Gold Rush Festival, Amador, California 1969

Gold Rush Festival, Amador, California 1969
Authored By John Nicholson

Now, here we have a festival that registered high on the Severely Groovy scale and low on the Hassle From The Man chart. Ideal. Held at Lake Amador, Amador, California on Oct 04, 1969 it was a very bucolic frolic for 40,000 and it’s roster of bands was very much drawn from the San Francisco hippie community, Amador being northeast of Stockton and southeast of Sacramento out in lovely rolling hill country. 

The bill had a bluesy slant to it: 

Al Wilson (of Canned Heat, I presume), Albert Collins, Bo Diddley, Cold Blood, Country Weather, Daybreak, Ike & Tina Turner, John Fahey, Kaleidoscope, Linn County, Santana, Southwind, Taj Mahal, The Sons of Champlin

A journalist from the Sacramento Bee in 1969 reported that the air was hazy with marijuana smoke that was mixed with the dust kicked up by thousands of sandal-wearing youths.

“40,000 people jammed the banks of Lake Amador to sunbathe, drink wine, smoke marijuana and listen to an all-star roster of musicians at the Gold Rush Rock Music Festival. Since the crowd was peaceful, Amador County sheriff’s deputies chose to ignore the drug use and skinny-dipping.”

If only more officials and cops had adopted this tactic during the festival era, everybody would’ve had a much nicer time. Stoners getting naked on a hot day and going for a swim was never a threat to anyone or anything and it beggars belief that anyone ever thought any different.  

Recollections of the day are fond and warm. James Hackworth was 22 years old when he and his wife and two kids ventured to Lake Amador for the weekend of music and recalls the camaraderie and good time they had.

“I remember looking over a sea of people and everyone was really happy and full of enthusiasm. The music was the catalyst that drew us together. It really was a time of believing in love and peace for humanity.”

Oh! Such optimism makes me feel quite tearful. We need that now.

Robert Strand promoted. He and his family were the financial backers. Strand was the manager of Country Weather, one of the bands that appeared and a regular on the local circuit. He describes the event as a perfect combination of location, music, stage, PA, and weather.

“Bo, Tina and Santana rocked. and it seemed like everyone I knew from South Sacramento was there. The weather was perfect for swimming. We distributed over a thousand posters and hand bill’s around the valley and Bay Area."

This was the event Altamont should have been, top notch line up, pretty well organized, and a happy crowd. People were getting tired later in the show when Bo Diddley did his set. Bit by bit people started standing up, a wave swept up the hill and soon the whole place was energized. Sons Of Champlin rocked their set, then Santana took over. Earlier in the day Cold Blood had delivered a terrific performance..

All the bands did. "It was a show to remember, what a 60s rock fest was all about.”

Amen, brother. Amen. 

And not a corporate sponsor or smartphone to be seen. These were such different days.

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