Seattle Pops Festival July 25 – July 27, 1969
The Seattle Pops Festival came at a perfect time for me. I had just graduated from Nathan Hale High School on the then north end of Seattle. Getting out of high school made me incredibly happy. I was pretty much thoroughly sick of that whole scene, ready for college at the University of Washington, and definitely open minded to new things and new adventures.
Three of my closest friends at the time were Doug Logston, Denny Tiles, and Bill Gallant. One day in July, Denny and Bill mentioned going to something called the Seattle Pops Festival at Gold Creek Park in Woodinville. We three decided why not? We all loved music and really enjoyed some of the bands we knew would be there. It was a chance of a lifetime. Little did we know what an incredible chance it was.
We happened to go on the last day of the festival, a beautiful summer Sunday in July. We drove out to the big festival grounds and arrived in Woodinville probably around noon. For some reason, we decided we weren’t going to pay to get in unless we absolutely had to. We parked on a country road probably southeast of the main festival area. We then slipped through the barbed wire fence and headed off across a big open field. Everything went great till we ran up against one of the many sloughs out there. How to get across it? We spotted a big row boat tied up on our side, borrowed it and poled it across the water and tied up the boat on the other side. Wonderful. Now we could keep going. The music was coming across the field loud and clear.
50,000 people ended up attending the Seattle Pops Festival. On that Sunday, I remember, Spirit, one of my favorite groups was just finishing up when we hit the big crowd of people. We passed some small ponds with naked people in them. We continued on looking for a spot to sit down and enjoy the show. None of us brought anything at all with us…no food , no water, nothing, not even a blanket to sit on. It was just pretty mind blowing to take it all in….all those people, so happy, so mellow and just immersing ourselves in the joy of life. Everyone got along wonderfully with no stress and no hassles. There was definitely a lot alcohol and dope shared by all, but no problems. It sounds like a cliché but there was peace and love everywhere.
The next band up I believe was Charles Lloyd’s Quartet. Their music was relaxing and ethereal…a perfect start for us. I believe next up was the Youngbloods. I definitely remember their fabulous set to this day. Of course they did “Get Together”, but also “On Sir Francis Drake”, “Okie From Muskogee” ”Darnkness Darkness”, “Sunlight”, “Beautiful” and other great songs from their lp “Elephant Mountain”. By then, it was starting to get dark and “Vanilla Fudge” hit the stage with their incredible show featuring bassist Tim Bogart and Mark on that wailing organ. They did “Shotgun”, “Season of the Witch”, “You Keep Me Hanging On”, and others. It was completely dark by the time they finished their set.
The Doors came on next and were unfortunately a disappointment. Jim Morrison was definitely not at his best and the crowd kept yelling for Led Zeppelin. Morrison finally whipped out his unit and peed on the stage. He was led off by the security folks and that was pretty much the end of The Doors set. After a very short period of time, Led Zeppelin came crashing out with probably “Good Times Bad Times” or something similar. They did a lot of their first album and “White Summer” , “Dazed and Confused” from Jimmy Page’s time with the Yardbirds. I finally had to leave before Led Zeppelin ended their set but I remember hearing them still I believe when I hit the Seattle city limits.
The Seattle Pops Festival is called the forgotten Woodstock. We definitely had an incredible lineup of bands and performers. Some people say the lineup was stronger than Woodstock. I think Woodstock’s lineup with Hendrix, The Who, CS&N, and the rest was stronger. Included with this article is the entire lineup for all three days of the Seattle Pops Festival.
The Seattle Pops Festival was put on by local concert promoter, Boyd Grafmyre. He attended the 1967 Monterrey Pop Festival and was inspired to put on a rock festival in Seattle. Anyone I’ve talked to that went to the festival still has that magical time branded in their brain. It was definitely one of those historical events that could never happen today. If you were lucky enough to be there, it was unforgettable and, in some way, a very positive experience that ended my summer of ’69 and kicked me into the University of Washington that fall. My interest in music remained and became a catalyst that helped me get involved in helping get the student run radio station, KCMU FM, started. Sure glad it all happened!!.