Cleveland Pop Festival 1969

Cleveland Pop Festival 1969
Authored By John Nicholson

What interests me about this show is that, by any usual definition, it wasn’t a ‘festival.’ Rather, it was a regular gig. Three bands played Tim Buckley headlined, supported by Iron Butterfly, Blood Sweat And Tears. It was held indoors at the 3,000 capacity Cleveland Public Hall on April 18, 1969. Tickets $5.50 in advance $6.50 on the door.

Now, the fact that it was christened a ‘festival’ shows, I think, how the word was becoming even in 1969 as a kind of dog whistle for rock fans, freaks and hippies. This would normally have just been ‘a concert’ but calling it a ‘pop festival’ somehow invested a more hip credibility. 

It was put on by local radio station WIXY 1260 a small AM radio station that was for a brief period really important in the emerging Cleveland music scene. Staffed by on-air personalities and with savvy programming and groundbreaking promotions it would become synonymous with 1960s pop culture. A Midwest juggernaut, WIXY aired everything from surf and Motown to country and the British Invasion. Crossing cultural and generational lines in one of the hottest radio markets in the country, it regularly took in more than fifty percent of the Greater Cleveland audience!

They promoted the show along with Belkin Productions who were to become a Cleveland institution. Jules and Mike Belkin became synonymous with Cleveland and rock 'n' roll shows.

Belkin Productions, their concert promotion company, booked it's first show on Feb. 5, 1966, at Cleveland's Music Hall, featuring The Four Freshman and The New Christy Minstrels. Since then, just about every significant concert in Cleveland,  Northeast Ohio and much of the Midwest has been a Belkin Production. In the 70s they put on the famous World Series of Rock concerts held at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. 

Mike Belkin was also band manager for the James Gang and the Michael Stanley Band.

History seems not to have recorded any details of this gig. Buckley headlining over the heavy Iron Butterfly and the jazz-rock parp of BS&T seems an odd mix but then, these were eclectic days of open minds and hearts. And also of lovely posters.



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