Today I show you a vintage, authentic 1st printing of the Family Dog Great Society concert poster known as FD2, from February 26, 1966.
Legendary San Francisco poster artist Wes Wilson co-designed this King Kong Memorial Dance concert poster, along with Family Dog chief Chet Helms. But Eric King’s excellent reference book, The Collector’s Guide to Psychedelic Rock Concert Posters, informs us that Wilson contributed the new Family Dog logo only, which makes its debut in the upper left-hand corner.
So it was Helms who did the “King Kong Memorial Dance” lettering in the upper right corner of this FD2 concert poster, even though it’s reminiscent of Wilson’s rolling, psychedelic style.
This FD2 King Kong poster advertised four bands on this night: The Great! Society, Big Brother & the Holding Company, The Grass Roots and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
It’s fun to note that the Great Society released their only record the very same month as this Fillmore King Kong poster… “Somebody To Love” b/w “Free Advice” on North Beach Records, a subsidiary of Tom Donahue’s Autumn Records. Unfortunately, the single flopped.
On first blush, the uninformed might mistake this Family Dog King Kong poster as a Janis Joplin concert poster, but no… it would be a few months before she joined Big Brother & the Holding Company.
Wherever his inspiration came from, promoter Chet Helms just clipped his ape image from a photo-page out a news magazine to form the basis for his King Kong Memorial Dance show poster. I show that clearly in my separate video blog on this poster’s unique, original paste-up artwork.
Wes Wilson actually had an entirely different concept for how the Family Dog’s second dance-concert poster would look. Rather than producing the Family Dog King Kong Memorial Dance poster we know and love, Wilson initially came up with “A Salute to Hongo Ishi,” a nod to Big Brother & the Holding Company’s guitarist James Gurley’s new son. But the story goes that Helms turned down that concept in favor of King Kong.
It’s interesting to note that Helms’ lettering separated “Quicksilver” into two different words, “Quick” and “Silver,” on his King Kong Memorial Dance event poster. It’s a good guess that QMS was so new, nobody knew exactly how their name was to be spelled out yet. Or else Helms just goofed a little.
To help draw attention to the headliner, a fancy, antique font was used for Grace Slick’s band on this Great Society Fillmore poster. It sort of invokes the feeling of Virginia City’s Red Dog Saloon, which the Family Dog members had spent a lot of time at the previous summer.
Another interesting choice Helms made on his King Kong Memorial Dance window display – albeit a minor one – is the use of starbursts, rather than periods, in abbreviating “February” and “Auditorium.”
Some may wonder why the Great! Society has that freestanding exclamation point in the middle of their name on this Family Dog King Kong show poster, because that punctuation mark eventually disappeared. Perhaps all forms of media got lazy and just stopped using it, or maybe it was an official band decision to drop it.
I shouldn’t take for granted that you know the Family Dog was run by Helms and a man named John Carpenter in early 1966. Helms was also the manager of BBHC, and Carpenter the manager of the Great Society – two of the bands featured at this concert. So there may have been some conflicts of interest here & there, but I’m guessing nobody cared too much back in the early, innocent days of S.F. rock.
In addition to this Family Dog King Kong event poster, Mr. Wilson designed the first 10 posters in Chet Helms’ Family Dog series, and about 45 of the first 50 Bill Graham concert posters in 1966-67.
You can tell just by looking at this Family Dog King Kong window display that big, or even medium, business hadn’t entered the scene yet… there is so little information on it. Most obviously, there are no directions on where to buy tickets or how much they cost!
This Great! Society gorilla concert poster harkens back to a time when the Family Dog and Bill Graham were getting along well, sharing the Fillmore back & forth. This friendly arrangement didn’t last for very long, and some say that Graham was just soaking up all of the FD’s knowledge and contacts before breaking free from them.
As far as how to tell the first printings of the Great Society King Kong poster from the reprints, the originals were printed on colored paper (yellow or tan, depending on your viewpoint), and the reprints were printed on white paper. All you have to do is turn the poster over and there’s your answer.
In addition, the pre-concert printings of this Family Dog King Kong dance announcement have no writing in the yellow border down at the bottom, whereas the repro’s have some fine print down there, including “2-2” in the lower right.
Although we assume that things were moving along at a good clip by this point in S.F. rock history, an entire month would pass following this Family Dog Great Society ape poster before the canine collective returned to the Fillmore for its next dance. The result of that was another wonderful dance-concert poster: FD-3, advertising the Paul Butterfield Blues Band at the Fillmore on March 25, 26 & 27, 1966.
In another interesting timeline observation, this Great Society King Kong concert poster is positioned three weeks after Bill Graham’s first Fillmore dance-concert poster (BG-1, the Jefferson Airplane) and three weeks prior to his second one (BG-2, known as Batman).
Like most such posters of the day from the S.F. ballrooms, all printings of the yellow Fillmore gorilla poster have dimensions of 14 x 20”.
One funny aspect of this King Kong Fillmore concert poster, which isn’t usually pointed out: the gorilla on here doesn’t exactly resemble the athletic type who could climb to the top of the Empire State building!
This fun, scarce, collectible rock concert poster is displayed and discussed by music memorabilia collector Pete Howard (firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-540-0020). I will pay TOP DOLLAR for this Kong Memorial Dance or any interesting, psychedelic early SF rock concert posters.
If this poster whetted your appetite, go see a few more Fillmore-era sixties psych concert posters on this page right here on my Web site: http://www.postercentral.com/psychedelic.htm