Everyone over at the Avalon Ballroom in the San Francisco Bay
Everybody have-have-have have a lot of fun, I know!
I can tell you they’re feeling good
Gotta try the feeling, baby, gotta try….
— Janis Joplin
What a long strange trip it's been for Ned Moran, whose collection of rock ‘n’ roll artifacts and memorabilia, named the Avalon Archives, has finally found a permanent home at The Falcon, a bar/restaurant/music venue located along Route 9W in sleepy Marlboro, NY. on the west side of the Hudson, about 15 miles north of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.
The 70-something, pony-tailed former nightclub owner, firefighter, Army vet, and amateur doowop singer began amassing his massive collection exactly half a century ago, when he was 25. It happened on the native New Yorker's first trip to San Francisco in 1969, two years after the Summer of Love. Ned started to notice the psychedelic posters around town advertising concerts that had recently taken place at the legendary Fillmore West and its slightly less famous competitor, the Avalon Ballroom, immortalized in Janis Joplin's “Combination of the Two.” Both venues closed in 1971.
“I would take them down from telephone poles and storefronts, because I thought they were works of art," says Ned. “And my Bay Area friends knew I collected this stuff and they would mail them to me. So I acquired a pretty good number of posters from ‘back in the day.’ These days the posters are very collectible.” The artists include Rick Griffin, Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse, and Victor Moscoso.
A hidden jewel of the Hudson River Valley, the Archives, which are housed in a downstairs venue dubbed The Falcon Underground, spotlight rock’s Golden Age, spanning the decade from 1965 (with hits like "Good Vibrations" and "Satisfaction") to 1975 ("Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Fame"). The museum is co-dedicated to the musicians who made us feel groovy and to the 343 first responders who gave their lives on 9/11, several of whom Ned knew personally. (Although he had retired from the NYFD's 21 Engine by 2001, he attended some of his friends’ funerals.)
Aside from rock, other genres represented include the blues, R&B, folk, country, jazz, punk, and even a little heavy metal, as well as a shrine to the King. Among the many one-of-a-kind artifacts: the pocket watch that Janis Joplin gave Rick Danko (as well as his cowboy boots, and the amp from The Last Waltz); The Band’s Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; Paul Butterfield's harmonica; a brick from John Coltrane’s house in Dix Hills on Long Island where the saxophonist composed his “Love Supreme” (and a rock from Houses of the Holy); four rare Dylan albums pressed in China that were only distributed to US troops in Vietnam; and a dozen autographed instruments once played and signed by the likes of Van Halen, ZZ Top, and Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.
One highlight is the Hofner guitar that Bob Dylan played in 1969 at the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s apartment on East 12th Street. (Ned regrets never meeting Dylan but he did see him perform at Town Hall.)
In the ’80s, during his days as co-owner of Uncle Willy's bar in Kingston, Ned rubbed shoulders with many of the artists whose images adorn the walls, including Richie Havens, David Nelson, John Hammond, David Amram, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, and Dickey Betts.
There are dozens of pictures (many of them autographed) by world-class photographers such as Charlotte Brooks (Look magazine’s first female photographer), Harry Diltz, Lisa Law, Elliot Landy, Fred W. McDarrah, Mick Rock, Susan Wallach Fino, John Cohen, and David Spindel, who chronicled John Lennon’s final recording session. “Every time I show the pictures," says Ned, "I send Yoko a card out of respect, just to let her know. And through the years, she’s sent me signed pieces and posters of her and John that I’d never seen before.”
In addition to the posters and pictures, the collection includes original artwork, some 6,000 LPs, books and videos, many issues of Rolling Stone magazine, including the first one, which cost a quarter (it’s now $9.99!); original paintings by Jerry Garcia and Commander Cody; a Texas flag autographed by Willie Nelson; a first edition of Woody Guthrie's Bound for Glory; Led Zeppelin foil art; action figures of Jim Morrison, Iggy Pop, and Sid Vicious; and bobbleheads of Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash, and Ned’s own ticket stubs to Woodstock and Watkins Glen.
The exhibits are constantly changing. The Falcon's owner, Tony Falco says, “It’s up to his discretion, whatever Ned wants to do.” He adds, “I love his energy. Ned’s peaceful and kind, and a great soul. We get along pretty well.” The two met at an exhibit at the Highland Center in 2001. Ned moved his collection into Tony’s “pad” in 2015. It's a marriage made in rock ‘n’ roll heaven.
You never know who you’ll meet at the Falcon and the Avalon. Ned recalls the time that members of the New Riders of the Purple Sage dropped by; the country-rock band turned out hits like “Panama Red” and “Glendale Train.”
“The night before, they played the Litchfield Playhouse, and I invited them to stop by the next day on their way to Jersey,” Ned says. “They stayed for an hour longer than they intended to, because they were really enjoying what they were seeing. And they were calling up their friends, saying, ‘You gotta see this place, our whole scene is on the wall!’ So that was satisfying to me."
In case you're wondering, Ned's favorite LP is the singer/guitarist Jesse Colin Young’s debut solo album, The Soul of a City Boy, released in 1964. Soon thereafter, Young formed the Youngbloods, best known for their peace-and-love anthem, “Get Together” (Come on people now / smile on your brother).
“One thing I like about the museum,” muses Ned, “is that it relates to a happier era on the planet, when things were a little bit lighter and you could enjoy your life without all the stress that everybody’s under these days.”
Visit the Avalon Archives at The Falcon
The Avalon Archives rock 'n' roll museum is located in The Falcon Underground (bottom floor), which features live performances Wednesday through Sunday. The restaurant serves gastropub food (I had their Sunny Up Burger, made with grass-fed beef and topped with a poached egg), and the beer garden specializes in microbrews and spirits made in New York State. The Falcon is housed in a cavernous, 19th-century former pearl button factory. A three-level exterior deck overlooks the spectacular Marlboro Falls, along Latin Town Creek.
For a list of upcoming concerts at The Falcon, check liveatthefalcon.com or call (845) 236-7970. Featured performers range from the 93-year-old rhythm guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli to David Johansen of the proto-punk New York Dolls.
The nonprofit Archives are open the same hours as The Falcon, from 5:30pm to 10 or 11pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays, and from 10am to 9:30pm on Sundays. Ned is usually there to give tours on Sundays from noon to 3pm, or you can call him at (845) 225-9135 to make an appointment. The Archives are free, but donations are much appreciated.
Some of Ned’s collection can also be viewed at Marbletown Hardware in Stone Ridge and American Tire and Cycle in Peekskill.
Peter Zimmerman is the author of Tennessee Music: Its People and Places and The Jazz Masters: Setting the Record Straight (University Press of Mississippi, due out in 2020).