The Forgotten Woodstock: Seattle Pop Festival, 1969
Drive through Woodinville, Washington today, and it has the glimmer of an Eastside Seattle suburb about to be born. With its Target, Safeway, and housing developments with names cooked up by marketing departments, Woodinville is fairly unremarkable, a place you’ve seen a million times before.
A scant 20 minute drive from Seattle center, via the 520 floating bridge and up north I-405, Woodinville still retains some of its bucolic charm of yesteryear, such as the Hollywood schoolhouse, expansive fields, and roadside farmer’s stands. One remnant of the past is an utterly uncharming white dome alongside the road.
But as it turns out, this dome and the land around it are part of rock music history, what I like to call The Forgotten Woodstock.
A West Coast Woodstock
In 1969, a local promoter named Boyd Grafmyre had the ambitious aim of assembling 25 musical groups over three days.
A large sampling of the groups and individuals that played the Seattle Pop Festival are firmly planted as rock music icons. Others have fallen by the wayside. The roster:
Chuck Berry, Black Snake, Tim Buckley, The Byrds, Chicago Transit Authority, Albert Collins, Crome Syrcus, Bo Diddley, the Doors, Floating Bridge, The Flock, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Guess Who, It’s A Beautiful Day, Led Zeppelin, Charles Loyd, Lonnie Mack, Lee Michaels, Rockin Fu, Murray Roman, Santana, Spirit, Ten Years After, Ike & Tina Turner, Vanilla Fudge, and the Youngbloods.
Notable Facts About Seattle Pop Festival
- Led Zeppelin and The Doors played together on the same ticket–the only time they did so.
- The “Forgotten Woodstock” preceded the real Woodstock by one month.
- Chicago Transit Authority eventually became Chicago. Their first album had been released only 3 months before Seattle Pop Festival.
- This is Led Zeppelin on the cusp of fame. 1969 was the year they first came to America.
- And, if it weren’t for the Seattle Pop Festival, the infamous Led Zeppelin mudshark incident at Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel would never have happened.
- Crome Syrcus? They were a psychedelic Pacific Northwest band that broke up in 1973, best known for “Love Cycle” and “Take It Like a Man.”
- Murray Roman? He was a stand-up comedian, a bit of a poor man’s Lenny Bruce, who had an album called You Can’t Beat People Up and Have Them Say I Love You. He died in 1973 in a car crash on PCH.
- The Flying Burrito Brothers was formed a year before Seattle Pop from former Byrds members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman.
- Forgotten Woodstock: 25 acts, 50,000 fans. The East Coast Woodstock: 32 acts, 500,000 fans.
It’s a Beautiful Day: “White Bird”
It’s a Beautiful Day is best known for “White Bird,” a song they wrote while feeling like “caged birds” during a long Seattle winter.
Vanilla Fudge: “Season of the Witch”
Vanilla Fudge was a prototypical psychedelic band formed in 1966. They are known for “Season of the Witch” and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Vanilla Fudge disbanded only about 9 months after Seattle Pop.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Account:
Photo Caption: Pottery water pipes were among some of the unusual goods on sale at the Seattle Pop Festival, a rock festival at Gold Creek Park near Woodinville during the weekend. An Indian teepee decorated with an American flag was in the background. An estimated 50,000 persons attended the festival.
More than 50,000 rock fans gathered at Woodinville’s Gold Creek Park over the weekend for a practically non-stop three-day festival of music, events and exhibitions. The first annual Seattle Pop Festival was a marvel of crowd control and smooth organization.
Sunday night was supposed to belong to The Doors but it was stolen right out from under them by the great English blues group, Led Zeppelin.
Coming onstage about 11:30pm, immediately after the forced extravaganza of The Doors, the Zeppelin faced a jaded and uncomfortable audience that had been standing in the cold all evening. But the electricity of lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page quickly warmed them up.
Plant has a voice that is controlled hysteria. Anguish pours from his every note; his voice is an epitome of the blues.
Page is an amazing guitarist. His runs and fingering are magnificent, his control of the instrument pure genius.
They were aided by a fine drummer, John Bonham and bassist John Paul Jones. Few who experienced it will forget Led Zeppelin’s performance, especially their smashing encore of Communication Breakdown.