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  • Tommy Thompson

7th Movement: “Alcatraz"

Updated: Mar 14

“Yeah, I read history. But it doesn’t make you nice.

Hitler read history, too.”

--Joan Rivers

I am not completely sure about how this particular “Benefit for the Alcatraz Indians” gig ever came about in the first place. Who organized it and such. Nor the exact date in September of '70 on which it occurred. Even though I have scoured thru the old booking calendars that both Paul and I have kept for some reason or another over the years and decades.

And which I luckily still have in my possession.


Though I am sure that it was Kathy who was able to

somehow get us involved in this thing.


But, once again, in order to properly set the scene for y’all –

just in case you aren’t familiar with this particular section of American History.

Here’s a li’l background on this benefit gig we did during the time of the so-called:


“Occupation of Alcatraz Island.”


And why and how a group of Native American Indians went out there

and occupied it, in the first place.



“It’s our stuff. We made it and we know best how to use it and care for it.

And now we’re going to get it back.”

– John Pretty on Top, Crow



“If you knew the secret history of those you would like to punish,

you would find a sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all your hostility.”

-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


FYI: The following is from “Wikipedia.”


The Occupation of Alcatraz (November 20, 1969 – June 11, 1971) was a 19-month long protest when 89 American Indians and their supporters occupied Alcatraz Island. The protest was led by Richard Oakes, LaNada Means, and others, while John Trudell served as spokesman. The group lived on the island together until the protest was forcibly ended by the U.S. government.


The protest group chose the name Indians of All Tribes (IOAT) for themselves.[1] IOAT claimed that, under the Treaty of Fort Laramie between the U.S. and the Lakota tribe, all retired, abandoned, or out-of-use federal land was to be returned to the Indians who once occupied it. As Alcatraz penitentiary had been closed on March 21, 1963, and the island had been declared surplus federal property in 1964, a number of Red Power activists felt that the island qualified for a reclamation by Indians.


In the early morning hours of November 20, 1969, 89 American Indians, including more than 30 women,[6] students, married couples and 6 children, set out to occupy Alcatraz Island.[1] A partially successful Coast Guard blockade prevented most of them from landing, but fourteen protesters landed on the island to begin their occupation. The island's lone guard, who had been warned of the impending occupation, sent out a message on his radio.

"Mayday! Mayday!" he called. "The Indians have landed!"[15][16]


At the height of the occupation there were 400 people.[7] Native women, like Aranaydo, Woesha Cloud North (Ho-Chunk-Ojibwe), and Vicky Santana (Blackfoot) ran the school with the help of Douglas Remington, (Ute) and teacher's aids Justine Moppin, (Mono), and Rosalie Willie, (Paiute).[17][18]


There was also a daycare and Stella Leach (Colville-Lakota) set up the health clinic.[19] Jennie R. Joe (Navajo) and Dorothy Lonewolf Miller (Blackfoot), assisted Leach as nurses, and Robert Brennan, Richard Fine, and Leach's boss, David Tepper, volunteered as doctors.[20]


Native and non-native people brought food and other necessary items to the people on the island, but the coast guard's blockades made it increasingly difficult to supply the occupants with food. The suppliers, after stealthily journeying across the bay via canoe, dropped off the supplies which then had to be carried up steep ladders.[7] Aranaydo and Luwana Quitiquit (Pomo) were responsible for running the kitchen and cooking for the occupants.[21]


The occupation lasted about 19 months but ended peacefully.[


The Occupation of Alcatraz had a brief effect on federal Indian Termination policies

and established a precedent for Indian activism.


Oakes was shot to death in 1972, and the American Indian Movement was later targeted by the federal government and the FBI in COINTELPRO operations.



So as mentioned above and to the best of my recollection, this benefit gig was sometime in early or mid-September of 1970. Why do I think that? Cuz I remember that Lou was still in the band for this show. What? Lou left the band? Why did he leave?

Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it “leaving.”

Not by a long shot.


But, allow me to apologize, dear reader, k? I’m getting ahead of myself here.


Nonetheless, before getting into the genesis of the actual gig itself, I’d like to remind everyone about the mood in the entire U.S.A. during this time period.

More specifically.


How it applied to issues of racial equality – or inequality - if you will.



“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace…..

Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law.

Give them all an even chance to live and grow.

All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers.

The Earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it…….

Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade….

…where I choose, free to have my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers,

free to think and talk and act for myself,

and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty.”


Native Americans were not the only racial group who were finally fed up with the way they’d been treated over the previous 2 or so centuries by non-POC (“people of color” or, i.e., “The White Man”). The black Civil Rights Movement had begun about 10 years earlier in the U.S. and was led by Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King modeled his protests after the non-violent and peaceful methods employed earlier by Mahatma Ghandi over in India. Which resulted in the British finally forsaking their stranglehold on that country and ultimately leaving.



“Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.”

- Jim Carrey


It is also interesting to note, that later on in the early-70’s, the “Women’s Rights” movement - which was first championed by bold ladies such as ex-Playboy Bunny, Gloria Steinhem - employed many of these same peaceful protest methods in their fight for equality of pay and advancement in the workplace, government postings, and such.


As well as throwing away their bras, makeup, and hair spray.

And struttin’ their stuff “au naturel.”



“Never was anything great achieved without danger.”

                                                 -- Niccolo Machiavelli


However, at this point here in the United States, the peaceful black Civil Rights Movement was now at a crossroads. As mentioned in the “Overture” to this story, Dr. King had been assassinated down in Memphis, Tennessee back in mid-1968 by a racist white supremist. Which was only a couple of years earlier from where now find ourselves in our tale.


Hence, racial tensions were at an all-time high around the country. The “Black Panther Party” had sprung up. The rise of The Panthers being oftentimes linked as one of the contributing causes for the decline of the peaceful protest methods preached by Dr. King.

“The Nation of Islam” (also known as "The Black Muslims") was also continuing to grow legs in other parts of the country besides New York. Which had already always sorta been Ground Zero for this movement. It was an all-black branch of Islam led by Elijah Mohammed that forbade drugs, alcohol, cigarettes n’ such, and encouraged young and old black men to better themselves via helping their families and communities, etc. As well as asserting as part of their overall view of the world that the "White man was the Devil".

Furthermore, the assassination of a former member of The Nation of Islam – who had

a slightly different approach on how to handle racial oppression in our country – was yet another rallying point. He too, was a black man.


His name was: “Malcolm X.”


FYI: If you want to read an incredibly interesting and absolutely riveting book

about the life story of Malcolm X, I suggest you check out:

“The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”

Which was written by Alex Haley.

The same author who wrote the book upon which the hugely successful and terrifyingly accurate TV show - “Roots” - was based.


In any case, this type of a more militaristic approach now preached by some non-white organizations, such as the Panthers & Black Muslims, had begun to inspire other racially oppressed folks to begin to stop their peaceful-only “just sit on their hands” form of protesting, as well. And begin to more or less raise arms against the many injustices which they felt had been ignored for way too long by our local, state, and national governments.


Not all groups were as armed-to-the-teeth as the Panthers. Nonetheless, many non-white folks figured that it was now finally time to put down their protest placards. And up the ante a couple of notches more in regards to their methods of how to protest racial injustice.


“This war did not spring up on our land,

this war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father

who came to take our land without a price,

and who, in our land, do a great many evil things…

This war has come from robbery – from the stealing of our land.”

--Spotted Tail


Hence, as you can see in the sections above taken from Wikipedia:

The Native Americans in this country had also pretty much reached their boiling point.

A high level of righteous indignation and anger.

Numerous earlier land and peace treaties signed by both the Indians and the

US Government had been broken by that same US Government.

Resulting in the Indians also breaking the treaties, as well. Which all, nonetheless, now brought on an attitude of the Indians being totally fed-up with the way things had been - and still were - going for them in the good ol’ U.S. of A.


And so, it was out here in the SF Bay Area that the Indians

finally decided to make their move.

Make their stand.

An opening salvo.

A preliminary first “shot across the bow,” so to speak.


And it was on that note, that the Indian occupation of Alcatraz Island began.


“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,

while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”

Proverbs 13:4


The “occupation” itself turned out to be a brilliant move on the part of the Indians who had originally initiated this ploy and pulled it off. Coast Guard boat blockades and all. It completely brought their cause from out of the dark and into the light. The local press and TV news media in the entire SF Bay Area jumped all over this thing. Every night it was on all the local news channels. It was covered in the local papers every day. It appeared in local magazines. "The Berkeley Barb” had a field day with it. Bay Are news media helicopters circled the island on a daily basis shooting "live" video coverage of the event.


And then.

It took off nationally.

For many people in the country, it was once again:

“Cowboys vs. Indians Time.”


Hey! This was just the kinda thing that got a newsperson's motor hummin'.


Richard Oakes, one of the leaders of the occupation (*see Wikipedia info on him above) issued an “American Indian Proclamation” from Vista Pier in SF. Later on it was announced

that after he gotten sick while on Alcatraz, he’d been healed by an Indian Medicine Man.


Good grief n’ gravy, folks. This was all the stuff of dreams for reporters and news hawks.

Everyone wanted in on it. And they all tried to one-up and out-scoop each other on it.

"The Indian Occupation of Alcatraz” - as it was now known and called in the media -

was Big Boy News by this point in time.


And so.


The idea of throwing benefits to help support the Indians on Alcatraz was more or less

just simply a natural extension and progression from all that had already been written,

seen, and talked about in the news media.

Over and over again.

For weeks and months on end.

And I honestly can’t remember the exact details of how and/or where the idea of throwing this particular benefit for the Alcatraz Indians first began. And, in addition to all that: I really don’t remember how she did it....

...but...


...some way n’ somehow, our gal Kathy got Cookin’ Mama involved in this one.

We were a’gonna be the band that got to perform at the Benefit for the Alcatraz Indians.

Which would be held at Longshoremen’s Hall in San Francisco.

FYI: Besides The Leamington Hotel in downtown Oakland – and, of course, The Fillmore, The Family Dog and Winterland in SF – Longshoremen’s Hall was one of the top venues at which to perform between 1964 – 1970. Local Top 40 top-bill acts of the day, as well as a few recording acts, all appeared at both “The Hotel” and “The Hall,” as they were casually referred to back then.


Some of acts I remember had very memorable names:


“Peter Wheat & the Breadmen.” “Stanley and the Four Fendermen.”

“The 13th Floor Elevator.” "Jim Beam and the Four Fifths."

“The Spyders,” from Hayward. “The Weeds,” from Oakland.

“The Misanthropes,” from – somewhere.

Also:

“Frumious Bandersnatch,” from SF & Lafayette.


And and on it went, ad infinitum.


FYI: Ross Valory - who later went on to play bass with "Journey" - was one of

the founding members of Frumious.

And, Herbie Herbert, who managed Frumious,

then moved with Ross to start up "Journey." where Herbie managed them, as well..


In any case, all or most of these acts had Longshoremen’s Hall

up front and center on their collective booking calendars.


And, as a side note:

Years later, in the 1990’s, both Pres & I performed in the same building with

“Gregg Allman & Friends.”

Though by then the Longshoremen's Hall had changed its name to: “Maritime Hall.”

Li'l bit cuter, huh?



Back to the benefit.

So, with both the local & the national press now jumping all over this story like ants on honey. And with the ensuing excitement which was now viscerally coursing thru the media veins of the U.S. public, in general. As well as all the usual local political insanity out here in Hippieville, CA now focusing its collective energy on the plight of The Alcatraz Indians...


...us boyz in the band were figuring on this gig being a complete SRO event:

“Standing Room Only.”


And to top this gig all off with a nice, big, fat, juicy cherry on top.

The joint had an audience capacity level of somewhere between 1,500 – 2,000.

This was a’gonna be totally bitchin’ for us Mamas!


Or so, we thought at the time.

Read on, dear reader, read on…



"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched."

-first attributed to Thomas Howell in 1570


Since all Longshoremen belonged to the Longshoremen’s Union” this was a Union house. No problemo, Captain Ahab. Cuz we Mamas had all just recently been anointed 100% Union Boyz. Just like all y’all fellow Union Brothers of ours, right?. Keep it “all in the family” n’ all that kinda mushy hooey goo.


And that meant that we already possessed in our sweaty li'l hands an accurately filled-in and signed official Musician’s Union contract for this gig. A contract which was made out for $200. Which was actually and most definitely a few bucks more than the Union Scale going rate for a 6-pc band at the time.

But for us, the best thing was that we'd be helping a worthy cause.

While only having to play 2 short 45-minute sets of our music.

Hence.

I - as the band leader - always signed the Union contracts for Cookin’ Mama.


To this day I still have no idea at all who counter-signed on behalf of the Alcatraz Indians.


Huh. Maybe it was Larry.

In any case, regardless of who in the Sam Hill signed the contract for the Alcatraz Indians.


Keep all of this in mind, folks, as we continue on…hmm?



"Once Upon a Time on a Saturday Night"

September, 1970

“A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realties.”

-- J. R. R. Tolkien

While other Bay Area benefits for The Alcatraz Indians, like those held at Stanford University and at other venues, got most of the ink in the papers. As well as all rest of the other local and national media coverage. To this day, if you "Google" something like: "Alcatraz Indian Benefit at Longshoremen's Hall" - you won't find one damn thing online as to it ever having occurred in the first place.


Why? My guess?


Well, read on if you want to find out what I - at least - believe to be the reason for the lack of any real kind of written historical record of that event.



“It's great to be here. It's great to be anywhere.”

-- Keith Richards

And so, the day of our big benefit show finally arrived. As I mentioned earlier, I can’t be sure as to the actual date. But, I do remember that it was on a September Saturday night. We loaded our gear into Longshoremen’s Hall. (FYI: By this point in time Jesse Harms had joined Terry & Pres in our road crew - now making it a trifecta of muscles n' know-how).


We set up and did a quick sound check using a PA system we’d rented from our friend, Kevin “Charles” Smith. Who has already entered into our story earlier on. And who was at the time also currently playing with Jesse in “Rags.” One of our local Bay Area buddy bands.


Bartenders had their wares already brought in and set up for the soon-to-be onslaught from this perceived-to-be "Sold Out" crowd. Waitresses were putting out bar napkins and cutting up limes n’ lemons n’ such for drinks. The venue was covered in the same posters which had been plastered all around SF's finest Hippie haunts for the past couple of weeks.


And we also had all of this local and national news media coverage

already firmly packed away into our advertising hip pockets.


So, Cookin’ Mama was totally pumped up n’ ready to Rock da Hall.


At exactly 7:00pm that night, the front doors were opened to allow the awaiting crowd to rush in. Hastily find that perfect spot from which to view the show inside the venue. Line up at the bar n’ order their first round or two of drinks. And get all lubed-up for our first set of music. Which was to begin at 8:00pm sharp.


However…



“I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

-- Woody Allen


By the time of our scheduled 8:00pm downbeat, here’s what we had inside the building.


Us. Our crew. Kathy. The bartenders n’ waitresses.

Some security doormen to collect the benefit entrance fee.

And, a few Teamster’s who had helped with our load-in.


Not one audience member was downstairs in the open area which would’ve or could’ve held a little bit more than half the crowd.

Or. About 1,000 people.


And, then: sitting up in the balcony of the joint.

As far away from the stage and the band as possible. Up there in the “cheap seats.”


Sat about 47 pissed-off looking Indians.

Spread out all around the balcony in small groups of only 4-5 people.


That was it.


“It’s a small crowd tonight. But, a mighty crowd. A mighty small crowd.”

-- Tom Miller


Man oh man. Talk about a let down. Sheesh! We were in shock. Nonetheless - just like we always did – we soldiered on thru our two sets of music. All the time hopin’ and ‘prayin’ for some more late-arrivals to show up and come inside.


But, only a mere handful more of people ever arrived.


And as if that weren’t already bad enough.

And to make things worse – as if that could even happen - I don’t remember hearing any applause ever, from any of the attending tribe members.

Not once. Not after any song in either of our two sets of music.


They just sat there and stared at us. And issued out the ol’ “one-handed clap.”

As if this disaster had been all our fault alone.


I mean, after all the local and national publicity n’ such. As well as the usual “we are all one” attitude in Hippie SF at the time. The whole “Help the Alcatraz Indians” campaign. Including all the helicopter videos. And all the rest of whatever else at that time amounted to what we now call Social Media.

The entire gig had turned into a total Financial Bloodbath.


A modern-day version of “Custer’s Last Stand.”


Except this time. Nobody won.


We all lost.



“When a white army battles Indians and wins, it is called a great victory,

but if they lose it is called a massacre.”

– Chiksika, Shawnee


The next day, some in the local press actually had the unmitigated gall to call the benefit:

“Custer’s Revenge.”


We, on the other hand, had been honored to have been asked to play at this benefit.

To help support their cause. To lend our hands in order to try and mitigate

their Native American plight.


Applause or no applause.


But, when the whole benefit had ended up going so completely haywire?

For us in the band, we felt that it was all just so very, very disappointing.


But - even more - just so incredibly sad.



“Always get a receipt.”

-- Jesse Harms


By the time we got done with our second and last set of music, the entire place was empty. Bartenders n’ waitresses had already been starting their post-gig clean up about 20 minutes before our last musical note had even been played. None of the Indians in the balcony were anywhere to be seen. We in the band - along with Terry, Pres n’ Jesse - began tearing down our gear for load-out.


Hence, the only thing left to do was for Kathy to find whoever it was who was supposed to give us our pay. The $200 check. Which was the amount that was stated in the official Musician’s Union contract which she then held in her pretty li’l hand.


But, try as she may, there was no one to find. Nobody had stayed around to the end.

At least, nobody who had anything to do with The Alcatraz Indians.


Very shortly later on in our young careers as musicians we would find out the following:

i.e., That very valuable, tried n’ true “First Rule” of professional show biz:


Get your pay as soon as you arrive at the gig.


Or. Get 1/2 of it paid up-front as a down payment goodwill gesture.


Or. At the very least. Try to get it all - or some of it - at some point during the gig...

before you’re done for the night.


Hey. But we were covered. Right? Billy Catalano had told us so. All we’d have to do is call up and tell the Musician’s Union Local 6 in SF what had happened in re the “no pay thing” that night.

“Yo’ fo’git ‘bout it.”

The Musicians Union would now step in and take it from here.

And get our money for us. Yay!


Remember: this gig in September of 1970 was only about 5 – 7 weeks after

we’d just joined the Union. We’d already been informed by Catalano

that with a signed Union contract: "always getting paid" was one of the many benefits

(no pun intended) of Union membership.


Geez. There's no place like home, Dorothy!

Membership in the Union really is turnin’ out to be cool n’ groovy after all, Toto.



“A good friend will always stab you in the front.” -- Oscar Wilde


But, even after copious phone calls from Kathy to the Union’s SF office

asking about when we’d get our money.


Including mailing to them our own signed copy of that night’s contract.

Justin Case they’d somehow misplaced their own copy.


We – dear reader - never, ever, got paid one penny for this gig.


Wow!


Our very first time of needing help from “The Boyz Who Love Ya.”

And this is what we get?

Nothing?


So much for all that often-touted “Power of Union Membership Brotherly Love” BS hooey.


Ain’t dat so, Mr. Hoffa.


Ya know folks, for some reason or another, my "Alcatraz" section brings to mind

an old musician joke I heard many years ago.


It goes like this:


On the night before the "Battle of the Little Big Horn" Chief Sitting Bull and General Custer are sitting on their horses atop a hill overlooking both camps.


On one side of the hill sits Custer's 7th Calvary.

220-ish soldiers sitting around one lone campfire in absolute silence.


On the other side are Sitting Bull's 2,000+ Indians. Dozens of campfires blazing with all of the Indians dancing all around them - 'screamin' n' chantin' and hollerin' up a storm.


And smack dab in the middle of their camp is one humongous Indian, holding a giant tree branch in each hand - pounding them on 2 huge War Drums - the sound of which can be heard for miles away all across the plains.


After a few minutes of observing and hearing all of what lies below them,


Sitting Bull leans over to Custer and says:


"What you think, General Custer?"


Custer replies:


"I don't know, Chief.

But, I sure don't like the sound of them drums."


Sitting Bull thinks for a few seconds, and then says:


"Hmm. I know what you mean.



"Not our regular drummer."




“Intermission”


Thank you, dear reader, particularly those of you

who have already hung in there for such a long haul.

(Maybe I should be payin' you folks, hmm?)


However, keep the faith.


There will be much more to come.


I’ll be adding new sections - “Movements” and “Interludes” - as the weeks n’ months roll on.

(That is: after I get my lazy-ass mind and fingers around to writin’ ‘em.)


So, stay tuned for more of:


“The Cookin’ Mama Story”


...to be continued with...


"The James Gang" & Suzanne Somers




Another 50+ year old promo photo conceived and shot

by our good friend and very creative band photographer:

"Stork"


©2024 Cookin' Mama





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