JBO Celebrates Mardi Gras with a Flashback to The Warehouse; THE New Orleans Venue of the 1970’s

Article by Kim Welsh

Photos by Sidney Smith (SidneySmithPhotos.com)

The Warehouse was THE rock venue of New Orleans during the 1970s and in many ways it was a house of the rising sun.  It was located at 1820 Tchoupitoulas Street on the bank of the muddy Mississippi River.  It began as a cotton warehouse in the 1850s and was not heated or air conditioned but could hold slightly over 3000 people legally.  It opened on January 30, 1970 with Fleetwood Mac playing on Friday night and the Grateful Dead playing on Saturday night.  The Dead were arrested after the show in their hotel for minor possession of weed which would be immortalized in their song, “Truckin.’” They did not come back to perform in New Orleans for twelve years. Jim Morrison’s last concert with The Doors was at the Warehouse on December 12, 1970.  Rock history was made there!

Back then, there wasn’t a big tour machine backed by record companies.  The Warehouse was a jumping off point to go from Fillmore to Fillmore in a half circle of venues that started in New York, to Atlanta, to the Warehouse, sometimes to Memphis, to Houston, and then to San Francisco.

Among the many bands who played there, the Warehouse hosted the greats and soon-to-be-greats including Bob Marley (who never played anywhere but the Warehouse in New Orleans,) Chicago, ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, Yes, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Kiss, Rush, Blue Oyster Cult (in white sequin tuxedos,) Leon Russell, Deep Purple, Foghat, J. Geils Band, Aerosmith, Jeff Beck, Joe Cocker, Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Ted Nugent, Steve Winwood, Frank Zappa, Wishbone Ash, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Uriah Heep, The Clash, David Bowie, Elton John, the Eagles, Jethro Tull, Styx, Humble Pie, Robin Trower, Golden Earring, Peter Frampton, Cream, Marshall Tucker, and Charlie Daniels. Where else could you see such talented legends for $5?  In the early 70s, admission was free if you brought a carpet remnant!

The Allman Brothers was their “house band” and played about twice a month from 1970 to 1975.  They played three New Year’s Eve shows.  One evening after a show, their roadie Red Dog, and several band members were arrested for possession.  When they got out of jail, they did what they traditionally did many mornings after the show… they went to Audubon Park and played for free!

In 1970, Pink Floyd brought their quadraphonic sound system, which allowed them to direct where the sound was coming from in the Warehouse.  Attendees marveled at how the sound seemed to come from the roof and all around.  Their truck with all their equipment was stolen and they didn’t return to New Orleans until 1994, 24 years later.

The Warehouse was so much more than just a music venue.  It had a pulse, a scene, a culture.  It continues to have a following of people who enjoy reminiscing about the golden years of the 1970s.  They often had shows Wednesday through Sunday nights and when not booked for music they had organic food lectures, women’s birthing and Lamaze classes, healthy food discussions, and other offerings to the hippies of the day.

Sidney Smith, who supplied the wonderful images for this article told me, “The Warehouse was the Fillmore East of the South and I was the primary photographer.  At 16 years old, with camera in hand, I became the official, unofficial lensman for the Warehouse.  By the time I was 20, I had amassed a photographic collection of rock royalty including the Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, The Who, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and so many more.”

Further, Sidney stated, “The Warehouse meant so much to so many people.  It opened during a period of time when having long hair actually meant something.  There was a feeling of kinship and brotherhood within the walls of the old building.  Music wailed from within.  Johnny Winter, David Bowie, B.B. King, Cat Stevens, Jeff Beck, The Doors…all played the Warehouse.  Fans who pressed up against the stage were just inches from their heroes…a rarity today.”

I personally went to the Warehouse when I was in junior high school through college.  I lived two hours away from New Orleans but at the drop of a hat I would throw my books into the corner with a kiss and a promise, slither into my tattered, embroidered jeans, huarache “Jesus” sandals with tire tread sole, tie-dye smock with a “tube top” under it so I could take off my shirt in the sweltering heat of the Warehouse. We would load up in our 1969 Firebird, put in a jammin’ 8-track, and fly to the Crescent City to hear our guitar Gods play.

To be honest, much of it is rather hazy now, but the concert that left the biggest impression on me was the Uriah Heep and Wishbone Ash concert of 1972.  We spent many an afternoon listening to these two bands on my stereo with the huge speakers in my parent’s living room when we should have been doing our homework. We had looked forward to that weekend, saved money for gas, food, and a hotel room, made “Jungle Juice” from whatever alcohol and juice we could get our hands on, and finally we made it to the sketchy Uptown neighborhood where we parked.  My boyfriend found a young man on a porch nearby and gave him a few bucks to “keep an eye on our car.”  He promised a few more bucks if it was intact when we returned and we walked toward the river.  We seated ourselves on the floor on the carpet remnants in front of the stage.  Soon the crowd gathered all around us with their patchouli scented tie-dye clothing, “elephant bell-bottom” low-riding, skin-tight pants, peace signs, wide belts, and bells around their ankles. You could get high just breathing the air but everyone was always willing to share.

I never witnessed a fight or any negative vibes there.  The Warehouse was packed with hippie rockers enjoying the trippy mythical songs, complete with guitar jams galore by Mr. Party himself, Mick Box. It was a place where we were free to be true hippies, if only for the weekend, because such attire and attitudes were frowned on back home in “Hattiesgulch, U.S.A.”  Besides the music was the “people show.”  There were bikers and their ol’ ladies and long-hairs from all over, trippers examining their fingers as if they were aliens that just fell from space, and old and young beatnicks and hippies!  The air was so full of sweet smoke that you could wave your hands through it and watch it swirl.  It truly was a special place with an awesome vibe.

Wishbone Ash was one of England’s most popular hard rock bands in the early 70s and their third album, “Argus,” was released in 1972 featuring the classic line up of Andy Powell on guitar (Gibson Flying V) and vocals, Ted Turner on guitar (Fender Strat) and vocals, Martin Turner on bass and vocals, and Steve Upton on drums.  “Argus” was voted album of the year by a few British music magazines. Wishbone Ash had an uncanny ability to weave their guitars together in a fashion that none of us had ever heard before.  The performance at the Warehouse ranged from “Handy,” best described as psychedelic jazz to “Phoenix,” their show-stopping hard rock masterpiece.

Uriah Heep was another English rock band formed in 1969 by producer Gerry Bron featuring vocalist David Byron, multi-instrumentalist Ken Hensley (often called the Phantom of the Rock ‘n Roll Opera with his outrageous antics using organs and Moog synthesizers,) guitarists Mick Box and Paul Newton, with Nigel Olsson on drums. In 1971, they had an album titled “Look at Yourself” which was followed in 1972 with “Demons and Wizards,” and “The Magician’s Birthday,” their first foray into the lyrical realm of dungeons, dragons, and fantasy tales.  This was a time when universally acknowledged gods of heavy metal such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were visiting various fantasy realms lyrically on virtually every song. “Demons and Wizards” reached number 20 in the British charts, but, more importantly, was the first of five consecutive albums to go top 40 in the massive selling American charts with hits including “Stealin’” and “Easy Livin.’”  This is true classic and progressive hard rock though under-rated and relatively unknown by many today.

The Talking Heads performed at the Warehouse on closing night, September 10, 1982.  The Warehouse was demolished in April of 1989.  Several fans have had their ashes spread over the area where the Warehouse once stood. It is indeed sacred ground.

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13 Responses to JBO Celebrates Mardi Gras with a Flashback to The Warehouse; THE New Orleans Venue of the 1970’s

  1. Rob the Drummer on February 20, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    Great article and great pix!
    Thanks RTD

  2. KimWelsh on February 22, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    I have received a huge response from my Warehouse article; thanks for all the compliments. Folks have written reminiscing about those golden years of jammin’ with the Guitar Gods, being a psychonaut crawling around on the carpet remnants watching the Warehouse walls breathe as the paisley ceiling undulated… all kinds of interesting stories that I wish I would have heard before I wrote it!

    Seems that Pink Floyd’s equipment truck mysteriously reappeared after the band’s management paid a “finder’s fee” to the one of the NOPD police union’s slush funds. This happened after they had already cancelled the rest of the US tour. There is a picture of the truck and gear on the back of the Ummagumma album cover.

    One of the few existing press photos of Owsley,the Dead’s sound engineer, ran on the cover of the New Orleans local newspaper, The Times Picayune, with the headline “Acid King Nabbed”. The band stayed totally clean at the hotel after being warned by the Jefferson Airplane about Clarence Giarusso’s NOPD narc squad. Setup “like a bowling pin” indeed.

    Keep on jammin’!

  3. KimWelsh on February 22, 2010 at 9:58 PM

    According to Ross Perimutter, stage manager at the Warehouse in 1977-78, Little Feat has a song on the “Let it Roll” CD called “Hanging on to the Good Times” (a really nice tribute to Lowell George) that references a particularly memorable gig at the Warehouse. The lyrics read:

    “And I just have to laugh
    When I recall the time down in New Orleans
    Don’t ya know
    Rained us out of an indoor show
    We spent our money so fine
    The girls were standin’ in line
    Down in the quarters at lucky Pierre’s
    A time of our life without any cares…”

    The short story is that it was raining like crazy and Tchoupitoulas started flooding. Everyone inside was completely oblivious to what was happening outside, and then, all of a sudden, the loading doors burst open and a huge 2-foot tsunami rolled all over the crowd. People were literally swimming for the exits and the roadies were diving all over the place to yank the power to the stage…a “rained out gig” at an indoor show!

  4. abgar on February 24, 2010 at 10:44 PM

    Amazing photos! Bands had some good luck and bad luck at that place, huh? I can imagine Roger Waters’ reaction when they realized the truck was gone.

  5. Pre Road Blues on April 4, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    Loved the article. I’ve always been a big fan of Uriah Heep too, and every time that I’ve played their song Stealin’ on the jukebox of any bar that has the song I’ve gotten quite a reaction from at least one person. One guy went all the way around the bar asking everyone if they played Uriah Heep, he finally got to me and I told I played it and he yelled over to the bartender to give this guy a beer. Many people are not familiar with them but the ones that are still moved by them!

  6. alwizard99 on May 12, 2010 at 10:11 PM

    Attended quite a few shows at the Warehouse over the years got beat up trying to walk back to Canal street after I missed my ride.Remmber paying kids to watch my car for a quarter sometimes a dollar so that it would be there when i got back but I loved it.Here is a few highlights – Lynyrd Skynyrd , ZZ Top , Robin Trower , Gary Wright and Robert Palmer , J Giels , Blue Oyster Cult , Rush , Van Halen , Montrose , Journey ,Wishbone Ash , Allman Brothers , Wet Willie , Uriah Heep,UFO , Point Blank ,Kiss , Foriegner and many more .

  7. bigjamfan on May 20, 2010 at 3:00 AM

    This was the club !! Cruise down the road hear jam bands and great drugs and few arrests !! Too bad it happened to the dead.It’s 2010 and time have changed.

  8. bigjamfan on May 20, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    Great story & photos .

  9. bigjamfan on May 24, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    Any Tapes of these shows ? Ihave the allman brothers cd.

  10. bigjamfan on May 28, 2010 at 7:53 PM

    Does anybody know of any tapes of these shows ?? Or videos ??

  11. Tape Trader on June 6, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    No video that I know of but there are a few good tapes.

  12. roastedgirl on September 27, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    I remember The Warehouse!!! And it was just that, a warehouse. It had a bar upstairs but it was just a warehouse. I saw Peter Frampton on his “Frampton Comes Alive” tour, with Gary Wright performing just before Frampton. Gary Wright sang the “Dream Weaver” and “Love Is Alive” tunes. And Frampton of course blew us all away back then with “Do You Feel Like I Do”! Man! It was awesome!! It’s hard to think that it was so long ago, around 1975, I think! WOW! What a trip!!!
    Oh, and by the way……..WHO DAT SAY DEY GONNA BEAT DEM SAINTS?!!!!! WHO DAT?

  13. WhyArts on February 24, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    I have CDs of the whole opening weekend of The Warehouse, Jan 30 – Feb 1 1970, including three shows by the Grateful Dead, one by the Flock and one by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. In fact, Mac and the Dead played together in the third show by the Dead, which is their hastily arranged “Bust Benefit” performance on Sunday afternoon, Feb 1 ’70. Seven hours of music in total on 7 high-quality CDs. Write me at WhyArts@gmail.com.