The history of Pacific Gas & Electric can be traced back to 1967 in Los Angeles (L.A.) Self-taught guitarist Tom Marshall met bassist Brent Block at a party thrown by Block's former art teacher. The band they started was called "Pacific Gas and Electric Blues Band", one of the first interracial bands to hit the L.A. music scene. One of the early members was a drummer from the east coast named Charlie Allen.
Allen's vocal abilities were so good that he was relieved of his drum sticks, and became lead singer and frontman, to be replaced on drums by Canned Heat's former drummer, Frank Cook, who had earlier signed on to manage the band.
By 1968, the band name was shortened to Pacific Gas & Electric, and included Allen, Cook, Marshall, Block, and guitarist Glenn Schwartz (also of James Gang and All Saved Freak Band). They released their first album, Get It On, that year on the Kent record label (it was subsequently released on Big Orange and Power Records as well). Although it only reached #159 on the album charts, someone at Columbia Records was listening, as they signed the band to a recording contract shortly after their appearance at the Miami Pop Festival in December of 1968.
The next album, and the first released by Columbia, was simply called Pacific Gas and Electric, in 1969. However, it was the next release, the Are You Ready LP that included their first mainstream hit. The title track reached #14 in the summer of 1970, and featured the backing vocals of The Blackberries.
Wholesale changes were in store for the group after recording the Are You Ready album. After a serious car accident, Cook was replaced on drums by Ron Woods, and he stayed on as manager. Schwatrz announced his conversion to born-again Christianity onstage during a concert and then later joined the All Saved Freak Band. Marshall also left, and the two were to be replaced by Frank Petricca on bass and Ken Utterback on guitar, with Brent Block moving to rhythm guitar from bass. This is the line-up that toured in support of Are You Ready. This version of the band recorded one self-titled album in 1971 (minus Block, who had left the band in late 1970), adding Jerry Aiello on keyboards, trumpet player Stanly Abernathy, sax players Alfred Galagos and Virgil Gonsalves, and percussionist Joe LaLa. At the request of the utility company sharing the same name, the band name was shortened to "P G & E".
The band did countless concerts, often appearing with other big musical acts of the era. It was at one P G & E show that writer and film producer Lawrence Schiller filmed his documentary "The Lexington Experience". Disagreements with the owners to the rights to the music caused the film to be shelved after only a few showings, and the only copies known to exist are in Schiller's vault. They made more movie history when they appeared in, and provided music to, the Otto Preminger film "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon" starring Liza Minnelli.
After 1972, the group's line-up became unstable, resembling more of an Allen solo project. One more album was forthcoming ...Starring Charlie Allen in 1973 on the Dunhill label, featuring Allen and a host of studio musicians.