It is a cliché but true… “If you can remember the Sixties you weren’t there.” I can’t remember much of that era but I was there. When I was in high school and before I was old enough to drive (16 was the legal driving age in Ohio back then) Johnathan Crawford, one of my high school pals, suggested we start a psychedelic lightshow because we could get paid to perform at the Hyde Park Teen Center that was opening in his neighborhood of suburban Cincinnati. I was really into music back then, buying records when I could scrape together $3 and get one of my older brothers to drive me to the record store. But I didn’t have much of an idea of what was involved in performing a lightshow. But Johnathan was confident we could do it, so we asked a few other friends to be part of our group.
First order of business was to decide what to call ourselves. COWS seemed good since that used the first letter of our 4 surnames. But eventually we settled on “Flavor Scope.” I don’t recall who came up with it, but it seemed cool. Johnathan got his brother Chris to design our business card. We used Johnathan’s home phone number despite the risk that when any potential rock promoter might call he would probably hear Johnathan’s mother answer the phone. We got some equipment: overhead projectors, slide projectors, 16mm movie projectors. We built motorized color wheels to filter the imagery, I shot all sorts of B&W patterns for slides. Johnathan picked up some convex glass clock faces. Dan and Jamie got some mineral oil, we found some dyes for the oil and water. Squeeze bottles, towels, trash cans…. It ended up being quite an amazing bunch of stuff to make a lightshow. We got together to practice and to learn how to work together, how to make interesting imagery, to have fun together and we were in business!
Our first show at the Teen Center was for a band named “Vanilla Fudge.” The Teen Center was a big success, and Jim Tarbell – the impresario who was behind it – loved our show and how it enhanced the concerts. Oh, and should I mention that our next show was for the Grateful Dead? (The poster is in the slide show below.) Later my friend Tod Foote who helped out told me that Jerry Garcia came over to our projection booth and asked for some mineral oil to lubricate something. He reached up with his hand and Tod noticed the legendary missing finger! Pretty amazing experience for a bunch of high school students still too young to drive!
After a while Tarbell opened the legendary Ludlow Garage performance space and we became the house lightshow there. An interesting footnote is that the first concert for “The Garage” was to be The Paul Butterfield Blues Band but the renovations weren’t done in time so it was moved to the Cincinnati Zoo. The sound system was delivered in time, brought straight from the famous concert at Woodstock! Eventually it would be installed in the Ludlow Garage. Later the Allman Brothers recorded an album Live At Ludlow Garage there. Here is Flavor Scope at work, not on school nights!
From Wikipedia: Jim Tarbell opened the Ludlow Garage, a local concert venue, in September, 1969 and operated it until its closing in 1971, featuring artists such as Grand Funk Railroad, Spirit, Santana, Elvin Bishop, The Kinks, Humble Pie, Sons of Champlin, Cold Blood, Boz Scaggs, James Gang, Bo Didley, Iggy and the Stooges, MC5, Fairport Convention, Taj Mahal, NRBQ, Commander Cody, Herbie Mann, the Staple Singers, Alice Cooper, The Lemon Pipers and the Allman Brothers, who recorded a live album there.
Some of the posters from Jim Tarbell’s concerts:
In September of 1970 the members of Flavorscope shut down the business and left for college. The next year the Ludlow Garage closed. An era was ending. We went on our way and created new lives for ourselves: a college professor, an internet advertising entrepreneur, an insurance agent, and me, a professional photographer. In early 1994 we were contacted by the organizers of a 25th anniversary reunion for the Ludlow Garage to be held that summer in Eden Park in Cincinnati Ohio. We were invited to put on a lightshow. Somehow we still had some of the equipment and the slides after all that time. We were still devoted friends but having hardly spoken with one another for 25 years we managed to get together and pull it off. The night before the concert we had our first practice in my parents garage. Someone was smart enough to video tape the practice session, and the next day we decided that it was impractical to try to project a live show outside during the day, but managed to project the video behind the bands. Below is some of the footage which was digitized decades later by Jeff Siereveld (one of the original “Garage Kids” who worked there in the sixties) who added the Santana music which was recorded live at the Ludlow Garage in the 1960’s. I guess you can go home again. In 2015 The Garage reopened as a performance space! What goes around comes around. Get comfortable, light up a doobie and enjoy a flashback…