It's A Beautiful Day - Biography
By Nick Castro
It's a Beautiful Day were born out of the San Francisco psychedelic scene of the late 60's.The group's sound was mainly due to the musical genius and virtuosity of David LaFlamme, who was a classically trained violinist and the principal songwriter and voice behind the band. They are mainly remembered for their epic song, "White Bird", which LaFlamme would later rerecord in the 70's, and find success with again. It's a Beautiful Day are considered one of the most important of the San Francisco bands of their time, alongside artists like The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana and Janis Joplin.
It's a Beautiful Day's roots can be traced to the earliest projects of David LaFlamme, who had already played with the Utah Symphony Orchestra as a soloist while still in his early 20's, and had been in groups like the psychedelic symphonic band, Orkustra, alongside Bobby Beausoleil –later imprisoned for his involvement with Charles Manson–, and the earliest incarnation of Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks. Orkustra recorded the earliest version of the song,"Bombay Calling", later recorded by It's a Beautiful Day.
During 1967's summer of love, LaFlamme, with the help of musicians Pattie Santos on vocals, Mitchell Holman on bass, Val Fuentes on drums, and LaFlamme's wife Linda on keyboards, formed It's a Beautiful Day. After some bumpy starts with manager Matthew Katz, who they would ultimately be embroiled in legal disputes with, and who coined the named, It's a Beautiful Day, they began to gain local popularity, and by 1968 began getting opening slots for major shows with bands like Cream, The Grateful Dead, Albert King, Santana, Fleetwood Mac, Buffalo Springfield and The Yardbirds.
Originally, Katz had envisioned It's a Beautiful Day as an answer to the sounds of The Mamas & the Papas, and he had found Pattie Santos, as well as a few other musicians, to form this new group. The LaFlammes were reluctant to leave their group, Orkustra, behind, but finally caved and went with Katz' idea. Katz began to get the band sparse, and terrible, jobs, but it was during this initial period of famine that much of the group's best material was created. Katz proved unable to get the group any concerts in San Francisco, and when he did finally get them a job, it was in a third rate ballroom in Seattle, for little or no pay. The group grew weary and disenchanted with Katz and they fired him in early 1968. Katz quickly became bitter about it and pursued the band in court well into the 70's, claiming rights to the band name as well as creative output. Although the group would have to deal with Katz for years to come, it proved the right move to make for their careers.
With new management, and the addition of guitarist Hal Wagenet, It's a Beautiful Day were growing in popularity in the San Francisco area. After a series of very successful dates in the Bay Area, many at the Fillmore, and one legendary show opening to Cream on their farewell show, It's a Beautiful Day got a chance to record their first album, It's a Beautiful Day (1969 - CBS), which is now considered a masterpiece of the San Francisco sound. They had a big hit with the song, "White Bird", which still gets radio airplay today. The entire album is amazingly strong in composition and execution, and contains many classic songs, like, "Hot Summer Day", "Wasted Union Blues" and "Bombay Calling". The opening motif of the latter song was later stolen by Deep Purple for use on their song, "Child in Time". LaFlamme was incorporating his 5 string electric violin, and often adding delays and other effects brilliantly. The band created a sound was part rock, part psychedelic and part classical, and often utilizing touches of middle eastern rhythms.
By 1970, David and Linda LaFlamme were suffering differences within their relationship, and she left the group, to be replaced by Fred Webb. The band recorded their second album, Marrying Maiden (1970 - San Francisco Sound), which featured a much lighter country sound than their debut effort. LaFlamme allows himself more room to stretch out and show off his virtuosic violin capabilities, to great effect on songs like the album's opening track, "Don and Dewey". Jerry Garcia also makes an appearance on the album, playing both pedal steel and banjo. Richard Olsen, formerly of the Charlatans, also play clarinet on the album.
The next year, 1971, saw It's a Beautiful Day begin to suffer from artistic differences, and the end was in near sight. These troubles were not reflected in the band's material though, and they recorded their third album, Choice Quality Stuff/Anytime (1971 - CBS), which saw them going in a much more hard rock and electric blues direction. The band was also helped out by other Bay Area musicians, most notable, Chepito Areas, Greg Rolie and Coke Escovedo, from Santana. Although often disregarded by fans of It'a a Beautiful Day, this album is strong and features top quality musicianship from the players involved.
In 1972, the last days of the group were at hand, but they managed to release a formidable live album called Live at Carnegie Hall (1972 - Columbia), which took many by surprise by the sheer ferocity of the playing involved. The band performs many of their classic songs, including, "White Bird", "A Hot Summer Day" and "Bombay Calling", as well as a cover of Taj Mahal's, "Give Your Woman What She Wants". The next year, LaFlamme left the group, and they subsequently went on tour with a replacement violinist, bt the magic of the group was obviously still lying in LaFlamme's charismatic performance and musical genius. By 1974 the band was no more.
Over the year, It's a Beautiful Day have reunited for several concert tours and still often perform at hippie festivals, like the famous annual Oregon Country Fair, started by The Grateful Dead and their friends in the early 70's. Santos unfortunately died in a car accident in 1989, but today her spot is filled by LaFlamme's new wife, Linda Baker LaFlamme.