For both The Who and Cream their American live debuts could hardly have been any less auspicious. It happened for both of them on 25 March 1967 at the RKO Keith Theater on 58th and 3rd Ave in New York City. The shows were redolent of the old 1940s variety shows with a bill packed with artists that actually began at 10 o’clock in the morning and ran all day with a movie thrown in for good measure. All the artists on the bill played five shows a day and it was grueling; the whole thing was promoted by New York’s legendary DJ, Murray the K.
The Who and Cream, or The Cream as they were billed, were well down the bill. Headlining were Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Wilson Pickett, with Buddy Miles was on drums, The Hardly Worthit Players, The Mandala, the Chicago Loop, Simon & Garfunkel, Jim & Jean, Phil Ochs, The Young Rascals and The Blues Project, Al Kooper’s band,. On the original programme for the event that was billed as “Music in the 5th Dimension” were Smokey Robinson and the Miracles but they never did appear.
The format of the shows was for each act to play 2 to 5 songs, the lower down the bill, the less you played. Both the Who and Cream played 2 or 3 numbers, with The Who changing what they did, but included in the set was ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Substitute’ and ‘My Generation’; apparently Roger Daltrey trashed 18 microphones between the opening and 2 April when the run finished. Cream performed, ‘I’m So Glad’, ‘I Feel Free’ and sometimes a short version of ‘Spoonful’.
In May 1967 Cream returned to record Disraeli Gears in New York and this, their second album, was released in November 1967 and reached the Top 5 on both sides of the Atlantic. Cream returned to the US to play The Fillmore in San Francisco in August 1967 on what was an altogether better stage for their talents. Two months earlier The Who played the Fillmore, where they topped the bill, and toured throughout America.