TEXAS INTERNATIONAL POP FESTIVAL
(LEWISVILLE POP FESTIVAL - 1969)
The Short Story
In the summer of 1969, I attended the Lewisville Pop Festival in Lewisville, Texas. I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in May 1969 and had spent June and the first half of July teaching scuba diving at Akumal and Isla de Mujeres, Mexico. The sixties were a life and death proposition for a male college student. You were either in college or Vietnam. When you graduated, you were going to Vietnam. So I graduated and then got my draft notice. To improve my choices, I decided to join under the delayed entry program. Join now and go into the Army in November 1969 and head for Officer Candidate School. Meanwhile,Firestone Tire and Rubber Company had expressed an interest in hiring me for management training once I got out of the service. They said I would need to learn the garage part of the tire business and could get that out of the way by working for them until I went into the Army.
So my first job out of college was bustin' ( referring to changing, repairing, balancing, and putting on) tires at Firestone in Austin at Capitol Plaza in the garage. Diploma in one hand, tire tool in the other, and Uncle Sam with an attentive eye on me, I was on my way. While working, I continued to live at the Campus Guild Co-op, a men's co-op, where I had lived while attending college. I was sleeping on a mattress in the study hall at nights because that was the only place that was air conditioned in the summer. One of my fellow Guilders, Charles Walker, came by one morning and woke me up and said let 's go to the Lewisville Pop Festival. He briefly told me what it was all about. We would go up there and see it for one day. He would visit his girlfriend and drop me off somewhere to camp that night. We would come back the next day.
Photography is an interest of mine. During the mid sixties, I would go to "love-ins," a gathering of people that would listen to bands play their music, on the campus of the University of Texas and photograph the people involved. I figured this pop festival would make for an interesting event. We hopped into my friends Volkswagen beetle and headed for Lewisville. Lewisville is a small town just a few miles northwest out of Dallas, Texas on IH 35.
This was going to prove to be an interesting experience for me. The hippie culture was just being born at the
University of Texas in the mid sixties. I was no hippie and not into drugs, but the "flower children"
would be interesting to photograph. Besides, maybe I would see some famous rock stars while there.
We arrive in Lewisville and parked in a sea of cars in the field parking lot. The festival was held in a fenced field similar to the Woodstock Festival. Once inside you would be in a ocean of people far from the stage. Being resourceful, I convinced myself that I belonged to the Press Corp. and made my way to the trailer where the Big Boss would listen to your story and give you a press badge. I told him that I was a reporter for the Southwest Slate, a newsletter for a scuba-diving instructor organization that I belonged to. I told him that I was doing a report on the area to try to convince the Southwest Council of Diving Instructors (SCIP) to have a diving convention in the area. This festival would prove that things of interest were happening here. My credentials were my diving instructor card from SCIP. He told me that he could see no connection between scuba diving and the pop festival. I agreed that there was no connection other than that this was an event of interest in the area. Somewhat confused and puzzled, he granted me a press pass and gave me a large press button to wear allowing me to get in free. Not only that, I got to go to the head of the class; that is right down in front of the stage.
There was a line of bales of hay that stretched in front of the stage. This was the press area. Behind this sat the massive sea of people. I felt pretty smug, but thought what kind of death would I have if this mass of people decided to rush the stage and I was trampled to death by a herd of screaming hippies? Fortunately, these hippies were peaceful and decided not to trample over the press area. To the credit of the people attending this festival, I saw no violent behavior while I was there.
It was hard for me to believe that I was right down front stage. Performers and bands I recall seeing were B.B. King, Tony Joe White, Johnny Winters, and Spirit. I had heard that Janis Joplin had been there the night before. B.B. King, as always was singing the blues. Tony Joe White was singing about the swamps of Louisiana ("Polk Salad Annie"). Johnny Winters, the wild albino, was pumping out the guitar sounds. Spirit boogied away and then destroyed their guitars by smashing them on stage. Having respect for the instrument, I was stunned at this.
Located where I was, I had the choice of photographing the performers or turning around and photographing the audience. I believe at one point a helicopter flew over and dropped advertising pamphlets down onto the crowd. During my college days, capitalism was shunned by the students . To go to school to get trained for a good job just meant you were going to be a "capitalistic pig." What tickled me on the inside of the festival was the hippy run businesses ripping off fellow hippies by high prices on food, drink, and other items. Once you were inside the festival for any period of time, you were forced to endure the high prices.
As I would walk around, I enjoyed photographing wild hairdos and colorful people.
While near the front gate, there was a group of people wanting to get in but could not afford the ticket price. One of these persons ask me to hand him my press badge and he would come in and give it back to me. I made him promise on his life not to run away with my badge. He didn't. He came through and as I remember, I handed the badge several more times through the fence and it was returned to me. Here was a short hair helping long hairs strike back at promoter capitalism.
As with most rock festivals, there was a makeshift medical area for heat exhaustion and too much drugs. As the evening wore on, announcements were made as to where people could camp and get food to eat. The "Hog Farm," a hippie commune, was there and giving out free food on a first-come basis. Even legendary Hog Farm member "Wavy Gravy" stepped up to the microphone and made comments and read announcements. This East Texas boy was taking it all in. I struck up a conversation with the "Gypsy Ghost Riders." This was a motorcycle gang out of Euless, Texas. They were truly "Easy Riders" of the Festival. I wanted to photograph them, but did not want to anger one of their members and get beaten up. So, I politely asked them if I could take their picture and they agreed. One of them even gave me their address. From a press badge to photographing a motorcycle gang, I thought I had done well.
Eventually, my fellow Guilder met up with me and took me to a park nearby where he let me out with my Yucatan hammock. After tying the hammock between two trees, he drove off in the night to see his girlfriend. He promised to come back the next morning. During the night I was awoken when one car almost drove between the two trees I was hanging from. I guess the wildly swinging mass trying to exit the hammock finally got the attention of the driver. I think I could almost feel the heat from the car headlights! After that, some fellow campers set up loudspeakers and let the psychedelic music rip through the night air. The next morning, my trustworthy friend did show up and pick me up from my campsite.
Reflecting back on the experience, the Lewisville Pop Festival was truly a sign of the times. It was unique to the era. As an outsider to the counter culture revolution, it was an education to experience such an event. I will not forget it. This representative of the Press finally files his report with today's youth.
If you would like to drop Paul a note, click below:
Present Day Location
Texas International Pop Festival
Historical Festival Articles
Remembering the Texas International Pop Festival
"Son of Bethel: The 1969 Texas International Pop Festival"
An Online Book
Dallas Pop Festival, 1969
Rare 16mm film footage of the 1969 Texas International Pop Festival taken Saturday, August 30, 1969
TIPF Memories of a Young Filmmaker!
Rotary Connection with Minnie Riperton (left), Sidney Barnes (Center) - Saturday, August 30, 1969 - Texas International Pop Festival - Copyright, Photo by Charles Burwell.
All festival event photographs by Paul Johnston/Copyright.
Copyright - 2004 - Paul Johnston