1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival

1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival

July 4 – 5

Pottawattamie Beach, Saugatuck, MI
1969 festival #20
1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival
1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival

Line up

  • MC5
  • SRC
  • Procol Harum
  • Muddy Waters
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Amboy Dukes
  • Rotary Connection
  • Crazy World of Arthur Brown
  • Bob Seger
  • Frost
  • The Stooges
  • Big Mama Thornton
1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival

Festivals Continue

I reckon this as the 20th festival of the 1969 festival season. The main reason I’ve done these reviews is because for decades I ignorantly thought Woodstock was the only festival of 1969.

Sure, there was Altamont at the end of the year with its tragedy and the shibboleth that the “60s ended at Altamont.”

The 60s in its full meaning had hardly begun until 1965 and certainly continued into the early 70s at least.

The legacy of the so-called 60s is a topic for another time, another discussion.

1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival

Faded festivals

The reasons why some festivals, despite stellar performers likely doing stellar performances, faded with the newspapers that had a few columns about them are not complicated.

1. The location was away from the mainstream media’s purview.
2. The promoters had not the foresight or finances to record or film their event.

1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival

Woodstock Music and Art Fair

As much as Michael Shrieve and his “Soul Sacrifice” drum solo helped carve Santana’s performance onto the monument of rock history, the fact that Woodstock Ventures did have the foresight to record and film the festival with high quality equipment made Woodstock the historic event it is today.

Stop stalling…

When am I going to start telling you about the Saugatuck Pop Festival? Unfortunately there’s not much to tell.

Here we go…

Alice Cooper

First: not listed but at the festival was Alice Cooper. In fact, one of the few things found about the festival is that the positive reception the band got at Saugatuck gave them the boost they had been looking for to continue as a band. [From The Original Glen Buxton site]

Gary Grimshaw
1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival
photo from the Grimshaw site

Second: Gary Grimshaw designed the poster. According to the bio at his site, “…Grimshaw (1946 – 2016) had a fifty-year carreer in the arts. He touched on many traditional disciplines and innovated new techniques. woven into his early and mid-career works are great examples of early underground comics.


So (not supposed to start sentences with “So…”) today’s blog is a request: do any of you have any information about the event? If so please comment and let me know and I’ll add what you contribute and give you credit for that contribution.

Follow up to Plea

Thank you to all (especially Paul) for all your memories. First hand accounts are terrific!

1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival

Next 1969 festival: Atlanta International Pop Festival 

50 thoughts on “1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival”

  1. I was there. Unfortunately, my only memory is of the Red, White and Blues Band. Great band and great time. Long time ago and memories fade. Lots of people and lots of bikers. Nothing better than the Lake Michigan shore in the summer time! Many, many weekends at the Old Crow in Saugatuck cruising in my buddies yellow XKE.

  2. I rode the Greyhound rom Chicago with a couple of my friends. I don’t remember what kind of stuff we brought with, but it wasn’t much. In the afternoon we saw a lot of Michigan bands which I hadn’t heard of before. I remember liking Früt of the Loom, Red White and Blues Band, and Wilson Mower Pursuit. Alice Cooper was there, but I didn’t find the set memorable. SRC played a great set, I went out the next week and bought their album. Procul Harum closed out the night, with thunder and lightning while they played their encore, Whiter Shade of Pale. It was magical.

    Then, of course, we had to figure out how we were going to sleep in the rain. We hadn’t brought a tent. I don’t remember what happened, I think we walked around a lot. The next day I was wet and tired, and hitched a ride back to the South Side. It was a great evening, though.

      1. I was at Woodstock, Gooselake and Saugatuck. I’d seen many of the Michigan bands several times and liked them all. The performance that drilled into my brain was The Crazy World of Arthur Brown” he had a glass helmet with flames in it!! (False memory?) and the band was dark and heavy. A soggy sleeping bag was a common theme of the festivals. I left Woodstock after first day of music due to fatigue (I arrived 2 days early with my 2 friends), but had a great time otherwise. Goose lake was a drug infused crazy time…sex,drugs and rock & roll !!

        1. I was there also and some of it is sketchy after all these years. But my most vivid of memories too is the Crazy World of Arthur Brown also. I remember it was dusk and that fiery helmet came down a dune behind the stage, disappeared a few moments then voila! Popped up onto the stage from underneath. From my viewpoint it was pretty ‘trippy’.

        2. I was spending and working in Grand Rapids (Kent County Country Club)
          Met two hitch hikers from California passing through Grand Rapids, on the way to Woodstock and they had an extra ticket which I bought. We made a quick friendship, I recruited another friend I had made, who had. 1946 DeSoto. We left for Woodstock The De Soto broke down, so we split up. I help to get the DeSoto back to Grand Rapids with ticket I never used.
          I then ended up going to the Festival in Saugatuck- Douglas.
          I remember seeing Ted Nugent there and thought he was great.
          I agree with the time frame of the previous writer that the dates in the article are incorrect. The Festival was in August, not July. And it was an excellent weekend spent.

        3. I was at the Saugatuck Festival. Your memory of Arthur Brown’s flaming helmet is real. There was a hill behind the stage and Arthur came down that hill with his fire helmet singing his signature tune “Fire”. I remember seeing the fire coming down the hill even though my vision was a bit compromised at the time. We (about 30 of us from Brighton, Michigan) camped at some some park in the area and woke up in the morning in what we named the Saugatuck Swamp. It had rained wicked hard during the night. Had a blast that weekend!

      2. I help build a stage for the 69 park festival in Saugatuck, nice smoked weed with Alice Cooper backstage before we went on. I remember Muddy Waters, Arthur Brown, mom with the Thorton never showed. Procol Harum so long. I had a great time and I’m trying to figure out, the next festival we worked up in Harbor Springs or something

    1. I was there too! Procol Harem were great they did 2001 Space Odyssey with heat lighting as a back drop.
      Alice Cooper freaked out first time seeing them. Did anyone remember the bikers? How about the Dune Buggy owner that was on top of the Dune behind stage. Frost playing Mystery Man until the bikers took
      Over the Dune.

      1. I remember the guy (resident?) with a gun, on the hill. He fired it into the ground, in front of the Bikers. It deescalated from there..I was 16.

  3. We came down from Grand Haven for the two days, which are really just a blur. I remember CW of Arthur Brown being lowered from a crane screaming in the mic ” I am the god of hellfire and I bring you FIRE!” as well as great music from Frost, SRC, Amboy Dukes. I remember leaving the festival grounds in the rain with Whiter Shade of Pale playing mournfully behind us. It was probably a complete fiasco but we were 17, what would we know? Bigger fiasco’s laid in wait for us. The rest of it just all runs together, mixed up with the rest of the 49 year old memories

    1. Lots of my friends and I left south bend for the festival . We dropped acid an listened to music while people got naked everywhere. We got seperated but somehow managed to look each other in the eyes acrossed the multitude of people. A great festival , Procol Harum was very powerful.

  4. My twin brother and I were facing the draft after college at Duquesne so we drove up to Detroit to see a double-header against the Yankees. After sleeping in our car we heard a radio ad for the festival and we skipped the game to head to Saugatuck. We were totally mesmerized by the Stooges and are still punk fans to this day at at age 71. Nugent wouldn’t play when it began raining. SR C was incredible! The biker guy grabbed the Mike and yelled “Stay away from our f-in bikes! ” Savage Grace was outstanding. We bought albums of all the
    Motor City bands when got back to Pittsburgh. We went the Atlantic City Pop festival a few weeks later

    1. Some random Sawgatuck memories not addressed by my twin brother…Alice Cooper played BOTH days & were introduced as “Frank Zappa’s band”, or something to that effect…The MC5 were barraged with verbal complaints of “Turn it up!” by many around us who felt their sound/amps weren’t loud enough…Iggy remained on stage after the Stooges’ set and soloed on the drums in raucous, anarchic fashion…Minnie Ripperton was superb/astonishing with Rotary Connection…what a thrill it was to see blues giants John Lee Hooker & Muddy Waters, the latter dressed all in black…no “dud” acts in 2 days!

  5. I’m thinking that it was Carl Lundgren
    who designed the poster for the ’69 Saugatuck Pop Festival. I attended this festival, remember the storm and also Arthur Brown being lowered onto the stage by a crane with his head in flames. Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker on the same bill? Oh
    yeah man!!!

  6. I was 20 and just starting to see what was happening around me. I was thinking about the probability of going to Viet Nam, the race riots of ‘67, the riots at the Democratic convention in ‘68, and the sea-change in music since the Beatles and the Rolling Stones came on the scene. I felt like there was no foothold, and the future was uncertain.

    I had albums from many of the bands, but they first became real when I heard them live. The most powerful impact was from MC5 because of their political bent. The most comforting music was from Procol Harum, and the most mind bending was Arthur Brown. Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker were worth the whole cost of getting in. Honestly, the fences were crushed so I paid nothing. Rotary Connection was remarkably refined, in contrast to the other performances.

    This was the pivotal experience of my life, fifty years ago. There is so much more to say …

    1. Wow you really have a great memory. I was there also and I don’t even remember who I went with. But I do remember going to town and using the bathroom so I could wash my hair and take a quick shower or sink bath and feel refresh. They didn’t have too many provisions. I don’t remember bathrooms at all. And I wasn’t going in the woods.I was also at goose Lake which I remember well because I have friends that went with me and we always talk about it. But I don’t remember much of Saugatuck. Except great music and being in awe!!!

  7. Until that show Alice Cooper was more famous for being outrageous than for music. But they rocked and the outrageousness was absolutely in context – they were captivating. From then on they were on the path to superstardom. Minnie Ripperton’s voice was out of this world and the Stooges were their normal barely-controlled-chaos selves. The MC5 played with such ferocity that is was almost exhausting to witness. I never liked Arthur Brown’s music but I have never forgotten his “fiery” performance.

  8. I remember Rotary Connection did a fantastic set with Minnie Ripperton on lead vocals. And Iggy Pop almost killed me when he threw a full can of beer into the audience and it missed my face by about 2 inches. I was lying down in front of the stage and if I’d had my eyes open, I might’ve seen it coming. There were also a lot of bikers there, as I remember long rows of motorcycles.

  9. I drove up from St Joe with my best friend, Mag. As typical 20 year old females, we told our mothers we were staying the night with the family of yet another friend.

    I remember bands and boys. Heaven for us. The band I remember best was Crazy World of Arthur Brown. My friend best remembered Procol Harum.

    I don’t remember where we spent the night but I the next morning we went to a nearby gas station to clean up and wash our hair.

  10. SPF is one of my favorite stories to tell, so hold on! I was a 20-year-old Michigander with shoulder-length hair and a goatee. Earlier that week a guy my age I’d just met at work (GM) asked if I wanted to go with him to the Festival. I planned on hitching up to Traverse City afterwards to vacation for 2 weeks at my grandmother’s.

    We got there early enough before the music started, so I decided to head down to the lake for a swim, leaving him sitting on a blanket in the field next to his car. When I got back, he, the car, and my suitcase were gone! I actually have no memory of ever seeing him again. So there I was in my swimsuit with $1.75 in quarters attached and my sandals. So it was on to the music!

    I went there specifically to see Rotary Connection. I listened to WKYC in Cleveland nightly for their top 10 request countdown and discovered RC because they were also playing cuts from RC’s 1st lp which I love. RC was the first band to bring the crowd to its feet. I was surprised that their highly polished and engineered record transferred so well to a live performance. I had wiggled my way up near the stage and saw Minnie and the guys invigorate everyone with an energetic and professional show. I couldn’t have been happier.

    Since I hadn’t eaten since early in the morning before our 3 hour drive to Saugatuck, at some point I stumbled upon a HoJo not in town to see what I could get with my limited resources. I was stunned to see a semi in the lot with Guess Who plastered on its side. I had their first lp and had been listening to it laying in bed in the dark with my headphones for the last couple months of the semester. I begged and begged the roadies to take me with them to the concert in Muskegon. They declined and my weekend continued to spiral down.

    After the day’s performances, I walked into town in the rain nearly naked and found a spot up against a tree where I crouched down in a vain attempt to sleep as I shivered through the night.

    Aside from RC, the only other performance I recall was the headliner everyone was waiting to see the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. “Fire” was appropriately very theatrical and a sight to see but otherwise he was lackluster. Surprised I don’t remember Seger because I was already a big fan. Maybe I missed him.

    I do remember hitching home instead of to grandma’s since I’d lost my clothes. My longest ride ride was from a drunk who stopped and picked up another 6 pack at a bar in a small town along the way. When his driving got so scary that I feared for my life, I got him to pull over and let me out. I still remember the exact corner I stood on for hours on a Sunday evening about 50 miles from home. Who’d pick up a hippie in a swimsuit in farm country?

    Someone finally did and I got home and weeks later that summer so did my suitcase. It was found at the airport in Chicago! My acquaintance might have left it in Saugatuck and someone going to O’Hare picked it up. The clothes and the suitcase interior were all mildewed and moldy (someone left the cake out in the rain ha ha), so I had to pitch everything.

    So I enjoyed the music and was ecstatic about seeing Rotary Connection, but starving, freezing, losing possessions, and a harried day of hitching left me with very mixed feelings about the event. However, it has made for a great story for the past 50 years!

  11. I was there, coming home for the summer from the University of Michigan to my little home town, Grand Haven, just up the road from Saugatuck.

    This is the venue which turned me on to Procol Harum, which became my favorite band until guitarist Robin Trower left in 1971. They were one of those “The New Beatles” bands (none of which ever quite panned out that way, lol). They’d just released a new album, “Salty Dog” – and the song was wonderful, as was “The Devin Came From Kansas.” Plus, “Shine on Brightly” (which they opened with), “Quite Rightly So,” “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” “Conquistador,” and the instrumental “Repent Walpurgis.” Great ‘downbeat’ songs for those of us in the audience ‘tripping on life’.

    However … the unforgettable evening highlight … Arthur Brown … who, himself ‘tripping on life’, wore a lit headdress as he dangerously climbed up and around the sound scaffholding while singing his hit, “Fire.” And his cover of Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Got a Spell on You” was spellbinding – in a scary sort’ve way, lol.

  12. Well I was there but I do not remember much. I was just out of high school and I don’t even remember who I went with but it was a group of us. I do remember they did not have any bathroom or shower facilities and I had to go into town to a gas station and spent 15 minutes in the bathroom taking a bath and washing my hair in the sink and using the bathroom. The music was great and I ended up moving to Ann Arbor the next week and hung out with all of those guys for the next several years. Scott Asheton Became my first love. The stooges SRC Alice Cooper Ted Nugent who is a dickhead, hung out with meatloaf up in Saginaw in 1970 when I was home visiting my parents. But anyway I lived in Ann Arbor for several years with a couple of girls and we were able to meet all of the great Michigan bands and many bands from other areas. Those were the days!

  13. Went there with 2 other buddies, but we are having a disccusion as to the year we went. The one thing that stood out, was the guy on a hill with a gun. Who knows what year that was.

  14. I confirmed my earlier post: The poster artist for the 1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival was indeed Carl Lundgren,not Gary Grimshaw.

  15. A buddy & I, both 19 years old at the time, went to Saugatuck after he told me we should go. We lived about a hour away. Driving into the area where the festival was told us this was going to be fun–lots of young long hairs. (Remember, this was about a month before Woodstock & large music festivals were almost nonexistent in 1969 – especially in the Midwest.)

    The festival expected about 1,500 to attend and ended up with about 15,000. As we entered the festival site the fence was already down and we just walked in carrying a blanket and 4 bottles of Boone’s Farm Apple wine. Thankfully my buddy brought some cigarette papers and apparently many others forgot their papers, but they had the rolling material. We stayed buzzed all day & night listening to some excellent music.

    The guy that owned the dune behind the stage had some kind of posse with him and I saw someone with a gun. Apparently they didn’t want a bunch of hippies going over the dune to go swimming.

    I remember the trees on the north side of the venue swaying in the wind and thinking this was what heaven was like. Procol Harum playing A Whiter Shade of Pale late in the evening was pure beauty. The people around us were all so kind, giving, sharing, friendly, you name it, it was a good vibe.

    My hair grew longer after this event and 51 years later I still haven’t shaved my mustache off. BTW, my wife & I along with several friends still go to Michigan music festivals (Hoxeyville, Wheatland, Earthworks Harvest Gathering, Kalamazoo Blues Festival, & others). Hope we can all get past this coronavirus thing so we can get back to the live music and beautiful people at these festivals.

  16. My brother and I drove over to Saugatuck from suburban Detroit in his raggedy ’59 MG, with broken windshield wipers! We’d heard about all the Detroit bands that were going to be playing, along with Rotary Connection Procol Harum and Arthur Brown- road trip! A great week end of music! The Stooges tore it up! Minnie Ripperton and Rotary Connection were cozmik! We drove back into the dunes to party and crash with some folks. When my brother heard “sand spiders” (he doesn’t like spiders), he sadi “See ya!” and left in the raggedy MG. On the way out, the headlights died on that junker! I had to sit on the hood with a flashlight! Good times!

  17. Saugatuck 1969
    I was 18 and just graduated Adrian High. I was a straight laced athlete type… only drank a couple times and had never even seen any pot. My musician friends got wind of a music festival on the beach in Saugatuck over July 4th weekend. My Dad had lived a wild life and wanted us to experience life so he let us take his 1962 light blue metallic Cadillac Sedan DeVille. My friends Terry, Dave went….they were in a ‘garage band ‘ and knew the music. My younger brother Doug & his friend from next door Chuck also went. The festival was Friday & Saturday.

    We left very early Friday morning. We stopped for breakfast around 7 AM at a mom & pop roadside diner with gravel parking lot. The lot was full of Harleys and inside the restaurant was full of Hells Angels….this was our 1st exposure to bikers. Hell’s Angels did not hang out in Adrian. They had long hair, bell bottoms, and leather vests… they were headed to Saugatuck. ….we would see them again.

    The festival was at little campground at Goshorn Lake just north of town and on the backside of sand dunes which separated us from Lake Michigan.

    The festival area was surrounded by a chain link fence… we had tickets. There were about 15,000 and I had never seen anything like it. I had seen hippies in Ann Arbor but this was a complete circus… no way could I fit in. The 1st day was quiet…except for bands of course. We had pup tents next to the Caddy…pretty rustic. Terry hooked up with a girl he called ‘Neon Nan’ and lost his virginity’

    Day 2 Saturday… a few more people came including a large group of bikers. The crowd outside the fence started chanting “ Free Concert”… this went on for an hour or so and then around 3 o’clock the bikers started taking down the fence.. they pulled down the posts and finally drove their bikes over the fence& everyone came in. That was it .. no violence and the festival promoters just rolled with it.

    The stage was at the base of the dunes and faced east. (audience faced west) About 9 PM as the sun was setting behind the dunes we could see 4 or 5 jeeps silhouetted on the top of the dunes. In the jeeps were men with shotguns pointed to the sky. I think they were there to keep festival goers off the private dune and from Lake Michigan. The band Wilson Mower Pursuit was playing.. really kickin em out.

    The crowd got excited, especially the bikers. The bikers suddenly started storming up the dunes toward the jeeps …… after a few tense minutes the men jumped in the Jeeps and sped away!

    Crowd chants “Power to the People” over and over … the band went nuts.
    The energy level went way up and stayed up to the end of night.

    Around 11 PM we went into town… it was crawling with ‘freaks’. We went to a diner on Culver street to get a hamburger.

    The place was packed …standing up …and the owner had stopped taking orders and money.. They were just bringing out trays of burgers for free… a little crazy but under control. No one got out of line.
    Sunday morning ..got in the Caddy and back to Adrian…but we would never be quite the same small town kids.

  18. I remember the Stooges I even have pictures. We were right up front. I don’t know where we slept I’m assuming in the car that was parked up near the stage? Funny I don’t remember that it was right by the water.

  19. My first date with a girl. l asked her to go with me. She was curious and so was i . We got there and had to walk along way,because of the crowd . Put blanket down amid some Hells Angels from L.A. real nice to us . Did get to see Big Mamma Thorton and part of John Lee Hooker? It started to rain hard and she wanted to leave we got soaked . We maybe were there an hour? Was very disappointed had to drive back to Grand Rapids. Glad l didnt have to pay to get in. First and last date. Yes l remember the guy with gun.

  20. A 17 year old music lover! Got a ride with his good friend and drove to Saugatuck Music Festival to mainly see Procol Harum (who I was wildly in love with!) All the other bands seemed a blur–except for this WEIRD Alice Cooper band! Alice Cooper? Were they ripping off my hero Al Kooper’s name for some schlocky shock rock(never even heard of…except Zappa(my main HERO’s band!) Anyhow…I met Alice today and was going to ask him about his act at Saugatuck….but chickened out! I remember him throwing around a plastic blow-up Easter Bunny and beating the living crap out of it! Yikes! What?,,,,is this Zappa’s coaching on weirdness? My 17 year old mind was shocked and delighted! I saw Detroit rock history right on that stage that night! Procol was GREAT!….but Alice left a mark in my weird mind!

  21. Hey, I attended both days of the festival. I was totally blown away be The Stooges, CW of Arthur Brown and Alice Cooper. All of the music was great. As I recall the MC5 did not play due to rain and a thunderstorm.

  22. Saugatuc

    I was 18 and my buddy Ret and I decided to hitchhike from Palos Hills Ill. We were a little waisted and was asking people in Michigan City Indiana (didn’t know the state we were in ) and asking where the pop-festible was.
    Finally someone our age said it’s in Michigan. That was our first test. Going in the correct direction out of town 2 guys in a Sunbeam Tiger picked us up and we sat on the trunk with our feet in the collapsing area for the convertible. They stopped and bought Ripple and started driving about 100 mph. We told them to stop and let us out. Can’t remember how we arrived at the concert but it was overwhelming. I remember the fences were down, the bikers, Muddy Waters and the crazy Arthur Brown. Not sure but did Arthur light up the stage and him or only the stage. Or, did I see something else. The first night we joined some Rich people and stayed in a boat. The next day I remember a policeman poking my feet with a baton saying “it’s time to go”, and we did. Besides getting teargassed out from the Chicago Democratic Convention protesting the war those are one of the many great memories I had, and then I accepted Jesus in my heart and got real joy and happiness. It’s Still There!

  23. I just remembered my trip to Saugatuck because I heard Sympathy for the Devil and we listed to Beggar’s Banquet the whole drive from Birmingham, MI. One I remember a Hell’s Angel insist that I get on his bike and get a free ride into the festival. And two seeing Arthur Brown and the fire coming out of his head. Like another commenter, I went to Woodstock 2 days early. And also to Goose Lake. And many other shows. The 1969 Rock and Roll Revival. Those were the days when there were so many shows with great music and prices.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.