Avalon Ballroom

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Is there any history on the Avalon Ballroom that I can obtain over the internet? My grandparents owned it back in the 40-50's. My grandfather (William Sanders) passed away when my father (Robert) was just 6 or 7 years old and as you can imagine he doesn't have to many memories about it either. He does remember it being located off of van ness on bush or wherever the regency theatre is today. Anything would help me. I just want to increase the my personal family history.

thank you,


-- Michael J. Sanders (mjs 49r fn@aol.com), January 19, 1998


The Avalon ballroom was on the north side of Sutter Street, just a little to the east of VanNess Avenue. It was operated during the 1960s as a dance/concert hall by Chet Helms' "Family Dog Productions."

I don't know of any formal written history of the ballroom, but I did a quick search on the Internet under 'Avalon Ballroom', 'Chet Helms' and 'Family Dog' and came up with hundreds of hits. Although most of these relate to rock recordings or psychedelic poster collections, I'm sure there are mentions of the ballroom history buried in there, too.

Try a good search engine like Lycos or Yahoo and see what you can turn up!


-- anon (anon@post.net), January 24, 1998.

Chet Helms previous owner of the Avalon Ballroom has an art gallery in SF called Atelier Dore maybe he can give you some information.

-- anon (anon@earthlink.net), April 16, 2000.

One thing I can tell you about the Avalon Ballroom was that before the Family Dog took it over..the house band was Maurice Wholohans Orchestra.....I went to school with his kids...so I know that little fact.

-- Kathy Gori (webdog@webtv.net), November 13, 2000.

Update on the Avalon: As of Nov 20, 2000 the Regency theater is closed and the "Avalon Ballroom" building is undergoing renovation. On a recent visit to SF I stopped into a lighting store next door and asked what was going in after the renovation. The guy wasn't sure but said the lower level was going to be a "dot com" business. With the successful renovation of the Fillmore a few years ago, it's a shame SOMEONE can't do the same with the Avalon!

-- Bill Peterson (peter267@umn.edu), November 30, 2000.

I remember Avalon being just west of Van Ness on Market. The other location sounds like Fillmore West. I could be corrected, but I doubt it.

I mostly agree with the bandleader's name contributed in another reply.

I went there dancing once or twice in the Fifties.

I delivered Renee LeBallister (a well-known customer, not an act) to dance barefoot there once, in the late Sixties. She usually danced in lower Sproul to the drums all day and I always carried big bandaids for her chronically cracked heel that would never heal due to her incessant dancing. You can find her picture in The Daily Californian or in The Berkeley Barb of the period.

-- E.L.Hinrichs (MucksAbout@aol.com), December 04, 2000.

Have been there a few times. Met Chet Helms and Jerry Abrams and Harvey Brooks there. Attended Harvey's wedding there one evening.

Late 60's.

I have a photo of the interior in the late 60's too if anyone wants it.

-- JOhn Amphlett (vacajon@pacbell.net), December 22, 2000.

I played in a band called Black Pearl in the late sixties and worked at the Avalon ballroom several times, also played the closing party. Any entertainer who worked there can produce stories of legend, Chet Helms is the man who knows. Great guy gave alot of us a start.

-- tom mulcahy (tturtle@capecod.net), March 06, 2001.

We took a light show from, of all places, Salt Lake City to the Family Dog on the Great Highway in 1969. Chet and Michael Christopher reluctantly gave us an auditon and when they saw our show. They offered to be our booking agent. They said it was the first time they had done that with a light show. For the next several months we did shows around the west with their bands - especially the Grateful Dead. I overheard a young admirer as Jerry Garcia's one day aske him who he thought the best light show in the world was and Jerry answered "Rainbow Jam". Rainbow Jam made significant contributions to a family of processes called "Back Lit" then it became known as "Optical Effects". These processes were used in many Clio winning television commercials and in George Lucus' Star Wars trilogy. Optical Effects was the foundation that "Digital Effects" the title of today's technical process for making the blockbuster effects films we see at the movies. I guess it is another example of that generations contributions to the world we l

-- Kenvin Lyman (fiabon@home.com), May 19, 2001.

My Mother told me that my Nonnie and Nono met there. I believe she was either a coat check girl, or a cocktail waitress. I don't know that he ever worked there, or if he just came in to dance. I'm a 3rd generation San Franciscan. My family is all from North Beach. I'd love to know what other responses about the Avalon Ballroom you get. Does anyone have pics of it in it's heyday of the 40's/50's? Hope to hear from you soon. -db-

-- Dee (balrow@msn.com), July 28, 2001.

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