Each Thursday morning on Radio Milwaukee we — the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy and 88Nine’s Jordan Lee — talk about the music coming into and the music coming out of Milwaukee on Tap’d In.
On this week’s episode we share the wild story of the Milwaukee’s answer to Woodstock, the Midwest Rock Festival — which one fan organized three weeks before the famed New York music festival. And we’re joined by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Rick Romell, who was at both the Midwest Rock Festival and Woodstock, who shares some memories of both.
50 years ago this weekend, Bethel, New York hosted the most famous music festival of all time: Woodstock. But three weeks before that landmark event, Milwaukee held its own huge rock festival with a lineup nearly as star-studded: the Midwest Rock Festival, July 25–27, 1969 in Wisconsin State Fair Park.
It featured headliners Led Zeppelin, Blind Faith (with Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood), Johnny Winter, The First Edition with Kenny Rogers, Buffy Sainte-Marie, SRC and The Bob Seger System. MC5 and Jeff Beck were also scheduled to play, although they didn’t because of rain.
The festival was started by 22-year-old Peter Knapp, who had hoped to take off from his job to see Woodstock. Instead his boss saw the opportunity for Milwaukee to host its own music festival, and cut Knapp a $10,000 check to book it. After a phone call to Joe Cocker’s manager, the lineup came together.
We’re joined on the podcast by somebody who was there: Rick Romell, who was at the festival the day Blind Faith headlined. He shares his memories of the show and an especially epic Ginger Baker drum solo.
He also shares his memories of Woodstock, and weighs in on whether that rain-soaked weekend lived up to its enormous legacy.