John Cipollina - lead guitar; Gary Philippet - vocals, guitar, organ; Jim McPherson - vocals, bass, piano; David Weber - drums
Copperhead was a short-lived hard rock group led by John Cipollina, who played guitar for Quicksilver Messenger Service until leaving that band in 1970 following such classic discs as 1969's Happy Trails and their first, self-titled record from 1968. At first, Copperhead was a loose association of musicians centered around Cipollina, but eventually Copperhead tightened up into the four-piece lineup that recorded their sole, self-titled 1973 LP, and that appears at this show. The show, recorded at Winterland in San Francisco, includes four songs from that album, including single "Roller Derby Star." It also features a few tracks that would have appeared on their second LP, which Columbia refused to release after Clive Davis, who signed Copperhead, was fired from his position as President of the label.
The band's vocal duties were split between bass player Jim McPherson, whose gruff singing style can be heard on "Wang Dang Doo," and Gary Philippet, who sings lead on several tunes here, including the "Roller Derby Star" b-side, "Chameleon." Copperhead also took stabs at more reflective, ballad-type tracks like "Keeper of the Flame," which appears here but has no released version on record. That track is directed by Cipollina's distinctive, trebly leads into heady, psychedelic territory less than three minutes before gradually moving back into the delicate piano-driven groove on the verses. "Wrong Time" was written by Gary Wright of British hard rock group Spooky Tooth, and receives an impassioned rendition here.
Taken from the Bill Graham archives, this show is an interesting artifact of a band that is hardly documented beyond their studio album and a live LP that is now out-of-print. After this group, Cipollina continued to be active on the music scene, working with bands like Zero, Terry & the Pirates, and the Novato Frank Band, collaborating and touring with long-time friend Nick Gravenites on many projects, and releasing one solo LP in 1980, Raven. Cipollina passed away due to emphysema in 1989 after a few years of battling respiratory problems.