Day of Joy Festival, Houston, Texas 1970

Day of Joy Festival, Houston, Texas 1970
Authored By John Nicholson

This was held at the long-gone Almeda Speedway on Sun Jul 19, 1970 in Houston, Texas and is a significant moment in the nascent Texas rock culture. 

The line-up was Albert King, Alive and Kicking, Flash Cadillac, Leon Russell, Mott the Hoople, Rare Earth, ZZ Top, Zephyr, Ginger Valley, Buttermilk Bottom, The Continental Kids, Pacific Gas & Electric, Children

It was put together by Jim Tucker who was a thirtysomething Houstonian with a growing law practice but with a failed nightclub called, weirdly, Poverty's Project. But it had given him access to Houston music insiders. Along with a group of partners he used those ties and each staked $5,000 to create a music festival. 

With no corporate sponsors and no experience, Tucker and partners Tom DeShazer, Harold Lloyd and Sam Alfano were able to present a festival that included Albert King and Leon Russell, plus a host of bands excellent bands like Mott the Hoople and Rare Earth. Zephyr featured a young Tommy Bolin and was popular in Colorado. PG & E were also a hit festival act of some pedigree by 1970. ZZ Top had just settled on their long-time line-up and played their first gig at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Beaumont, Texas, on February 10, 1970. However, even though they had a local following, they were a no show.

"I had a law office on the corner of Westheimer and Montrose, back when it was a hippie area," Tucker recalls. "I had so many marijuana cases, it was unbelievable. I just got a bunch of my clients together and they built a big stage out there and put some temporary fencing up." That’s the way to do it. Get some stoners on the job.  

Tucker says another client, George Maxey, booked bands through their respective talent agencies. They ran radio ads on KNUZ and KILT and grew a crowd by word of mouth. The admission was six bucks a head, seven dollars at the gate.

As this was Houston’s first real rock festival, inevitably seen as a kind of Woodstock event.

“Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kid drove all the way from Denver and when they got there, I remember opening the door of the van and it just reeked of body odor," Tucker recalled. "I remember chatting with Leon Russell, who had extremely long, white hair, and he had a girl combing it out for him. He was very silent, he didn't talk much.

"When he came on in the evening, he followed somebody that was real uptempo," he adds. "He came on and the lights shined on him and he just sat there for a minute behind the piano,...and then he goes into 'Blues Power,'....'I bet you didn't think that I knew how to rock and roll!'"

That sounds amazing. Very iconic. 

Tucker did make some mistakes. The stage faced west, which proved brutal and roasting hot for the bands who had to stare into the sun all afternoon. The stage began to bend under the weight of the bands and their equipment and someone began selling water at rip off prices. Bad vibes. But hey, who said the revolution would be easy?

"The whole field was full of people in their teens and twenties," Tucker recalls. "There was a bunch of pot smoking and some people brought some coolers with beer in and we didn't care, we didn't check any IDs," Tucker recounts. "We had some uninvited guests, which were the dreaded Texas Rangers.

"We had a lot of people just working for free," he continues. "Our stage manager, Cecelia Cook, went out and asked what they were doing. They promptly arrested Cookie and took her across Almeda to their so-called command center."

Not cool. This is a story that is repeated at so many festivals with the cops and others trying to make the gig heavy. If they couldn’t stop it happening, they seemed to want it to be a downer. It’s so weird. It’s just people enjoying music. Why was that seen as such a threat to all that was decent? 50 years later, it still makes no sense. The fear that crowds of hairy younger people invoked in the authorities was out of all proportion to the trouble that was ever caused. After all, a lot of these people were nicely toasted, and the last thing a stoned freak wants to do is cause trouble, let alone revolution. Mostly, they just want to sit very still and stare at their hand. 

Even so, The Day Of Joy has gone down in Houston folklore for being the first festival of the rock era and is fondly remembered by people of a certain age.  

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