Steve Miller, Santana, Grateful Dead and the ‘San


In 1966, Steve Miller was a young Texas blues guitarist who flipped a coin to see if he’d drive his Volkswagen Bus east to New York or west to a city he kept hearing about.

“There was a pulse about it, as if you could put an ear to a railroad track and all you’d hear was, ‘San Francisco, San Francisco, San Francisco,” he says.

The 23-year-old pulled into town on a sunny afternoon and went to the fabled Fillmore West just in time to catch Grace Slick being appointed the new lead singer of one of the city’s hippest bands, Jefferson Airplane.

“It was such a cool, small scene, with everyone involved in music and posters and light shows and writing,” recalls Miller, 79. “The group of people who started this thing were idealistic in a period of time that wasn’t cynical. It was all about the art.”

A young Steve Miller frets his keyboard during a rehearsal. Miller arrived in San Francisco with only a guitar and van to his name, but emerged as one of the top acts from the scene.

Anyone curious about those halcyon San Francisco days, sandwiched as they were between the Beatniks and Altamont, now has a vivid new guide, “San Francisco Sounds: A Place In Time” a two-part documentary that concludes Aug. 27 on MGM+.

Pairing revelatory archival footage with insightful musician voice-overs, the documentary artfully dissects the evolution, heyday and ultimate demise of a roughly four-year scene, from 1965 through 1969, that often is referred to by the compressed moniker, the Summer of Love.

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