Atlanta Pop Festival July 1969

Atlanta Pop Festival July 1969
Authored By John Nicholson

The Atlanta Pop Festival was held on the 4th and 5th of July 1969 and pulled in anything from 80,000 - 150,000 people to the Atlanta International Speedway in Georgia.

Despite riots at recent festivals in Denver and Northridge, California the local authorities gave the event their blessing. Wow. That was very unusual. Local newspaper The Atlanta Journal ran an editorial praising the variety and quality of performers and saying "a full music diet is good for a city. Pop music is important and expressive of our times." Right on, baby!

Far out. Dude got their freak on. How enlightened and, like, groovy man. And as if by instant karma, the whole festival ran smoothly and everyone had a great time. See? Don't hassle the hippies and everything will be alright. 

The Friday night was choc full of top-notch blues and jazz bands including Credence Clearwater Revival, Canned Heat, Johnny Winter, The Butterfield Blues Band, Dave Brubeck, Booker T and Blood Sweat and Tears.

The Saturday gig included Led Zeppelin, Janis, Spirit, Joe Cocker, Chicago, Grand Funk Railroad, The Staple Singers and Tommy James and the Shondells.

The festival was organized by Alex Cooley, who later put on the excellent Texas International Pop Festival in Dallas and used the same poster template for it too. 

The thermometer tipped over 100 degrees and the local fire department hosed the gathered rockers down with fire hoses like so much hot cattle. But unlike at other festivals where high temperatures seemed to go hand in hand with violence or demands for a free festival, no such trouble happened in Atlanta.

Photos of the event show a massive, shade-free venue with a tiny stage set in the middle of it. It's about as far away from the giant stages and sound systems we see today as you can imagine.

The program for the event interestingly dealt openly with drugs, stating:

"Atlanta is a generally cool town, with relatively few dope busts. Almost all psychedelics are available with the exception of grass. Prices on lids range from $15 to $20, tabs of acid from $4 to $6, hash at $10 a gram. We have music and be-ins in the park every weekend."

I don't know how that compares to prices today - has there been inflation or deflation in drug prices? The latter I'm assuming.

Alex Cooley made $12,000 from the event. A nice wedge in 1969. The fact that it had passed off so successfully was credited with helping the counter-culture flourish in the area. Well it would. We can be together in peace and harmony.

There are a few blogs of people's personal experiences at the festival and most seem to confirm how excellent most of the band were, especially Led Zeppelin, who were sweeping across America at the time, taking the country by storm.

How much anyone could have heard with the primitive PA systems is open to debate but this was certainly one festival fondly remembered by those who attended.

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