Back in the Day: Palm Beach Pop Festival

By | November 28th, 2010 | 10 Comments

Palm Beach Pop Fest Poster

On Nov. 28, 1969, three months after Woodstock, Janis Joplin, Sly & The Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane and others in that historic lineup came down to Florida for another three-day music festival. The Palm Beach headliner was the Rolling Stones, who six days later would headline the infamous Altamont Speedway Free Festival where four people died, one by stabbing.

Perhaps being historically sandwiched between Woodstock and Altamont is why few seem to remember the Palm Beach Pop Festival (officially, the Palm Beach Music & Art Festival; aka, “Woodstock South”). It’s a shame considering the festival’s all-star lineup — which also included the Chambers Brothers, The Byrds, and Steppenwolf (but notably not Jimi Hendrix) — and the outlandish reports of official local resistance to the influx of 50,000 “long hairs”. Check out this excerpt from a 2009 Palm Beach Post article.

Then-Palm Beach County Sheriff Bill Heidtman vowed to make life miserable for the free-loving, pot-smoking, anti-establishment youngsters who were coming to the Palm Beach Pop Festival. He threatened to herd alligators toward the crowd, gathered on a grassy field at the Palm Beach International Raceway. And he promised to dig out fire ant colonies and relocate them at the venue.

And it wasn’t a warm welcome in another sense: a cold rain swept through over the weekend and turned the grounds into a mud pit. The stouthearted slept atop their cars, but many packed it in and left, so that only about 3,000 people witnessed the Stones’ closing performance.

Despite the hitches, the Palm Beach Pop Festival is yet further substantiation of South Florida’s place in rock and roll history. There was Jim Morrison’s Miami Incident, The Beatles’ Ed Sullivan debut (filmed in Miami Beach), and, 41 years ago today, there was the Palm Beach Pop Festival. While the first two are famous (or infamous) events, the Palm Beach Pop Festival seems just about forgotten.

You can learn more about the concert at palmbeachpopfestival.com, which features photos taken by Ken Davidoff, the festival’s official photographer. Also, check out this news report from the run-up to the festival. “The kids are coming,” says the reporter. “Critics warned it would be an uncontrollable orgy.” No wonder so many people showed up.


10 Comments on “Back in the Day: Palm Beach Pop Festival”

  1. 1 Ken Davidoff said at 1:20 pm on December 10th, 2010:

    Thanks for writing about this event, my Father and I were the official photographers and I camped out at the festival all three days. My business partner, Jack Connell and I are doing a documentary about the festival, and are looking for footage from the event, and your story about the experience. Our face book page is palmbeachpopfestival. We are all about the history, and telling the story. This is my full archive and the newest site. http://www.oldrockphoto.com/palmbeach.html
    Peace, Ken Davidoff

  2. 2 vicky brown said at 2:29 am on April 13th, 2011:

    I WAS AT THIS CONCERT STILL A HUGE HIGH LIGHT IN MY LIFE I REMEMBER JANIS COMING ON STAGE ,THE LACK OF TOLIETS LOL I LEFT MY SPOT TO USE THE OUT HOUSE THINGS WERE SO COOL BACK THEN I LEFT EVERYTHING I OWNED WITH COMPLETE STRANGERS ( MONEY,FOOD ,CHANGE OF CLOTHES ,BLANKET ETC…) WAS GONE AT LEAST 3 HRS WHEN I TURNED AROUND TO RETURN TO MY SPOT ALL I SAW WAS A FIELD OF PEOPLE !! THANK gOD MY SENSE OF DIRECTION WAS GOOD THEY SAW ME LOOKING AND WAVED ME DOWN!! THINGS AND TIMES WERE SO MUCH SIMPLIAR THEN I’LL FOREVER MISS THE TRUE INNOCENCE I WISH I STILL HAD SOME MOMENTOS OF THE FESTIVAL FOR YRS I HAD THE PROGRAM AND TICKET BUT SOMEHOW THEY GOT MISPLACED I REMEMBER SOME GREAT MUSIC ,COUNTRY JOE,THE BRYDS ,CANNED HEAT ,SLY THE LIST GOES ON…………..

  3. 3 artie o'bryan said at 3:27 pm on October 18th, 2011:

    I was there! was in the navy and just back from vietnam. a friend and i drove down from mayport naval station. i have the poster in my den. my kids are sick of hearing about it. i would tell ‘ya about it but i’d have to kill you!

  4. 4 Ed Tant said at 5:54 pm on July 30th, 2012:

    I was there and had a great time. I came down from Atlanta for the event and will never forget seeing The Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, King Crimson, Spirit and many more. Now it’s more than 42 years later and I’m still rushing! Rock on, everybody!

  5. 5 Bob Adcock said at 11:04 am on November 13th, 2013:

    It was a great show! Everyone’s first exposure to King Crimson! Robert Fripp, Greg Lake and the boys rocked the place! Janice Joplin was her usual amazing self and the Stones, although it was almost daylight on Monday played a great set for a small crowd! Rain, cold and work caused most of the crowd to leave before the Stones set. All in all a wonderful time was had by all! Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll!!

  6. 6 Dave said at 8:34 pm on November 25th, 2013:

    I was there for the weekend. A bunch of friends drove down from Atlanta and a we snuck in by hiding in the spare tire well of my buddies station wagon. The weather was horrible along with the facilities.
    Janis Joplin played a set with Johnny Winters. It was amazing. There were great acts there as listed in the article but unfortunately Hendrix was not among them. Both he and Janis would be dead within the year.
    Had to leave before the Stones played. Wish I could have a do over on that.

  7. 7 Roland Sharp said at 5:27 pm on March 10th, 2014:

    It was one of those coming of age experiences for me at seventeen. Three days of the best rock, mud up to your ankles, rain deluges and pot (among others). I remember Janis Joplin coming out and first placing a bottle of Southern Comfort on the edge of the stage then launching into an incredible set of songs. Also, being so exhausted and retreating to my 1958 VW for a few hours. We did stay to the end and saw the Stones. They helicoptered all the bands in.

  8. 8 Dan Sloan said at 8:38 pm on May 20th, 2014:

    It was the HIGH light of growing up in the Palm Beaches during the late 60s. I was 16 and remember Janis slamming the sheriff before her set. For some reason I remember it took the Stones forever to take the stage. And then Mick had an attitude.

  9. 9 Deborah said at 2:27 am on August 2nd, 2014:

    We bought rafts so we could float on top of the mud and that worked pretty well. And then I bought a bunch of candles and melted the wax and got some warmth from the oil fire we made that was way better than the smokey fires from wet wood, it was soooo cold. But the music was great! I remember being so pissed at the Stones. It must have been 4 hours between the last band, I think Jefferson Airplane and when the Stones finally showed up. And the whole time, the announcer kept saying every 10 minutes, they’re landing now, they’ll be here any minute. For 4 hours! When they finally showed up, I was so tired and angry, I left.

  10. 10 Rick Phillips said at 6:50 pm on August 15th, 2014:

    I was there. Saw the Stones finally take the stage in a light rain as the sun was coming up Sunday morning. Their set was lackluster. Highlights for me were Sly and The Family Stone, King Crimson, Vanilla Fudge, Country Joe and The Fish, Janis Joplin, Edgar Winter(there was a jam with Edgar, Janis, and Vanilla Fudge. Dont remember seeing The Byrds or Jefferson Airplane.

    Overall it was a fantastic festival, about as good as the first Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969 and much better than the 2nd Atlanta Pop in 1970.


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