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Jimi Hendrix Headlines Newport Pop Festival 1969

The second star-studded edition also featured everyone from Marvin Gaye and Ike & Tina Turner to Joe Cocker and Jethro Tull.

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The second edition of the Newport Pop Festival was opened on 20 June 1969, with a Friday night headliner by the Jimi Hendrix Experience that took place just nine days before their final performance.

The three-day event hosted appearances by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, the Byrds, Eric Burdon, Jethro Tull, the Chambers Brothers, the Rascals et al. With audiences said at the time to total between 150,000 and 200,000 across the weekend, the festival also featured the blues of Albert Collins, Albert King, Taj Mahal and Johnny Winter; the psychedelic rock of Love and Spirit; the soul of Marvin Gaye, Ike & Tina Turner and Booker T and the MGs, the traditional rock of Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night, the pop of Brenton Wood and the Friends of Distinction, the gospel of the Edwin Hawkins Singers and much more.

The festival took place, as the period posters show, in Devonshire Downs, which was located in Northridge, in the north San Fernando Valley, California. The sheer scale of the event grabbed headlines in the US and beyond, but within a few weeks it would be dwarfed by Woodstock.

Newport ’69 was deemed a success, but it was far from a happy experience for all concerned. It was policed, with no great subtlety, by the Hell’s Angels, with inadequate food, drink and restroom facilities and poor sound. Indeed, the City Fathers of Northridge banned any future festivals from the area.

“Once again violence has severely mauled the face of rock,” reported Rolling Stone, “with several hundred persons injured in rioting outside Newport ’69, [in] what probably was, in attendance, the world’s largest pop festival.”

Hendrix’s performance on that opening night was widely seen as a low point. “I think someone spiked Jimi,” said Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell in Johnny Black’s Eyewitness Hendrix book. “Or maybe he’d taken something of his own and then someone had spiked him on top of that. It was a disaster. I kept thinking, ‘This is weird, all this money…’ One of the worst gigs we ever played.”

Happily, that prompted the band’s return for the festival’s Sunday night closer, in a two-hour show featuring Burdon, Buddy Miles and others that, conversely, passed into folklore as one of the group’s landmarks. Los Angeles Times critic Pete Johnson was moved to write that the audience “may have heard the best performance of their lives.”

Creedence Clearwater Revival (misspelled “Creedance” on the poster) came to Newport having headlined their own Hollywood Bowl show a week earlier, on a bill that also featured the Grass Roots and Lee Michaels, both of whom also played at Newport. As Creeence did so, ‘Bad Moon Rising’ was moving towards its No. 2 peak on the Hot 100.

Like Hendrix, Cocker and others, CCR were bound for Max Yasgur’s farm: in April, they had become the first band to sign up for Woodstock. Once that took place, Newport ’69 was in the shade.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Jane

    June 20, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I was there

    • Hugh Jaynus

      June 22, 2016 at 12:59 am

      Where?

  2. Dee

    June 22, 2016 at 2:20 am

    I was there, too. It was my first concert. I was 12 years old. Got up right near John Kay. That whole weekend scared me to death. Don’t know what my mom was thinking when she let my sister take me!

  3. M.

    April 26, 2017 at 1:09 am

    I was there. Hendrix didn’t play until Sunday afternoon. He jammed with Eric Burdon, Johnny Winter and Buddy Miles.

    • Scott Solon

      November 15, 2018 at 2:00 am

      Au contraire, Jimi did indeed perform first on Friday night as scheduled ✔️ I went with my best friend Herman Hielkema to the Newport Pop Festival held on Devonshire Downs at San Fernando Valley State College in Northridge. We saved up and bought tickets for Friday because that’s when our acid rock idol Jimi Hendrix was performing, and of course headlining as the final act that night !!! My folks had grounded me by taking away my ‘65
      Impala for a month, because I had OD’d. I had found
      some heavy barbiturates in my grandparents’ medicine
      cabinet and take them all, Blues and Rainbows. Thank God that my dad found me, and then he & my Uncle Dempsey saved my life by making me stay awake &
      conscious, walking me around our chapel patio seemingly endlessly all night !!! So, undaunted, we rode on a public bus for the 1st time from our middle class burbs ofDowney. The bus ride took over an hour and a half; but we amused ourselves by dropping a tab of purple haze,
      so the ride didn’t really seem so bad at all. We got
      ourselves seated on the grass & dirt in the middle of the festival grounds stage at the beginning, when Ike & Tina Turner appeared on stage, accompanied by 2 supporting
      go-go girls dancing on high scaffold steel construction towers. Our unenthusiastic crowd booed a little at the end
      because unfortunately Ike & Tina were quiet passé by this time, and not at all the genre we came to hear. Throughout the day the bands got better and better, and at the and we even got to hear the likes of Spirit and Joe Cocker, which we enjoyed of course; but we were here for
      JIMI HENDRIX, The King !!! So at the end of the night our whole crowd was clamoring for Jimi, and he finally walked out on stage …!!! Unanimous cheers rang out as JIMI started his first song, but he was actually pretty tentative ? Then he
      seemed to ponder a lot, and finally decided to knock out a pretty good version of, but unexpected version of, “Sunshine of Your Love”, the Cream anthem. Next he still seemed just really dazed, And then with two hands he passionately flipped off some biker types near the front who were by this point I think just yelling out suggestions for favorites like “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady”; And then to everybody’s sheer & utter disbelief; he promptly walked right off the stage, ripping-off the crowd so incredibly that nobody could even believe it; completely stunned, so we all just sat there in mindblowing disbelief, like Deers in the headlights !!! We probably would have started a riot, but we’re just too completely overcome at that moment
      in time !!!

  4. Nappyrags

    August 20, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    Jimi played Friday night and Sunday afternoon…I was there for all three days…

  5. Michele

    July 23, 2018 at 4:16 am

    Janis Joplin was also there, and others you did not mention

  6. Cynthia

    August 19, 2018 at 3:49 am

    I was there too. High school friend had a red bus that some of us stayed
    Was high on LSD and saw most of the groups but it was surreal. Loved Janis and was lucky to see her in San Diego two times as well as Jimi.

  7. Don Winblad

    March 5, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    Two buddies and I attended all three days. It was even better than Newport 68. We crashed in sleeping bags right there in the crowd. Near the end of the third day, a scrap started between the cops and Hell’s Angels. Next thing we knew,a melee exploded. Beer, wine, and liquor bottles were fying everywhere. Dust was risig in a big cloud. Twenty feet from me a cop and Hell’s Angel were scuffling. Next thing I knew, the cop’s gun went flying and landed in the dirt between them and us. I looked at my buddies, Bill and Nut-bucket Bob. Being only 19 and 18 years old, discression became the better part of valor. We high-tailed it out of there at full speed. We didn’t look back until we reached our car. To this day, it was one of the best (and most exciting) concerts I’ve ever attended.

  8. Carolyn Uhri

    May 31, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Janis did not sing. She just came on stage to say “Hi” to the performers and the audience.

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