I am looking to form a band called ‘Belmont Charlatans’. I am looking for investors in The Rouge Dog Sarsaparilla Saloon.
I awoke from a dream early this morning. I was with Peter Shapiro, Keith Purvis, and, Christine Wandel. Peter was on this balcony hiding something. We confronted him. He accused us of hiding bottles under our shirts. Then, we caught Chris, slinking away. What does she got?
I lie there trying to go back to sleep, but could not. I began to study our history we made. Twelve years ago, Peter told me he used to play with the Charlatans, and considered Mike Wilhelm the guy who got it all started. He was very impressed with his guitar playing – as was Jerry Garcia. Rock Historians are saying the Charlatans set the scene for the Haight Ashbury and the Summer of Love.
All of a sudden, I am looking at the photograph of my kindred in Belmont, running a soda company – and a Summer Fun Theme Park. Look at what they are wearing. My kindred were the real thing, the Real McCoys, who are connected to William Ralston and William Sharon who made millions on the Comstock Load. Sharon built Virginia City. The Red Dog Saloon was built in the home that once belonged to Henry Comstock. You cant ask for better historic ambience – minus the drugs! My generation has grown up. We need a place to go that reminds us of our youth. The scene of the Sober Cowboy ordering a sarsaparilla is a classic and traditional scene that the City of Belmont can Brand.
What I see, is the building of Sarsaparilla Pier that would look like the building above – that is on the waterfront! Downtown Belmont is Deadsville, and not the good kind of dead. Rock Scully managed the Grateful Dead – and the Charlatans! I see a house band called ‘The Belmont Charlatans’ a take on the name for sellers of medicine oil and other healing drinks – which might have behind the name of this group that experimented with a wonder drug – when it was legal. The Charlatans played jug-band music and modern western. Selling alcohol is down on my list of things to do.
I see Sarsaparilla Pier as a destination for locals, and their guests who come to town. Heading to San Francisco is a chore these days, and, all the old sourdough flavor is gone. I see Belmont Sourdough Bread, Belmont Ice-cream and Yogurt shop, root beer floats, Belmont Sodas, Sushi bar, Belmont Kefir, and – Rougedog Coffee and Teas. Sure, why not Rougedog Hot Dogs!
This is where you bring your kids at the end of a hot summer day. Teenagers will come on The Date Shuttle that leaves from downtown. There will be a statue of Jack London. How about a statue of The Charlatans who I suspect got their name from the dealing of William Sharon and his gun toting mistress, Sarah Hill, who produced fake papers claiming she was his wife. If true, this would be Belmont’s band.
Above is a photograph of the Charlatans in front of the Hippodrome that was a showcase for the Barbary Coast where my grandfather, Victor Hugo Presco, was a professional gambler. I would like to see a schooner that sails to Crockett and back. How about a stage coach ride for newlyweds? My kin, Carl Janke, ran the stagecoach line, The Belmont Accommodations Company. William Janke opporated the Belmont Soda Company, and lived at 320 Haight Street for a time. He helped with the Turnverein Hall his Pioneer father built that is a model for Sarsaparilla Pier, as is the Janke theme park that may be the first such park in California – that may have inspired Disneyland.
My uncle owned Sam’s Anchor Café in Tiberon where scenes from the cult movie ‘The Second Coming of Suzanne’ were filmed. The director was in my art class. The Bigalows were good friends with the Keenes. I see a Keene Art Festival held on Sarsaparilla Pier. How many real artists have been tempted to create a historic work of fakery? Sailboats from Tiberon can dock in Belmont, and sailors do some shopping in the new boutiques.
Hey! How about a costume contest with skit?…..Will the real Keenes – please stand up!
I would like to see a Charlatan Court where folks can present their new ideas.
I just discovered there was a Carl Janke Day – and a street that was named after him! I am going to petition the Belmont City Government to get these markers – restored! What are people thinking? Most cities place historic markers – with pride! I have encountered Social Cleansing by certain citizens who labeled their Founding Pioneer Family – a public nuisance! This resembles a young gun slinger going after a famous sheriff. Consider Gunsmoke, and, Miss Kitty. What exactly was her job description? A thousand Westerns have been made where some folks behave badly, and some don’t. To wipe out the history of a Pioneer – put some bad historians – in power! I wonder if there is any un-claimed Janke land? I feel my High Noon Moment, coming! I will be linking this history with Black Mask author, Norbert Davis, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
One rude Belmont historian raves about the Warlocks playing out on the highway near Belmont. This is a big feather in her cap. On this day, with the pulp fiction song ‘The Shadow Knows’ I come home to Belmont to claim my rightful heritage! There is no threat of violence coming from me. Playing the Big Victim is the game of real charlatans.
How about building the afterdeck of the Lancaster Witch and conducting weddings? There can be the Ralston and Janke rooms at the Palace Hotel.
President: Belmont Soda Works
George Hunter of the Charlatans never shot Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, not even once. But in the spring of 1966, on the grounds of Rancho Olompali just north of San Francisco, Garcia had reason to believe Hunter was gunning for him, causing the great guitarist to royally freak out. The misunderstanding unfolded when Hunter decided to drop some LSD and bring a loaded .30-30 Winchester rifle to a party at the Dead’s new Marin County hangout. Hunter never intended to strike fear into the heart of his genial host, but when he did, he was so high that he began to panic—perhaps he had accidentally shot someone, if not Garcia, after all. It took a long bummer of a night, and three of Hunter’s closest friends, to shake that demon thought from his troubled mind.
“I said, ‘How would you like to be looking down the barrel of this thing?’”
You’ve probably never heard of the “Incident at Olompali,” as no one has called it since, and your awareness of the Charlatans is likely limited to seeing the band’s name on scores of vintage rock posters, alongside more familiar monikers such as Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Grateful Dead.
That’s too bad, because in their heyday, from 1965 to 1968, the Charlatans were a lot of people’s favorite band, thanks to a danceable mix of distinctively American musical genres—from the blues and rock to Western swing and jazz. Around the time of the Charlatans’ first paying gig, in June of 1965, the Grateful Dead were still playing pizza parlors as the Warlocks, Jefferson Airplane had yet to take off, Big Brother was a year away from handing Janis Joplin a microphone, and Quicksilver was not even a gleam in anyone’s eye. By 1966, the Charlatans had a record deal with the same label that had released the 1965 smash hit Do You Believe In Magic? by the Lovin’ Spoonful.
A charlatan (also called a swindler or mountebank) is a person practicing quackery or a similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame, or other advantages through pretense or deception. Synonyms for charlatan include shyster, quack, or faker. Quack is a reference to quackery or the practice of dubious medicine, including the sale of snake oil, or a person who does not have actual medical training who purports to provide medical services.
Hieronymous Bosch paints a scene of a Renaissance mountebank fleecing credulous gamblers.
Sarsaparilla was popular in the United States in the 19th century. According to advertisements for patent medicines of the period, it was considered to be a remedy for skin and blood problems. Ruth Tobias notes that it evokes images of “languid belles and parched cowboys“.
In the North of England sarsaparilla is produced by Fitzpatrick’s, Britain’s last temperance bar, reflecting its former importance to the temperance movement there. Maine Soft Drinks, based in Northern Ireland, also produce the drink.
Cowboys drank sarsaparilla soda in the Old West! When you first hear “sarsaparilla,” you might think of soda too. This herb comes from the roots of a a woody vine called Smilax, which belongs to the Lily family. It’s still is used as a popular flavoring of cola and root beer in some countries. If you want to pronounce it out loud, just say “Sass-Parilla” to keep it easy.
Another cola flavoring – aside from sarsaparilla – was the coca leaf, which gives us cocaine. In 1885, Coca-Cola was initially put into marketplaces with trace amounts of cocaine, about 1/400 of a grain of cocaine per ounce of flavoring syrup. Coke wasn’t totally free of cocaine until 1929. That’s how they got the name … it was named it for its two medicinal ingredients, which were coca leaves and kola nuts.
In an old-time western, the good cowboy never ordered anything at a saloon but “sarsaparilla.”The bad guys would snicker, because it was like bellying up to the bar and demanding a root beer. In fact, sarsaparilla is one of the traditional flavorings of root beer, along with other roots such as pipsissewa, a euphoniously named variety of wintergreen. (True sarsaparilla is a tropical South American vine. The Old West barkeep probably served a drink made from wild sarsaparilla, a North American member of the ginseng family.)
Then 24 years old, Scully had grown up in Carmel, Calif. His stepfather, Milton Mayer, was a well-known Quaker activist who had once hosted his own network radio show. After graduating from Earlham College in Indiana, Scully had attended San Francisco State, where he became involved in a series of massive civil rights demonstrations. During the summer of 1965, Scully had begun managing the Charlatans, a psychedelic band, who were doing an extended residency at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nev.
Scully ﬁnally saw the Grateful Dead perform for the ﬁrst time at the Fillmore Acid Test on January 8, 1966. Although he told Owsley that the Dead were “extraordinarily ugly and would probably never make it commercially,” Scully also confessed that he had “never heard a more amazing band musically.”
A San Francisco stock market existed for the exploitation of Comstock mining. The Bank of California financed building the financial district of San Francisco with money from the Comstock mines. The influence of the Comstock lode rejuvenated what was the ragged little town of 1860 San Francisco. “Nearly all the profits of the Comstock were invested in San Francisco real estate and in the erection of fine buildings.” Thus, Virginia City built San Francisco. The Comstock’s success, measured in values of the time period, totaled “about $400 million.” Mining and its attraction of population was the economic factor that caused the separation of Nevada territory from Utah, and later justified and supported Nevada statehood.
Through time, the numerous independent Comstock mines became consolidated under ownership of large monopolies. A group called the Bank Crowd, dominated by William Sharon in Virginia City and William Ralston in San Francisco, financed the mines and mills of the Comstock until they had a virtual monopoly.
Virginia City could be considered the birthplace of the pen name of Mark Twain, as it was here in February 1863 that writer Samuel Clemens, then a reporter on the local Territorial Enterprise newspaper, first used the nom de plume. Clemens lived in Virginia City and wrote for the Enterprise from late fall 1862 until May 1864, when he escaped from a potential duel instigated by a local newspaper editor upset at Clemens’ reporting. Clemens returned to the Comstock region twice on western lecture tours, once in 1866 where he was mugged on the Divide. The muggers relieved Clemens of his watch and his money. The robbery turns out to have been a practical joke played on Clemens by his friends. He did not appreciate the joke, but he did retrieve his belongings—particularly his gold watch (worth $300), which had great sentimental value. Clemens mentions the incident in his book Roughing It (1872), apparently still sore about it. Clemens’ second lecture tour in 1868 occurred at the time of the hanging of John Millian, who was convicted of murdering the well-liked madam Julia Bulette.
His daughter Clara married Francis G. Newlands, who became a Congressman and Senator from Nevada. He was also the father of Florence Emily Sharon, who married Sir Thomas George Fermor-Hesketh, 7th Baronet. His son Frederick married Louise (née Tevis) Breckinridge, the daughter of banker Lloyd Tevis and divorced wife of John Witherspoon Breckinridge (a son of former Vice President John C. Breckinridge).
Peter played with the Charlatans. He told me stories about Mike Wilhelm who he admired. I was aware I was an archetype and my family history was a model for a cultural movement that made San Francisco famous. I spend a great deal of time protecting my history and roots that spawned a great world-wide cultural movement that immigrants played such a key role in sustaining. The idea of going to a new world, and building a new world in light of a new understanding is what made America Great, again, and again!
Formed in mid-1964 by amateur avant-garde musician George Hunter and music major Richard Olsen, the earliest lineup of the Charlatans featured Hunter on autoharp and vocals, and Olsen on bass and vocals, along with Mike Wilhelm (lead guitar, vocals), Mike Ferguson (piano/keyboards, vocals), and Sam Linde (drums). Linde’s drumming was felt to be substandard by the rest of the band and he was soon replaced by Dan Hicks, who also contributed vocals to the group.
The Charlatans were known for clothing themselves in late 19th-century attire, as if they were Victorian dandies or Wild West gunslingers. This unconventional choice of clothing was influential on the emerging hippie counter-culture, with many young San Franciscans dressing in similarly late Victorian and early Edwardian era clothing.
In June 1965, the Charlatans began a six-week residency at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada, just across the border from Northern California. During this stint at the Red Dog, band members Ferguson and Hunter designed and produced a rock concert poster in advance of the residency to promote the band’s performances. This poster—known as “The Seed”—is widely regarded by critics as the first psychedelic concert poster.[nb 1] By the end of the decade, psychedelic concert-poster artwork by artists such as Wes Wilson, Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, and Victor Moscoso had become a mainstay of San Francisco’s music scene.
Another reason that the Charlatans’ stay at the Red Dog is regarded by critics and historians as significant is that, immediately before their first performance at the club, the band members took LSD. As a result, the Charlatans are sometimes called the first acid rock band, although their sound is not representative of the feedback-drenched, improvisational music that would later come to define the sub-genre.
The Charlatans returned to San Francisco at the end of summer 1965 and, in September, were given the chance to audition for Autumn Records, a label headed by local DJ, Tom “Big Daddy” Donahue. Autumn didn’t sign the band, partly due to conflicts between the group and Donahue over suitable material and partly due to lack of money; the label was on the verge of bankruptcy and was sold to Warner Bros. Records early the following year.
Peter Shapiro played a short while with the Charlatans before he formed The Marbles. The Charlatans had a Cowboy look that folks in the Height adopted. They were not Country-Western, but more like a Jug Band. My kindred, Mel Lyman, played in Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band. Jim married Jessie Benton who father painted a mural titled ‘The Sources of Country Music’. In CNN’s piece on The British Invasion, it is said these musicians across the pond reintroduced American Music to America. ‘Act Natually’ is CW. Christine Rosamond would have done well to render Country Art. Rena would have been a star as a cowgirl model.
Peter Shapiro and I lived together in two Victorians in the Bay Area. We lived on 13th. Street near downtown Oakland, and a home in East Oakland where I did a painting of Rena Easton in 1971. When my friend, Bryan Maclean, of ‘Love’ died in 1998, I lamented the loss of the three artists God put in this world to accompany me and my gifts. Bryan and I had been the resident artist at University High is West Los Angeles in 1963 – 1964. Marilyn Reed and I created a Beatnik scene, and I drew her at a tea house we found on Sawtell. This became the New Balladeer where Bryan played with his friend, David Crosby. Bryan was also good friends of a Venice Beat named, Sky, who was murdered by my second girlfriend’s father who belonged to the Purple Gang. Bryan dated my sister,