During my time at the Roundhouse in the early 1970’s, we held large rock concerts every Sunday, which over the years featured just about all the bands, musicians and others who were busy with Rock and Roll in that period. Generally these guys turned up in time to perform their sets, and then went away again, and that was that. However, one group actually moved in and set up home in the car park at the back of the Roundhouse and became our House Band for some months.
This was a large group of musicians and their hangers-on (wives, children and lovers) called Stoneground, who were part of what was known as the Hog Farmers. This was a sort of ad hoc commune based in California on a real hog farm owned and run by a most unlikely clown called Wavy Gravy, who deserves an entire book all about who he was and what he did and still does.
In passing I should mention that it was Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farmers who set up and ran the Woodstock Festivals, so if you happen to see the film of the first Woodstock festival, you will have seen Wavy Gravy in action, as he introduced most of the groups there.
Anyhow, for some reason Warner Brothers had taken up Stoneground and decided in their wisdom to fly them all to London and then set up a tour around the UK and Europe. They may have looked like Hippies, and lived together in a sort of commune, but most of them were rather older than the average Hippy, and not at all given to standing around with flowers in their hair damply saying “Peace..Peace and love” They were much more likely to hit you over the head and stomp you, as many of them were Vietnam veterans and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress in a big way.
|Stoneground en masse|
Though in one way they were very much of the Hippy persuasion, and that was in their use of dope. They chain smoked the stuff.
|The core members of Stoneground…. The Mexican girl in blue was the subject of a great deal of lust on the part of my technicians.. She was amazingly sexy on stage.|
Anyhow, as a result of various problems, Warner Brothers dumped the band and all its followers, and tried to wash their hands of the whole sorry mess.
At which point my mate, who was acting as their manager and Roadie, came to me and asked if the Hog Farmers could come and park their buses in our car park while they sorted themselves out, in exchange for which they would perform each Sunday for free.
Well, we at the Roundhouse thought this might be fun, and so it was agreed, and they all turned up in those amazing converted buses, and settled down like a collection of circus performers to live with us there.
However, one thing amused me, I had to employ a kid to sit above the stage during their sets, whose job was to roll joints as fast as he could, and simply throw them down onto the stage, where the band would pick them up and smoke them. I really meant it when I said they chain-smoked dope!
And then Wavy Gravy turned up to see how they were getting on, and moved briefly into one of the buses, and became a sort of MC for the Sunday concerts while he was in the UK.
|Wavy Gravy with his teeth|
As I said above, he is a clown, and delights in performing in front of large noisy audiences. And damn good at it he is too. A really likable and skilled performer. Also, as you can see from the photo, he had brightly coloured false teeth, and a marked resemblance to Peter Ustinov as well.
On one memorable occasion when I happened to be in the lighting box way up above the auditorium, he got the audience to all sit down on the floor, and then led them in taking very deep breaths slowly, holding their breath for a bit, and then slowly exhaling. As he led them in this exercise, we brought the house lights up and down in time with the breathing. After going through this for a number of times, he told the audience to take another deep breath, hold it, and all to stand up. Which is what they did… Then he told them to breath out rapidly… Which they did, and then they all fell down… Amazing to see from above, as about 2000 kids fell over like a cornfield in a storm.
I am happy to report that no one suffered from an embolism from this exercise, as I am told is a real risk.