FAREWELL ROB & THE ACE CAFE SF | “YOU GUYS OWN THE BAR, ALL I DO IS PAY THE BILLS.”

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The ACE Cafe in San Francisco officially closed on March 27th, 2011. It was the day all the beer ran out, because they drank it dry. I regret that I never had the opportunity to visit and pay my respects to a man that clearly ran one helluva bar– some say one of the best. One that is dearly missed by the regulars, and those from all over the world that dropped in and will forever remember the experience and comradery so evident in this farewell video. We’re coming up on the 1 year anniversary, and for many the loss is still as raw as the day Rob Hough closed his doors. Please keep us all posted on Rob and where he resurfaces. I need to experience the warm glow of his spirit and smile one day. Please feel free to share your favorite stories on Rob and the ACE Cafe here in the comments section.

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“You give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.

You teach a man to fish– he’ll drink beer all day.”

Rob Hough

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“THE BEST RELATIONSHIP MARTY EVER HAD WAS WITH ROBBIE ROBERTSON.”

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Robbie Robertson and Martin Scorsese

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

Martin Scorsese was introduced to The Band’s Robbie Robertson by the producer of Mean Streets, Jonathon Taplin, who coincidently helped manage the legendary rock group.  Scorsese’s first impression of the guitarist was, “He was cool, far too cool.” This chance meeting and initial impression would turn into a creative collaboration and friendship that stretches on for the better part of four decades, and includes musical collaborations on at least eight Scorsese films.

By 1976 The Band were on their last legs, after more than sixteen years of non-stop touring the stresses of the road had taken their toll.  The members agreed to one last show, to be played on Thanksgiving 1976 at the famed Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.  The show would feature several notable guest appearances by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Hawkins, and Eric Clapton amongst others.  I have always found this ironic, given that Rock and Roll is big business today with the attendant merchandising and multi-media cash cow to feed, that a group like The Band that still had tremendous commercial appeal would just hang it up.  Times were less cynical I suppose.

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Martin Scorsese, left, and Robbie Robertson traveled to the French Riviera in Cannes, France, in May 1978 to present “The Last Waltz” at the 31st Cannes International Film Festival.  –AP image

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ARLEN NESS’ SECRET WEAPON DURING THE ’70s CHOPPER BOOM | JEFF McCANN

Jeff McCann, who discreetly signs his works with his hidden signature “Motorcycles Forever” got his first bike back in ’65, at the age of 20.  An accomplished artist, McCann began customizing motorcycles a few years later, and soon found himself with a steady side-gig of painting and customizing friend’s bikes.

By the 1970s, with his incredible skills and the Easy Rider chopper boom in full force, McCann was in hot demand.   He opened his own custom bike shop in the San Francisco Bay area – as did Arlen Ness. Arlen, a master builder, was also a good painter– but nothing like McCann. McCann also brought serious design, photography, and printing skills to the table–  contibuting heavily to the first Ness catalog and logo.  It was a partnership that benefitted both sides, and that lasted for years.  McCann’s saved personal images and memories of that time are truly priceless–

Catalog Cover Shoot. Jeff McCann ~ This is a full view of the setup in my garage for the cover shoot for the second edition of our parts catalog. That’s me waiting to see if the photographer needs the bike moved, which is also why I am in my stocking feet so as not to mar the paper drape. I purchased two white paper background drapes and taped them together to get a wide enough “infinite” background for the bikes and models.  After advertising in the local newspaper want ads we hired two women who were inexperienced models but eager to work with the local “chopper guys”.  Scanned from a 37 year old 35mm negative shot by John Reddick in September 1972.  You can see the calendar this session produced here.

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Theme Girl Julie. Jeff McCann ~ In the fall of 1969 my friend Chris and I decided to open a retail store selling “Chopper parts”. We had built and sold 4 custom bikes that year and all our friends were asking how to buy the parts mail order. Ed Roth published “Choppers” magazine which contained ads including one for AEE Choppers of southern California. We had purchased parts from them for my first panhead chopper that same year. Deciding on the name ” CJ custom cycle parts” we made a business plan and went to the bank for a start up loan. To say the bankers laughed at us would be exaggeration but they declined our request. I complained of their shortsightedness to my co-workers at the newspaper and Fran Walling, a fellow artist in the display advertising department, offered to loan me the money from part of her husbands life insurance settlement. We agreed to pay her 1% more than bank rate on a two year repayment plan.

And so with $5,000 in the bank we rented a small store front and made plans for a January 1970 opening.  The plan was for Chris to man the retail store on the weekdays while I worked full time at the newspaper, then on Saturdays I would be behind the counter. We really had no clue how the profit margin of a retail parts business should have worked, both of us had only high school educations and in 1969 I was 23, married with an infant daughter and Chris was 19 and two years out of school. To say we were more lucky than smart is an understatement.  This photograph of Julie, our theme girl, wearing our logo t-shirt was taken on January 10,1974 by John Reddick.  Exactly four years to the day after we had opened our first store and at the height of our business success. Scanned from a 35 year old 35mm negative.

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Wheel Truing Shop. Jeff McCann ~ Work area in our first Stockton store, note the vise holding a threat rolling machine attached to a reversible drill. We cut the blank spoke to length with a small bolt cutter, ground the end round on the small grinder next to the vise, and then inserted the blank into the roller. The sign says we charged $28.88 for a set of spokes custom made and chromed to fit your application. Hundreds of wheels were laced and trued each year by either Chris or Kurt Bacon, a highschool kid who hung around my garage paintshop at home. He worked after school at the store and got school credits for “work experience” on his report card. After graduation he came to work for us full time and was a valuable employee and friend. Scanned from a 1971 b/w print.

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NOTES FROM THE SF UNDERGROUND | MAN UP, AND THE NEW MAIN STREET

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

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In the last few years we have been inundated by Washington and the media with news about the decline of “Main Street”.  I have to admit I have never been to this mythical place.  By the time I entered my consuming years, Main Street had long been shut down and all commerce was conducted at the rather impersonal confines of the local mall.  I imagine this mythical Main Street was a place with unique shops and businesses, where you not only went to buy a few things but catch up on local events, meet friends, and could even say hello to a proprietor by name (bit different then trying to get Hunter or Missy to help you at Abercrombie).  The customer mattered on Main Street; things were a little slower and had a lot more soul.  It was the opposite of the poor service, disposable products, and hassle that defines today’s buying experience.  I mean, I’m not for reckless consumerism, far from it– but shouldn’t buying something special for yourself be fun and painless?

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Worst Main Street, May 1951 –photo by Francis Miller

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The best way I can describe the Man Up pop up market that happened this past weekend is this– it’s part 1950’s trade association, part block party, part Hippie co-op (it is San Francisco after all), part European open-air market, and all punk rock garage band.  Having been in the menswear industry for the last twenty years, I’ll admit– I’ve become a bit jaded.  I thought what I would find were a bunch of hipsters, and I hate hipsters.  What I found were serious business owners– whose passion for their product was infectious, and who are strongly dedicated to producing well-made products that last, and make ‘em right here in the USA.   I found a new business model that cuts-out the middle man and creates a deep loyalty between the consumer, brand, and owner/operator.  I found business people who were generous, passionate, knowledgeable, and friendly.    I think I found Main Street in the age of social media.

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EPIC 1965 NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL | BOB DYLAN PLUGS IN– FANS TUNE OUT?

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Before he went electric in 1965 — and drew jeers from legions of (arguably small-minded) fans in the process — Bob Dylan epitomized the hard-traveling folk troubadour, and he established this image largely on a vintage Gibson “Nick Lucas” model flat-top guitar. The young Dylan had played other Martin and Gibson models in the late ’50s and early ’60s, but in those final years of his acoustic era, before a “blonde on blonde” Fender Telecaster ushered in a whole new folk-rock sound, the “Nick Lucas” was his instrument of choice. He played this guitar in the studio and on tour from 1963 to ’66, and used it for the legendary albums Another Side of Bob Dylan and Bringing it All Back Home. And, although it didn’t appear on the covers of either of these, it is frequently seen in the many live performance tapes from the day, including broadcasts of the Newport Folk Festival in 1964 and ’65, and Dylan’s famous appearances on BBC TV in England in 1965. While, in hindsight, this Gibson “Nick Lucas” seems “just right” for the young Dylan, and has become an iconic folk guitar as a result, the model’s origins show that it is perhaps an unlikely choice for a scruffy young folky.  Via

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Back in 1963, Bob Dylan was the new darling and outspoken voice of political protest in America, performing songs seeking truth and justice– “Only a Pawn in Their Game”,“Who Killed Davey Moore?”, and most notably, “Blowin’ in the Wind”– backed by the Folk movement’s super-establishment including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, the Freedom Singers, and Peter, Paul & Mary. But Dylan’s talent quickly proved too big to be boxed in by the narrow and idealistic parameters of Folk purists.  By 1964 he’d already moved on musically– “Mr. Tambourine Man”, and “It Ain’t Me, Babe” showcased the emerging depth of his songwriting skills outside of protests and politics. Dylan’s fans worship him with a god-like fervor and frenzy.  At the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, the enthusiastic crowd woos Dylan– cheering, chanting, and roaring for him to return to the stage at the end of his acoustic set. When he reappears on stage, it’s a love-fest.  “I wanna say thank you, I love you”, says Dylan to the crowd.  He can seemingly do no wrong.
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Bob Dylan At Piano During Recording Session, 1965.  Bob Dylan in a contemplative mood, lost in thought behind his Ray-Bans, pausing for a break between takes at the upright piano at Studio A, Columbia Recording Studios in New York City during the sessions for “Highway 61 Revisited” in June 1965, a mere month before his electric set at the Newport Folk Festival would send Folk and Rock and Pop music into a whole new direction. –Photo by Jerry Schatzberg, Via

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By the summer of ’65, Dylan’s stardom surpassed that of the Folk traditionalists at the Newport Folk Festival. Hundreds of adoring fans overwhelm Dylan’s car, as he basks in the attention, smiling and stating, “They’re all my friends.” But there is wave of rebellion beginning to well-up against Dylan among the so-called Folk purist fans.  They see him as already being a sell-out, having moved over to the side of the establishment.  In their eyes, Dylan is now just another cog in the wheel.  The stage is now set for the epic event that will forever be remembered as– When Dylan Went Electric. So what inspired Dylan to go electric in the first place?  Some say Dylan was inspired (or challenged perhaps) by an exchange he had with John Lennon. Dylan slammed Lennon, essentially dismissing The Beatles lyrically– “you guys have nothing to say”, was the message.  Lennon’s counter was to enlighten Dylan of the fact that– he had no sound, man. Whether or not it resulted in Dylan going electric, or The Beatles writing more introspective lyrics, who knows–  but it’s a helluva story.

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PHOTOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM GEDNEY | AN AMERICAN ARCHIVE– BIKERS

The William Gedney series continued–

This time we turn our attention to Gedney’s incredible shots of bikers back from ’66 & ’67, taken in both New York and San Francisco.  The custom handlebar work, while a little over-the-top, is pretty amazing to see, and a real moment in time.  Great stuff by an artist who immersed himself in his work– often living with his subjects for a period of time (as he did with the Kentucky coalminer family from the previous Gedney post), and experiencing a level of intimacy that few photographers would dare to risk.

Man on ornate motorcycle, New York– taken 1967. William Gedney Photographs and Writings. Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/gedney/

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Nazi bikers and motorcyle, New York– taken 1967. William Gedney Photographs and Writings. Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.  http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/gedney/

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SURF, 60′s PSYCHEDELIA & BORN AGAIN | THE TRINITY OF ARTIST RICK GRIFFIN

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Artists Rick Griffin and Anton Kelly at the poster art exhibit at the Psychedelic Poster shop in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, 1967.  -- Image by Ted Streshinsky

Artists Rick Griffin and Anton Kelley at the poster art exhibit at the Psychedelic Poster shop in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, 1967. -- Image by Ted Streshinsky

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Rick Griffin– surfer, cartoonist, psychedelic poster artist, legend.  Born near Palos Verdes in 1944, Griffin took-up surfing at age 14.  During the 50s while he was in high school, Mad magazine heavily influenced his comic stylings– but he soon found his own voice, creating his own surf style that would become iconic.  Through his undeniable talent and connections, Griffin was soon working for surf legend, Greg Noll, among others.  After leaving high school he joined Surfer Magazine as a staff artist– creating the legendary California surf scene character Murphy, and working his way up to Art Director by the time he was of 20. But by 1964, Griffin decided it was time to move on and see what the world outside of So Cal’s tight-knit surfer scene had for him.

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Groovy Home Built from Salvaged Finds | The 1970s Artist Abode of John Holmes

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Home of art director John Holmes, and designed by William Kirsch, is made entirely from salvaged materials and goods: (L-R) Kathleen, Tavia and John relaxing on a second-hand wicker couch in the living room.

Hey now, I know what you’re thinking…it isn’t that John Holmes, ok? This John Holmes is an artist and Art Director probably best known by the masses for his original cover art for the classic novel “Jaws” by Peter Benchley. The guy was an eco-pioneer way ahead of the green curve– using all reclaimed building materials, windows, doors, fittings, furnishings, etc. to build this masterpiece in the San Francisco Bay area. Being a product of the ’70s myself, I can totally vibe on the look of that time– right down to the biased wood slats and overgrown plants. It feels like a living, breathing tapestry. And can’t you just smell the patchouli?

The home would go on to win the Sunset Magazine Home of the Year award, and was (obviously from these pics) featured in LIFE Magazine. Holmes later sold it, and two weeks later it burnt down to the ground. The Holmes family’s following home (also built by Bill Kirsch and made from salvaged materials) is a famous and renowned compound of 3 separate structures set on 44 acres set above Sonoma State University in Penngrove, CA. It went on the market back in 2012, originally listed for 4.35M.

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John Holme San Francisco home

Home of art director John Holmes, designed by William Kirsch, is made entirely from used parts incl. 85 stained glass windows. Here Holmes’ image is reflected in a living room mirror.

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