In The Beginning
If the psychedelic sixties were born in the dancehalls of San Francisco,
they were conceived, not in the City Of Brotherly Love, but in a renovated ghost town
called Virginia City, three hours away, just over the state line in Nevada.
Once the center of the Comstock Lode silver rush, it was now the home of an offbeat
community of artists and drug takers. Folk music enthusiast Mark Unobsky bought
the old Comstock House and decided to open a folk club together with Chan Laughlin,
a one-time folk club owner, and Don Works,
who had moved to Virginia City in order
to take peyote with Washoe and Paiute Indians.
More than twenty carpenters, masons and electricians, together with their girlfriends
and wives, were hired from the Haight and the Sausalito Waterfront. The three-story
brick building was restored to its former Victorian grandeur, complete with a shaded
wooden sidewalk and bat-wing doors. They painted it red and called it the
Red Dog Saloon,
a common name for bars in the old west of the 1860s. Antique fittings were purchased
and a newly formed group called the Charlatans were hired to play there,
chosen for their
looks as opposed to their folk music playing ability. They were in fact a rock'n roll band.
They played throughout the summer of 1965 and it went so well that for the next
summer Chan Laughlin went to SF to audition bands. Big Brother and the Holding Co.
and The Wildflower were hired and alternated weekends throughout the summer of
The place was run by the girls: Ellen, Luria, Jenna and "Miss Kitty" Lynn Hughes.
Ellen Harmon, Luria and Alton Kelley decided to bring the Red Dog to San Francisco
and established the Family Dog at the Avalon Ballroom as Bill Graham was getting
the Fillmore Auditorium going...and that was just the beginning.