1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival

1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival

July 4 – 5

Pottawattamie Beach, Saugatuck, MI
1969 festival #16
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 16th 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.

1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival

Stop stalling…

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

1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival


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.

1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival

For now

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.

1969 Saugatuck Pop Festival
Thanks for visiting

35 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 !!

  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.

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