On the Road to the Summer of Love is an exhibit of photographs and ephemera from the time leading up the influx of would-be hippies into Haight Ashbury in 1967. Historian, author, and former promoter for the Grateful Dead, Dennis McNally guest curated the California Historical Society show, which runs from this Friday into September.
There’s more information about the exhibit at the California Historical Society website.
“What I wanted to do was to depict where the Summer of ’67 and the Haight Ashbury scene came from,” McNally says. He begins with photos of the “Beats,” like Alan Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and moves through the social and artistic movements of the day: the Civil Rights and Free Speech movements, the avant-garde groups like the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Actor’s Workshop – and how they would intersect. Before Bill Graham was the famed concert presenter, he represented Ronnie Davis of the Mime Troupe, who was arrested for not having the proper permit to perform. “Bill started producing benefits to pay for the bail, and ended up discovering, ‘you know, this rock and roll thing is kind of happening.’ And soon becomes Bill Graham.” The folk music and coffeehouse scene evolved over just a few years into rock and light shows with LSD. McNally says the Summer of Love really began the prior year, when the Grateful Dead and others began to “experiment with freedom,” but what gave it momentum was the party thrown at the beginning of 1967. “They called it the Gathering of the Tribes, and the Great Human Be-In, and it took place on January 14, 1967. And they came to Golden Gate Park, and led by the poets, they came together in celebration of nothing in particular. It was just a beautiful day… As a consequence of course of the Be-In, suddenly Haight Street is mobbed. Every high school student in America… or many high school students in America said ‘I have to be there.’ And many came.”