Wednesday, October 8, 2008

When 50,000 Hippies Descended on Prairieville


Just came back from a walk through 30 Years of Rock and Roll: Photography by Larry Hulst at the LSU Union Gallery, usually the site of poster sales (beforehand, my friend Lance remarked that maybe this was a poster sale being portrayed as an exhibition). The exhibit is an affable set of classic rock photos, narrated by the photographer's comments on the gallery labels, listing how difficult a particular artist was, or how rough a show or how far he drove for it.

Here is but a sampling

If you are on campus and your compass needle points to magnetic Rock like mine does, check it out. What I left there with, besides a collection of wise-ass remarks about each photo, was this semi-related question:

Where are the photos from the
New Orleans Pop Festival at the Baton Rouge International Speedway in Prairieville, Louisiana, Aug 29 - Sept 1, 1969, two weeks after Woodstock?

Here is an account from BestOfNewOrleans.com's Blake Ponchatrain:

It was an overnight outdoor event that featured a lineup you wouldn't believe: White Fox, Snowrabbit, Deacon John and the Electric Soul Train, Whizbang, Axis, Sweetwater, Lee Michaels, Oliver, Jam Session, Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys, Spiral Staircase, It's a Beautiful Day, Country Joe and the Fish, the Byrds, the Youngbloods, Canned Heat, Pot Liquor, Chicago Transit Authority, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Santana, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin.

The poster that advertised the event and listed all of the performers and the times they would play also came with a caution: 'Narcotics are prohibited by federal and state law. At least one person died at WOODSTOCK this month from bad ACID. Do not buy DRUGS at the festival. We are told that plain clothes detectives will be in the crowd. If you are smart you will AVOID OBVIOUS CONSUMPTION OF DRUGS." As a further precaution, the poster added, 'Police will remain outside the speedway unless our private guards are unable to keep order. IT'S UP TO YOU."

Prairieville is now the sprawl overflow of Baton Rouge, filling the gap between Baton Rouge and LaPlace with Good Christians and mini-mansions. Not a bad place, but not one I'd exactly paint as a counterculture hotbed today. I can only imagine the reception awaiting busloads of flower children disembarking there in the summer of '69.

I really want to hear Tyrannosaurus Rex rocking the racetrack in Prairieville; if only Marc Bolan fans were as diligent as those of another act on the bill. Here is The Grateful Dead's performance from that weekend, streaming from the third eye of Ascension Parish, courtesy of the Internet Archive





and footage of "White Bird" performed by It's a Beautiful Day. I'm not positive this is from that event, but Pam (a.k.a RealCurves) in the comments was there. She has a story but isn't telling.

It's a Beautiful Day - White Bird


Wild Bill Delaune Jr. alludes to the event in this article in Ascension Magazine
Later that same year 1969, Prairieville also made headlines for its part in the nation's "Summer of Love' It was an uneasy time. Intergration in the public schools was progressing amid social opposition. During the summer 50,000 hippies descended on the area for a pop music festival held at the racetrack. There were three major pop festivals that summer. The most well known was Woodstock, of course. There was also one in Atlanta where Jimi Hendrix debuted his famous guitar version of "The National Anthem, and then there was Prairieville. "It was kind of funny," Bill said. "The festival was billed as "The New Orleans International Pop Festival at the Baton Rouge Speedway in Prairieville, Louisiana'. I won't bore you with the details but let's just say it was quite a memorable time. We had more than a little fun. "I even got to meet Janice Joplin."
Totally bore me with the details! Where is this poster warning the wide-eyed children of the South of the dangers of acid? Where is the ticket stubs? Who among the people walking around in my daily life in Baton Rouge was conceived on a blanket out on that Speedway?

This is the exhibit I'd like to see.

34 comments:

  1. my name is guy i was there in 1969am looking for a list of the artest ti was a great time for a yong lad

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  2. I was there. I had a date with a girl from BRouge. No parking - had to walk a couple of miles. Yes, it was hot, but whose ever spent Labor Day in LA? There were a lot of freaks there, but just a many curious types. Heard Janis, TRex, BDay, Santana, and best of all Canned Heat - best hippie band of all time. 69 was a time that passed, full of youth, protest, confusion, and naivity. Some of us actually thought there might be hope of a better world. Shit, have you seen the news lately?

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  3. we left Kosciusko Ms. in a 1964 vw with no ac. what a concert. Ws still have some of the original posters. One of the best concerts we ever went to. 6 of us. Danny Adcock

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    1. Would you be willing to part with one of those posters? My dad played in the festival.

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  4. Sorry to be a bummer, but the video above is definitely not at the 1969 N.O. Pop Festival. I was there, at age 18, down from Jackson, Mississippi. LaFlame was younger then and had shoulder-length hair, and the female vocalist of the group was Patty Santos. (I also heard IABD the following year at the second Atlanta Pop Festival, by which time I was totally in love with Ms Santos.) Another big-time group at NOPF was Iron Butterfly, who played In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida in its entirety. I was pressed against the stage and the guitarist, Eric Brann, sweated on me during his solo. T-Rex was then known as Tyrannosaurus Rex and was just two guys with acoustic guitar and bongos sitting on a carpet. All that T-Rex stuff came later. Bands were as listed above, including Santana, Chicago Transit Authority, Janis Joplin with her Kosmic Blues Band, etc. Lee Michaels and Frosty were great. In those days, it was like every band had its own individual style and unique sound. Nobody sounded anything like anybody else. Yes, where are the photos?

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  5. Bum away, Bobby J.! Thanks for your account of the festival.

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  6. I was in the mountains during Woodstock but when I returned to Beaumont a group of us decided to go in my grandmothers 65 Valiant (my 49 Chevrolet probably could have made but since school was starting when we returned we decided to not chance it)......6 total wit camping gear......an unbelievable time.......I went to see Janis Joplin and saw her briefly since she when on stages after 2 am.......Also Doug Kershaw "The Louisiana Man" begged and begged to play just one song on his fiddle......the crowd finally relented and he played like a wizard.......we begged him not to stop playing.......all the time was wonderful......

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    1. Hey, they "dumped me out" at Southern Miss for "Rush Week" that Monday Morning after the festival - I couldn't rite my name in the ground with a stick. Fortunately (or maybe not) I was already committed to ATO, so they didn't care what shape I was in. Go to my listing for posters.

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  7. Very cool! I was there. I was in the Air Force and borrowed a friend's old Pontiac convert and drove there from Fort Walton Beach, FL with a buddy and we picked up 5 Army hitchhikers. My friend scored some Strawberry Fields for four of the Army guys and so we got free acid. I tried it for the first time and when Iron Butterfly started playing IAGDV I saw brains coming out of peoples' heads and got up and left. It took me all night to find the car. The parking lot was filled with smoke and it was hippy city throughout the parking lot. When I asked "have you seen a pontiac convertible?" the folks just laughed at me. Found the car at 5am, it was a religious experience and then after some sleep we did it all over again with better results. But I must have missed Santana and Grateful Dead. I heard Janis. She was great. And I fell in love with It's a Beautiful Day when they played White Bird. Youngbloods were unbelievable - Darkness Darkness and Get Together. An amazing weekend. It was right after Hurricane Camille and the Gulf hiway was blocked off and we had to drive through interior Mississippi to get there. Certainly one of the "moments" of my life. Alan K

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    1. Santana was really cool - you know that he got his Doctorate in Percussion at LSU. Go to my listing for posters.

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  8. I was there, I was about to turn 16, I was on a lot of acid w/ my gf. We had a great time.

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  9. I was there....age 16 - a friend and I rode a Greyhound Bus from Birmingham, Alabama......much fund was had. I climbed the scaffolding to the right of the stage while Janis Joplin was performning and watched her from above. Will never forget it. Also, I have never stopped calling the group Chicago Transit Authority. Wish they had never dropped 'Transit Authority'.

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    1. They will always be CTA to us hippies. Go to my listing for a poster.

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  10. I’ve been in the Northwestern U.S. long enough to be known now as “Mountain Bob”, but I’m a Baton Rouge native and was living outside Sunshine in 1969. I had “met” the Dead, Quicksilver, the Airplane, and It’s A Beautiful Day during 1968’s wonderful summer in San Francisco, an all-expenses-paid season gifted me by the U.S. Navy. After a year back in our Iberville Parish palace, married with an infant son, I’d pretty much given up on hearing any of the New Music that had surrounded me in California.

    Then, with the ink barely dry on the Woodstock stories, there was “Prairieville.” At first we laughed, since the “Louisiana International Speedway” was a small, barely-paved track in a cow pasture in Prairieville. Then we went: me, my wife, and our infant son. The “ambiance” pretty much wasn’t, the sound system was primitive by today’s standards, and the weather was Louisiana at the end of summer. But the music – there it was, right in our back yard.

    I was a wannabee Deadhead then, so the Dead’s set was my focus. I do remember the Airplane's Prairieville set, and was transported by Beautiful Day’s “White Bird.” [That video, above, is NOT Prairieville in ’69. The band was much younger then, and the white violin and feathered costumes were not part of their road show in those days. It’s also worth noting that there wasn’t much decent “video” then, and that the audio on that clip is much better than most live concert recordings of that era.]

    We didn’t stay thru the whole concert: some combination of having our baby along, and my umm, fading faculties, suggested we drift back to Sunshine as the music played on into the night My wife drove us home, and by the next day it was a hazy part of the “did that really happen?” memories of those days.

    The next summer, I road-tripped to the second Atlanta festival. By then, promoters had gotten the hang of excellent sound for crowds approaching 400,000, and the bands did not disappoint. The Allman Brothers were amazing, as were the rural families whose land surrounded that soybean-field stage. To this day I’d swear that I saw the Dead do a walk-on set with their buds in the ABB – and to this day I’ll admit that I’ve never been sure if the Dead were there on stage, or “just” there in my spacious head .

    I mean, I’m just sayin’ . . .

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  11. Was also there in'69 with a pick up truck, the bed full of iced down Dixie beer, and some fo the best Columbian Red bud EVER to be found. JJ, Iron Butterfly, T-Rex and of course Beautiful Day. SEX, Drugs and ROCK'n Roll(now 62 yrsold but OH! what a time) NEVER be anything like it again! Peace!

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    1. Left Jackson in a '58 Shit-blue Plymouth Wagon and made it there and back. Go to my listing for a poster - I've got some in REALLY good shape. The guy that I promised this one to's uncle lived right next to the track, but I've got a bunch more.

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  12. I was there,but not like the rest,you see I lived directly behind the racetrack me and my younger brothers use to cross over the T-pond between our house and the track.The music was awesome I was 15 that summer.I remember my momma freaking out and screaming for all the kids(there was 6 of us,me being the oldest) to come get in the house ,she locked the doors swearing up and down that some crazed doped up hippie was gonna kill us all,it was hilarious.It is one of my most memorable teenage memories.ROCK ON!!!!The EVANS crew was there whether momma knew or not we did tell her 25 yrs. later.

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    1. Look at the poster that I listed - I promised this one to a "Prairieville" person, but I have a bunch more to list.

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    2. I've got posters - check me out on EBay - good posters.

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    3. Go to my listing - I have a bunch more to sell.

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  13. I was there. I was a student at Tulane. I went with a group of friends. I still have the vinyl albums of most of the performers who were there. I especially remember hearing Its a Beautiful Day, Santana, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin. We stayed in a tent. I remember it was hot at hell in the tent, but it rained during the festival, so the tent came in handy. The funny thing is that, at the time, we/I didn't really appreciate the greatness of the talent that was at that festival.

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    1. Go look @ my listing. Can't sell you the one that's listed - promised it to a "Prairieville" guy, but I'm listing a bunch more as soon as I get back home.

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  14. I was 16 and went with my older sister and a male friend of ours. We drove over from Pensacola and had to detour around Biloxi because of Hurricane Camille storm damage. We finally found the racetrack and camped behind the track under some trees. (they made us leave the racetrack after the music was over for the night). I don't remember a whole lot, but I do remember It'a a beautiful day, T-Rex, The youngbloods and Janis Joplin in the wee hours of the morning, I was trying to stay awake. We smoked some weed, not into acid or anything, but I remember having a great time. I've had to search and search the web, there are very few places where there is any mention of this festival. We also went to the Atlanta festival in 1970. Jimi Hendrix rocked the anthem! Camped in the pecan grove and smoked a lot of weed!

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    1. My uncle's yacht was up in the trees on the back-bay - the whole place was a mess. We went to the festival anyway and it was a blast. We didn't know what the guys next to us were smoking (We were from Jackson and had Camels and Jack.), but we were fine. Go to my listing for a poster.

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  15. Just talking with friends last night and I informed them I was there. I was in the Army at the time and six of us bald headed service men drove in a U-Haul van from Atlanta to see the show. Had a great time and had no issues with anyone duing these anti-wartimes. Couldn't remember all the groups and forgot that Chicago, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane were there. Janis was mesmerizing. I also thought all these years I saw Jimi Hendrix play??? Man I must have been wasted.

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    1. Are you sure that he wasn't there - must have been Dr. John, the night tripper, which was a great late-night show. I'll never forget it, which is why I saved the posters- go to my listing.

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  16. David LaFlame, Youngblood, Louisiana's Pot Liquor, Iron Butterfly. Janis was scheduled for 11 p.m. but I remember it being more like 1 or 2 a.m. before she was onstage in green velour bell-bottoms. The cops in Sorrento searched everybody coming through that night; something about "troublemakers" with Molotof cocktails. I left after Janis and drove back to Thibodaux on less than a 1/4 tank of gas in my '66 Chevy pickup to be back in time for my gf's birthday. And I was so straight then, at 18.

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    1. When Iron Butterfly played the "long version", that was cool. Got posters that I brought back - see my listing.

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  17. I was there with my male platonic friend. we drove from Houston, tx. in an old rambler American (esmerelda) that belonged to my future daughter, Adrian's (1975) dad. most loved the dead, youngbloods, country joe and the fish, Jefferson airplane, it's a beautiful day, byrds, and so many more. there was tons of pot being consumed. what an experience! 29 aug-1 sept 1969!!!

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    1. I hope that you got to see Janis. Go to my listing for posters - brought them back and thank goodness that my brother, George, saved them.

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  18. I was there. Everyone I have read has a better memory than I do. Three of us left Meridian, Ms in a VW. I especially remember Iron Butterfly and Janis. I also remember only having some kind of pop tart and some kind of sandwich to eat. It was summer hot but somehow it didn't seem to matter as much then as it does now that im 64. It is a great memory.

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    1. They had sandwiches and water, but we didn't do water in our Jack. Go to my listing for posters.

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  19. I was too young back in those days, I was 9, but I keep hearing all of my older friends and the great concert at the Prairieville race track and no damn pictures. There has to be some of the concert somewhere, there are a couple from the Baton Rouge paper at the Canes restaurant in Prairieville mounted on a wall inside. A guy I work with, his Dad ran the BR International speed way and there are some big racing names that drove on that asphalt track. The Labonte's, Red Farmer and many, many more. Got plenty pics of the racers and their cars available.

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  20. I live here in Prairieville and cannot find any damn pictures of the bands at all. I hear all the young adults who were there and they said it was awesome.There are a couple of photos of the police at the Canes in Praireville they got out of the local paper. There are some really good stories about the old track and the famous people that raced there.

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