Miami Rock Festival, December, 1969

Miami Rock Festival, December, 1969
Authored By John Nicholson

This stands out in the history of rock and roll and of the counterculture for one reason: it was the last festival of the 60s. There had been 43 festivals in USA in 1969 and as the year drew to an end this was held over 3 days from Sat Dec 27, 1969 - Mon Dec 29, 1969 Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, Florida. The bill boasted some of the performers from Woodstock.

I’m interested in Crow being on this bill. I’ve just bought one of their albums and didn’t know anything about them but it turns out they were a Minneapolis blues-rock quintet Crow was formed in 1967 by frontman Dave Wagner, guitarist Dick Wiegand, his bassist brother Larry, and keyboardist Kink Middlemist. They wrote 'Evil Woman', which Black Sabbath recorded for their first - and now very collectible - single.

But I’m getting side-tracked by rock n roll trivia. So anyway, the full bill was B.B. King, Biff Rose, Canned Heat, Cold Blood, Crow, Grateful Dead, Hugh Masekela, Johnny Winter, Motherlode, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Santana, Smith, Sweetwater, The Amboy Dukes, The Band, The Turtles, Tony Joe White, Vanilla Fudge

Photos of the gig show a more sparse crowd than everyone had been expecting and of a stage that looks precariously high. No H & S laws back in those days of course, you just got some dudes in with wood, hammers and scaffolding and they do what they gotta do. 

Years later, looking back, The Miami Herald reported “It drew thousands of young people determined to have fun and avoid paying admission, if they could. It wasn’t in Miami. It took place at the Miami-Hollywood Speedway, then 15 long miles west of Hollywood, but now a housing development in the middle of Pembroke Pines. Fans were searched by police, lashed by cold winds and encouraged to turn on to God by Billy Graham. Graham said he appreciated the respectful welcome he got, but police made at least 47 arrests and one young man died in a fall from a spotlight tower.”

Other reports comment on the sheer amount of dope being smoked, someone who worked at the festival commented on The Woodstock Whisperer that Bob Hite of Canned Heat had given them all mescaline. Ha. Very 1969. Can you imagine that happening now? It'd be all over social media immediately with photos and video recordings. We live in indiscreet times, sadly.

The weather is reported as being cold and wet and also hot. So go figure that one. It seems that it rained heavily at some point and that sent some people away. Because so many people were so stoned at festivals, memories of what happened are often a bit vague. “I don’t remember much, man, but I was definitely there...I think I talked to Johnny Winter...and I was naked at some point, someone stole my tent and I ended up hitchhiking home wrapped in a sleeping bag.” That sort of thing.

Although this was the last stop on the wild ride that had been the 1960s and 1969 especially, it has slipped through the cracks of history somewhat as a half-remembered three day dope haze. Actually, maybe that is only appropriate!

*Love how on the drawing of a dollar bill above it says "this isn't legal tender, it's just weird" Just got that right, man.

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