Dallas Pop Festival, 1969

( A Young Filmmaker's Memories of the Texas International Pop Festival)

By Charles Burwell, 5-2011

Hippie Van - Copyright Charles Burwell

The big music news in the summer of 69 was Woodstock. When word came of a similar three-day festival to be held in Dallas, I couldn’t resist. My interest in filmmaking had started a year earlier and after winning 2nd place at a Rice University film festival, with a ‘music video’ (shot on film) titled *Deuce is Wild*



Deuce is Wild, is a 16mm film promo made in 1968 and shot in Houston at the Catacombs Club.. Deuce is Wild was a fairly active Houston band who had a single, titled *You're All Around Me* ready to release but it never happened. The girl shot was on the staircase at Love Street Light Circus and Feel Good Machine.


I was greatly encouraged and started work on another project (Aladdin’s Camera) that took most all of the next year. Since I had a cousin in Dallas, I decided to take a break, load up and drive from Houston to Dallas on Friday before Labor Day weekend. Then on Saturday, Eddie drove us from there to the raceway location in Lewisville; I was shooting random scenes along the way.


Pathe' PR-16-AT, actual 16 mm movie camera used to film the 1969 Texas International Film Festival.  Copyright Charles Burwell

My rig was a Pathe` PR-16-AT which had a 100’ film capacity, clockwork motor (wind up) and no sound. It was designed in the style of an Arriflex but the film movement of the (French) Pathe`wasn’t anything like the fine German workmanship of an Arri. The picture shows mine with a rented zoom lens that I didn’t have at the festival. I used three prime lenses on the turret.

I also brought a tripod, about 600’ of film, three lenses and an inexpensive cassette recorder…which was a relatively new sound format at the time. I didn’t expect much out of the recorder…and due to extraordinarily short battery life, nothing I recorded was usable. I knew that dubbing sound to the film could be done at a later date.

I didn’t know that 42 years would pass before I’d actually do it. Sixteen millimeter film was expensive back then and filming with sound equipment was completely out-of-range for a semi-pro with little budget.

There were a lot of 8mm and S8 cameras around back then but I never had any use for either of those small gauges. The image area of 16mm is four times that of 8; plus it was a broadcast standard in those days. My friends at the TV station made available to me a lot of raw film stock and processing. As I recall, I believe Ch (channel) 13 in Houston aired a clip from my footage of the festival.

I believe that all I shot at Dallas Pop was high-speed Ektachrome 7242 (tungsten)…not the best choice for sharpest images…but the only choice for night stage lighting. With an 85 filter, daylight color balance was achieved.




Stage Construction.  Copyright Charles Burwell

When we arrived at the camp ground, some guys were building a small stage.



I filmed a bit there and eventually wandered down to the edge of the lake where swimmers were attracting locals who crowded in their bass boats attempting to catch a view of the skinny-dippers. I started filming a group from a distance…trying not to be too obtrusive.


Then behold, here comes a blonde out of the lake…walked right up to me with a smile.

Skinny Dipper - Copyright, Charles Burwell


Bus - "Further".  Copyright Charles Burwell
Later I noticed The Bus [Further]...walked on with camera running...then walked out back over to the campground stage.



Festival Fans - Copyright Charles Burwell
Young lady walking dog. - Copyright Charles Burwell
Guitarist at campsite - Copyright Charles Burwell
I was just collecting random scenes along my way.



Dancing on stage. - Copyright Charles Burwell
Camp stage performers. - Copyright Charles Burwell
A band had cranked up on the stage and I covered their set for a few minutes. Now, I have no idea who these guys were. I believe I read that Ken Kesey’s friends [Hugh Romney (Wavy Gravy of The Hog Farm)] were the ones who built that stage and perhaps it was they who performed while I was there.


When attempting to add sound to this segment, I knew it was going to be near impossible. But when you get started with the impossible…magic sometimes happen. I found a clip that worked. I’ll apologize to the band if I ever find out who they were…because what I used was only a very rough match to what they probably sounded like. I chanced onto a clip that had the timing and beat that just couldn’t be beat so I threw it together with the scene. Odd to have had no other choice but use music that was ‘decades removed’ from the real event.


Update 9-2012:

It was discovered recently, through contact with a relative of a band member, that the band playing at the campground free stage was Quarry. They were the house band at Woodstock. The members were Mick Valenti (founder; songwriter, drums, guitars, vocals); Dave Carron (he's the guy in the picture, with the guitar, songwriter, rhythm guitar, vocals); Danny Velika (bass, vocals); Mike Furey (lead guitar).

Through my contact we're exploring the possibility that audio may still exist for this group which might be added to the film.


Moving on to the big stage, Ed & I chose a space among the crowd filtering in. We weren’t near enough to the stage area, which was already filling up, but I had a 152mm telephoto lens that I was relying on.


Rotary Connection.  Copyright Charles Burwell
Rotary Connection with Minnie Riperton (left), Sidney Barnes (Center) - Saturday, August 30, 1969 - Texas International Pop Festival - Copyright, Photo by Charles Burwell.

Coming on stage was a band called Rotary Connection…so, without knowing who they were, I just started there.

The lead singer was a good looking gal with a big Afro and her sideman, doing the conga drum, wore a very flashy fringed shirt. They looked so cool.

I have the actual audio of their whole set…but remember, I was shooting random scenes…not one entire songs-worth. So in editing, I had to make a hard decision; try to match and lip-synch what I could…or take another approach.

What I did worked so well, I had to go with it. The Rotary Connection recorded sometime later, a cover of *Mo Jo Workin*. It just happened to be the right length for the footage I had, and it also had the conga drum beat I desperately needed.

More magic…it looked and sounded good…it was their music …just not a song they sang that day. Minnie, Sidney and the boys in the band…I didn’t mean to offend your performance. I had to employ some artistic license or it wouldn’t have turned out near as well.



B. B. King - Copyright Charles Burwell
Sly and the Family Stone -  Copyright Charles Burwell
Sly and the Family Stone -  Copyright Charles Burwell
Evening came and I began shooting random clips of Herbie Mann, BB King, Sam & Dave, Sly & Stone, etc.


With the telephoto lens wide open (f-4.5) I knew that at 24 frames-per-second, the exposure would be marginal…so to increase light, I under-cranked some of the footage. That made the shutter spin slower and increase exposure to the film. I knew that there was a way to step-print the film onto new stock correcting the motion problem that the lower taking-speed produced. That would have incurred great expense back then. Today with digital editing, it was a very simple matter.

With today's camcorders, you really have to appreciate how good the technology is. Yesterday’s filmmaking was extremely expensive, slow and difficult; everything was done by mechanical means with expensive machines. At the Dallas Pop Festival there might have been 2-3 other 16mm cameras there at any given time…amongst a quarter of a million people. Today, almost everyone is carrying a sound and video capable device in their pocket.


Janice Joplin -  Copyright Charles Burwell
Janice Joplin -  Copyright Charles Burwell

Everyone was anticipating Janice’s set and I believe that because it was getting late, they bumped a band or two in order to get her on stage. It was after midnight, as I remember…and I might have become a bit weary. I wasn’t stoned or drunk but had watched a lot of the concert peering through a ground-glass viewfinder.

I changed to a 50mm lens and made my way closer to the stage. This is the sad part of the whole day…if any. I re-focused, caught her running up to the microphone …and failed. What could have been very good scenes, all came out, to one-degree-or-another, soft focus. There’s no doubting it’s her and it’s enjoyable…but the film came out comparable to 8mm quality rather than what could have been. Sorry folks.

The better part is that for a few moments into her first number, the sound (original) and her picture matched perfectly.


When compiling this footage, I actually had little hope of making anything out of it…but the addition of sound and effects changed the tone completely. In my sense of film, getting this completed…even to a rough-cut state, was quite a lot like making something out of nothing. I’d still like to go back in and do some color correction…maybe add some narration or interviews. It’s unfortunate that copyrights prohibit my showing or uploading it. Utilizing music from Sly and the Family Stone, B.B. King and Sam & Dave brought their short, on stage moments and other cut-away scenes, to life. And so did Janice’s *Summertime* for the campground scenes.

Some months after the festival, I got in touch with another filmmaker by the name of Maurice Levy. He headed up an underground cinema in Dallas and he, too, shot film at the Dallas Pop Festival. I traveled there in the spring of 1970 to meet and show him my raw film. Maurice was a weird cat…liked angling his projector onto the wall producing a skewed movie image. It looked dumb to me but I sat through it.

He also showed me his 16mm coverage and mentioned one other Dallas filmmaker who filmed the event that weekend. Maurice had fashioned a strange kind of matte-box in front of his camera lens. It had mirrors top, bottom & sides. While filming, he could slide this apparatus in and out which produced a kind of DIY psychedelic effect. I think he used it on Led Zeppelin. I never saw the guy again and have yet to find his film of the festival online. I’d definitely recognize it by that special effect he used.

When we got to the part in my film with the bus, he exclaimed, “Wow, you got the BUS!...you got Kesey’s BUS! You’re the only one to capture the BUS!” I was like, ‘Who’s Ken Kesey?’ So, you see…not every young music fan that went to those famous shows watching or documenting the event was blown out on acid…or ultra-hip. Of course, I did find out all about KK and the merry pranksters...the Acid Test novel... eventually. I was actually pretty green in ’69. Oh, I’d gotten high a time or two before...but remember, smoking was still a felony back then and it carried two to life in Texas. Probably still does!

Enjoy the stills from the film, for now. If you recognize any one in the crowd or can add details, drop me a note.

I hope to be posting other film projects from the 60s and 70s later this summer; by a windfall of good fortune, I’m having about 8000’ of 16mm transferred to digital…ready to edit and produce.

Thanks, peace and blessings…out.




Dancer - Copyright Charles Burwell



All content and images copyrighted by Charles Burwell. Copying Prohibited.


The rare footage on this 16 mm film was taken on Saturday, August 30, 1969 - Texas International Pop Festival; Lewisville, Texas.

If you would like to license film footage/image stills for commercial use, contact Charles Burwell.

Texas International Pop Festival

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