The Other Woodstock
The Texas International Pop Festival in Lewisville offered three days of music and flower power. But 25 years later, it's just a footnote in the summer of love.
Reprinted with permission of The Dallas Morning News
By Chris Riemenschneider / Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News
Let's test your memory.
There was a music festival, a giant hippie gathering that lasted three days in the summer of '69. Peace and love were in the air. Sly was there, Santana was there and, of course, Janis played, too.
And, oh yeah, it took place in Lewisville, Texas.
The correct answer is the Texas International Pop Festival, which was staged Aug. 30-Sept. 1, two weeks after the historic Woodstock gathering in Bethel, N.Y.
Twenty-six acts ranging from Sam and Dave to Led Zeppelin played the festival, offering everything from pop to psychedelic rock to blues to heavy metal. The average ticket price for each day was $6.50, and an estimated 120,000 tickets were sold.
Like Woodstock, the event lured flower children from across the country. It was held at the now-defunct Dallas International Speedway on the outskirts of Lewisville, a town then populated by only 8,000 people. And as at Woodstock, the acts played till all hours of the night.
But Angus Wynne III, an organizer and promoter of the Lewisville festival, wasn't trying to copy Woodstock. He got the idea from a festival held in Atlanta over the July Fourth weekend of 1969. He says he hadn't even heard of Woodstock at the time.
"Woodstock was a regional show; it wasn't really being promoted anywhere near Texas," Mr. Wynne, of Wynne Entertainment, recalls in his Oak Lawn office. "We eventually heard about it and decided we'd go up there and check it out, since our concert was only two weeks after it.
"Of course, the first thing we learned was, we needed to get good fences."
In the shadow of Woodstock - which drew more than 400,000 people, was documented on film and record and will be commemorated Friday through Aug. 14 with a star-studded 25th-anniversary celebration - the Texas International Pop Festival is small potatoes, a footnote in an era of milestones. But Lewisville had its advantages: No heavy rain. No mud. No overcrowding. No mile-long traffic jams. No bad batch of acid.
And no Sha-Na-Na.
But there were plenty of big-name acts: B.B. King, Canned Heat, Chicago (then called Chicago Transit Authority), Delaney & Bonnie, Janis Joplin,Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, Ten Years After and Johnny Winter.
There were also two relatively new acts at the festival - Grand Funk Railroad, which had no record out and was so unfamiliar that it was advertised as Grand Funk Railway; and a group from England that included former Yardbirds member Jimmy Page. It was, of course, Led Zeppelin, which was just about to release its second album.
Grand Funk Railroad and Led Zeppelin, along with the abundance of blues acts on the bill, demonstrated the key difference between Woodstock and Lewisville: The Texas International Pop Festival was less about peace and love and more about showing off a fantastic variety and quality of music.
"I honestly believe we had a great lineup," Mr. Wynne says. "We had a lot of great blues players, and a lot of great acts that Woodstock didn't have.
"You know, we would have liked to get Hendrix or (Jefferson) Airplane, who they had at Woodstock, but there were scheduling conflicts or whatever. But I think we had the acts that, at Woodstock, put on some of the best shows - Santana, Johnny Winter, Sly and Janis."
Crosby Stills & Nash were scheduled to play, but backed out at the last minute. "They played so bad at Woodstock, we didn't care they canceled," Mr. Wynne says.
Mike Rhyner, who now hosts a sports talk show on KTCK-AM (1310), was 19 when he attended two days of the festival. He was more a music fan than a hippie, and says Zeppelin was the band that made the strongest impression.
"It was only their second time playing Dallas - they played at the Fair Park Coliseum about a month before," he recalls. "They were just so exciting, I mean it was obvious they were going places."
Ms. Joplin is the performer who sticks out the most in the memory of Dallas Morning News film critic Philip Wuntch, who covered the festival for The Dallas Times Herald. Having been backstage all three days, Mr. Wuntch was able to interview several of the acts, including Mr. King and Mr. Winter. But Ms. Joplin was the most exciting, he says.
"She was so earthy and so enjoyable to talk to," Mr. Wuntch recalls. "I knew she was the kind of person you would like to get to know. And she was captivating onstage."
Ted Grosson, a Dallas resident all his life, was 24 when he went to the festival. He says he also remembers liking Ms. Joplin's perform-ance the most.
"I saw her perform a couple times, and that had to be the last time I saw her," he says. "God . . . she was so great."
Because of its impressive lineup, the Texas International Pop Festival is not totally forgotten. But Mr. Wynne says many people choose to forget it.
"It wasn't a very popular event," he says. "And it didn't really matter that it was a peaceful event, that the biggest problem was kids skinny-dipping. Texas was very conservative, and a concert full of thousands of hippies was not something anybody wanted to look favorably upon, except for the kids."
The "kids" who were there still remember it fondly. Donna Franklin, who works in a doctor's office in Houston and has two teen-age children, was 19 when she attended the festival, which she says introduced her to the hippie culture.
"I was kind of a square before that," admits Ms. Franklin, who lived in Dallas at the time. "But I think the festival was what introduced me to all the music and the sharing and caring ideas. I went just to party, I think, but I remember feeling I had found so much more."
"What I really remember was that I had a lot of fun," Mr. Grosson says. "You know, it was just a mass gathering of young people; that was a first."
That was exactly what worried Sam Houston. Now a state district judge in Denton County, he was the mayor of Lewisville when he heard over the radio that the giant festival was to be held there. With no city ordinances or permit requirements to prevent it, all he could do was brace his town for the tide of invading hippies.
"We just didn't know what to expect," Mr. Houston says. "The Woodstock festival was held only two weeks before, and with all the reports of traffic jams and drugs, we obviously did not want that.
"I had to watch out for my community, you know, and for someone in that position, it was a nightmare."
According to newspaper reports, about 30 concertgoers were arrested for drug-related charges over the three-day weekend. No violent incidents were reported. The only health problem was heat exhaustion, which contributed to one man's death.
Hairy but nice
Many Lewisville residents actually found the hippies to be pleasant visitors. Local merchants told reporters they loved the extra business, and most residents who encountered them said they had no complaints.
One Lewisville woman even had an extra-friendly encounter. "I saw the first bunch coming down the road," she told The Dallas Morning News. "I didn't know what to think, so I told my kids to stay in the house. Thought we were in for some real trouble. Next thing I knew, one of them knocked on my door. Real funny-looking with all that hair. He just wanted to know if I needed someone to mow my lawn. I finally said OK, and he wouldn't even let me pay him money. Just wanted food."
Skinny-dipping probably caused the biggest fiasco in Lewisville that weekend. On the second day of the festival, Mayor Houston issued a proclamation that nude public bathing would not be tolerated. Knowing this and fearing trouble, memorable Woodstock figure Wavy Gravy, who also attended the Lewisville festival, tried to discourage the swimmers.
"Little old Baptist ladies are out looking for bathing suits for you," he yelled to them over a bullhorn, asking that they either get swimsuits "or slam a little mud on your yosh."
Ralph Adams, the former Lewisville police chief who handled security, told a reporter at the time, "If every pop festival could be as orderly as the one we had here, then I'm ready for another."
Mr. Houston, however, does not look back on it so fondly.
"I will admit that things probably turned out the best they could," Mr. Houston says. "But it was just something we would have rather not had to have dealt with. I was glad when it was over and we could put it behind us."
Like Woodstock, much of the magic of the Texas International Pop Festival could never be duplicated.
Mr. Wynne says he and his partners spent only about $125,000 on the performers, which is how much it would cost for one big-name act today. And the timing - booking 26 acts with little more than a month's notice - would be impossible today.
Most important, most cities now have mass-gathering or special- events ordinances. You can bet Lewisville does.
"It's definitely a dark spot in Lewisville's history books," Mr. Houston says.
Mr. Wynne looks back on it differently.
"I'd really like to think it was some sort of historical event," he says. Once in a while, he says, he meets someone who was there and tells him he or she had a good time. "That's always nice."
Ms. Franklin says she's proud she went.
"When someone asks if I went to Woodstock, I say, `No, but I went to the Lewisville pop festival.' Of course, they go, `Huh?' "
PHOTO(S): 1. (Dallas Morning News file photo) IN A FUNK: Don Brewer
of Grand Funk Railroad performs. The group was so new that it was
advertised as Grand Funk Railway. 2. (The Dallas Morning News:
Catharine Krueger) PEACE: A festival poster captures the spirit of the
times. The Lewisville event featured some of the day's top performers,
including some who had played at Woodstock. 3. (The Dallas Morning News
file photo) CALM GROUP: Despite fears of trouble, the longhaired crowd
was peaceful. There were some drug arrests and lots of skinny-dipping,
though. 4. (The Dallas Morning News file photo) As Ken Kesey said,
you're either on the bus or off the bus. These folks were definitely on.
5. (The Dallas Morning News: David Woo) Promoter Angus Wynne displays
a framed poster. "I honestly believe we had a great lineup," he says. ;
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