‘Happy Trails’: Quicksilver Messenger Service Find Their Own Path

The San Francisco band’s second release was a live album, taken from performances at the famed Fillmore East and Fillmore West

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Quicksilver Messenger Service 'Happy Trails' artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Quicksilver Messenger Service 'Happy Trails' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

On March 17, 1969, San Francisco rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service unveiled their finest hour, at least in commercial terms. That day marked the release of Happy Trails, their second album for Capitol, which became their one LP to win gold certification in America.

Quite unusually for a sophomore record, Happy Trails was a live album, taken from performances by the band at the famed Fillmore East and Fillmore West venues. Even more ambitiously, the first side of the disc was a suite of songs, running more than 25 minutes in total. It was based around the theme of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?,” in no fewer than six episodic interpretations.

The first and last of these were versions of the song itself, with notable roles for the band’s guitarists John Cipollina and Gary Duncan. The first even nudged into the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No.91. But the middle passages were all written by the members of QME themselves, titled (with a hint of humor) “When You Love,” “Where You Love,” “How You Love,” and “Which Do You Love.”

‘Not a note missed’

“Quicksilver goes into it at full speed,” wrote Greil Marcus in his Rolling Stone review at the time. “John Cipollina’s guitar alternately harsh and sweet, clashing with Gary Duncan’s rhythm, Greg Elmore’s drumming simple and solid, never an iota of sloppiness, not a note missed.”

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The second side of Happy Trails started with another gem from the Bo Diddley catalogue, “Mona,” and three more band compositions including Duncan’s 13-minute instrumental “Calvary.” The album entered the Billboard chart of March 29 at No.139, peaking at No.27 seven weeks later.

The album artwork was designed by Globe Propaganda, described by Billboard in May 1969 as “an advertising agency specializing in hip, progressive material.” Soon afterwards, Globe designed covers for the Charlatans and It’s A Beautiful Day.

Listen to uDiscover Music’s Quicksilver Messenger Service Best Of playlist.

Twenty-three years after its release, in 1992, Happy Trails finally went gold. It was testament to the lasting contribution of Quicksilver Messenger Service – as was the fact that it landed at No.189 on Rolling Stone’s all-time top 500 album list of 2003.

Buy or stream Happy Trails.



  1. jim shows

    March 17, 2015 at 3:24 pm


  2. grandmaison

    March 17, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    my prefer group

  3. Gary

    March 18, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    we all love the blue,s is one of the greatest gifts we have love you all bless

  4. Tappi

    August 7, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Who else has this Originel Vinyl LP ?

    • Lyle

      August 7, 2015 at 8:10 pm

      I have it, along with each of their Capital LPs.

    • Tom Burch

      March 18, 2016 at 3:47 am

      I do…

    • michael olpp

      October 6, 2016 at 8:54 am

      me also is the proud owner of a vinyl copy…

  5. Glenn Ross

    August 7, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    I was lucky enough to actualy see the QSMS do this LP at the beach house of the Family Dog in 1970. WOW! it was GREAT . This maybe my fav. LP

  6. Rash

    August 8, 2015 at 1:39 am

    One of my favorites.
    Listen to the “EROC at the Ranch” mix (or remix) of “Happy Trails” for jawdroppingly accurate sound. Sounds like it was recorded yesterday using state of the art equipment!

    All other versions pale by comparison.

    Search this version out out

    • Rash

      August 8, 2015 at 1:55 am

      The legendary “EROC at the Ranch” mix of Happy Trails has Two more octaves of sound in the bass and one more in the treble, Very Three dimensional sound, especially Cipollina’s solos.

      Much much much better than the Capitol mix!

      Find it

  7. Rash

    August 8, 2015 at 2:20 am

    To get his unique sound, John Cipollina used a guitar with two pickups. The high pickup went to a huge stack of transistor amplifiers and middle pickup went into a stack of Vacuum tube amplifiers and he would dial back and forth from one pickup (and amp stack) to the other and change the timbre of the sound

    this is very noticeable in the “EROC at the Ranch” mix of “Happy Trails”

  8. lafroguette

    August 8, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    oldies are goodies. RIP John you were great !

  9. Billy Prine

    March 29, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    One of the best live records ever released.I had coffee and cigarettes with John ..Cippolina in1980 at his home in Marin County California.RIP John.

  10. Ivica

    September 21, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    I lke too much record,this record for me as magic,picture on sleeve,music,sound,and I have this record,American press,not too much people who live in Croatia,know for Quick silver messenger service band,It was cult band in this era,I mean 60 ies,and 70 ies,WEST COAST…and sometimes,I feel why I wasn,t born about 47 year in America?that,s sadly for me

  11. Timothy Flynn

    February 22, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    One of the greatest albums of all time. I love it!

  12. Mitchell

    February 23, 2017 at 12:54 am

    I went to the Fillmore East about 50 times and my favorite show was Quicksilver in the Spring of 1970. Nicky Hopkins and Dino Valente were in the band at that time.

  13. Dan

    August 9, 2017 at 3:49 am

    As good as John was Gary was better

    • Jim

      August 30, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      Gary is great guitar player. Check out his solo works. Great song writer also.

  14. Gary Daniel

    March 18, 2018 at 4:58 am

    I saw John with the Grateful Dead on Dec 30th 1979 if it wasn’t another NYE run. Then I saw his band ZERO in the SF Valley mid ’80s with Kreutzman on Drums. Barely anybody there. It’s like he was playing to me. Dug it. Chatted with him afterwards. Nice guy. I was heartbroken when I heard he had died. I need to get my music stuff together once more before I kick off. This album is part of the soundtrack of my childhood.

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