Monterey Pop: The Lesser Known Music Festival

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Monterey Pop Festival LogoTwo years and two months before Woodstock, the first widely promoted rock music festival in the US took place. The Monterey International Pop Music Festival ran June 16-18, 1967 in Monterey, California, reportedly attracting more than 55,000 people.

Typically regarded as one of the beginnings of the “Summer of Love”, many historians credit the event as inspiration for Woodstock (1969).

The festival showcased the first major appearances of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Ravi Shankar and Janis Joplin. Joplin’s band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, was signed by Columbia Records based on the Monterey performance.

The event also introduced R&B artist Otis Redding to a predominantly white audience, which he called “the love crowd”.

One of the most memorable festival moments was when Jimi Hendrix wrapped up “Wild Thing” by pouring lighter fluid over his guitar. He then lit it on fire and smashed it on the stage repeatedly before throwing what was left into the audience.

Performances

According to the festival’s final schedule, the following acts performed that June:

  • The Association
  • The Paupers
  • Lou Rawls
  • Beverly Martyn
  • Johnny Rivers
  • Eric Burdon and The Animals
  • Simon and Garfunkel
  • Canned Heat
  • Big Brother and the Holding Company
  • Country Joe and the Fish
  • Al Kooper
  • The Butterfield Blues Band
  • The Electric Flag
  • Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • Steve Miller Band
  • Moby Grape
  • Hugh Masekela
  • The Byrds
  • Laura Nyro
  • Jefferson Airplane[10]
  • Booker T. & the M.G.s
  • Otis Redding
  • Ravi Shankar
  • The Blues Project
  • Big Brother and the Holding Company
  • The Group With No Name
  • Buffalo Springfield (with David Crosby)
  • The Who
  • The Grateful Dead
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • Scott McKenzie
  • The Mamas & the Papas

Non-Performances

Many artists and bands declined invitations to perform, most notably:

  • The Beach Boys – Guitarist Carl Wilson was arguing with officials about his refusal to be drafted into service, while front-man Brian Wilson was depressed and unwilling to perform.
  • The Beatles – The band said their music was too complex to be performed live. In turn, Paul McCartney pushed the festival to book The Who and Jimi Hendrix.
  • The Kinks – The band couldn’t get a work visa to enter the US.
  • Cream – The band’s manager, according to Eric Clapton, wanted a bigger event for the band’s US debut.
  • The Doors – It is reported that coordinators simply forgot to invite them.
  • Several Motown artists were also invited, but founder Berry Gordy Jr. refused to let any of them appear.

Impact

The Monterey Festival had a significant impact on music history. It catapulted careers, and introduced a widespread public to artists who, up until that point, performed for much smaller, secluded audiences. Without Monterey, Woodstock would not have been the same, and neither would the rest of the music world.

And, for those wondering, the “love crowd” gave Otis Redding great attention. Just take a look at this archived performance:

 

 

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Last updated: Jun 17, 2012
Filed under: Retro Memories Tagged with: festivals, music