Died: June 25th 2005, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, CA., USA.
Music promoter, group manager, Hippie artist and part-entrepreneur. Catalyst for the union of Big Brother And The Holding Company & Janis Joplin and one of the driving forces in America's West-Coast music scene during the late 60s, co-founder with Bob Cohen of Family Dog Productions and Avalon Ballroom - interpolating with Bill Graham (2) and Fillmore Auditorium concerts.
Chet Helms was the eldest of 3 sons. His father, also Chester, died when Helms was 9 and the family moved to Texas. He dropped out of the University of Texas in 1961, where he had also met Janis Joplin, and took the hippie trail to San Francisco where he created a commune in a Haight-Ashbury boarding house on Page Street in 1962.
It was here that his skills as an entrepreneur grew. From hosting sessions in his basement with the budding Big Brother & The Holding Company he became their manager. One star point to his vision was calling in Janis Joplin to join them. Helms then formed a creative collective with Bob Cohen, under the umbrella of 'Family Dog' and began organizing music concerts at the Avalon Ballroom. During this period his skills interpolated with those of Bill Graham (2), although Helms' philosophy was much in the 'Hippie' vein and poorly geared to the wheels of profit, unlike Graham. Cohen was much involved in the concert sound production. As a result of Helms' concerts, there exist many highly collectible psychedelic posters created for his events, many of which elevated the designers into the public eye. The Robert Crumb art of Big Brother & The Holding Company - Cheap Thrills is also one such icon of the era. His Avalon venue also gave many bands a wider audience, such as Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Great Society, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead.
After the Avalon had gained many negative neighborhood complaints, along with Graham's early Fillmore, the Family Dog enterprise re-located at the former Edgewater Ballroom as The Family Dog, San Francisco. Helms, never the business man, ran out of cash and the venue closed in 1970. Events under the 'Family Dog' title were held in Denver, although it is not clear if these were official or under Helms' aegis.
In the Fall of 1979 Helms organized 'Tribal Stomp II', a Monterey Fairgrounds festival that had poor success. Following this in 1997, Helms then organized a 2-day event with the commune Council For The Summer Of Love as a 30th anniversary celebration. This became a rather shambolic promotion, although acts such as Jefferson Starship, Country Joe McDonald and Sons Of Champlin managed to perform on the Beach Chalet Meadows in Golden State Park. The following year Helms was faced with a hefty bill from the council for Police Department overtime costs in overseeing the event. From 1980 Helms then ran 'Atelier Dore', an art gallery on Bush Street, San Francisco. He continued to be involved in the creative process until suffering from hepatitis C and a mild stroke, from which he never recovered. He is survived by his brothers John, James and step-daughter Sarah Davis.