Those Whom The Gods Love Grow Young
Jimi Hendrix plays The Denver Pop
June 29, 1969
I started on this page 7/5/05,
there may/will be more info if and when I find it. -Bob Wyman
As time passes, trying to understand Jimi becomes more difficult...
especially for those who were not around then. He wasn't a morose dissatisfied young man as some believe.
Too often guitarists are compared to Jimi such as Stevie Ray but realistically no one could match Jimi. Jimi Hendrix was a powerhouse and
imitators should bear this in mind: when you copy Jimi, such as a bar band would or if you
are the local 22 year old guitar hero, play it correctly or don't play it all.
Imitators are unwitting history teachers so do not sell Jimi Hendrix short. Get yourself a
copy of Hendrix' full performance at Woodstock, watch it once, then think twice.
|Also check out Nancy Deedrick's site Hollywood Hangover for the facts about the 1960's, its people and the music. She was there kids!|
|The following text was excerpted (without permission) from
UniVibes magazine article "Jimi Plays Denver"|
Issue 31 April 1999
(I hope they don't mind but since I was an interviewee and they did send me the article all the way from Cork Ireland I thought it would be okay)
It also appeared in "Experience Hendrix" (The Official Jimi Hendrix Magazine)
May/June 1999 with a few of the only photos ever published from that show.
A bootleg recording exists and has been available at Experience Hendrix web site and a Google search may turn up other places to download it.
ONE MILE HIGH
by Phil Carson
Now the uncertain fate of the Experience intersected with events unfolding in Denver. The capital of Colorado, located a dozen miles east of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, was dubbed the 'Mile High City' due to its official elevation of precisely 5,280 feet above sea level. Denver had a hip side, as jazz players from both coasts, as well as Kansas City, had always stopped through in the 1940s and '50s to play its clubs.
Neal Cassidy, the protagonist for Jack Kerouac's beat opus On The Road, had grown up there. Elvis Presley had wowed the town in April 1956 on his first national tour. The Beatles played the Red Rocks Amphitheater outside town in August 1965, though it was the only stop on their tour that didn't sellout. Judy Collins grew up in Denver before leaving for Greenwich Village (NYC) and international fame.
These developments hardly influenced Denver's essential character as a conservative "cow town," a city based largely on Colorado's cattle ranching industry. In the late 1960s, however, the same winds of change that blew in the coastal cities also reached Denver. The staid 'Mile High City' was not quite ready for change. And the city's police had a bad reputation.
When, in 1967, local promoter Barry Fey opened his Family Dog venue at 1601 West Evans Avenue in Denver with the help of San Francisco rock impresario Chet Helms, Fey had to get a court injunction to stop police from harassing his patrons and the bands, like the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company, which played there. The "music press" in America consisted solely of Rolling Stone magazine, launched in the fall of that year. Locally, the Denver newspapers were slow to catch on to rock and roll, though short articles had appeared concerning the two Experience concerts given in Denver prior to June 1969. Fey had produced both shows.
"Word was around on Jimi and I booked him for Denver, Phoenix and Tucson in spring 1968," Barry Fey recalls today. A week later, after a number of gigs in California, Fey brought Hendrix to Denver to play the Regis College Fieldhouse on Valentine's Day, 14 February 1968. Admission to see "Jim Hendricks," as the tickets read, cost $3. That afternoon Jimi was interviewed by a local television station, but the film, if it survives, has not been located. Just one photograph is known to survive, a color shot of the JHE and Chet Helms in the ladies locker room taken by Bill Newell at the Fieldhouse prior to the gig.
Fey recalls selling out the Fieldhouse's 4,700 tickets and that Hendrix was "incredible." Afterwards, according to Fey's long-time assistant Leslie Gorham Haseman, Jimi moved on to the Family Dog venue to jam. 'It was kind of a private party, but anyone who wanted to play got up and played with him, including Tommy Bolin," she remembers.
The 'Denver Pop Festival' took place as a rising tide of discontent swept America. Waves set in motion by America's young people, the widespread use of LSD, the rise of rock music and a growing anti-war sentiment crashed over Denver as they did over the rest of the nation. On 29-30 May, a month before the festival, members of 'Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam' gathered on the steps of the Denver's Federal Customs House downtown and spent nineteen hours reading the names of the 33,000 Americans killed thus far in the war. The events that unfolded at the 'Denver Pop Festival' cannot be separated from their context, no matter how familiar the topics have become to latter-day readers.
Denver officials actually cooperated to a remarkable degree with Fey in the latter's preparations for the upcoming three-day festival, which was anticipated to draw a large influx of young people from out-of-town. The city provided a campground at West Sixth Avenue and Federal Boulevard, where the Metro Denver Urban Coalition arranged for water trucks and portable toilets. The campground even ran shuttles to the downtown festival site at Mile High Stadium, home to the Denver Broncos football team.
Sixteen bands were scheduled to play. The Jimi Hendrix Experience would top the bill on the festival's third and final day. More than 10,000 fans were expected each day. Bill Hanley of 'Monterey' and 'Miami Pop' festival fame would take charge of the sound system, while Chip Monck (later of Woodstock fame) would MC the Denver festival. Tickets were priced at $6 per night or $15 for all three nights. Fortunately, Denver's weather cooperated for the outdoor festival. Yet the unprecedented scale of the event, and forces loose in America's streets, seemed to conspire against a smooth operation. As Leslie Gorham Haseman recently put it: "It was peace, love, dove, until '69."
DAY ONE - Friday 27 June
The festival got off to a rollicking start, as Big Mama Thornton, The Flock, Three Dog Night, Frank Zappa, and Iron Butterfly took the stage in succession. The stage had been set up on the turf, facing up into the horseshoe bend of a J-shaped stadium, about forty feet from the stadium seats where concert-goers sat. The lawn between the stage and the seats was kept open and free of people. The general grooviness of 'the scene' that day seemed to be contagious, judging by the next day's reports in the local papers.
Alan Cunningham of the Rocky Mountain News wrote that "Denver's 'first annual' Pop Festival blasted off into a three-day orbit of screaming and wildly vibrating animal sounds Friday night before more than 8,000 outlandishly clad and thoroughly delighted young fans."
Just how thoroughly delighted were the young fans?
"A 19-year-old Denver youth sitting in the stands got so carried away with it all that he stripped to near-nothingness. As the crowd cheered his emancipation, two unsmiling police officers cut his evening short by escorting him outside. Police.. .said he was later charged with indecent exposure [and] said he told them he had 'just conquered the world' by taking his clothes off."
James Pagliasotti of The Denver Post estimated the crowd at 14,000. He wrote that blues singer Big Mama Thornton "cuts some pretty mean moves around the stage," The Flock "took off with the freakiest sounds of the night," and Three Dog Night played their hits. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Pagliasotti wrote, were "nothing short of incredible. They clown, tease, fool around, and still play some of the most complex progressions in rock music today without missing a note." Iron Butterfly, "popular if not particularly inventive," closed the night's set.
Earlier in the evening about a hundred gatecrashers had stormed a chain link fence and rushed past private security guards to join the throng in the stadium. Afterwards, however, the guards generally praised the crowd for its peaceful behavior.
Reported Jim Fouratt in Rolling Stone: "Outside, however, the one petty incident needed to rile the protectors happened: A flying bottle hit a cop's helmet; a chase resulted in the arrest of a zonked-out black dressed in an orange jump suit; sirens blared while the P.A. system played 'Street Fighting Man' on stage, and the scene was set for Saturday."
DAY TWO - Saturday 28 June
Jimi, Noel, Herbie Worthington and some others (including a young black guy known only as 'Vishwa') flew from Los Angeles into Denver sometime in the morning (their plane got delayed) for the festival.
Upon arrival in the afternoon, they checked into their hotel in Denver, the Holiday Inn, located right next to Mile High Stadium at 1975 Bryant Street (today it's called the Ramada Inn).
Later that evening they went as spectators to the Mile High Stadium for Creedence Clearwater Revival's performance and one other act. They returned to their hotel and retired for the night (Noel went to sleep at 1:30 AM).
Of this day's performances, Thomas MacCluskey wrote in the Rocky Mountain News that Johnny Winter played "dark and gutsy blues" and Creedence Clearwater Revival "came on strong with their mixture of electric country and hard rock sounds." Tim Buckley's "thoughtfully touching songs brought near silence" to the large crowd, while guitarist Tommy Bolin's "maturing virtuosity" and singer Candy Owens' "deeply moving" vocals made local band Zephyr's set a highlight.
During Zephyr's set, according to newspaper reports, eyewitness accounts, and 8mm film taken at the time, gatecrashers drew police retaliation. Police at the stadium's southwest gate tried to stop a sizeable crowd (estimated between 300-500) from climbing the chain-link fence that had been the source of trouble the previous day.
Police Chief George Seaton soon arrived on the scene with extra officers, swelling police numbers to nearly 80. Outnumbered more than five-to-one, the police responded by lobbing tear-gas canisters at the crowd. The would-be fans simply lobbed the canisters back. In the exchange, clouds of tear gas wafted through the stadium, felling numerous concert-goers and choking thousands.
At least two people, including a 2-year old toddler, were rushed to the hospital. A handful of arrests were made for gatecrashing and drug possession, perhaps the two most frequent charges at rock festivals during the '60s.
Fey, Chip Monck, and Zephyr's music got fans back to their stadium seats after the gas attack nearly derailed the festival. Audience tapes of Zephyr's set reveal singer Candy Owens exhorting fans to lie down to avoid the gas and not to hassle with the police. Promoter Fey subsequently opened the gates and handed out free tickets so those outside could attend without causing further trouble.
"It was like being in the middle of a war," Fey recalls. Haseman remembers the gatecrashers' demands: "People said it was 'their music' and they wanted in for free. I mean, Hendrix would play the next night for fifty minutes for $50,000. You tell him to play for free! I remember arguing with someone I said, 'You don't do this when you go to the movie theater; why do you think this music belongs to you?'"
The Denver police's perspective is reflected in the statement Sergeant Wally Horan made later to reporters: "It would have resulted in a beauty of a riot if we hadn't knocked it out. I sure as hell wouldn't classify it as a minor disturbance."
DAY THREE - Sunday 29 June
Herbie Worthington: "I don't remember what we did that afternoon; we'd just hang out and talk... I was down the hotel lobby and these girls walked up to me, out of nowhere, and they just said, 'Could you introduce us to Jimi Hendrix?' And I said, 'No. I don't know him.' I went back to Jimi's room and I said, 'Jimi, there's these girls down there that were asking about you.' And he said, 'Where are they?' And I said, 'I told them I don't know you.' Jimi went like: 'Oh man!'"
In the meantime, far more serious matters were about to unfold. Noel Redding remembered in his book Are You Experienced? that someone asked him in Denver if he was still with the band -"It did my head in. I was uneasy enough about our future, but this rumour just blew me away".
According to Mitch Mitchell, the Experience attended a press conference on Sunday afternoon (the festival's third day), but as Noel Redding's diary makes no mention of this and there wasn't any coverage in local papers, once can only assume this is incorrect. However, Mitch's memory of the event casts doubt on some of the stories which later circulated about the Experience's demise.
Mitch wrote in his book: "Noel was approached essentially with the information that the band might be expanding. Well, this was no big news. I can't speak for Noel, but we'd often discussed the possibilities of bringing in a horn section or whatever. Just thinking about what might work. If anything didn't work, fine forget it. I really don't remember any animosity at the time, certainly not that afternoon".
In any case, the Experience members had no time for arguments, for they rushed down to the festival site to catch Joe Cocker's act, leaving before the police again turned tear gas on would-be gatecrashers about 7 PM.
Herbie Worthington: "At one point we were in my hotel room and I had one dose of acid, just one purple Owsley, and I gave it to him, and I said 'Here, I have this for you.' And he said, 'No, no, no, we have to split it.' After we took the acid... we walked over to where the show was. The show was right over from the hotel."
THE JHE SHOW
Herbie Worthington: "They had a little fenced area, with like a tent over it, for the
musicians to wait until it was time for them to go on... And we were standing back there
and those same girls walked by. And I said, 'Jimi, you know, those girls I told you about
this afternoon? They just walked by!' And he said: "Go get them, go get them!" And so they
came with me, and I introduced them.
"We went down to the stage area and Jimi went up on stage... And of course the acid was going on... Even if I hadn't taken even a half tablet I would have been high, just from the energy from this gentleman. I loved this man with my heart and my soul. Anyway, we walked down to the stage, with me and the girls sitting on the lawn on the grass. And Jimi started... I was so happy, probably one of the happiest times of my life (my whole life): being with an Angel Jimi and having a woman on each arm. And when Jimi came on I started laughing; I just went into an LSD laugh!"
The Experience took the stage in front of around 17,000 spectators about l0:30 PM. Jimi strolled out with a white Stratocaster, looking resplendent in a red silk shirt, a vest with floral designs, and matching blue bandanas on his head and left arm. Noel came out in a black leather suit with a red ascot and a red cap. The concert-goer who captured most of the festival on audio tape turned on his battery-operated machine and let the tape roll, switching it off between songs, but catching much of Jimi's banter with the crowd.
"It's going to take us about an hou...oh...about a minute to get tuned up and everything," Jimi teases the crowd. "In the meantime, let's make up our minds and make our own world here tonight. We've seen some tear gas. That's the start of the third world war..."
Click "play" to hear Jimi say what you just read...
Bob Wyman, day of the concert, on the farm in 1969
I have a bigger motorcycle now
CATCHING THE LAST EXPERIENCE
"We're very sorry for the long tune-up but everything's going to be all right in a few
seconds; hold on," Jimi says. "We haven't played in a long time, so we're going to start
out with an instrumental, see if we all can get our heads together on the same level.
It's a thing called 'Tax Free.' At least we can pretend, can't we?"
A heavily amplified Strat sends shock waves of sound across the audience. Jimi gets right
down with a fierce introduction, then kicks in his wah-wah pedal to articulate the melody.
After the band takes a moment to sort out the beat, Jimi plays subdued wah-wah guitar before
plunging into a free-form jam.
After a drum solo from Mitch, Jimi taps out the beat on dampened strings as the audience grows quiet. He quotes the melody to the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" song before bringing this thirteen minute-long opener to a close. A two-minute video in circulation includes a segment from "Tax Free," and a recently circulated upgrade of that film shows the players in quite recognizable form (not the blobs of light they were formerly), though without the up-close-and-personal element of Lance Romance's recently discovered 8mm film, discussed a bit later in this article.
Jimi by this time had largely dispensed with his stage acrobatics, though he could certainly engage in soulful histrionics. Kent Lawyer, 17 years old at the time, had never seen Hendrix before but he had heard stories. "I remember thinking it seemed toned down from what I'd heard of him," he recalls today. "He didn't set the guitar on fire or do any somersaults."
From the stage, Jimi provides a familiar rap: "This song is about a cat, his old lady put him down, 'cause she don't want him around, and his family put him across town; now he's just layin' around."
"Well, I hear my train a-comin'" Jimi sings, his guitar providing an echo. "Lord, I hear my train a-comin' down the tracks..." A slow blues unfolds, the pace pregnant with anticipation. The blues licks that follow are sure-handed, powerful, fuzz-toned. The band finds its groove. Jimi crescendos, performing ferocious solos. More than eleven minutes later the song concludes.
From the audience, stage left, someone (not Romance) shoots 1:45 of silent 8mm color footage of the set's first two songs, revealing that Jimi began the show with a white Stratocaster.
"Yeah, we'd like to do this other one for the girl with the yellow underwear, sittin' over there in the seventh row," Jimi jokes. "I'd like to do a thing called 'Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire,' which you got going over there. Also dedicated to the plainclothesmen and other goofballs. Here we go, 'Let Me Stand Next to Your Old Lady.' One, two, one two three..."
The band delivers a rather sloppy version of this crowd pleaser, though Jimi still manages to get off a few licks.
"I keep forgettin' what we're playin'" Jimi says in an off-hand manner, perhaps lending credence to Herbie Worthington's story that the guitarist had dropped acid before the show. "Hmm, I wish I was out there with you all. We'll try a different thing, for a while. Besides all that tear gas in the air it smells close in here. Mmmm... No one knows where the nose goes when the doors are closed. Dig, we'd like to do this anyway, regardless of what's happening back there in the' Amen section.' Regardless of all that. Oh, let's see, what are we going to do again? 'Spanish Castle Magic,' right!"
The JHE takes a high-powered if familiar approach to this concert favorite which includes some interesting interplay between Noel and Mitch. The band seems to lose steam, then Mitch and Noel drop out, allowing Jimi to take an unaccompanied solo in which he deconstructs melody, slamming the strings at tremendous volume until feedback rises. He plays against it. On a thread of sustain Mitch re-enters and solos, giving Jimi a break from the spotlight. Finally Mitch taps out the beat and Jimi re-enters with the melody line and sings the chorus, ending an eleven-minute version on an abstract note that draws appreciative moans from the audience.
Bob Wyman says, "I also remember one of the guys from Three Dog Night walked out from the backstage area and passing in front of one of the big speakers on the field stage-left. He plugged his ears and made a face, jokingly letting everyone know that it was LOUD!"
Three Dog Night at The Denver Pop Festival 6/29/1969. Despite seeing a handful of people with what appeared to be 16mm movie cameras at the show, film and photos of Jimi from that night, strangely, are almost non-existant. A poor-to-fair bootleg recording of Jimi's performance does exist on the Internet though. The bootleg recording could never capture what it was really like that night but the first time I listened to a copy I sprayed a little pepper spray in the air! My eyes and lungs burning really took me back...
Photo from Experience Hendrix magazine Vol. 3 Issue 2 May/June 1999
|Jimi at The Denver Pop Festival.|
This rare photo is by acclaimed rock photographer Carl Dunn.
Carl's photo's are available in his book "This Is Rock and Roll".
Still photo of Jimi Hendrix at The Denver Pop Festival taken from Lance Romance's 8mm film.
THE DAY AFTER
Although unconfirmed, the story goes that Jimi mailed a cable message to the Denver police stating "Make love, not war -Jimi Hendrix."
Herbie Worthington: "The next thing I really remember was Jimi coming into our room the next morning and saying, 'I gotta go back to New York. Something has come up; I'll see you back in LA.' And I found out later what it was -Noel had quit. I didn't know it at the time, but I could tell Jimi was very concerned... He was nervous about it. And he left. I don't think I saw him for a couple of months."
For Lance Romance the summer still promised Woodstock and another festival at California's Altamont Speedway. To this day he grows thoughtful at conjuring up the old days. "For me. those days, when I lived in my bus, going from concert to concert, it was like a rite of passage. It was a magical time. It's painful to know that that will never happen quite like that again.
"There was a spirit back in those days that we may never see again. That was my generation. People like Jimi came through for us. They truly affected our lives. There was a spirit and an energy that you could reach out and touch. And I wanted to touch it."
The same might very well be said for Jimi Hendrix. He had worked his way to the pinnacle of pop stardom and helped create the spirit and energy of his times. Now he wanted off the merry-go-round of fame for a much needed respite. Jimi sought an opportunity to experiment, to seek a more spiritual level, to achieve a funkier sound -he was ready to unfold his wings.
Released from the confines of the pop-oriented Jimi Hendrix Experience trio, Jimi would continue to evolve through the final year of his brief life. The process of musical growth unleashed at the 'Denver Pop Festival' was not meant to end, but should have been merely the first ray of a new musical phase in which this amazing artist called on past and future allies to achieve his musical visions. In hindsight, perhaps the only surprise is that it didn't happen sooner.
Mick Cox, conducted by Douglas J. Noble. August 1995; Barry Fey, conducted by Phil Carson, 23 May 1997; Leslie Gorham Haseman, conducted by Phil Carson, 23 May 1997; Kent Lawyer, May 1997; Lance Romance, conducted by Phil Carson, 6 September 1997; Herbie Worthington, conducted by Caesar Glebbeek, 14 February 1990; Bob Wyman, conducted by Phil Carson, May 1997.
Thomas MacCluskey, "The 'Experience' Is Raw Beauty"Rocky Mountain News (15 February 1968); Thomas MacCluskey, "Wall-to-Wall Fans at Rock Concert" Rocky Mountain News (3 September 1968); Jim Brodey, "The EGO of Jimi Hendrix" San Diego Free Press (13 June 1969); Alan Cunningham, "Mile High Stadium Hurled Into Orbit by Pop Festival" -Rocky Mountain News (28 June 1969); Fred Gillies, "14,000 at Opening of Pop Festival"The Denver Post (28 June 1969); Thomas MacCluskey, "Hendrix Closing Pop Festival Sunday" Rocky Mountain News (29 June 1969); Unknown author, "Crowd Tear-Gassed In Gate-Crash Row" -The Denver Post (29 June 1969); James Pagliasotti, "Ruckus Outside Mars Music Inside Stadium"The Denver Post (30 June 1969); Jim Fouratt, "Denver Festival: Mace with Music" (Rolling Stone, 26 July 1969); George W. Krieger, "Astronauts to Zephyr: Colorado's Music of the 1960s"Colorado Heritage (Winter 1997)
Caesar Glebbeek & Harry Shapiro, Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy (1990); Mitch Mitchell & John Platt, Jimi Hendrix: Inside The Experience (1990); Noel Redding & Carol Appleby, Are You Experienced? (1990).
NB With thanks to Joel J. Brattin, Thomas Geneser, Ken Langford, Noel Redding, Jim Reed, and Alan Stecher.
Phil Carson has written several books including one about another guitar great, the late Roy Buchanan.
'69 Denver Pop Festival was a real riot
Three-day event also last for Hendrix Experience
By Mark Brown, Rocky Mountain News
July 3, 2004
The Denver Pop Festival took place 35 years ago this week - three days of peace, love and tear
It was 1969, a year full of festivals. Woodstock and Altamont were merely the most famous.
You also had Led Zeppelin at the Dallas Pop Festival, Janis Joplin at the Atlanta Pop Festival, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Denver Pop Festival in Mile High Stadium.
The Denver fest was a "three-day orbit of screaming and wildly vibrating animal sounds," according to one Rocky Mountain News report, "a psychedelic, electronic rainbow of sight and sound."
It was also a riot, with dozens of arrests, injured cops and an unsuspecting crowd terrorized by tear gas.
"I have a great picture of Tim Buckley wiping tears out of his eyes," says Tom MacCluskey, the music critic for the News at the time.
"The Denver Pop Festival, I wish I would have gone. I never got to see Jimi Hendrix live," says Firefall's Jock Bartley. He even lent his Fender amp to one act's road crew to be used one of the nights. "But what an idiot - I didn't go see the show!"
While most concertgoers were there for fun, the "American Liberation Front" - protesting everything from the Vietnam war to starvation - decided to make the festival a cause celebré. Hundreds of protesters traveled from out of state to disrupt the festival. Incredibly, the city allowed them to create a temporary campground at Sixth Avenue and Federal Boulevard, where many showed up, hung out and taunted police.
There had been previous riots at Denver-area concerts, to be sure.
• A year before, Aretha Franklin refused to go onstage at Red Rocks because she hadn't been paid. She came out and told the audience so, and they responded by storming the stage and causing $10,000 worth of damage.
• In 1962, Ray Charles was pelted with bottles at the same place.
• Later, there was an infamous Jethro Tull riot at Red Rocks in '71 that led to a ban on rock concerts there for two years.
I was at this Jethro Tull show...
And on a personal note: Gatecrashers were just as bad as the Denver police I soon learned-both were simply punks and thugs, prone to violence and obviously low in the "smart" department. Police would bust you for smoking grass (bad for you?) but had no problem with making sure you inhaled plenty of teargas. Everyone got a dose of gas when they started lobbing canisters,
even if you paid for a ticket you had it worse than the gatecrashers. We were fenced in at these concerts while the gatecrashers could run away! The cops knew it and I am sure they found it amusing.
Of course, you could leave but there were no re-entries and no refunds. I have no doubt either that Denver cops loved tormenting us, the true bullies many of them are.
Denver Pop Festival
This was the lineup for the three-day festival in 1969 at Mile High Stadium:
Friday, June 27:
Saturday, June 28:
Sunday, June 29