The Avalon All-Stars


The Avalon All-Stars is a loose-knit house band of the Avalon Ballroom located in San Francisco, CA, and featuring – depending on the night and availability – former members of the Jerry Garcia Band, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and others. In the first of the two clips from their December 28th, 2003, performance the set opens with some improvisational scratching around that bloomed into a Johnny “Guitar” Watson number, “You Can Stay But the Noise Must Go.” The second clip is a cover of The Jerry Garcia Band’s “Get Out My Life Woman”.


This incarnation of the Avalon All-Stars:

Melvin Seals (keyboards, vocals)
Mark Karan (lead guitar, vocals)
Bobby Vega (bass)
Martin Fierro (saxophone)
Jerry Brown (vocals)
Matt Hartle (guitar)
John Molo (drummer)This second concert of the Avalon All-Stars, performed about a year earlier (available for download from the Internet Archive in Flac, Ogg, and Mp3 formats) on January 25th, 2003, is a fantastic show with many Zappa classics in the set list:

Set 1:
Carpenter
Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance
What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?
Summer Jam
Watermelon In Easter Hay



Set 2:
Cosmik Debris
Dark Star
Chameleon
Advance Romance
That’s What Love
Hey Joe
I’m The Slime

This incarnation of the Avalon All-Stars:

Melvin Seals (keyboards, vocals) 

Napoleon Murphy Brock (sax, flute, vocals)

Ike Willis (guitar, vocals)

Tal Morris (guitar) 

Dennis Smith (bass) 

Dave Roda (drums)

Jerry Brown (vocals)

Click here to hear the complete concert or to download it.

The original Avalon Ballroom first opened in 1966, after Texan transplant Chet Helms split his his brief partnership with Bill Graham, and rented the ballroom, originally opened as the Puckett Academy of Dance in 1911, for $800 a month.

For the next two years, Helms presented Dionysian revels every weekend featuring bands all but unknown outside certain neighborhoods in San Francisco. They all had funny names such as the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Daily Flash, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. Before long, the Avalon Ballroom was known around the world as the crucible of the new San Francisco rock.

Helms also managed Big Brother and the Holding Company and, when the band decided the group needed a female vocalist, Helms summoned an old friend from Austin named Janis Joplin. But Helms lacked Graham’s capitalist instincts. He was a hippie zealot with a missionary’s dedication. Although the Avalon was known as a far more authentic alternative to Graham’s more commercial Fillmore Auditorium operation — Joplin once famously earned Graham’s ire by saying the Fillmore was “a place where sailors go to get laid” — Helms’ business ultimately foundered. By November 1968, after the city pulled his sound permits, he was looking elsewhere for a place to throw his shows. Another group of would-be rock impresarios took over the room for a few shows the next year, but live music hasn’t been heard in the Avalon since Iron Butterfly was on the charts.

In January, 2003, Steve Shirley took over the master lease to the ballroom and presented an increasing schedule of thriving shows. He is not an experienced promoter. He is still figuring out small details like advance ticket sales, box-office staffing, advertising and publicity. “Every show, I learn something new,” Shirley said.

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