Little Princess 109 began as a jug band for the James Logan High
senior show in 1967. The school was in Union City, California,
but most of us lived in neighboring Hayward. Many rock bands at
that time had their names printed on their bass drums. Our
main rhythm instrument was a washboard, and already printed on it
was the trade name, Little Princess No. 109. Well, that must
be our name, then!
By June that year, inspired by visits to the Fillmore Auditorium
and the latest in pharmaceuticals, the jug band morphed into the
light show, keeping the name and most of the personnel. Founding
members included Chris Mickey, Kirk Linstrum, Jeff Hawley, Jerry
Radcliff, Jacque Asbury, Vince Green, Gary Lawrence, Rollin Lewis
and David Hillis--LP 109 always had a large cast!
We spent the first year doing a lot of college and high school dances,
often blowing their fuses with the unanticipated demands of the
equipment. In 1968 we got a summer-long gig at St. Elizabeth's High
in Oakland (thank you, Paul August!), and every dime (and a lot
of our parents' dimes) were put into newer and more powerful projectors.
Vince handpainted scores of slides, Chris did all the movie loops
and most of the rest focused on the liquids. We auditioned
for Bill Graham that fall, used all our best stuff, and were astonished
to be handed our first weekend that December, with Santana, and
our names on the poster! (You can see the poster in the liner notes
of the CD Santana: Live At The Fillmore '68.)
Along with Brotherhood
of Light, we became a house light show for Bill Graham Presents.
We worked at Fillmore West and Winterland continuously from December
1968 until Fillmore West closed in July 1971. According to the records
of the Bill Graham Presents archives, we worked for Graham longer
than any other light show, and performed more nights of light than
any show for the entire Fillmore/Fillmore West/Winterland period.
Simply put, we were Number One.
At a typical Fillmore West show we would use six overhead projectors
for liquids, three movie projectors, and sixteen slide projectors
behind rotating color wheels. All the shows at Fillmore West were
front projection; sometimes Winterland gigs were rear projection,
depending on the placement of the stage. We had on-going but friendly
back-and-forths with Rich the sound and lights guy, trying to get
him to dim the stage lights to avoid washing us out in the center.
In July 1969, as Neil Armstrong got ready to walk on the moon, Graham
rented a video projector and we, along with everyone else in the
audience, got to see the walk, live.
Being one of the two regular shows, we were invited to Bill's annual
staff picnics at Angel Island and his retreat in Felton. And
we had the privilege of putting ourselves on the guest list--if
there was a group we wanted to see on someone else's weekend, we
could just call up the office and say, "Little Princess for
four" and we were in! On the other hand, whenever we'd
go to him for a raise, he would calmly relate how the light shows
were like the barrel of apples he always had out at the top of the
stairs--he did it because he liked to, but he didn't need it to
sell tickets. We grumbled but never dreamed of quitting!
It was a dazzling, exciting time, and we got to do shows with The
Allman Brothers, The
Band (Vince's slides can be glimpsed in the inside photos
of the musicians in the album The Band), Chuck Berry, The
Byrds, Chicago, Joe Cocker, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crosby,
Stills, Nash & Young, Miles Davis, Delaney and Bonnie with Eric
Clapton, Everly Brothers, Grateful Dead, Herbie Hancock, Elton John,
Janis Joplin, B.B. King, The Kinks, Little Richard, Taj Mahal, Steve
Miller Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Preservation Hall Jazz
Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Leon Russell, Santana, John
Sebastian, Boz Skaggs, Sly and the Family Stone, Ike and Tina Turner,
The Youngbloods, Frank Zappa and several dozen others.
Our name is on over 50 posters.
was a particular favorite because he would regularly pause during
his set and say, "Hey, how 'bout that light show?" and
people cheered. He may have said it in every city, but we still
appreciated it because we rarely got recognition from the stage.
There was that one night with the Dead, though,
when someone from their organization came up to our balcony and
dosed everybody . . .
When Bill closed Fillmore West, the work pretty much dried up and
except for a few night club shows, the troupe members moved on to
other pursuits. However, for New Year's Eve 1977, our leader Chris
convinced Graham to have us back, and for that night we were blazing
again, doing a rear screen projection behind Santana
excellent au revoir, in more ways than one. Chris died of
Hodgkin's Disease in April 1978, at age 29.
We were too large a group to ever make a living at it, even with
the steady work--we all had day jobs--and it was hard lugging all
that equipment and setting it up for every show (we had no roadies,
nevermind groupies!). But the energy, good times and glorious
music easily outweighed all the tribulations.
We were blessed.
David Hillis - June 2002