1969 New Orleans Pop Festival

1969 New Orleans Pop Festival

August 31 – September 1, 1969

Baton Rouge International Speedway

Prairieville, Louisiana

1969 festival #39

1969 New Orleans Pop Festival

1969 New Orleans Pop Festival

Woodstock in Bethel

New Orleans in Prairieville

People continue to visit Woodstock, NY wanting to visit the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair. It is an easy mistake for two reasons: 1) the town IS called Woodstock, and 2) the town still looks like that famous festival was held there because so many merchants decorate and sell dozens of festival-related items.

The New Orleans Pop Festival name has an even more interesting disconnect. Firstly, it was not held in New Orleans, but in Prairieville, Louisiana. Secondly, it was held at the Baton Rouge International Speedway.

The differences are pointed. Had Woodstock Ventures called their event the Bethel Music and Art Fair (or the Wallkill…) would  that name have been as initially interesting as branding it “Woodstock”?

Of course, that was the idea. Branding. And branding this festival the New Orleans Pop Festival made more sense than other choices.

Like Bethel there was camping at the New Orleans Pop Festival. Unlike Bethel, the camping was a few miles away so the community feel that developed at Bethel over its four days did not happen in Prairieville over its two.

1969 New Orleans Pop Festival

Steve Kapelow

Steve Kapelow and his sponsoring company, Kesi, Inc organized the event. Attendance was small compared to Woodstock two weeks earlier, about 25,000–30,000 people per day. The line up was a good one.

Organizers planned a two-day festival (as the poster indicates), but they added a free Saturday evening show. Sunday tickets went for $7.00 for advance tickets and $9.50 at the gate; Monday prices were $8.00 in advance and $10.50 at the gate. Tickets for the entire cost $13.00 in advance and $16.00 at the gate.

Saturday, August 30, 1969

  • Local bands starting playing at 6:00pm until the “official” free concert began at 8:00pm.
  • White Fox
  • Snow Rabbit
  • Deacon John and the Electric Soul Train
  • Whizbang
  • Axis
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • It’s a Beautiful Day
Sunday, August 31, 1969

  • Flower Power
  • Snow Rabbit
  • Spiral Starecase
  • Oliver
  • Smyth
  • The Youngbloods
Monday, September 1, 1969

  • Potliquor
  • Axis
  • Oliver
  • Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys
  • Santana
  • Chicago
  • It’s a Beautiful Day
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • The Youngbloods
  • Lee Michaels
  • Grateful Dead
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Dr. John VooDoo Show
  • jam Session featuring Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Cat Mother, Santana, Chicago, Beautiful Day
  • Whizbang
1969 New Orleans Pop Festival

Other facts

*On Sunday, the schedule indicated that Sweetwater and White Clover were supposed to play, but the late hour cancelled their performances as well as a scheduled jam session. Doug Kershaw from Louisiana played as well but is not mentioned. Organizers likely  moved both groups to Monday’s lineup,but local media reports do not show that to be the case.

*On Monday,  a flower drop was supposed to take place during the Potliquor performance, but the plane missed its target and dropped the flowers onto nearby fields instead of on the crowd.

*Glen McKay and his crew, known as the Headlights presented light shows Sunday and Monday nights.

*As was so often the case, the Grateful Dead recorded their performance and it is available at the Internet Archive site.

The Dead of the Day companion site has this interesting tidbit about their performance: Stories of the New Orleans International Pop Festival abound on the internet, and one thing that just about all of them include is references to seriously drunk southerners. For instance, you cannot hear it on the recording, but a number of people talk about a group of drunk guys near the front who kept yelling for White Rabbit throughout the Dead’s set. Jefferson Airplane had played right before the Dead, and, as you would expect, Grace Slick was not about to oblige the obnoxious loudmouths by playing it. By the time the Dead started their set, the drunk dudes had a few more and might not even have noticed – and certainly did not care – that a new band had taken the stage.

Ah Youth

Young and energetic, the following bands also played the same weekend at the Texas International Pop Festival:

  1. Canned Heat
  2. Chicago Transit Authority
  3. Janis Joplin
  4. Santana
  5. Sweetwater
1969 New Orleans Pop Festival

Next 1969 festival: First Annual Midwest Mini-Pop Festival

1969 Isle Wight Festival Music

1969 Isle Wight Festival Music

30 & 31 August

1969 festival #36

1969 Isle Wight Festival Music

1969 Isle Wight Festival Music


The first Isle of Wight Festival of Music was in 1968.  It was a relatively small one. Its poster also referred to it as “The great south coast bankholiday pop festivity.” The festival featured the Jefferson Airplane and several other British bands.

1969 Isle Wight Festival Music

Eleven international

All but eleven of the 51 1969 festivals (plus Woodstock) I’ve written about happened in the United States.

The first non-US event was the Nottingham’s Pop & Blues Festival on May 10. Then came the Aldergrove Beach Rock Festival on May 17, the Cambridge Midsummer Pop Festival on June 9, Toronto Pop on June 21 – 22; the Bath Festival of Blues on June 28, the Wonderland Pop Festival in London Canada on August 13.

All before Woodstock.

Before the Isle of Wight was the Vancouver Pop Festival (Aug 22) and the Teenage Fair (Aug 23).

The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival and the Internatinales Essener Pop & Blues Festival (Oct 9) would follow Wight.

1969 Isle Wight Festival Music

Dylan 1969

Woodstock Ventures, organizers of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, had hoped and nearly assumed that they could book the still reclusive Bob Dylan. The biggest rumor that august weekend in Bethel was that he’d be there.

Dylan had stopped touring after his 1966 motorcycle accident, an event still shrouded in mystery as to how serious the accident was and how long he actually needed to recuperate. Some conspiracy theorists conjecture that there was no accident, but Dylan simply wanted out for awhile.

Whatever the case, brothers Ron and Ray Foulk formed Fiery Creations Limited to put on the show and they hit gold by booking Bob Dylan. To say he headlined is an understatement. Despite the Beatles continued success and influence, even they tipped their hats to Dylan. [Ray Foulk’s story from a 2015 Independent article]

1969 Isle of Wight Festival of Music

1969 Isle Wight Festival Music

Line up

Saturday 30 August

  • The Who
  • Moody Blues
  • Fat Mattress
  • Joe Cocker
  • Bonzo Dog Band
  • Family
  • Free
  • Pretty Things
  • Marsha Hunt & White Trash
  • Battered Ornaments
  • Aynsley Dunbar
  • Retaliation
  • Blodwyn Pig
  • Gypsy
  • Blonde on Blonde
  • Edgar Broughton Band
  • King Crimson
Sunday 31 August

  • Bob Dylan & The Band
  • Richie Havens
  • Tom Paxton
  • Pentangle
  • Julie Felix
  • Gary Farr
  • Liverpool Scene
  • Indo Jazz Fusions
  • Third Ear Band

Note the acts who returned to or came to the UK from Woodstock for this festival: The Band, Joe Cocker, Richie Havens, and the Who.

A “what-goes-round-comes-round” story is that on the flight that the Who were on, a passenger by the name of Howard Mills and his family were also on board. Howard had long-promised his family a trip abroad and they and he had recently had a difficult spring and summer. It was his property in Wallkill, NY that Woodstock Ventures had initially contracted to hold their festival on before the Wallkill government forced them out. The Who got a kick out of that story.

150,000 people sailed to the island for the concert including all the Beatles themselves except Paul McCartney. A number far less than Woodstock two weeks earlier, but still impacting the rural island significantly.

1969 Isle Wight Festival Music


The 1970 event had over 600,000 attendees. Over 50 acts performed including Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, The Doors, The Who, Lighthouse, Ten Years After,Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Joni Mitchell, The Moody Blues, Melanie, Donovan, Gilberto Gil, Free, Chicago, Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Leonard Cohen, Jethro Tull, Taste and Tiny Tim.

Those “excessive” numbers led Parliament to pass the “Isle of Wight Act” in 1971 which prevented gatherings of more than 5,000 people on the island without a special licence.

The New York State legislature passed a similar act for the same reasons.

1969 Isle Wight Festival Music

It was not until 2004 that a resurrected festival happened and has occurred, albeit on a much smaller scale that ’69 and ’70, annually since. [2018 Guardian article].

Unlike Bethel, NY attitude, which continues to severely restrict the number of attendees that the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is permitted,  the current residents of  Wight welcome the festival that ” brings £10m into the local community because people generally stay longer than the festival. It creates tourism.” [current Isle of Wight Festival site]

1969 Isle Wight Festival Music

Next 1969 festival: Texas International Pop Festival

1969 Sky River Rock Festival

1969 Sky River Rock Festival

Rainier Hereford Ranch, Tenino, Washington
August 30, 31, and September 1, 1969


1969 festival # 38

When I began blogging about 1969’s first rock festival (Aquarian Family Festival) I thought I had a complete list for the rest of 1969. Not true and the Sky River Rock Festival is among those I’ve added.

1969 Sky River Rock Festival

Tenino, Washington

I found much of the information about the Sky River Rock Festival from the HistoryLink.org site.

1969 Sky River Rock Festival

1969 Sky River Rock Festival

Northern Exposure Piano Fling

If you are a Northern Exposure fan, a piano drop will sound familiar as in the February 3,  1992 episode Burning Down the House,  Chris initially decided to fling a cow, but did a piano instead.

And (of course) that plot was likely inspired by Monty Python who occasionally used the idea in episodes. A video game also uses the concept:

1969 Sky River Rock Festival

Great Piano Drop

The idea for the first Sky River festival (1968)  emanated from the Great Piano Drop of April 28, 1968, on musician Larry Van Over’s farm in Duvall. A helicopter dropped an upright piano into a field just so everyone could hear what it would sound like. Organizers thought if they could get people out to a rural spot to watch a piano drop, then they’d come out to a festival, too.

1969 Sky River Rock Festival
Artists: Jacque T. Moitoret & Mavis Kadno, Modernistic Artcraft Studios
1969 Sky River Rock Festival


That first festival was in 1968 with two more each of the following years. In an important way, Sky River 1968 preceded the much more famous Woodstock Music and Art Fair. One of the things that made Woodstock unique was that it was in an undeveloped open rural area that people camped in and around. Such was the 1968 Sky River.

The first site was Betty Nelson’s 40-acre organic raspberry farm on the banks of the Skykomish River, just outside Sultan, Washington.

John Chambless,  philosophy professor at the University of Washington, and  one of organizers later said, “I don’t think at the time anybody dreamed it would become a three-day festival over the Labor Day weekend.”

The Dead played at the ’68 festival and, not surprisingly, recorded their performance.

1969 Sky River Rock Festival

Push back

Organizers decided to do another. This time in Tenino which is south of Olympia. Tenino was a small town of 950 people (the 2013 population was just over 1,700).

Like the “relationship” between Wallkill, NY and Woodstock Ventures, local pressure from police, the Catholic Archdiocese, and others against the event grew.

The Tenino Chamber of Commerce and several adjacent property owners obtained an injunction blocking a Thurston County permit, but the judge required them to post a $25,000 bond against the festival’s anticipated losses. The plaintiffs couldn’t, and at the last possible second the festival was cleared for takeoff.

1969 Sky River Rock Festival


  • Anonymous Artists of America
  • Black Snake
  • Blue Bird
  • Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band
  • Collectors
  • Congress of Wonders
  • James Cotton
  • Country Weather
  • Country Joe and the Fish
  • Crome Syrcus
  • Crow
  • Dovetail
  • Floating Bridge
  • Flying Burrito Brothers
  • Frumious Bandersnatch
  • Grapefruit
  • Guitar Shorty
  • Buddy Guy
  • Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks
  • Dr. Humbead’s New Tranquility String Band
  • Juggernaut
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Los Flamencos de Santa Lucia
  • Fred McDowell
  • Steve Miller
  • New Lost City Ramblers
  • Pacific Gas & Electric
  • Peter
  • Terry Reid
  • Mike Russo
  • Sons of Champlin
  • Mark Spoelstra
  • Alice Stuart
  • Yellowstone
  • Youngbloods
  • Elyse Weinberg
1969 Sky River Rock Festival

Money loss

An estimated 25,000 people attended over three days, but the festival still lost money.

1969 Sky River Rock Festival


There were many complaints and letters written to Washington State Governor Dan Evans to express their displeasure: [metaslider id=15577] Although organizers held another Sky River in 1970, it was the last. Having said that, in 1971 Bumbershoot started and continues to the present.

Addendum from Cliff Merganz who posted on Facebook: I remember reading about the 1968 Festival in one of the first issues of Rolling Stone coming back from a visit to Manny’s and Terminal Music on 48th Street in “the City”. A good story and a few pictures and the first time I read Rolling Stone. I believe John Lennon was on the cover in his “How I Won the War” uniform. There is a CD floating around of the Flying Burrito Brothers playing at the 68′ Festival. My ex-wife’s family had property in the area and said it was almost impossible to get there due to all the “Hippies” but also added there was no trouble and they were all nice and polite.

1969 Sky River Rock Festival

Anniversary Perspective

In 2019,  the Thurston Talk site published an article that gave some additional background to Sky River. Among that info was:

  • according to the promoters, Sky River II was meant to “combat racism, hatred, violence, and poverty.”
  • The Stop the Rock Festival Committee met on August 21 and was led by a local leader of the John Birch Society.
  • Landowners and the Tenino Chamber of Commerce filed suit claiming that there was no way the festival could be peaceful or not violate county rules. Specifically, the suit called out the impact of noise on cows (“…it would cause them to lose flesh. They won’t be grazing.”)

According to a 2019 Chronicle article, “The festival was held a few more times, including the 10-day Sky River III held near Washougal in 1970. The final Sky River was held in 1971 in Grays Harbor.”


“One attendee, Pamela Davis, remembers going back to the ranch after the festival with a few friends to help clean up. They built picnic tables and a fire pit, then invited the local law enforcement and their families out for a barbecue to thank them for handling the crowd so well.

1969 Sky River Rock Festival

Next 1969 festival: New Orleans Pop Festival