The Atlantic City Pop Festival

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The Atlantic City Pop Festival Original Flyer The Atlantic City Pop Festival Original Flyer

August 1, 2 & 3, 1969

There is no doubt that the most remembered musical event of the year 1969 was Woodstock.  It not only made national, but international headlines.

However, there was a concert event that took place just a couple of weeks prior to Woodstock that was actually a much better live music experience. The Atlantic City Pop Festival was also the very first large scale festival on the east coast. It still gets no credit for not only pioneering such a concert events but for doing it right.

While there were some minor issues with off and on rain (I don’t remember it ruining any performance), the theft of some merchandise and a few did try to climb the fences, but for the most part this was a very well organized event. Perhaps you have to be totally disorganized to get real attention.  Woodstock was certainly a mess compared to the AC Pop Festival.

The event was put on by the Electric Factory Concerts of Philadelphia under the guidance of Larry Magid.  In his book “My Soul’s Been Psychedelized – Electric Factory”, Larry points out that things went smoothly for the most part thanks to the Buckminster Fuller designed stage that rotated like a turntable.  This allowed groups to set up while another group was playing.  When one act finished the stage just rotated and the next act was off and running. 

And what a great line up of acts!  Virtually no one missed the no shows (Crosby, Still & Nash and The Moody Blues were initially listed as being on the bill) with so much star power. Check out this weekend of music.

Friday:

Chicago, The Chambers Brothers (who ended the night with people dancing to “The Time has Come today”, Iron Butterfly, Joni Mitchell (who walked off stage after a song claiming that no one was listening), Procol Harum (did a sensational version of “A Whiter Shade of Pale”), Mother Earth (lead singer Tracy Nelson did goose bump versions of “Mother Earth” and “Down so Low”,  AUM. Booker T & The MG’s and Lothar & The Hand People.  Johnny Winter (couldn’t play because of equipment problems)

Saturday:

The Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival (one of the hottest groups in the world at the time), B B King, Tim Buckley, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Byrds, Lighthouse, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Hugh Masakela, and The American Dream (the only local band to play who shared stories with me about what was going on back stage - it was one big party).

Sunday:

Janis Joplin and The Full Tilt Boogie Band (she never sounded better doing “Try” and a “Maybe”), Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention (who were not happy about going on at four in the afternoon, but you would never know it from the great set they did), Canned Heat, 3 Dog Night, Santana (making his first east coast appearance with Janis Joplin and Mama Cass introducing him as their favorite band), Buddy Miles Express, Dr. John (in his night tripper persona spread his gris-gris magic dust all over the audience), Joe Cocker, Buddy Rich, Sir Douglas Quintet (Leader Doug Sahm called the AC POP Festival the best festival he ever played) and Little Richard (who played on a white grand piano). 

I wasn’t present for the entire three days (I had to be on the air), so this is as close to a complete list as I can find.

You got all this great live music for $6 a day or $15 for the entire weekend!  It attracted a total of 110,000 rock fans for the entire weekend. That comes to an average between 30-40 thousand tickets for each day.  The only real bummer was that no one recorded the event on tape or on film with sound.  It is a real shame because it is unlikely such an undertaking will ever be done today.


July 2018 Update: This video just appeared online. It is one of the only videos with sound of the festival that is known to exist at this current time.

9 comments

  • Comment Link Tom Morgan Wednesday, June 26, 2019 posted by Tom Morgan

    What a great event. I was fifteen and came with a group of friends from Pittsburgh. Highlights for me were Procol Harum, Chambers Brothers (I was right next to the stage looking up at them while they played The Time Has Come Today), Santana (they blew me away), BB King, Canned Heat, Janis Joplin (my friend and I were standing near the stage; she rolled up in her limo and asked us for a light; later we could see her backstage drinking her Southern Comfort before her set). I watched Frank Zappa punch some drunk guy who had clambered onto the stage while FZ was in the middle of a solo. Knocked him off the stage as I recall. I remember being puzzled that Joanie Mitchell didn’t finish her song. (I’m a different T. Morgan, by the way, from the host of this site.)

  • Comment Link Jim Cartin Thursday, August 2, 2018 posted by Jim Cartin

    49 years ago still have original poster and program

  • Comment Link marion wickersham Sunday, June 10, 2018 posted by marion wickersham

    Nothing takes me back to my youth then memories of this Festival.... Went with a dear friend of mine who even tho we are now 65 years old are still friends (since 12 years old) and just remembering that weekend brings all the joy of being 16 again

  • Comment Link Gary Monday, January 15, 2018 posted by Gary

    A memorable act not mentioned here was the 3-piece Hendrix-like band from SF, Aum. At the end of his set, the lead guitarist/singer jumped off the very high stage and everyone stood up to see where he landed, but couldn't tell. Joni Mitchel's place in the line-up was poorly thought out and placing her in between two high energy acts was a mistake. I was given a "piece pill" by by a guy called Turkey(same guy outside the Porta-Potties in the movie Woodstock). He told us it was a 2-way hit so my friend and I split it. It was really a 10-way hit of PCP, Yuk! Fortunately, the third guy in our party didn't do any and found me under the stage, blind and dry-heaving. I don't remember much else, except walk back to camp w/ the Chambers Brother's Time Has Come Today echoing thru-out the infield. I seem to remember that I saw Iron Butterfly, especially the fire pots, but I don't see any mention of them. Maybe it was an hallucination.

  • Comment Link Skeeter218 Monday, November 21, 2016 posted by Skeeter218

    I was there from Friday morning till Monday and it was unlike anything of today. The one thing I remember is the water fountains were all turned off and water was hard to find. A lot of acid and weed and music was great. I don't remember people selling stuff like today. I had a airline blanket and no money but I always found someone willing to share a bowl of food. out in field people were sleeping and dancing which was a good time in it self. No trouble or fights just a good buzz and good music was all we wanted. I overslept the day when my friends left for WOODSTOCK. And I think I am glad I did. This has been a great memorie

  • Comment Link michael premet Sunday, October 2, 2016 posted by michael premet

    I was there late sat. nite & sun. absolutely amazing.i was 16. worked in ac at sheldons shoes, & actually posted the itinerary on telephone poles in july . I was rewarded with 2 hits of some really good acid! shame it didn't get the recognition it deserved.i sure remember it!

  • Comment Link Tracy Soska Thursday, July 21, 2016 posted by Tracy Soska

    So glad I made this one, and got off too late from work to get to Woodstock before they shut the roads down. This festival was truly the greatest music experience of my now almost 65 year life. Thanks for the website and remembrances. With no recording, I feel a little guilty about how luck I was to get to hear this. Yeah, Joni, was pain walking out on us. We were just a bit high, and we liked your music...what little we got to hear. Lothar and the Hand People - what a great Moog synthesizer! Chambers Brothers got us hopping. Janis stopped the rain. Just memorable. The AC Pop Festival never gets the credit for what it did. The word of mouth about how fantastic this festival was got that huge crowd to Woodstock. Never would have happened with out this tremendous lead in.

  • Comment Link WM Monday, May 30, 2016 posted by WM

    Hi Ginny, at the very end of the story T. Morgan writes "The only real bummer was that no one recorded the event on tape or on film with sound. It is a real shame because it is unlikely such an undertaking will ever be done today."

    There is a silent video on youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ja5JvThzeWE. In the comments section it is also (sadly) confirmed: no recordings or bootlegs of the music are known to exist.

  • Comment Link Ginny toal Friday, May 13, 2016 posted by Ginny toal

    My husband often talks about his experience there. Is there any recording on cd etc that I can purchase for him

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