Sunday, June 28, 2009

Atlanta Pop Festival 40th Anniversary

"While driving to the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969, I pulled along side a Chevy Impala with Hawaii tags and asked the folks..Hey..Where y'all headed?..and a black kid in the back seat with these huge ears said...Washington D.C. Then this same kid asked if he could bum a cigarette and borrow my car jack. He was kinda forceful and not shy in making his requests. About that time a voice from his car summoned...'Hey Mutt, you hush-up now and git back in the car'...Then they drove off down the road with a cloud of smoke pouring outz the exhaust..looking like it needed some kinda repair. So, I shook my head in disbelief and saw mayhem in the making. That's when I split and headed towards the Raceway to hear some good music." the editor

In what is widely regarded as one of the top concerts events of all time, the Atlanta International Pop Festival of 1969 was held over the Fourth Of July weekend at the Atlanta International Raceway. The concert featured the entertainment industry's top bands and attracted extremely large crowds from distant locations. Attendance for the Atlanta Pop, as it would be later coined, ranged from estimates of over 100,000 people to 250,000. The concert was organized by promoter Alex Cooley and set the stage for the greater acknowledged Woodstock Festival which took place later that summer. The holiday weekend event was canvassed by a heat wave that soared to temperatures of over 100 degrees and set-up an additional story within. Yet strangely enough, only a few photographers have captured this historic milestone and put the landmark event into documentation form. With that being the case, several months back I was speaking with my friend Carter Tomassi, a well-respected photographer who has also chronicled the pop festival on his web site. Carter suggested that I post an updated story on my blog in honor of the 40th anniversary timeline. So, with his recommendation in mind, I decided to piece together a photo journal of previously unviewed festival photographs and share with fellow concert attendees and loyal PHOTOLOG blog enthusiasts.

With the plan in motion, allow me to set the stage for unveiling my previously unseen photos. Please note that I attended both Atlanta Pop Festivals but not as a professional photo journalist with distinguished credentials. Please let it be known that I wasn't admitted free into the festival nor was I invited backstage to meet the stars and partake in munching-on strawberries with bottles of Perrier. If the truth be known, I attended both as a curious hippie who at the time was a young label representative and working for Atlantic Records. I was fortunate to score a stage pass and decided to capture my own photo journal of the event. At the time I was experimenting with my very own opaque settings of which I was keenly fond. Using my Yoshika  TL Electro 35-55mm SLR camera and always using 400 speed film, I improvised f-stop settings and utilized timing. And now, 40 years later, and fortunate to still be around to share my memories, allow me to dust-off my snap shots for review. In spite of recent technology advances in the photography world, these pictures are raw as Photoshop was not used in a single photo. As you can probably tell, the pictures are what they are. I hope these Black & White jewels stimulate your imagination. (Editors note; Since this original posting, naturally I've upgraded editing software so please forgive the rawness of these images) 

Okay, let's start from the beginning. Below are the opening moments for those who prefer the big picture while others just might enjoy reliving the events. Word traveled fast about the festival as we made arrangements to attend weeks in advance. I had ventured to the concert from Memphis, TN with my then-girlfriend along with another couple. We were to meet up with a bunch of folks who were also in the biz; a couple of disk jockeys, a fellow record promoter and several local recording artists and song writers. I'd had recently purchased a new SLR camera and anxious to put it to use. With the stage set, here's how the event came down on B/W film. 

While approaching the festival some distance away, people began to arrive on the scene via their bikes, their autos while some walked long distances on their bare footsies.

Note some distance away are three white pointed buildings. Those were the festival's ticket offices. The grassy lawn area in between was being reserved for parking. Remember the Beetle and the Covair? Two claustrophobic transportation Slugs?

As mid-day approached, traffic began to arrive from all directions and occupy the available parking spaces. My oh my! What a difference an hour can make. Didn't they have car-pooling in 1969?

The landscape became a sea of automobiles with every make and model on parade while people began to tail-gate and party down.

Long lines began forming at the ticket offices and the fashion show of people watching was in high-gear. A good rule was to always wear sun glasses to disguise your obvious starring at the babes.

Never tell someone to meet you at the ticket window as it may take all day for them to arrive. That is unless she is a drop-dead knock-out beauty with a wealthy dad who just happens to like you. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with me.

Before entering the festival, everyone secured comfortable surroundings as most who attended the event slept in their cars, vans or slept on the ground. There wasn't a Hilton Hotel nearby and Days Inn was kinda full that weekend.

But those who envisioned the chaos of three days of sex, drugs and Rock & Roll...had sorta planned ahead. Pictured here is yours-truly hunkering down in his "Homeboy Hotel"

By dusk the crowd was anxious for the next big act to hit the stage as the audience flashed the peace sign in the spotlight.
Bear Hite of Canned Heat answers the call and wails on the band's hit song "Let's Work Together" and performs without a shirt revealing his portly upper torso.

Next Canned Heat's Blind Al performs the band's monster hit "Going Up The Country" as the crowd went absolutely wild.

On stage and in the spotlight is Blues Project's Al Cooper performing in his white patent leather shoes. Cooper went on to join the legendary Blood, Sweat & Tears while still later recording the influential album "Super Sessions" with Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills.



Johnny Rivers seemed a little out of place at the Festival yet when he sang his monster hit, "Memphis, Tennessee" from his 'Live From The Whisky' album the audience screamed with approval.

Creedence Clearwater Revival's rendition of "Put A Spell On You" stole the show as John Forgery's Rickenbacker Guitar rang-out with magic.

Recognize this guy? He played for years with Stevie Ray Vaughn as he is a legendary bass player. That's a young Tommy Shannon and here he is at the Pop Festival playing behind Blues legend Johnny Winter.

Speak of the Devil...Here's my all-time favorite Blues-Guitarist Johnny Winner looking very picturesque while glowing in the spotlight.

Early the next day we managed to get up front as the sun began to bear down. Damn, it was hot!

Booker T. & The MG's knocked the crowd dead as Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn put on a terrific show in the blazing hot sun. Band members acknowledged my being on stage when drummer Al Jackson Jr. asked, "Hey Man, How'd you get up here?"

Here WMPS Radio in Memphis Disk Jockey Scott Shannon and Electra Records promo rep. Terry Fletcher display the trendy fashions of the day. Hmm...Draw your own conclusions...

There's no truth to the rumor that the guy in center here who is being carried-out had just seen the fashion statement from the previous photo. However, there was some bad cool-aid going around and the hot blazing sun didn't help matters.

Thankfully a local group of off duty firemen came to the rescue and hosed-off a receptive crowd of toasted concert goers.

Of course when the suggestion of a wet T-shirt contest came-up, I was lurking nearby.

No one minded the muddy mess that was being created from the circumstances.

On the afternoon of the final day, the crowd had began thinning-out. Can you imagine cleaning-up the garbage that was left behind?

A very unusual circumstance about attending an event like this. You don't actually realize the magnitude of the occurrence until later. Truthfully, I don't think anyone considered documenting the Atlanta Pop Festival with history in mind. Most were there just taking instamatic or Polaroid pictures of their friends and favorite rock bands. Although this posting is lengthy, it's far short of my remaining photos of the event. And I treasure them all. Guess I should do a book.

A previous posting on the historic Atlanta Pop Festival featuring color photographs can be viewed by clicking the link of THE PHILLIP RAULS PHOTOLOG.

Copyrighted photos and storyline by (c) Rauls Media LLC 2009 - All Rights Reserved - Duplication Prohibited.