Sixth Big Sur Folk Festival 1969

Sixth Big Sur Folk Festival 1969

September 14 – 15, 1969
1969 festival #35

Sixth Big Sur Folk Festival 1969

Sixth Big Sur Folk Festival 1969

Low key

The Big Sur festivals were never meant to be like a Woodstock or even a Monterey. The first Big Sur festival was in 1964. Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places in California and some say the world.

When asked how to get there, a sensible response is, “You can’t get there from here.”

The festivals became a place as much for the artists as any attendees who managed to get in. And the stage and seating were basically at the same level, guests often sitting around the stage.

Sixth Big Sur Folk Festival 1969

Sixth

Such an approach did not mean that the performers were unknown. In fact, most were quite well-known. The line-up for 1969 demonstrated that. Keep in mind that the artists, in addition to doing their own sets, joined each other as well.

Sixth Big Sur Festival
Graham Nash, Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian, Steve Stills and Joan Baez performing at the Big Sur Folk Festival, California, 1969, from the documentary “Celebration at Big Sur” directed by Johanna Demetrakas. 20th Century Fox/Getty
  • Joan Baez
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  • John Sebastian
  • Johanna Demetrakas
  • Dorothy Morrison & the Edwin Hawkins Singers
  • Mimi Fariña
  • Julie Payne
  • Ruthann Friedman
  • Carol Ann Cisneros
  • The Comb Sisters
  • Chris Ethridge
  • Flying Burrito Brothers
  • Struggle Mountain Resistance Band
Sixth Big Sur Folk Festival 1969

Celebration at Big Sur

Like the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival the same weekend and Woodstock a few weeks before, filming occurred allowing us today to view the differences between a Woodstock v a Monterey v a Big Sur v an Altamont.

Only 10 to 15 thousand people attended and Rolling Stone magazine later reported that “Everyone performed without charge. Some of the best batiks ever made decorated the spongy Esalen lawn. Children danced. Conga drummers gathered to pound the earth. A flower bed was destroyed, but the audience cleaned the trash from the grounds. The hundreds who hadn’t money to get in lined the highway on top of the hill, and didn’t crash the gates – even though there were no “gates.”

Here is a link to the several Big Sur festivals.

A Rolling Stone magazine link about this festival. Jerry Hopkins wrote in his article’s last paragraphs:

Everyone performed without charge. Some of the best batiks ever made decorated the spongy Esalen lawn. Children danced. Conga drummers gathered to pound the earth. A flower bed was destroyed, but the audience cleaned the trash from the grounds. The hundreds who hadn’t money to get in lined the highway on top of the hill, and didn’t crash the gates – even though there were no “gates.”

“I finally figured out the difference between this and a love-in,” someone said Sunday. “Four dollars.”

Sixth Big Sur Folk Festival 1969
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David Clayton Thomsett Thomas

David Clayton Thomsett Thomas

David Clayton-Thomas at the 38th annual Festival of Friends at Hamilton, Ontario’s Ancaster Fairgrounds on August 11, 2013

born September 13, 1941

David Clayton Thomsett Thomas

David Clayton Thomsett Thomas

Canadian born in England

David Clayton Thomas’s father, Fred Thomsett, was a Canadian soldier serving in England during World War II. Thomas’s mother, Freda May Smith met Thomsett while playing the piano to entertain troops at a London hospital.

David Henry Thomsett was born  in Surrey, England. After the war, the family settled in Willowdale, a suburb of Toronto. David and his father had a difficult relationship and David ran away when he was 14.

He became homeless, slept in parked cars or abandoned buildings, and stole food and clothing to survive.

David Clayton Thomsett Thomas

Canadian jails

Authorities arrested him several times and Thomas lived his teen years jails and reformatories. By a fortunate chance, a released inmate left Thomas an old guitar. His love of music, perhaps remembering his mother’s love, too, kindled.

David Clayton Thomsett Thomas

Freed Canadian

Released in 1962, he found Toronto’s music scene.  Ronnie Hawkins, famous for breaking in the members of The Band, helped Thomas.

David Clayton Thomsett Thomas

David Clayton Thomas

He became David Clayton Thomas to distance himself from his former self and eventually fronted his own band: David Clayton-Thomas and The Fabulous Shays. Their 1964 successful recording of John Lee Hookers’ “Boom Boom” led to an appearance on the American TV show, Hullabaloo.

Thomas began to make blues his mainstay. His next band, The Bossmen, uniquely included jazz musicians. In 1966, the Bossman had a hit with the song “Brainwashed” written by Thomas.

David Clayton Thomsett Thomas

Blood, Sweat and Tears

The same year, Thomas traveled to NYC with John Lee Hooker and stayed there when Hooker left for Europe. Bobby Colomby, Blood, Sweat and Tears drummer, heard Thomas sing and invited him to join the re-aligned band.

The first album, Blood, Sweat and Tears, with Thomas was BS & T’s most successful. Released on December 11, 1968 it reached Billboard’s #1 album on March 29, 1969. It stayed a top album for seven weeks altogether. Five top singles came from the album, and it received a Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1970.

The album also earned them an invitation to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

David Clayton Thomsett Thomas

Post BS & T

Add Thomas’s name to the long and ever-growing list of musicians who found the pace of life on the road too grueling. Despite the band’s success, he left the group in 1972.

He did not leave music.

Thomas composed for Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Maynard Ferguson, and others.  He has released his own albums and continues to perform today.

David Clayton Thomsett Thomas
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1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

September 13, 1969
1969 festival #34
Varsity Stadium, at the University of Toronto

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

Toronto Pop Festival

On June 21 and 22, 1969, John Brower and Kenny Walkeron had produced the Toronto Pop Festival in the Varisity Stadium at the  University of Toronto.  Its success encouraged them to do a larger festival in September, but like many musical enterprises, problems ensued.

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

Kim Fowley to the rescue

Because of poor ticket sales, Brower and Walkeron almost had to cancel the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival when their main backer pulled out.

Musician, producer, and general bon vivant Kim Fowley was going to be the MC of the show. He suggested to Brower to call Apple Records and invite John Lennon and Yoko Ono to be MCs as well. Fowley’s reasoning was Lennon’s love for roots rock and that Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Gene Vincent were among those in the festival.

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

Plastic Ono to the rescue

Lennon not only accepted the suggestion, he offered to play at the festival as well. Accompanying Lennon and Ono were Klaus Vooman, Alan White, and Eric Clapton. At first no one believed Brower, but once the recorded conversation of Brower ordering tickets for Lennon et al, tickets sold out.

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

Line up

As mentioned above and as the event’s name implies, this festival (though just one day) had a basic rock line up:

  • Whiskey Howl
  • Bo Diddley
  • Chicago
  • Junior Walker and the All Stars
  • Tony Joe White
  • Alice Cooper
  • Chuck Berry
  • Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys
  • Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Gene Vincent
  • Little Richard
  • Doug Kershaw
  • The Doors
  • John Lennon and Plastic Ono Band

80 members of the Vagabonds motorcycle club rode escort, 40 in front and 40 in back, for John and Yoko’s limousine from the Toronto airport to the university stadium.

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

D.A. Pennebaker

Luckily for history and us today the organizers filmed the event. D.A. Pennebaker, maker of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Look Back and Monterey Pop again did a great job. There are many pieces of the film, Sweet Toronto on YouTube. The more you watch the better an already great concert gets. Great great rock and roll!

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

Lights on…

It is a sad commentary that the show’s great stars needed the light of John Lennon to bring a sold out mostly young white audience to listen, but that’s what happened. Ironically, the story is that John Lennon, performing for the first time without Paul McCartney since their 1950s meeting, needed encouragement.

The hitherto imaginary band consisted of Eric Clapton on guitar, Klaus Voormann on bass, and session musician Alan White on drums. [see Beatles Bible article]

Before introducing the Plastic Ono Band, Kim Fowley had everyone get their matches ready to greet Lennon , Ono, and friends. Whether this was the first time an audience used matches to greet a performer is unknown. It is likely one of the first times.

The band’s set list mostly reflected the festival’s revival theme:

  1. Blue Suade Shoes
  2. Money (That’s What I Want)
  3. Dizzy Miss Lizzy
  4. Yer Blues
  5. Cold Turkey
  6. Give Peace a Chance
  7. Don’t Worry Kyoko
  8. John John (Let’s Hope for Peace)

For more coverage, see a noisey article.

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival
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