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The story of an unlikely underground hit penned inside a Capitol Hill mansion

With Gwendolyn’s recent contributions on the Capitol Hill music scene, CHS has been a little more rocking lately. Here’s a piece of Capitol Hill popular music history courtesy

On October 4, 1969, the song “White Bird” makes its debut on theBillboard magazine’s best-seller charts — the beginning of a four-week run that peaked at the No. 118 slot. That relatively lowly chart position, however, belies the actual nature of the tune’s popularity and impact: due to the song’s length (6:06), the band’s unwieldy name (It’s A Beautiful Day), and their unusual instrumentation (an absolutely searing five-string electric violin), AM radio shunned it and only the more freeform “underground” FM stations embraced “White Bird.” And thus it was that the song took wings and became a hippie era FM radio classic.

It’s A Beautiful Day was formed in San Francisco in 1967 by its classically trained leader, David LaFlamme (violin) and his wife, Linda LaFlamme, (organ) — plus Pattie Santos (vocals), Hal Wagenet (guitar), Mitchell Holman (bass), and Val Fuentes (drums). Before long, their manager, the controversial Matthew Katz (who had already mucked-up the business affairs of Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape), persuaded them to relocate to Seattle where they could woodshed awhile without the glare of media attention then being focused on their California peers.

Although they were initially reluctant to go, Katz also offered the band living quarters in his five-story Capitol Hill mansion (1429 E Prospect Street), and a string of gigs at his San Francisco Sound dancehall  based in Seattle’s historic Encore Ballroom (1214 E. Pike Street). It was December 1967 when the group arrived in Seattle where they — including a short-term local singer, Carol Suffron (ex-Seattle’s Canterbury Tales band) — began daily rehearsals at the hall, and two-shows-per-night ­weekend dances that featured psychedelic light shows by Don Paulson’s Lux Sit & Dance company. Those practice sessions would ultimately produce the songs that would constitute their first LP — including David and Linda Laflamme’s most beloved composition: “White Bird.” more…


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10 years ago

I lived in San Francisco for ’74 to ’77, so I missed the hippie era, but the music of IABD still evokes a time/place/consciousness for me.

I saw David LaFlamme with his then-current band at a club in San Francisco ca. 1977. I understand that the It’s a Beautiful Day period hadn’t been good to him–his marriage broke up, and he was done out of royalties. At one point he said, “If this were being put on by Bill Graham, it would be $6.50 a ticket [1977, remember!] and the music wouldn’t be as good.”

The (excellent) set included “White Bird,” “Hot Summer Day” (which was killer!), and a cover of Roy Hamilton’s “Don’t Let Go.”

In the next week I bought LaFlamme’s then-new LP, but it just didn’t live up to the original IABD LP. I’ve never checked out the follow-up LPs, “Marrying Maiden” and “Choice Quality Stuff.” So much music, so little time.

10 years ago

Old hippie day on capitolhill seattle.