Texas International Pop Festival, Lewisville 1969

Texas International Pop Festival, Lewisville 1969
Authored By John Nicholson

The Texas International Pop Festival was held at Lewisville, Texas, on Labour Day weekend, August 30 to September 1, 1969, just a couple of weeks after Woodstock. In the history of 60s and early 70s festivals, it has gone down in history as one of the most significant and important.

The site for the event was a big field just south and west of the newly opened Dallas International Motor Speedway. It's place in history is as one of the best and most successful in terms of vibe and music, if not in terms of making a profit.

A lot of the music played across the weekend has come out over the years both officially and unofficially. The Led Zeppelin bootleg of their set is a classic, with both great sound quality and a tremendous performance. I have the Johnny Winter set too and he is on red hot form. The Ten Years After set is another must-listen.

The festival was the brainchild of Angus G. Wynne III (sounds like a character in an Eddie Murphy movie about an identity swap), son of Angus G. Wynne, the founder of the Six Flags Over Texas Amusement Park. Wynne was a concert promoter who had attended the hugely successful Atlanta International Pop Festival on the July Fourth weekend. And like many rich kids who had gone to a festival, he decided to put a festival on near Dallas, and joined with the Atlanta festival's main organizer and generally cool head honcho, Alex Cooley, forming the company Interpop Superfest. Groovy name, baby.

Bands performing at the festival were: Canned Heat, Chicago Transit Authority, James Cotton, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, Grand Funk Railroad, Incredible String Band, Janis Joplin, B.B. King, Freddie King, Led Zeppelin, Herbie Mann, Nazz, Rotary Connection, Sam and Dave, Santana, Shiva's Headband, Sly and the Family Stone, Space Opera, Spirit, Sweetwater, Ten Years After, Tony Joe White and Johnny Winter.

North of the festival site was the camp ground on Lewisville Lake, where the local good folk were shocked to see hippies getting naked and no doubt the offended locals lingered just long enough to make sure they were indeed without clothes. Mmm, yeah, wet naked people, Martha. 

This was what the local Man had feared. Freaky deaky kids left, right and centre, doing weird stuff and generally being far out. That's why they'd tried to stop it happening. It was also why the local paper's editorials had spoken out against the festival too.

By this stage in 1969, putting on a festival always had to fight the same issues. It became almost a cliche for the local council, zoning board, sheriff or whomever to be against it only for the promoters - always far sharper and more clever - to find a way around all the injunctions and protestations.

Even as the festival happened, the Dallas Morning News was getting itself into a proper righteous rage. "Young people assembling to hear music is one thing. Young people assembling in unspeakable costumes, half-naked (only half naked, bubba? We want full naked!), defying proprietary and scorning morality is another.' They headlined the piece "Nausea at Lewisville."

What a lot of rubbish. What 'unspeakable costumes' would anyone have been wearing? But they were behind the times, expressing dated attitudes that were simply no longer relevant.

There was a free stage on the campground, where some bands played after their main stage gig and several bands not playing on the main stage also performed. It was on this stage that Wavy Gravy, head of the Hog Farm Commune, apparently acquired his name, possibly due to his abilities with a packet of Bisto.

The Merry Pranksters, Ken Kesey's team of acid-drenched loons, were in charge of the free stage and camping area. While Kesey was neither at the Texas event nor at Woodstock, his right-hand man, Ken Babbs, and his psychedelic bus Furthur were. The Hog Farm provided 'security' (do you feel secure? Yeah. See, it's working already), a trip tent, and free food. Attendance is estimated between a big 120,000 and 150,000. As with Woodstock, there were no violent crimes reported. There was one death, due to heatstroke, and one birth. One in and one out. The universe in harmony.

The Festival was set to begin at 4:00 p.m. each day. Grand Funk Railroad, who were really making a big impression on the festival circuit - and whose 1970 Live album cover featured a photo taken at the Atlanta festival (announced as Grand Funk Railway!) opened all three days and played through the afternoon heat till the 4:00 p.m. opening band. I think that was typical of the era and somerthing that would less likely happen now. Just get up and play; jam it for hours. Yeah, that's rock n roll. 

BB King played all three nights and told the same jokes and stories, perhaps thinking he had a different 150,000 person crowd for each show. I love that. BB, dude, we've heard this before. Twice!

It didn't rain, it wasn't unbearably hot and food and water didn't run out. This helped the whole event work. 3,000 fried chickens were donated from Minnie Pearl Inc to the Hog Farm. Will no-one think of the vegetarians, maaaan?

The festival was so relatively problem-free that on the final day both the mayor and the city's police chief, Ralph Adams, climbed onstage and congratulated the audience on its good behaviour. We told you man, hippies are nice people. And stoned.

"You have really shown us older people you know what you are doing", Adams said. 

That was a very magnanimous thing to say and was often mirrored at other festivals. All too often, The Man thought Hippie was going to kick off, but obviously, as we know, hippie only wanted to get high, get a groove on and dig the music,

In the end, the Lewisville festival lost Wynne and his fellow organizers around $100,000. Ooops. Yeah but it ain't about the bread, man. Especially when it's not my bread.

Got No Shoes, Got No Blues, a video of some of the musical acts at the festival, is available, as well as reproductions of festival posters and programs. A Texas Historical Marker commemorating the event was erected near the site of the festival in 2010. Who would've thought that back in 1969 it would become so celebrated?

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