Toronto Pop Festival 69

Toronto Pop Festival 69

Toronto Pop Festival 69

June 21 & 22, 1969

Varsity Stadium

 1969 Festival #15

Velvet Underground “Heroin”

Toronto Pop Festival 69

To say “here’s another ‘lost’ festival of the summer of 1969” gets old, but, yes, the Toronto Pop Festival (as opposed to the Toronto Rock and Roll Festival later the same year) is another of the 1969 festivals few have heard of.

The line-up was a good one. How Johnny Winter had the energy to play in Toronto on Friday and then in California on Sunday, I don’t know. I have underlined those who would appear at Woodstock:

Saturday 21 June

  1. Eric Anderson
  2. Carla Thomas & the Bar-Kays
  3. Man
  4. Al Kooper
  5. The Band
  6. Bonzo Dog Band
  7. Rotary Connection
  8. Johnny Winter
  9. Velvet Underground
  10. Sly & the Family Stone
Sunday 22 June

  1. Mother Lode
  2. Procol Harum
  3. Edwin Starr
  4. Chuck Berry
  5. Slim Harpo
  6. Tiny Tim
  7. Dr John the Night Tripper
  8. Blood, Sweat, & Tears
  9. Nucleus
  10. Robert Charlebois
  11. Steppenwolf
(See Roland Stone comment below for a more accurate listing as not all bands on the promo played and others not on the promo did)
Toronto Pop Festival 69

Diverse line-up

A legitimate criticism of Woodstock’s lineup was a lack of black performers. Yes, there was Richie Havens, Sly and the Family Stone, and Jimi Hendrix, but those three were already an accepted part of many white listeners’ collection. For Toronto, Carla Thomas, Edwin Starr, Slim Harpo, and Chuck Berry added styles that Woodstock lacked.

Tickets were $6 a day or $10 for both days.

Toronto Pop Festival 69

Jeanne Beker

Woodstock had Abbie Hoffman infamously inserting himself in the middle of The Who’s performance. In Toronto a young girl joined Ronnie Hawkins during his performance of “Bo Diddly.”

While Pete Townshend threatened Hoffman, the more genial Hawkins welcomed the yellow-bikinied Jeanne Beker. Her presence was caught on camera by a photographer for The Telegram. Hawkins is in the purple suit.

Toronto Pop Festival 69
Beker on stage with Hawkins

Jeanne Beker is now a well-known Canadian television personality, fashion designer, author and newspaper columnist.

The audience recording of the Velvet Underground is the only recording of the festival I could find.

Here is a link to images from Norm Horner taken on Saturday afternoon. And another link to images from

Toronto Pop Festival 69

Next 1969 festival: Denver Pop Festival

16 thoughts on “Toronto Pop Festival 69”

  1. I was there. Here’s the transcript of a radio blurb I did a few years ago having to do with it.
    July 1969 Conversion to Being a Hippie
    Up until early July of 1969, I was a pretty typical middle class kid from the suburbs of London, Ontario, but then I went to the Toronto Rock Festival. There, I heard groups like Santana, Blood Sweat and Tears, Sly and the Family Stone, Chicago and Johnny Winter. That was my first live experience of the flower children aka hippies and I would never be the same after this encounter.
    I remember exactly the moment in Toronto when I was captivated by the hippie life-style. We were all sitting on the grass of Varsity Stadium and next to myself and my friends were what looked to be “experienced flower children.” When I saw them passing some of their food to us and other perfect strangers, I was dumbfounded and, I must admit, wondrously attracted. This revolutionary act of giving freely to someone you didn’t know expecting nothing in return awakened something inside – some deep, eternal longing.
    So I went back to London, bought my first pair of bell-bottom blue jeans, a bandana to tie around my head, made a firm commitment to let my hair grow long and began an earnest pursuit of whatever it was that I’d felt at that moment on the grass of Varsity Stadium. I did so for the next four years. However, I never saw that kind of generosity anywhere in the counterculture again. In fact, as I began to experience the dark world of drugs that overshadowed hippie culture, it didn’t take long to see that I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for there, but, I never stopped looking.

    Then, one day about four years later, the vision was rekindled once again. It was when I read Jesus’ words in Jn.15: 12 & 13. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
    And then something inside of me said, “That’s it! That’s what I’ve been looking for.” As I reflected on my Toronto Rock Festival experience, I realized that what attracted me were two things. First, there was the completely gratuitous goodness of people sharing freely. And, secondly, there was a group of people who appeared to have this value, what seemed to me to be a loving community. As I examined the life of Jesus, freely healing the weak and vulnerable and teaching us to love with no strings attached, I realized that being part of a group of people who believed this kind of stuff, people who made following Jesus their life goal, was the fulfillment of what was aroused in me in the summer of 1969.

    1. Andrew – Yes they definitely played – I have photos – do you remember what day they performed – Sat or Sun?

  2. Also missed was Lighthouse. They played their cover of The Byrds Eight Miles High. One of their earliest performances. They played on Sunday, iirc.I

    Like you, Andrew Hawkins, this concert began a revolution in my life.

    1. Lighthouse did not play at Toronto Pop. They did play their very first concert a month earlier at Nathan Philips Square, though. They also played at few weeks later at the Rockhill Pop Festival near Shelburne on Aug 31/69.

  3. I was there on the Sunday, having gotten a ride to Islington subway station from my family home in Bramalea. I could only afford the one day. As a student between grade 12 and 13 that was al that was possible. Loved the show, especially Procol Harum. Blood Sweat and Tears were very tight and professional, Steppenwolf their growly selves. Slim Harpo our genuine blues guy from the past. Tiny Tim very entertaining. Dr John his mysteriosos self. Shoot, look who I mssed Saturday! Man, Bonzos, Johnny Winter, The Band. Enough to make you ill in retrospect. That same year, in small clubs like The Rockpile, Hawk’s Nest and Electric Garden saw Jeff Beck Group, The Nice, Love Sculpture, Julie Driscoll& Brian Auger Trinity. So quite the contrast. Thanks for having this site. Have been wondering about the set list myself.

  4. Bonzo Dog Band did not appear due to immigration problems apparently. Nor did The Byrds who were originally listed in the promotional material.

    Alice Cooper, not on your list, were one of the first acts to appear on Saturday afternoon. They also appeared at the Rock and Revival in September, 1969 at the same venue.

    I was there for just about every minute and do not recall Lighthouse performing.

    Santana definitely did not appear.

    Highly praised Canadian group Kensington Market appeared early on Saturday, down to two members and performed an acoustic set. MRQ, (Modern Rock Quartet or Quintet) from Ottawa, Canada played early Saturday as well.

    I seem to recall Minneapolis band Crow playing too.

  5. I was there also… Here is an updated lineup for the weekend based on my slides.

    Saturday 21 June

    1 – Kensington Market
    2 – Al Cooper
    3 – The Band
    4 – Carla Thomas & The Bar Kay’s
    5 – SRQ
    6 – Rotary Connection
    7 – Eric Anderson
    8 – Elephants Memory
    9 – Velvet Underground
    10 – Johnny Winter
    11 – Sly & The Family Stone

    Sunday 22 June

    1 – Mother lode
    2 – Tea Garden & VanWinkle
    3 – Procol Harem
    4 – Chuck Berry
    5 – Edwin Star
    6 – Tiny Tim
    7 – Crowe
    8 – Shawne & Jay Jackson & The Majestics
    With George Oliver
    9 – MRQ
    10 – Nucleus
    11 – Dr. John & The Night Tripper
    12 – Blood Sweat & Tears
    13 – Robert Charlebois
    14 – Steppenwolf

    I have posted slide of what I could find to Flickr.

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