back in San Francisco in the fall, Castell and Kelley joined with Harmon and Towle to produce three dance concerts at the Longshoremen’s Hall in late 1965 and two more in early 1966 under the name “The Family Dog,” all featuring The Charlatans and two with the Jefferson Airplane. Kelley created the handbills for the first three concerts. Helms then worked with Castell to hold a dance concert featuring the Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company at California Hall. However, Castell left for Mexico without booking the Hall. Helms then went to Graham and worked out a deal to hold the concert at the Fillmore Auditorium, which Graham had under lease, using the name “Family Dog.” The poster for the event, featuring a photograph of three Native Americans on horseback with the words “Tribal Stomp,” FD-1) was created by Helms and Wes Wilson (b. 1937). Helms presented three more concerts at the Fillmore, alternating with shows presented by Graham, but then Graham dissolved the partnership. Helms moved the Family Dog operation to San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom, where he produced concerts for two-and-a-half years, always with posters in the psychedelic style advertising the events. Wilson created the first eleven of the Family Dog posters (FD 1-11), with Helms usually providing the theme. After Victor Moscoso (b. 1936) created one poster (FD-12), twenty-six of the next thirty-six posters were done by Stanley Mouse (b. 1940), often together with Alton Kelley. The Family Dog produced free concerts in Golden Gate Park during 1966 and 1967. Helms also produced concerts in Denver and Portland under the “Family Dog” name. Helms produced concerts at the Avalon until the end of 1968, when the city revoked his sound permits. Some 150 posters had been produced for the Family Dog concerts at that point. Helms moved the operation to the Edgewood Ballroom at Playland at the Beach on the Great Highway, producing his first concert there (featuring the Jefferson Airplane) on June 13, 1969. Family Dog on the Great Highway continued offering concerts until August 1970. The Family Dog produced concerts in Berkeley (1978) and Monterey (1979), but the latter was a financial failure. Helms allowed the Family Dog name to be used for a series of concerts in the mid-1990s and for a 30th anniversary celebration of the Summer of Love in Golden Gate Park in 1997. Helms died after a stroke in 2005. The Family Dog name lives on as a merchandising trademark. (TNB 12/2015) Selected bibliography: Glatt, John. Rage & Roll: Bill Graham and the Selling of Rock. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Pub. Group, 1993. Grushkin, Paul. The Art of Rock: Posters from Presley to Punk. New York: Abbeville Press, 1987.