1976 Gay Guide Reflects Valley Revolution


 

By mid-decade, the social revolution begun in the early seventies had markedly changed the gay subculture in the Connecticut River Valley in Western Massachusetts. This is graphically evident in the second edition of the New England Gay Guide: 1976 published by Gay Community News.

The southernmost, heavily-populated, and industrial Hampden County retained its traditional bar/cruising/bath scenes. By 1976, mid-Valley Hampshire County rivaled Hampden for sheer number of activities, all of which were new. Even northern, sparsely-populated, rural Franklin County had become semi-publicly “out” home for a few lesbians and gays.

Bambi Gauthier tells me that the 1975 first edition of the New England Gay Guide was a mimeographed and stapled publication by Gay Community News, the regional newspaper based in Boston that started in 1973. The Guide was organized alphabetically by states and then towns within each state. Bambi photocopied the Valley listings for me. For the purpose of this post I have cut and glue-sticked them into relevant segments for a close-up view.

While gay and women’s guides are notorious for being out of date, this 1976 version presents a fairly accurate approximation of what I’m finding in documents and/or anecdotes. Whoever wrote the copy also had a sense of humor. The Guide listings demonstrate not only the growth in the gay subculture that took place in the first five years of the decade, but also illustrate discernible differences in the character of that change, among the three counties and also among towns within the same county.

As the largest Valley city, Springfield, in Hampden County, has always been the epicenter of the area’s gay bar culture. It still was in 1976, when all three of the Valley’s gay bars were in the city. The Guide’s listing includes not only these bars, but the anticipated opening and noted closing of others, among them the bombed Arch downtown and the Hideaway (also known as the Girls’ Club) in nearby Chicopee. This appears to be so culturally typical that the Guide has a listing category “Bars, defunct.” Gay women appear to be comfortable at one of the three bars and encouraged at a second. The traditional baths, restaurant, nearest VD clinic, and interstate highway cruise spot near the Longmeadow exit are also included.

gay guide hampden county_edited-1

 

What had changed by 1976 in the heavily populated Hampden County, according to GCN’s Guide, was the addition of a few new activities outside the bars. A “small local sprig” of Dignity, the national religious group for gay Catholics, had a Springfield PO Box. The group appears to have been attending mass together in Hartford at the Metropolitan Community Church. The Springfield Gay Alliance also had a PO Box, as well as a phone, and the organization was meeting weekly at the Unitarian Church in Longmeadow. Another new activity, although bar related, is a listing for Artandryl, “An all-women’s band doing 60s rock and some feminist material.”

Listings for rural Franklin County are, not surprisingly, sparse but exciting. Though they had listed an agent’s address in NYC, the all-women band Deadly Nightshade  lived together in a farmhouse in Apple Valley, Ashfield. Though they had an Amherst PO box, the Hopbrook Community was just across the river. The Hopbrook Community of gay men in New Salem marked the beginning of the gay and lesbian (and radical hippie) back-to-the-land movement in the hilltowns of the Valley.

gay guide franklin cty_edited-1

Nestled between Hampden and Franklin, Hampshire County is a mix of small cities, towns, and farmland in which the largest industry is education. In 1976, Smith, Amherst, and Mt. Holyoke were elite colleges. Hampshire College was founded in 1970 as an “experiment in education.” UMass was one of the state’s large universities. This county proved to be extremely fertile ground for the social change Movements sweeping the country, including the Women’s, Gay and Lesbian. By the time the NE Gay Guide was published, the number of activities listed in Hampshire County surpassed those in Hampden County. All were new in the seventies. Some were extensions of old bar culture in slightly different form. Others were groups and organizations consciously created as alternatives to gay bar culture.

The greatest number of Hampshire County listings are in Amherst, on the east side of the river. Along with nearby Hadley, bars are listed though they are only gay tolerant or gay-themed one night a week. UMass, home to the beginning of the Valley’s Gay Liberation Movement , had multiple student groups, a first effort to support teens, the first gay radio in the region, and feminist endeavors that welcomed lesbians.

Two business listings in town are especially notable. Amherst was one of the earliest towns in the state to pass a non-discrimination law that included gays and lesbians, long before the state legislation. I am seeking a date and confirming detail for effort, which I think was led by a gay Selectman, Tom Hutchinson.

gay guide hampshire east_edited-1

The Guide’s listings for Northampton, across the river to the west, are a sharp contrast, highlighting a great cultural difference between it and the rest of the Valley. All of them are for women, even if only described as welcoming, such as Legal Services, which I believe was submitted by the lesbian who worked there.

About half the listings are an extension of the old bar culture: a lesbian dance night at a straight bar, and two of the all-women’s bands  that played the straight and gay dance club circuits. The other half are the feminist centers of activity that included lesbians , exclusively or with other women.

gay guide hampshire west_edited-1

The differences within the Valley demonstrated in the 1976 New England Gay Guide show how the beginning of change was rooted here, to greater or lesser degree, in varying form, and for differing populaces. Gender and sexuality were both ways in which gatherings were called together, but so was political ideology. These differences come into play over the coming decades, sometimes in very dramatic ways.

SOURCES:

__New England Gay Guide 1976. Gay Community News. Boston. 1976.

__Gay Community News (Publication) Collection · Documented ...https://historyproject.omeka.net › collections › show

 

More Bands of Women


An unprecedented number of all-women bands circulated through Northampton in the 1970s, playing at straight dance clubs and feminist events. Many of the band members lived in the area as well. Four of the five bands that played here in the seventies were all or mostly lesbian, though not publicly out. The bands were the Deadly Nightshade, Lilith, Liberty Standing, Artandryl, and Ladies Chain.

The first band to form was the Deadly Nightshade  (1972-77), followed by Lilith  (1973-78), both already included in this blog.

liberty standing One belinda pix_edited-1Liberty Standing promo picture 1976. Back row: Adrienne, Belinda, Claire. Front: Wendy, Mickey. Courtesy of Belinda.

In 1975, three Lilith members left that band to form Liberty Standing. Claire Frances was the manager and lead singer; Belinda was on vocals, guitar, and percussion; and Mickey Faucher played drums. They added a Smith College student, Adrienne Torf, who was being professionally trained on piano and synthesizer. The other new member was Wendy on bass guitar. They developed a beat that was more salsa than Lilith had, which Belinda described as a “disco funk latin jazz sound.” Lin Wetherby worked the sound board.

liberty standing steakout_edited-1Liberty Standing at the Amherst Steakout, Summer 1976. Backrow: Lin, Belinda, Wendy, Adrienne. Front: Mickey, Claire. Photo courtesy of Belinda.

For the next four years, Liberty Standing played an East Coast circuit of colleges and dance clubs, including gay and feminist clubs. The Saints in Boston, the Citadel in Providence, and an unnamed Washington DC club were regular venues. The band toured once as far as South Carolina. Locally, they performed benefits for Common Womon Club and Chomo Uri, the local feminist arts journal.  In the Valley they were regularly booked at the Bernardston Inn (VT), the Steakout (Amherst), Rachid’s (Hadley), and the St. Regis (Northampton). Members lived variously in Northampton (including Green Street), Florence, and Amherst, often rehearsing in Hadley and New Salem.

liberty syanding two belinda pix_edited-1Liberty Standing 1977? Claire, Donyne, Belinda in back. Mickey, Jane in front. Courtesy Belinda.

A second incarnation of Liberty Standing formed when Adrienne left the band.  Bass player Donyne and flutist Jane joined. They or the earlier LS cut a demo tape, a cover of Junior Walker and the Allstars “What Does it Take to Win Your Love?” By 1979, Belinda told me, “The years of sex, drugs, and rock equaled burnt out.” The band folded. Claire went on to form a Boston group, Ina Ray. Claire died in 2008 at the age of 61 after a long illness.

About the same time Liberty Standing formed in 1975, Artandryl began. Kathy (I have been asked to not use last names) played bass in what she called “the ‘other’ women’s band (other than Lilith, that is.)”  Maria started Artandryl as lead singer along with her old friend Pam as manager. Maria chose the band’s name ,from the safe fantasy space created by a schizophrenic woman friend. They added Andi on drums and Cindy on guitar. A year or so later, they added Elaine on guitar as well. We are still trying to recall the name of the sound manager. They rehearsed in their various homes in Springfield.

artandryl listing_edited-1New England Gay Guide 1976 listing under Springfield

Maria
Maria
Kathy
Kathy
Andi 1
Andi
Cindy from Cindy
Cindy. photos courtesy of Cindy

“The band played a lot of Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane,” Cindy recalled in a recent interview. “Maria and Kathy chose all the music. Kathy and I wrote a song called “Phobia.” I wrote sort of a rock opera-type song that we played. We covered “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” By Jefferson Airplane; ”Piece of My Heart” and “Move Over” by Janis Joplin; “She’s a Woman” by the Beatles; ”I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Your Move” by YES.  UMass/Amherst, the Warwick and Bernardston Inns, and the Saints were the most repeated venues, with odd appearances in Northampton at Zelda’s and Ye Ol Watering Hole.

Original 1977 Song listArtandryl playlist c. 1976 courtesy of Cindy

The Valley Women’s Movement: a Herstorical Chronology  lists Artandryl as starting in May 1975 and ending in September 1976, making it relatively short lived. Cindy reflected on this:

Maria wanted the band to be very political. Unfortunately, that is the main reason I believe the band was not so popular. Lilith was a fun band that played dance music, so for all the politics and fighting amongst straights, gays, lesbians, and lesbian separatists, and even men, everyone enjoyed Lilith. They played fun dance music that everyone enjoyed. Artandryl also played so many political benefits for free or pass the hat that the band made very little money.

Cindy moved to Northampton and, later, Andi did as well. Both lived at Green Street at different times.

Cindy later played for three years in LA bands that toured Japan and the Southern US. Kathy stayed active musically, but may be better known to this community for her Lavender Lips webpage. She died in 2013 at the age of 62 after a seven year cancer struggle. No promo photos, clippings, or recordings have yet been found for Artandryl. If you have any please contribute them, or at least copies, here or to an archive.

Ladies Chain is the fifth band I find mentioned very briefly in the Chronology in the 1970s: “Feb. 4, 1977. Contradance with women musicians.”  A wonderful description of what was the first gig and, I think, the beginning of Ladies Chain was included in the Valley Women’s Union mimeographed newsletter dated March 1977. The band might have been Northampton based and included at least one lesbian. More info welcome. Let’s at least save some pictures.

ladies chain_edited-1Valley Women’s Union (Northampton) newsletter, March 1977

The next part of this music herstory will be about the beginning of the lesbian discjockeys who operated out of Northampton. It seems that the more women danced, the more dancing they wanted. As the big women’s bands went out of the valley onto the professional club circuit, they left a hunger behind them. 

SOURCES:

__Star, Belinda. Interviewed by Kaymarion Raymond via phone. July 21, 2004.

__Vazquez, Mary. Interview by Kaymarion Raymond. Northampton.

__Torf, Adrienne. Webpage. http://www.adriennetorf.com/

 

 

“Adrienne Torf began studying piano at the age of three. Her early experience included playing for theater productions, choral groups and an all-girl disco band while a student at Smith College. After graduating from Stanford, she became a contract studio and touring keyboard player, touring and recording with Holly Near, Linda Tillery, Ferron, Kay Gardner and others. Her keyboard compositions and arrangements appear on more than 20 albums, including her own two solo releases: Brooklyn From The Roof (1986) and Two Hands Open (2003).”

__ Frances, Claire. Memorial page . http://rememberingclair.blogspot.com/

__NLN, Kat. Email to Kaymarion Raymond. Dec. 8, 2004.

__NLN, Cindy. Facebook messenger correspondence with Kaymarion, July 25-26, 2017.

__[Raymond], Kaymarion and Letalien, Jacqueline, editors. The Valley Women’s Movement: A Herstorical Chronology 1968-1978. Ceres, Inc. Northampton. 1978. http://www.vwhc.org/timeline.html

__Valley Women’s Union newsletter. March 1977. Northampton.