Category Archives: Today in history

Cuyahoga River Burns Again

Cuyahoga River Burns Again

June 22, 1969
Randy Newman, “Burn On”
Cuyahoga River Burns Again
A fire tug fights flames on the Cuyahoga River near downtown Cleveland, Ohio, where oil and other industrial wastes caught fire June 25, 1952. (AP Photo)

Cuyahoga River Burns Again

Now, the Lord can make you tumble,

The Lord can make you turn,

The Lord can make you overflow,

But the Lord can't make you burn.

--Randy Newman


             On June 22, 1969, the oil-sodden floating debris on the Cuyahoga River  near Cleveland, Ohio ignited (perhaps by sparks from a passing train) and burned with flames reported up to five stories high. 


             This was simply the latest of several Cuyahoga River fires during the century. Although fire-fighters extinguished this blaze in a half-hour or so, it caused $50,000 in damage. The Cleveland, Ohio river (and nearly every other urban industrial river in the USA) had been an open sewer for industrial waste, through the times when factory production and easy release of raw sewage was more important than  their environmental impact.
             Time magazine covered the story. Since Time didn't have a picture of the June 22 fire, it used a picture from June 25, 1952. In its article, Time noted that, " The Potomac left Washington 'stinking from the 240 million gallons of wastes that are flushed into it daily' while “Omaha’s meatpackers fill the Missouri River with animal grease balls as big as oranges.”  [Time magazine article]

             1962's Silent Spring by Rachel Carson had lighted a fuse and it seemed this Cuyahoga River fire, however small and common, had tipped the balance of popular opinion. 

             Like many other activist issues of the 60s, environmentalism had come to the fore.  In exactly 10 months, on April 22, 1970, Americans observed the first Earth Day. An estimated 20 million people nationwide attended events.  Senator Gaylord Nelson promoted Earth Day, calling upon students to fight for environmental causes and oppose environmental degradation with the same energy that they displayed in opposing the Vietnam War. 
             Later that year, on November 20, the Nixon administration announced a halt to residential use of the pesticide DDT as part of a total phase-out.

             On December 2, 1970,  the Environmental Protection Agency began operating under director William Ruckelshaus.

             On October 18, 1972, the Clean Water Act went into effect.

Newport 69 Pop Festival

Newport 69 Pop Festival

June 20, 21, & 22, 1969
Devonshire Downs in Northridge, CA
1969 Festival #6

Newport 69 Pop Festival

              The Newport 69 Pop Festival was held on the Devonshire Downs fairgrounds and racetrack in Northridge, California. It was organized by  24-year-old Mark Robinson.  The line-up for the three-day event was impressive, headlined by Jimi Hendrix. It could easily be argued that the line-up was as good as the famed Woodstock would be in less than two months. I have underlined those who would be there as well. 

              And as I have frequently mentioned, Johnny Winter played at yet another summer 69 festival. Jimi Hendrix appeared twice because of a disappointing Friday performance.
Friday 20 June

  1. Ike & Tina Turner
  2. Albert King
  3. Edwin Hawkins Singers
  4. The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  5. Joe Cocker
  6. Southwind
  7. Spirit
  8. Taj Mahal
Saturday 21 June

  1. Albert Collins
  2. Brenton Wood
  3. Buffy Ste. Marie
  4. Charity
  5. Creedence Clearwater Revival
  6. Eric Burdon
  7. Friends of Distinction
  8. Jethro Tull
  9. Lee Michaels
  10. Love
  11. Steppenwolf
  12. Sweetwater
Sunday 22 June

  1. Booker T & the MGs
  2. Chambers Brothers
  3. Flock
  4. The Grass Roots
  5. Johnny Winter
  6. Marvin Gaye
  7. Mother Earth
  8. Jimi Hendrix Experience
  9. Buddy Miles
  10. Eric Burdon
  11. Mother Earth
  12. Poco
          According to an article from, Robinson, "had so many commitments, he had to turn some down, including a legendary band. 'Grateful Dead wanted to get in, but I didn’t have room. They called several times. I felt bad. I just couldn’t squeeze them in. They made it big after that.'" (LA observed article)

             Why isn't this festival as well-known then? Again Robinson, "“Woodstock was a free music festival where people camped out on a New York farm for days. It rained, and people stayed, and that aspect of it became a national news story,”

Newport 69 Pop Festival

              Rolling Stone magazine told a different story a week after the event. The headline read: Crashers, Cops, Producers Spoil Newport 69. Part of it's review read: Because of this violence, and perhaps as much as $50,000 in damage done to neighborhood homes and businesses, the Los Angeles police commission has launched a full investigation. It could result in new city policies on the granting of concert permits and certainly means there will never be another rock festival held here.

           The violence referred to was what happened outside the enclosed concert area on the event's third day. Here's the article's description:

            The kids threw bottles and rocks and the police randomly slashed out with batons, causing blood to stream freely. (Those injured were as young as 14.) Teenagers swarmed across a nearby shopping center, causing nearly $10,000 in damage to two gas stations, an equal amount of damage to apartment houses, another $1,500 worth of vandalism at a grocery store. While police demonstrated a sure-fire way of halting a kid – approach him at a dead run, grabbing him by the back of the neck, slamming him head first into a parked car; then club him when he's down.

        Inside on site, things were too tight. Rolling Stone describe those inside: They were not aware of the bloody violence erupting outside the gates. For them there was only the last logjam of humanity that made the festival like attending a high school reunion in a closet. (Rolling Stone magazine article)

              The New York Times had a similar take on the event:

NYT article

              On June 19, Woodstock Ventures had met with Wallkill, NY officials regarding the upcoming festival. The officials laid out their three main concerns:  1. traffic control,   2. sanitation, and 3. water supply. 

              One imagines that that list grew after reading about Newport 69.




WOR-FM Goes Rock

WOR-FM Goes Rock

June 16, 1966 announcement:

WOR-FM Goes Rock

Scott Muni…Saturday 8 October 1966, the first day of DJs on WOR-FM
           In the New York metropolitan area, we Boomers had grown up listening to AM music in our parents' car (when they'd let us) or on our own transistor radios (when we finally got one). We could watch teenagers dance to the top singles on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. His shows included a lip-synched performance by a current top 10 artist or band: like this one by Roy Orbison on June 5, 1966.

              WOR-FM switched to its rock format on July 31. I remember seeing advertisements beforehand and using my parents' radio, it had FM unlike my AM-only transistor radio, to find it.

WOR-FM Goes Rock

WOR-FM Goes Rock

             I didn't realize that union difficulties meant no DJs at first. All I knew was that the lack of DJ chatter meant more room for music. And that's what I wanted. The down side was that if I heard a song I liked but didn't recognize (e.g., Buffalo Springfield's "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing") I was stuck.

             Those songs of those first days were far from the future of album-oriented playlists. Here's are some examples from that first day:
  1. Supremes, “Can’t Hurry Love”
  2. Supremes, “Baby Love”
  3. Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, “Get Away”
  4. Simon & Garfunkel, “Dangling Conversation”
  5. Rolling Stones, “Mother’s Little Helper”
  6. Beatles, “Paperback Writer”
  7. Petula Clark, “You’re the One”
  8. Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces, “Searching For My Love”
  9. Frank Sinatra, “Strangers in the Night”
  10. Sandy Posey, “Born a Woman”
  11. The Capitals, “Cool Jerk”
  12. Herb Albert, “A Taste of Honey”
  13. [I don’t know and neither does Shazam] 
  14. Tommy Roe, “Sweet Pea”
  15. Billy Stewart, “Summertime”
  16. Ruby and the Romantics, “We Can Make It”
  17. The Supremes, “Back In My Arms Again”
  18. David Garrick, “Dear Mrs Applebee”
  19. Them, “Gloria’s Dream”
  20. Percy Sledge, “Warm and Tender Love”
            Quite a variety, but obviously not the album cuts that many of us would come to love.

           As WOR-FM's DJ gained experience and confidence with the evolving format, management began to balk. Murry the K left in August 1967.  His replacement, Jim O'Brien, played more of a Top 40 format that management preferred to the free-form that had started to happen. By the fall of 1967, the Top 40 format, much like the traditional AM format, had happened.

WOR-FM Goes South

               On October 2, 1967, DJ Rosko announced his departure and the reasoning for that departure right on the air. His discussion reflect the thinking and the approach that some young people were realizing was a preferred format and one that they had become attached to (click to listen):
               WNEW-FM took up the reins of that more relaxed, increased choice, and variety-filled approach the fall of 1967. Rosko arrived. Scott Muni arrived. Alison Steele (already there) became the "Nightbird." Jonathan Schwartz and Dick Summer also became part of that line-up.

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