Robbie Stokes - vocals, lead guitar; Brett Champlin - vocals, guitar; Bob Laughton - vocals, bass, slide guitar; Steve Sweigart - drums
Very little is known about this band that moved from Carbondale, Illinois to the San Francisco area during the summer of love. A pioneer in the jam band style of music, this group fit comfortably on West Coast stages with the likes of the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and New Riders Of The Purple Sage.
Upon arriving in San Francisco, they played at every opportunity that came up, and before long, they won the support of Bill Graham, who put them on as an opening act at a number of San Francisco venues, including the Family Dog at the Great Highway, and, of course, the Fillmore West.
Musically, the band was closest to the Grateful Dead, who befriended them and let them open for them a number of times. This show, which is likely the only professional live recording ever made of the band, features a myriad of musical styles including rock, blues, and country. Devil's Kitchen was even offered a recording contract with Mercury Records but turned it down when they would not be guaranteed full artistic control of the music by the label heads. They never were offered another deal, and the band broke up in late 1970 over the normal issues that cause sleepless nights for most unsigned bands trying to make a name for themselves in a large, metropolitan market.
Lead vocalist and guitarist Robbie Stokes remained in the Bay area for 12 years, working with Dead members Micky Hart and Robert Hunter on their solo albums, and as a bassist for Quicksilver Messenger Service. He returned to Illinois and formed a new band with a female vocalist entitled Coal Kitchen, which had considerable success and was signed to Epic Records in the late 1970s.
Among the highlights of this show are the Dead-like track, "Dream Red, Green and Gold" and a lengthy blues song called "Farm Bust Blues," which will remind you of Janis Joplin's "Ball & Chain." But the true centerpiece of the performance is the massive "Ridden a Many Mile" and the improvisational jam that arises from it. Even though this stretches out for nearly half an hour, it is compelling for its adventurousness and beauty.