Palm Springs Pop Festival

Palm Springs Pop Festival

Before I began giving museum tours at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, I, like many, thought that other than the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, there were few other festivals that summer. 

Yes, Woodstock had spawned the scores of other multi-day festivals that followed in the 70s and beyond, otherwise 1969 was empty.

Not so.

I have found dozens of others and the Palm Springs Pop Festival is the first  outdoor multi-day one I’ve found in 1969.

While it might not have the cachet that Woodstock has–not 500,000 people, mud slides, skinny dipping, closed highways, et cetera–it did have a great line up, several of whom would be visiting Bethel, NY later that summer.

There isn’t too much about the Palm Springs Pop Festival–like many of the other 1969 festivals. It was unique in that it took place over two non-consecutive days and also took place at two different venues.

Palm Springs Pop Festival
♥  #2 

Day 1…April 1, 1969


According to the Palm Springs Life dot com site, “Students came from San Diego and Los Angeles by the carloads hoping to purchase tickets for the two concerts that were sponsored by Los Angeles FM stations as part of the two-day pop music festival.

The drive-in marquee messaged: “Tuesday only Palm Springs Pot Festival from 6 to Midnight “Come high and stay high.”

In a foreshadowing of that upcoming historic festival, those who could not get in broke holes in the fences and pushed in.

1969 Palm Springs Pop Festival

Palm Springs Drive-In Theatre
  • MC KMET’s B Mitchell Reed
  • Jeff Beck (billed but didn’t appear)
  • Moby Grape (billed but didn’t appear)
  • Procol Harum (replacement for above)
  • Flying Burrito Brothers (replacement for above)
  • Gram Parsons
  • Timothy Leary
  • John Mayall
  • Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • Lee Michaels
  • Hard Luck Boy
Day 2…April 3, 1969

Palm Springs Angel Baseball Stadium

1969 Palm Springs Pop FestivalThe second night was marred.  After the 3,500 ticket holders went in, police kept potential gate-crashers away

The crowd spread out and gas station owner Harlan “Moose” Moore shot and killed 16-year-old Richard Bradford from Venice, CA. Authorities determined it was self-defense or what in today’s parlance is called stand-your-ground.

Here is a news report years later about that day’s festival:

  • Ike and Tina Turner Revue
  • Savoy Brown
  • Buddy Miles Express
  • Canned Heat
    Palm Springs Pop Festival

1969 Palm Springs Pop Festival

Again from the Palm Springs site, ” A Riverside Press-Enterprise editorial of April 9, 1969, concluded: “The week has gone, but a bad feeling lingers on. The record makes essential the kind of thoughtful long-range preparation that can cut down on the chances for a repetition.”

Permits were not issued for outdoor concerts in Palm Springs for more than a decade.

According to the site, “Rolling Stone reported one festival-goer as saying, We’re the new breed, proclaimed Mike Henderson, 22, of Long Beach. Sooner or later we’re going to take over the country. Then we’ll be able to do what we want to do, and we’ll have a peaceful planet.”

Such sentiment sounds sadly familiar.

Palm Springs Pop Festival

Next 1969 festival: LA Free Press Festival

April Music et al

April Music et al

Ray Charles

In April 1962: Ray Charles successfully combined country music with soul and crosses into the pop realm with the album “Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music” – the #1 album of 1962.

April Music et al


April Music et al

In April, 1966: Sandoz Pharmaceutical recalled the LSD it had previously distributed and withdrew its sponsorship for work with LSD. (see September 1966)

April Music et al

Future Woodstock Performers

In April 1967: Country Joe (age 25 ) and the Fish released first album, Electric Music for the Mind and Body. (see May 12)

April Music et al

Ken Kesey

In April 1967: Ken Kesey re-tried. Hung jury. Pled guilty to a lesser charge. Given 6 months on work farm.  (2015 San Francisco Chronical article) (see June 1967)

The Road to Bethel

In April 1969: Allan Mann met with Elliot Tiber who offered a barn for a theater from free if Mann would rent a nearby 6-room Victorian for the summer for $800. Paul Johnson, a friend of Mann, agreed to put the down payment of $200 for the house in exchange for a room there for the summer. [keep in mind, this agreement was made before Wallkill evicted the festival.

From  the Woodstock Preservation site: By this time it was April and I was broke and was looking through the Village Voice for a job when I saw Elliot Tiber’s ad for a summer barn theater for free. If I was going to develop a world class theater company on the level of The Open Theater, The Living Theater and The Polish Mime Theater it certainly would be beneficial to get the performers out of the city to a place where we could work intensively together with minimum distractions and form a communal theater company that eventually would be the basis for an entire tribal arts complex.  So I called Elliot to make an appointment to go up to White Lake and got my friend Paul Johnson to drive me and Jane up there.

The agreement would result in the Earthlight Theatre Troupe who would be in the right place at the right time when Wallkill evicted Woodstock Ventures and Ventures relocated to Bethel. (see Apr 1)

April Music et al

Bluesman Charlie Patton

Bluesman Charlie Patton

Bluesman Charlie Patton

Rattlesnake Blues by Charlie Patton

Bluesman Charlie Patton

It is a too often an embarrassing  occurrence with me that I “discover” something  important that has sat in front of me for decades.

A recent morning while listening to the radio, the DJ referred to a movie on Amazon called “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World.”  I have Amazon. I watched the movie that day.


Bluesman Charlie Patton

Blurred origins

Trying to pin down who the originator of this or that musical genre  often leads to a lively discussion.  Who gets credit for American blues? And what were their influences?

Great music is filled with emotion and we humans–filled with emotion–have always had music. How it sounds is influenced by the place we live, the time we are a part of, the instruments around us, and other factors.

We humans also like to keep things simple and as a result we too often pigeon-hole a musician because their fame stemmed from just one aspect of their art.

Charlie (or Charley) Patton was much more than just a blues singer, or more specifically, a Delta Blues singer.

Bluesman Charlie Patton

Delta Blues

In the movie, John Troutman, American Music Historian, says, “…blues buffs, blues scholars, although they can’t really agree on anything,  if they were forced into a room when they had to identify…the most important singularly important blues guitarist, singer, songwriter, the whole package, the greatest one there ever was in the early 20th century…they’d probably say Charlie Patton.”

At his site, Elijah Wald explains, “Even though his recording career was sparked by the blues craze, only about half of his roughly fifty records can reasonably be considered part of that then-modern genre. The others are a mix of gospel and religious music, ragtime comedy like “Shake It and Break It,” ballads like “Frankie and Albert,” older slide guitar standards like “Bo Weavil” and “Spoonful,” and a couple of unclassifiable pieces that seem to be his reimaginings of Tin Pan Alley pop numbers, “Some of These Days” and “Running Wild.”

Bluesman Charlie Patton

Patton’s background

Charlie Patton was born in April 1890 or maybe 1891 or maybe 1895.  His parents were Bill and Annie Patton.

While certainly an African-American, it is likely that he had other ancestry, including American Indian. Howlin’ Wolf was a student of Patton’s. Wolf said, “Charlie Patton was an Indian. And he was the baddest motherfucker in the world.

Most agree today, Patton not only had American Indian ancestry, but that Patton’s music reflects that cultural influence.

Keep in mind, that Native Americans sometimes chose to pass as African Americans because they thought that the dominant white American society treated Blacks better than Natives!

Bluesman Charlie Patton

Dockery Plantation

Bluesman Charlie Patton

In 1897, Patton’s family moved to the Dockery Plantation  near  Ruleville, Mississippi.  Will Dockery had started the farm in 1895. Because of its location, there was a lack of local labor available and Dockery encouraged all to work and paid a bit better and more reliably.

As a result, a mixture of backgrounds worked his sawmill and fields. Patton was in the middle of this and his musical abilities were steeped in these backgrounds. In his Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads, the late Robert Palmer described Patton as a “jack-of all-trades bluesman”, who played “deep blues, white hillbilly songs, nineteenth-century ballads, and other varieties of black and white country dance music with equal facility.”

Bluesman Charlie Patton


Charlie Patton was only 43 when he died on April 28, 1934, but his influence on the Delta Blues which gave  birth to Chicago electric blues and so on and so forth until we white Baby Boomers thought the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Cream, John Mayall, and others were playing something original but were simply re-interpreting our own music which was the descendant of American Indian, African, and other musics.

Bluesman Charlie Patton

John Fahey

Master guitarist and blues fan, John Fahey, wrote a great book about Patton simply, Charley Patton. Here is a link for the entire book.

Bluesman Charlie Patton