From 1967 to 1973 I was rock music columnist for the Washington Star. I
interviewed over 300 acts including The Doors, Jeff Beck, James Brown, David
Bowie....etc. Below in italics is a short memory of mine of covering the
Atlantic City Pop Festival for the Washington Star. Below that is the story I
wrote from Atlantic City and published in the Star.
At the beginning of July, 1969, I was screwing up the courage to
ask my editor if the newspaper would pay for me to attend one of the two major
"pop music festivals" taking place in August on the East Coast...the "Woodstock
Music and Arts Fair" and the "Atlantic City Pop Festival." I finally decided I
would ask and if turned down would just go on my own money. I shouldn't have
worried. I asked and she replied, "Sure. Which one?"
Both events were multi-day and had similar line-ups of acts. The
deciding point for me was the newspaper would pay for my hotel room in Atlantic
City. In Woodstock I would have to camp out. Hotel or Camping...Hotel! Now it
seems I might be the only person of my generation who admits he did not attend
Another plus was that my brother, Ron, would be at the Atlantic
City festival. Ron was working for Mercury Records at the time and an act he was
helping to promote, the Sir Douglas Quintet, would be performing. I convinced my
girlfriend and several of my best friends to attend with me. Somehow I managed
to get everyone I traveled with "all access press passes."
In 1969, there were two ways a reporter could "file a story"
when out of town. One was to phone it in and read it to a "dictationist."
Dictationists sat at a table with typewriters and headsets. When a reporter
called a story in to the paper, the dictationist typed it and, when finished,
yelled "Copy" and a copyboy would scurry over, grab the story and take it to the
appropriate editor. The other way was for the reporter to go to a Western Union
office, sit at one of their teletype machines and write the story...which would
be transmitted by Western Union to the newspaper.
The festival, held at the Atlantic City racetrack, was
everything I had hoped for...great performances, an opportunity to interview a
number of acts and a chance to hang with my friends. For me, there was only one
problem and it happened the last day of the festival. I was directly in front of
the stage when the Sir Douglas Quintet came on to perform. I had become friends
with Doug Sahm, lead vocalist, guitarist and namesake for the group. Someone in
the crowd passed me a pitcher of Sangria. I poured myself a cup just as Doug
came to the edge of the stage and said, "Hey Miiiikkke...let me have some." I
passed him the pitcher, he gulped some down and passed the pitcher to Joe Cocker
(standing offstage). The problem was...someone had "dosed" the pitcher with a
psychedelic substance. I grooved, Doug Sahm grooved, Joe Cocker grooved. By the
end of the festival, I was still grooving. I had a story to write. I couldn't
drive...grooving. I didn't know how I could write...grooving. It was too late in
the day to phone the story in...someone had to drive me to the Western Union
office. When we arrived, I sat at the teletype machine for an hour...grooving.
Finally, I came to my senses and wrote the story.
Janis, Little Richard, Rock Jersey Festival
By MIKE OBERMAN
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ
All of rock 'n' roll's glorious moments were captured last night at the Atlantic
City Pop Festival, but it took some time.
Janis Joplin and Little Richard, in their two sets, summed up what all the other
acts tried to put across--some successfully and others not so
successfully--during the three-day festival at the Atlantic City Race Track.
Janis, who finally has gotten a funky band together since her split with Big
Brother and the Holding Company, drove the tens of thousands of fans to a frenzy
with her throaty, gutsy versions of such standards as "Ball and Chain" and
"Piece of My Heart."
Although the vibrations already were good when Janis came on, the crowd was even
more together when she left the stage to make way for the man some consider
responsible for starting it all, Little Richard. Beginning with "Lucille,"
Richard had the audience standing on their seats through his set which included
"Long Tall Sally," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On," "Good Golly Miss Molly" and
"Roll Over Beethoven."After seeing Little Richard end the pop festival with his
1956 brand of rock-and-roll, it is almost impossible to describe what went on
before he sauntered onto the stage.
The highlights of the first day of the festival were Doctor John
the Night Tripper, Procol Harum, Mother Earth and the Chambers Brothers.Doctor
John, in his floor-length robe, war-paint and feathered headress, cast his Bayou
spells on the audience with voodoo oriented tunes such as "I Walk On Gilded
Splinters" and "Mama Roo." Mother earth, with lead vocals by one of the best
female country-blues belters, Tracy Nelson, brought across its Texas-based sound
with an extra added punch on numbers like "Down So Low" and "It's a Sad
Saturday's show featured American Dream, Tim Buckley, the Byrds, Booker T and
the MGs, Hugh Masekela, B. B. King, the Butterfield Blues Band, Lighthouse,
Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jefferson Airplane.Conservative estimates put
the crowd at 60,000 that day, and there was no doubt that with their current
chart-hit, "Commotion," included in their repertoire, Creedence Clearwater was
the top act of the day.The Sir Douglas Quintet started off yesterday's show with
some "honky blues" that led into fine sets by Santana, Three Dog Night,
England's Joe Cocker, Canned Heat, Buddy Miles, The Mothers of Invention, Miss
Joplin and Little Richard. All of the bands equalled or surpassed the sounds
they put down on their albums, but there were some noticeable changes in
personnel. Bob Hite, the Canned Heat vocalist, announced that Henry Vestine had
quit the group and had been replaced three days ago by guitarist-supreme Harvey
Mandel. Besides all the fine music by the 30 or so top groups, the over-all
atmosphere was one that won't soon be forgotten. The audience was allowed to go
as close to the stage as it wanted and there were no police to stop fans from
doing what they wanted to do.The extremely successful festival, which attracted
a three-day total of 150,000 to 200,000 will probably go down as the Monterey of
the East Coast.