Atlantic City Pop Festival

Atlantic City Pop Festival

Atlantic City Pop Festival

August 1, 2, & 3, 1969
Atlantic City Racetrack

1969 festival #30

1969 Atlantic City Pop Festival

Atlantic City Pop Festival

Atlantic City

The Atlantic City Pop Festival of 1969. The penultimate festival. This was 1969’s 28th festival, the first occurring back in May with the Aquarian Family Festival. On my list of festivals for that summer, Atlantic City’s was the last before THE Woodstock Music and Art Fair in mid-August.

Herb, Allen and Jerry Spivak, Shelley Kaplan and Larry Magid produced the event and not unlike Woodstock Ventures, they envisioned an event that featured top-flight entertainment along with about 70 craft and food booths in a relaxed, outdoor atmosphere.

According to a 2011 Atlantic City Weekly article, “The festival was a sellout with 40,000 in attendance each day…. 
In the end, the musicians were the glue that kept the festival together with their performances. Procul Harum’s show on the first was a highlight, spotlighting the guitar work of guitarist Robin Trower and organist Matthew Fisher.”

Atlantic City Pop Festival

Nice mixed line-up

There are not many criticisms about the Woodstock line-up. The typical statement both from those who were there and those not  is that it was the greatest lineup ever. Of course, that’s not true. And greatness is in the ear of the listener.

For all the great acts that appeared at Woodstock, it did not have the mix that the Atlantic City Pop Festival had.

Friday 1 August

  • Biff Rose*
  • Aum
  • Lothar and the Hand People
  • Booker T. & The M.G.s
  • Chicago Transit Authority
  • Crosby, Stills & Nash
  • Iron Butterfly
  • Johnny Winter
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Procol Harum
  • Santana Blues Band
  • The Chambers Brothers*
  • Tracy Nelson & Mother Earth

Saturday 2 August

  • The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Hugh Masekela
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Lighthouse
  • Cass Elliot
  • Tim Buckley.

Sunday 3 August

Atlantic City Pop Festival

No Shows and walk offs

The reason a few band’s names are crossed out is that although scheduled, they did not appear. Crosby, Stills, and Nash because of Nash’s illness; Johnny Winter because his equipment didn’t arrive on time; and though Joni Mitchell did sing a few songs, the audience was not as receptive as she wanted and she walked off. Biff Rose, the festival’s MC, filled in and so became part of the list.

Joni was certainly not going to compose an ode to Atlantic City after that experience!

Notice the names like Buddy Rich, the Mothers of Invention, BB King, Hugh Masekela, and Procol Harum. Great choices and there were no equivalents at Woodstock.

The differences

The differences between the two events are even fewer than the differences between it and other similar festivals that summer. Most had great line ups. Most were multiple days. And AC was in the NY media’s circle of coverage: a great advantage that Woodstock also had.

The Atlantic City Pop Festival was in a race-track. No camping as at Woodstock, thus much less an opportunity for attendee to bond and become part of a whole weekend.

Estimates are about 100,000 people attended each day. A great number, but far less than the “astronomic” half-million in Bethel.

Finally, like nearly every other festival that summer, there is no official audio or visual record of the event. Over the years, various people have written their impressions, but the organizers did not do more than create a great weekend.

There is this brief home movie and sound of Janis:

A March 8, 2020 article from relates a bit more about the concert including a few photos by Peter Stupar who hitchhiked to the concert from Potomac, MD.  Stupar’s site has many more of his pictures from that weekend.


Woodstock Ventures did not set out to create a legacy by filming and recording their event, but in my opinion, their festival would simply be another one on that summer’s long list of festivals had they not done those things.

Atlantic City Pop Festival

Next 1969 festival: Ann Arbor Blues Festival

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11 thoughts on “Atlantic City Pop Festival”

  1. My lasting AC Pop memories/impressions: They utilized a double-sided rotating stage that enabled one act to be setting up behind unseen while the other was performing, thus minimizing any between-performance delays. This generally worked very well, with the exception of Jefferson Airplane, who asked for patience as they were experiencing difficulties/delays setting up their light show. Creedence Clearwater Revival gave a tight, no-nonsense (stage banter-less), intense performance that John Fogarty interrupted early on to demand that all strobe lights be turned off. CCR got the best crowd response of the three days up until Little Richard’s festival-ending performance. At the time still very much at the top of his rockin’ game, Richard threw his gold lame (or was it white?) cape into the crowd and performed Larry Williams’ “Bony Maroney” as the sole song in each of his two encores (making a total of three times he performed that song!). Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention did a jazzy, all-instrumental, no-vocals set, at the conclusion of which Zappa commented, with tongue-in-cheek, that “we’re gonna get off now & make way for the ‘heavier’ acts.” (Janis Joplin was on next!). The Chambers Brothers closed one night with a masterful, gospel-tinged version of “People Get Ready” that seemed poignant & entirely appropriate. Canned Heat frontman Bob Hite moaned that their lead guitarist had just quit & asked for requests at the outset of an informal, boogie-driven performance. Procol Harum guitarist Robin Trower showed his blues chops when he was featured on a song or two. Iron Butterfly seemed oddly out of place & a lot of their sound seemed to me to be coming from canned sources, not their instruments. ( We got into a near fist fight in a diner after the festival over who was better, CCR or Iron Butterfly!) We slept in the parking lot next to our car on/under tarps/ blankets & one night in the pouring rain we ran around with a group of soaked people, as we chanted “join us, good people!” We each purchased three bottles of Ripple wine, to be consumed one a day. Our food was primarily cold canned spaghetti & baked beans and snack food. We also purchased hamburgers, cola, & other racetrack concessions. When we got home, we kicked around the idea of going to Woodstock, but one of our group insisted that it looked to be a total mess to be avoided. We listened, unfortunately.

    1. Little Richard’s shirt was white. I was standing up against the stage and I have photos of him taking off his shirt. I was also one of the people that jumped up on the stage when LR invited people to join him on stage to dance. I last about 20 seconds before I was thrown off by security. Also one of the reasons that J. Winter didn’t perform that Friday was because he was an albino and could not perform in the sun. His booking was a mistake by his agent and he was rescheduled for Sunday night but did not perform.

  2. I had just turned 16. I remember a lot of it. I was real close to the stage when Janis kissed some guy & I was jealous.
    I came from the Gloucester/Camden area.

  3. I wiped the sweat off bb king’s forehead as he was coming off the stage. Stood next to grace slick back stage while watching Janis Joplin perform. Wich was why she was there. And i still have the atlantic city pop official badge grace gave me when she left. I was 17 and I will never forget it…watta weekend……

      1. Was just lookin for any 50th anniversary related story. Saw my post. Far out! And yes will send a pic of grace slicks badge. And thanks. Frank

  4. Zappa kickked ass at that show, Masakela’s Light House were great, Joni was lost and probably that had something to do with her not going to Woodstock. The Atlantic City vibe was a bit more rowdy than Woodstock, but musically is he mix of the lineup the sound quality was better than Woodstock.. but Woodstock was more than just the music!

  5. I was 16 and 5 of us piled into a Ford Country Squire. I was a guitar player. Some of my idols played those 3 days. The best bands were Santana, Chicago, Procol Harum, BB King, Frank Zappa, and the amazing Tim Hardin who reminded me of a young Robert Plant.
    But the Best of the Best were Janis Joplin with the Kosmic Boogie Band. Snookie Flowers played sax while Janis slugged down Southern Comfort. She was awesome… she held the audience in the palm of her hand! Jefferson Airplane was great. The legends … Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Jorma on guitar, Jack Cassidy on Bass and Marty Balin.
    But Creedance Clearwater Revival was the absolute BEST. They played Run Thru The Jungle and had the audience rocking back and forth like waves in the ocean! Even the security guards standing on the catwalk over the stage were rocking back and forth!!
    I’ll never forget those magical 3 days… Woodstock had not even happened yet so….. we were the real pioneers! One of us was dropped off in Philadelphia where he hitched up to Bethel and went to Woodstock. Another one of us is still a good friend of mine who works in a music store selling equipment… amps and guitars.
    Me? I’m an Environmental Geologist for NYS and still a pretty good guitarist. I gig out with 2 bands… one that covers 50s and 60s hits, and the other that covers blues and Classic Rock from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I’ll always remember the Atlantic City Pop Festival in August 1969.

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