I was living in Houston at the time and got a ride with Mike Kahn and another guy in a VW beetle for the 69 fest. We stopped in some small southern town on the way and the gas attendant wasn’t very open minded to say the least. I remember camping under the pecan trees and will never forget this: It seemed every “family” “group” “clan” etc had someone that would go into the music “arena” and save some room for their friends. So multiply a few thousand “place holders” times the number of their friends and then we all crammed into tighter and tighter spaces. There were no isles or semblance of order or rows so finding friends was a challenge. I’ll always remember sitting on my butt with legs pulled up and anytime anyone next to me moved away an inch, I crept into that inch. There was a half watermelon rind to my left and I NEVER considered leaving my spot to go to take a leak or anything for fear of never getting back. I probably sweat out all of my fluids anyway. SOMEHOW we all survived to tell the tale.
For the 1970 show (I’d have been 22) I drove my blue chevy long van and it only had a small window in one of the side doors that I put in so we opened one of the back doors and tied it open to let air come through, but of course, the exhaust came in too. I had a full van, but was a softy and when an acquaintance we called Goofy (I really don’t remember any other name) begged to come along and only had a couple of bucks on him, I gave in. One pretty gal, Jeanne? Kalil, is the only other person I remember going with me. I was a photographer and shot a pic of her with hair blowing in the van. MIGHT still have it somewhere. I had photographed Jimi, Janice, etc at concerts in Houston and can barely remember seeing Hendrix W A Y up there on the stage at APF’70. All of my negatives from before 1980 were lost in a move to Hawaii. I’ve come full circle and gotten back into concert and sports photography but of course there is no money to be made shooting concerts today. I used to sell prints to college buddies at U oF H for extra cash and all I have left are 2 beaten up 20×30 dry mounted prints of Jimi and one of Janice and a few 8x10s of other rockers at Houston concerts. They are actually pretty good for being shot on Tri X developed in ?Accufine or some push developer and shot with a 300mm lens so are just head and shoulders. Today my Nikon D3s can shoot cleaner pics at ISO 6400+ and I was shooting at, maybe ISO 800-1200 then. I moved to Encinitas Ca in ’71 then to Hawaii in ‘80. If any one that shared the Houston-APF experience with me want to contact me, I’m not hard to find. And I still have most of my brain cells and a grayer moustache that started out red in 1966. Rock On…..
Name: John Taylor
Date: March 23, 2012
I was still 15 years old when I found out there was going to be a 2nd Atlanta Pop Festival, being held at the Middle Georgia Raceway in Byron, Georgia, which was just south of Macon, and only a little over 100 miles from home. I thought OH MY GOD, I HAVE TO BE THERE!
I had told Mom and Dad I wanted to go, and they said I would have to get a job and earn the money to buy my own ticket. I quickly agreed and took a job at a place called K9, where they sold guard and attack dogs (German Shepherds and Doberman Pincers). My job was to sit down in the kennel with the dogs, and whenever the sales guys would want to bring down buyers, they would call me and I would stir up the dogs, kicking at the cages and screaming at them, until they were all drooling bubbly froth and pissed off as hell! They would put on a hell of a show for any prospective buyers, who were always very impressed.
Afterwards, I would have to calm the dogs down enough to be able to enter the cages, clean up the poop, and feed and water the dogs without getting killed. I kept the job long enough to buy my $14.00 ticket and a carton of cigarettes.
I hitch-hiked to Byron, since there was no room in the car all my buddies were going in. I told them I would just meet up with them in Byron. Of course, I had no idea there would be half a million people there. My Mom packed me 3 paper grocery bags full of food for the trip, and made me take an extra pair of shoes (all Gods chilren’ gots to have shoes, but I didn’t need none cause I was flyin’!). I don’t think I ever ate a bite of my own food, but I’m sure somebody did, people were burning down vendor stalls because food was so scarce people were charging $5 for a sandwich (which sounds cheap but you may not remember, but a Big Mac sold for $0.55 at the time, and that was “eating out”).
I hitched a ride with a biker who had an old ‘50s pickup. I climbed in back with another long haired dude, and started drinking beer that the biker was passing back to us from the cab. We were moving right along at about ½ mile an hour after getting off I-75, and by the time we got to the festival entrance, I was ready to piss my pants from all the beer I had drunk. I jumped out of the back of the pickup and ran around behind the row of cars parked on the highway across from the main entrance. I started to pee and I heard a voice from right next to me but at about knee level say “Don’t piss on me”.
There were no street lights or any other lights except the headlights from all the cars, so I couldn’t see the guy, but I said “OK, Man”, and at that point I noticed he was smoking a joint. As soon as I zipped up he said “Want a hit?” so I knelt down next to him and we finished the joint. When it was gone, he said, “Oh, well, back to work” and stood up. He looked me in the eye, put on his Georgia State Trooper hat, walked back into the highway, and resumed directing traffic. I almost shit my pants.
I walked past him across the highway to where the truck I rode in on was parked, only about 2 spaces from the highway, and immediately ran into all my buddies (who I had told I would see there). Looking back, the odds of me running into my friends, no more than 10 minutes after I got there, was literally a million to one.
Originally scheduled for July 3 to July 5, 1970, the festival did not finish until near dawn on the 6th of July. Like the Woodstock festival the previous summer, the event was promoted as “Three Days of Peace, Love and Music”, and tickets for the festival were priced at $14.00. An estimated 500,000 people attended. I got to see (and hear) The Allman Brothers Band, who lived right around the corner in Macon and played twice, Johnny Winter, who also played twice, the second time with the Allman Brothers, B.B. King, Procol Harum, Terry Reid, The Chambers Brothers, Poco, Grand Funk Railroad, Ravi Shankar, Ten Years After, John Sebastian, Mountain, and Spirit. Jimi Hendrix played through a thunderstorm, including his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner during fireworks around midnight on the Fourth of July. I’ll never forget The Allman Brothers playing right at sundown, such a blend of beautiful musical collaboration and the beauty of God’s sunsets.
The crowd was so huge you can’t imagine it – like a sea of people. Everywhere you looked, for as far as you could see, people, people, and more people. I remember guys selling all kinds of dope. ACID, GRASS, MESCALINE, PSYLOSYBIN, HASH, dope dealers hollered out from the tops of Georgia State Patrol Cruisers, the dealers would bang on the roof whenever a buyer showed interest, and the cop would stop to let the deal go down, all the while passing a joint from the State Patrol Officer driving the car, to the passenger (sometimes another cop), up to the drug dealer, and back to the driver. There was a news story that Governor Lester Maddox had sent all these narcs to blend in with the crowd and bust people. I remember looking at my friends and saying, ”We’d better stick with the ACID, I don’t know what the hell that MESCALINE or PSYLOSYBIN shit is, that might fuck us up.” We were so young and innocent, we didn’t even realize ACID was LSD.
It was the 4th of July in Middle Georgia, so it was hot as hell. We heard there was a lake, so we went and everybody was swimmin’ nekkid’! It was so funny, there were dudes and chicks walking up the highway naked, and all these people from small town Georgia driving by at about 1/2 MPH with no air conditioning dressed in their Sunday Best, sweating their asses off with the doors locked and the windows rolled up!
The promoter (Alex) had hired the Hell’s Angels to act as security, which was a huge mistake, and the morning I tried to present my ticket at the front gate, a dude that was seriously fucked up on something tried to climb the fence and sneak in. He should have picked another place than right at the front gate, and one of the Hell’s Angels hollered “Call an Ambulance” before he took out a long length of chain and literally chained the guy down off the fence and then just turned him into what looked like hamburger meat. My friends didn’t have tickets, so they snuck in through the old racetrack, and got chased around the track by The Hell’s Angels, but they got away and into the festival. Somehow, we hooked up again once inside.
The next day, my friends and I had ridden on cars hoods and trunks back to I-75 in Byron to get something to eat, it was at least an hour ride although it was only about 2 miles back to the Interstate. We went swimming in “The Byron Inn” swimming pool, which we later learned had been basically used as a bathroom for thousands of guys who had jumped in the pool and pissed, and realized later that our buddy Stuart had jumped in with our whole bag of pot and soaked it.
Back across the interstate heading back to the festival, Gary and I stopped at “The Roadrunner”, a trailer set up on the side of the highway serving hotdogs, burgers, and fries. Gary was wearing a Levi jacket with the sleeves cut off, and he hung it on a chair. A biker picked it up with a big knife, held it out in front of Gary’s face and asked him where his patches were. Gary was a big muscular guy, only 16 years old but didn’t look it, and he was fucked up as hell, and just grinned at the biker and said, “I ain’t got no patches, man”, to which the biker replied, “You better get some patches if you are gonna’ wear this”. He looked Gary over, up and down, and I think he figured out that if he gave Gary any real shit, that Gary would hand him his ass. He kind ‘a looked around and, not seeing any of his “bros”, put Gary’s vest down and walked out, leaving us alone.
Later, as I was riding on the trunk of a car coming back from I-75, a Hell’s Angel walked up to me and said “Give me a cigarette”, and as fucked up as I was I tried to get one out of my pack but couldn’t, and as traffic started to move us away from him, he got mad and started running towards us, but he lost track of us, and by the time he got nearly caught up, he just started dragging people off other cars and pounding on them, demanding his cigarette. I just tried to be invisible and hoped he didn’t recognize me. I guess I skated on that one.
Jimi Hendrix played on Saturday night, through the rain and the lightning and the fireworks and the acid I remember some of it, including a beautiful girl next to me naked from the waist down pissing in an empty beer bottle, and Jimi playing “The Star Spangled Banner”.
Throughout the Festival I was tripping, smoking dope, and drinking wine and beer, pretty much fucked up the whole weekend. By the time it was over, I tried to find a friend to catch a ride back to Atlanta with, and finally ran into someone I knew, who said he had a ride for us, and introduced me to a dude with a VW camper bus. I had been up for 3 or 4 days and told them I needed to crash, and the guy who owned the bus told me I could sleep in the bunk in back. I got up in the bunk and passed out, only to be stirred back awake when I felt my zipper on my Levi’s being unzipped. I looked up to see the dude who owned the camper, and I freaked out, drew back my fist, and he backed off, apologizing and begging me not to tell anyone. I was too tired to kick his ass, and I really wished I had as he was a low life pedophile. I should have told someone, but I just let it slide, and I got back to Atlanta.
All in all, it was a life changing experience, and a wake up call if you will, from what the Hell’s Angels were all about, to the pure beauty of The Allman Brothers playing in the sunset, to Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix, naked people with no shame, the greed of vendors trying to fuck people out of money, ($5 for a burger?!?) cops being cool, and rock and roll at its finest.
And people, helping each other in what was basically a disaster situation. That’s what I remember most, the vibe of people helping each other. There was bad, real bad, and there was good, real good, and I guess you remember the good over the bad, but all in all, it was like nothing else I have ever experienced in this world – before or after.