Tag Archives: Festivals

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

1969 Toronto Rock Roll Revival

September 13, 1969
1969 festival #33
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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Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival

aka, the…

Labor Day Soda Pop Festival

September 2, 3, & 4, 1972
Labor Day Weekend
Bull Island on the Wabash River, Illinois
Mills Brothers, “On the Banks of the Wabash (Far Away)”

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival

Not 1969

While waiting for the next 1969 festival to arrive, I thought I’m mention one that has a great name. Unfortunately, it did not turn out well.

First of all…

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival

Why the Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival?

The Erie Canal runs from Albany, NY on the Hudson River to Buffalo, NY on Lake Erie. Thus the name. The Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival was on Mud Island (though not quite an island) on the Wabash River. Nowhere near the Erie Canal. The Wabash River’s head is in Ohio, runs across Indiana, and eventually forms the southern border between Indiana and Illinois before running into the Ohio River at mile 491.

Why the above explanation? Because I cannot discover why Bob Alexander and Tom Duncan, the Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival organizers, called it that. Perhaps at one time the Wabash was a piece of the route that got to the famous Canal?

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival


The month before, on July 2, Alexander and Duncan had organized the relatively successful Bosse Field Freedom Fest in Evensville.

Approximately 30,000 people came. Some of the performers were Ike and Tina Turner, Edgar Winter, Dr. John, Howlin’ Wolf. and John Lee Hooker.

Though financially a success, Evansville, Indiana Mayor Russell Lloyd was not happy and did not want a repeat.

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival

Festival Wallkilled

48 hours before the scheduled start of the Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival , Alexander and Duncan had no site. Local opposition wall-killed the Chandler Raceway, their original choice. Other local legal actions prevented most other choices.

They had already spent $700,000.

Chicago’s powerful radio station WLS began to follow, and thus promote, the story.

100s of fans started to arrive in the area more than a week before. Alexander and Duncan kept silent (other than radio interviews) thinking if they don’t announce where the event will be, locals can’t start proceedings to stop it.

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival

Bull Island

Rumors began to mount. Bull Island. Bulldozers were seen there. Workers digging wells.

Thursday 31 August 1972: Bob Alexander met with Evansville, Indiana Mayor Russell Lloyd. He didn’t want the event, but knew as more and more fans arrived something he had to do something.

Bull Island (“island”) was along the Wabash straddling Indiana and Illinois. Lloyd was able to get Illinois to approve Bull Island as a site. The festival was on.

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival

now the…

Labor Day Soda Pop Festival

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival

Saturday 2 September

Thousands arrived. Interstate 64 came to a standstill. Thousands abandoned their cars. Some set up “shop” and one stretch along the festival site became known as “Alice in Wonderland Avenue.”

Late starts and restlessness. Joe Cocker never showed. Black Sabbath, with Ozzy Osbourne, refused to play unless paid more. No more was to be had.

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival

Sunday 3 September

Tow trucks removed cars from I-64. Food ran out. Destruction by fans of trucks on site. Fires.

Ravi Shankar played first on Sunday. Canned Heat. Black Oak Arkansas.

The Faces, featuring Rod Stewart, fearing the site’s mood, refused to appear. Promoters had paid them $100,000 in advance.

By day’s end perhaps 200,000 and 250,000 people were on site. Gates that still existed were opened. It was a free concert.

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival

Monday 4 September

Like Woodstock, but completely unlike Woodstock, fans left after the second day. Not because of weather and lack of food so much as because of a lack of music.

By Monday only 20,000 people remained. The festival lost $200,000.

Not Woodstock.

In fact, Ozy dot com refers to it as “the worst festival in history.” Everfest dot com simply asks the question.

Erie Canal Soda Pop Festival
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1969 Isle Wight Festival Music

1969 Isle Wight Festival Music

30 & 31 August 1969

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

Six international

All but six of the 1969 festivals I’ve written about happened in the United States.

The first non-US event was the Toronto Pop on June 21 – 22; then the Bath Festival of Blues on June 28.  Wonderland in London Canada was on August 12. Vancouver preceded the Isle and the Isle of Wight. The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival would follow.

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


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