Jim Murray - guitar, vocals; John Cipollina - guitar, vocals; Gary Duncan - guitar, vocals; David Frieberg - bass, vocals; Greg Elmore - drums
Many consider early Quicksilver Messenger Service to represent the "San Francisco Sound" in its purest state. The sets that Bill Graham recorded during 1966 present a good argument for that statement. Jim Murray, who would exit the band prior to their first album being recorded, would play a significant role in establishing the early sound of the group, along with the distinctive dual lead guitar attack of Duncan and Cipollina. With Murray as primary lead vocalist, the band's repertoire veered toward electrified covers of contemporary folk and blues songs, with a heavy nod to Bo Diddley. The intertwining lead guitars of Cipollina and Duncan are already becoming quite distinctive and one can clearly hear why they were considered one of the most exciting bands in San Francisco. Because so much of their repertoire from this era remains unreleased, these shows provide a wealth of songs unavailable commercially. A few classic songs that did appear on their first and second albums are heard here in more embryonic form, ripe with potential. These QMS sets help to capture a turning point in contemporary music, as well as the beginning of a culture shift. Like many of their contemporaries in the 1966/1967 era, they were beginning to embrace spontaneity and experimentation. These sets show the band taking early steps in that direction. To help put this sets in context, the first QMS album was still a year away when these sets were recorded.
Opening for Muddy Waters Blues Band, this set features a heavy emphasis on the band's blues repertoire. They kick the set off with a direct homage to Muddy Waters, by performing his classic, "I Got My Mojo Workin'." The version of Willie Cobbs' "You Don't Love Me" (later immortalized by The Allman Brothers Band) continues the set with high energy, before they get down and dirty on another Muddy Waters classic, "Hoochie Coochie Man. None of these songs ever made a QMS album, but are prime examples of the type of material favored in the early days. Both Dale Hawkin's "Suzy Q" and Buffy Saint Marie's "Codine," a song about the harrowing effects of hard drug addiction, would also remain staples of the band's early repertoire. Even at this early stage, these are perfect examples of the dual lead guitar attack of Cipollina and Duncan. The band did release Buffy Saint Marie's "Codine" on a rare movie soundtrack called Revolution, but it pales in comparison to the performance here. The band's rendition of "Stand By Me" is somewhat of an anomaly, being dominated by a strong vocal intensity, with subtler instrumental accompaniment.
The last two songs would turn up on the band's early albums. Their cover of Hamilton Camp's "Pride Of Man" would open their debut album. It is obvious why they chose it as the first song most of the public would hear, as it has a very distinctive sound, full of power and ominous overtones. This song would become a regional radio hit for the band approximately a year later and it begins to define a more original direction for the group. Bo Diddley would prove to be a huge influence on the group's initial sound and the set-closing "Mona" would become a centerpiece for the group's explorations in the years to come. This version is quite interesting as it begins to show the band's improvisational intensity beginning to bloom. This set is a fine example of the band still in the early stages of development and still playing covers, but beginning to create a distinctive sound of their own.