Chet Helms
1942 - 2005


At the Helm - Chet 1967

© Ralph Ackerman
All Rights Reserved


In Memories Awake


It was a beautiful death. It was a goodbye party. We all sang to him, told stories, and had the chance to really show our love and say goodbye. He died as he lived -- surrounded by love.

~~ Judy Davis

He lived as long as he could. A legacy, a time, a flight of planets wander beyond the horizon follow the setting sun, gone. Sleep, the night short, and tomorrow remember the best.

~~ Travis Rivers

Without Chet, there would be no Grateful Dead; no Big Brother and the Holding Company; no Jefferson Airplane, no Country Joe & the Fish; no Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the list goes on. He wasn't just a promoter; he was a supporter of music and art who supported people emotionally, psychologically and psychically. Chet really made the scene what it was, he didn't really care about money, and the music always came first.

~~ Barry Melton

May more people, yet again, walk this earth with the grace and spirit of Chet Helms. I hope we will seek that spirit within ourselves to be as sharing, caring, and as good humored. He is a bright light that has illuminated my path from afar. I just love the story of how he arrived at his own wake in a hearse, and rose from a coffin with a ringing cell phone. It's too much to hope that we will be seeing a repeat of that tale.

~~ Birdi

Chet - Side Door Man

© Chet Helms
All rights reserved


Dear Chet,  You've been a neighbor, bringing joy, for much of my life.What a midwife you've been, what freedom you've nurtured.The moment, after that first song, when Bo Diddly and the audience "grokked" each other, yeah, no borders, one tribe. Good magic.I want to thank you for a real good time.

~~ Merrie

There just are not enough sweet, funny, warm, inspiring people wandering around and losing this one hurts. God, what a blow, but I'm with Mom, I want to thank you for a real good time. Goodbye - no, not Goodbye. Aww...dammit... Chet, until we meet again.

~~ Merrie's Daughter

In 1967, before moving to Morningstar, I had an apartment on Haight Street, directly across from Tracy's donut shop, the main part of the street. Often there were riots in the streets. One time Chet came up to watch the street events from my living room. Together we watched the police use billy clubs on hippies who were trying to take over the streets. dare i tell you i made popcorn, which we munched while we watched this crasy movie. The last time I saw Chet was at a special gathering for supporters of Tim Leary, called to garner support for Tim after he was busted again. So we are talking about 35 or 36 years ago. I do not mourn Chet's passing. I celebrate his life and appreciate how he made my life fuller. Thank you Chet for all you did for all of us!

~~ Rena Morningstar

I just got the sad news that main man Chet Helms passed away here in San Francisco today. He was a good friend and guiding spirit to all of us in the SF music community and world wide in Art & Music. Most recently I got to enjoy hanging out and reminiscing with Chet and members of James Brown band. James Brown was crazy about him, he paid tribute to him at every show when in the Bay Area and would sometimes hand the microphone to Chet to say hello right in the middle of his concerts. Thanks for the memories and more Chet! My sincerest condolences to all of his family & friends, he will be sorely missed.

~~ Jon Hammond

Chet - In The Moment

© Jay Blakesberg
All rights reserved


Chet was our daddy. He chose the name Big Brother and the Holding Company. He brought James Gurley to the band. He brought Janis to the band. He gave us our first gigs, and ourfirst home. He was the real Big Brother, the real spirit behind this wholething that we have spent our lives doing.

~~ Sam Andrew

I remember with great nostalgia his Family Dog at the Beach! For that alone Chet will liveon in our memories.

~~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti

In January 2000, there was a story in the San Francisco Chronicle thatcountercultural rock impresario Chet Helms had died--only it was publishedfive-and-a-half years prematurely. So Chet decided to produce his own combination wake and resurrection. He hired a hearse and a coffin, and invited 200 guests to the event. Pallbearers included Terence Hallinan, the district attorney; Richard Hongisto, the sheriff; and Wavy Gravy, the social activist, clown and Ben & Jerry1s ice-cream flavor. The hearse was driven to the Gold Coast Restaurant. The coffin was rolled into the restaurant and opened. Chetjust lay there. On his chest were flowers and a cell phone. All of a sudden, the phone rang. He rose to answer it, then walked through the crowd of photographersshooting him and mourners toasting him. Amen.

~~ Paul Krassner

I knew Chet mostly during 1965 when Big Brother was trying to settle on a name for the band in someone's living room, and then Jan 66 around the Trips Festival. Always the gentle soul.

~~ Ramon Sender

Just returned from upstate andBob Seidemann called me from LA to let me know about Chet having just gottenoff the phone with Mouse - and I would just add: Chet, you paved the way formy spiritual connection by providing a place to hear the danceand sway and always with that shy smile. I thank you.

~~ Nicole Wills

Chet - The Family Tie

© Robert Altman
All rights reserved


When I first arrived in Berkeley in 1965 Chet was one of the golden prince's of acid rock. He organized mind blowing rock events at the Avalon in San Francisco and was the moving force behind Big Brother And The Holding Company. Rumor said he hitched to SF from Texas in the company of Janis Joplin. Chet was always a soft touch for doing benefits and making contributions. I met him in some Haight Ashbury sanctuary, where we were all planing the first Human Be-In, a mass event in the park where the spectacles and pleasures of the new psychedelic community would be on free flowing display. It's hard to believe that there was a crafty, sinister, then unnamed virus that would enter Chet's blood stream and 40 years later, it would destroy his liver and kill him. Chet's death is a very personal thing for me because I just defeated the same Hepatitis C virus via a year in chemotherapy hell. Others that I knew have died of this same plague. What a cruel irony that back in the mid 60s amidst all that energy and abundant life force a deadly disease was targeting Chet and so many other really beautiful people.
Hep C must be destroyed!

~~ Stew Albert

These final words alone cannot express my joy for having known you old friend. You altered the world around us and gave it a soundtrack we will never forget.
Bole Nath Ki Jai! (In Honor of the Deity).

~~ Hammond Guthrie

Tribute Page Two

May the Baby Jesus open your mind
and shut your mouth.

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