Everything’s bigger in Texas? Well, not always, despite what the Lone Star residents would like to think, but it usually is pretty big anyway. Case in point, this day in 1969 when it held its own version of Woodstock – the Texas International Pop Festival. It didn’t quite rival the upstate New York event of a couple of weeks earlier in crowd size, number of star acts or historical importance, but it was still a pretty big deal.
The event was probably not actually inspired by Woodstock as much as by another 1969 live music event, the Atlanta International Pop Festival at the start of the summer. In attendance there was Angus Wynne III, part of the family who owned the Six Flags amusement parks. He wanted to do something similar in his Dallas area, and quickly put together a pretty good three-day event.
They held it in an open field beside the Dallas Motor Speedway, close to a large campground. They advertised free camping at the camp, which had a little lake as a bonus for over-heated revelers, and brought in a good lineup of mixed musical talent, which went on stage at 4PM Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Grand Funk Railroad opened up each of the three nights, and B.B. King was also on stage for each night, apparently doing not only the same songs but offering up the same patter and jokes. He mistakenly thought each day had its own new audience, but in fact people came for the long weekend and were essentially all the same bodies for each night. And there were a lot of those bodies… no official attendance was released but most estimate it to be around 125 000, perhaps a little more.
Besides Grand Funk and B.B., they got to see Chicago on two nights (then billed as Chicago Transit Authority), local Johnny Winter, Nazz featuring a young Todd Rundgren, Janis Joplin and quite a few more. The first night Sam & Dave were the final act, the Sunday it was Santana, and the final show Tony Joe White. Also, perhaps suspiciously in light of future events, also on the bill were both Spirit and Led Zeppelin. Many will recall that Zep got sued by Spirit (or families of the members of) for plagiarizing a Spirit song to come up with the melody for “Stairway to Heaven”. Though Zep prevailed, few could really deny that there did seem something borrowed there, and despite some claims that Page and Plant never heard of, or anything by Spirit, they showed up on the same stage only hours apart.
The campground had a free stage as well, for secondary acts or main ones warming up and on there was poet Hugh Romney… who B.B. King listened to and nicknamed “Wavy Gravy” that day.
The event seemed to come out well, and as at Woodstock, no violent crimes were committed and people seemed to have a good time although once again weather wasn’t the fans friend. In Woodstock of course, cold rain dampened spirits and created a quagmire of mud; in Texas the opposite was the problem. Dallas is still very hot in late August (normal high still well above 90F) and standing out on an open field for hours isn’t a great idea. One person died of heatstroke.
Although it played second fiddle to Woodstock, it is perhaps surprising so little is recorded of, or about the show. There is a bootleg tape of some popularity going around with Zeppelin’s set, which is said to be of high quality, but there didn’t seem to be any sort of official release of footage or recordings. If you search online though, you will come across a DVD of the event, which seems to also be bootleg. It has about 19 tracks, although some – bizarrely – are studio recordings of acts who didn’t play the show like Linda Ronstadt, and some of the footage of the concert seems to have been dubbed in later with studio music. But you will get an idea of the scope of the concert and see things like an opening welcome from the local police chief, Chicago doing “I’m A Man”, Tony Joe White performing his one hit “Polk Salad Annie” and an apparently good segment of Led Zeppelin doing “Dazed and Confused.”
The event was a one-off, and now the site is a commuter rail station (Hebron St.) which has a plaque commemorating it. However, it did set a trend perhaps as later on Dallas would host annual one-day, big name artist concerts dubbed “Texxas Jam.” they were held annually from 1978-88, almost always in Dallas but occasionally in Houston instead. Headliners there included, through the years, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Heart, Foreigner, Journey, Rush, Aerosmith and Van Halen among others.