Beyond the Fillmore: Other rock sites of San Francisco

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 3, 2014 - 8:37 AM

Music spots of historical interest, from Haight Ashbury to North Beach, dot the city.

I settled into the Pontiac Firebird convertible for a tour of the city’s music sites. My driver and guide: longtime San Francisco rock critic Joel Selvin, who wrote the 1996 book “San Francisco: The Musical History Tour.” Here are some of the highlights.

The Saloon

1232 Grant Av.

Established in 1851, it’s the oldest watering hole in the city. This small, cramped North Beach dive bar serves Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap and top-notch blues onstage. “It’s the sort of place where blues musicians go to live and die,” Selvin said. “Johnny Nitro lived upstairs until he had his fatal heart attack. His body bag came down during the show on Saturday night. Wow, what an exit.”

The Saloon is in the heart of the old beatnik neighborhood, down the block from City Lights, 261 Columbus Av., the famous bookstore founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the Vesuvio Cafe, 255 Columbus Av., where Jack Kerouac drank and Francis Ford Coppola wrote much of the script for “The Godfather.”

Chet Helms house

1090 Page St.

In the rosewood-paneled basement ballroom, impresario Helms started throwing Wednesday night jams, charging 50-cent admission. These jams led to the formation of Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Brother and the Holding Company.

The Grateful Dead house

710 Ashbury

It was “the community center of Haight Ashbury,” Selvin said. The Dead lived here, with Jerry Garcia and his gal pal Mountain Girl sleeping on the top floor. The office of the free Haight Ashbury Legal Organization (HALO) was in the front room.

Janis Joplin house

112 Lyon St.

Joplin lived on the second floor in this Haight Ashbury row house, Selvin said, and “conducted her affair with Country Joe.” She was often seen walking her dog named George throughout the neighborhood.

Graham Nash mansion

737 Buena Vista West

Jack London wrote “White Fang” in this Victorian mansion, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Steve Miller recorded their first albums in a small studio in the house, and Graham Nash lived there in the 1970s. The current resident is actor Danny Glover.

Jefferson Airplane house

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