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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.
Fifty years ago this weekend, some of the biggest names in rock—then and since—gathered at Wisconsin State Fair Park for a three-day music festival. And it was three full weeks before a little thing called Woodstock.
The first and third lead guitarists for the Yardbirds wound up sharing a bill with their newest bands on July 25, 1969, at the Midwest Rock Festival at the State Fair Grounds in West Allis, Wisc. But Blind Faith guitarist Eric Clapton wasn’t blown away by his Led Zeppelin counterpart Jimmy Page.
For decades, Summerfest has been the Big Gig. But in its first years, it had some pretty serious competition, including two Milwaukee music festivals that packed a sizable booking punch.
Woodstock was not the only rock music festival with big-name acts during the summer of 1969.
This morning I spent some time with Bruce Cole, who created and maintains and grows the Jean Cuje Milwaukee Music Collection at Marquette University. Bruce has been in loads of bands over a number of decades and his passion for local music seems to grow as time goes on.
Assemblyman Robert T. Huber of West Allis is not a funny man. He’s sad, sick and at the very least rather ‘hung-up.’ Huber was greatly upset over what occurred at the recent Midwest Rock Festival. He accused the ‘hippies’ of turning West Allis and the Fair Park into a ‘pigsty’ and said the ‘semi-orgies’ and ‘almost promiscuity’ were bad enough to make ‘Haight Ashbury blush.’
The major “underground” social event of the season, the Midwest Rock Festival, is now nothing more than a hotly-debated memory. For those who might have missed it, it would seem proper here to sum up the affair, but how? Was it a success?
Milwaukee hosted 10,000 heads early Friday, July 25. State Fair Park was the temporary home for the many blues-rock seekers with the whole scene aptly titled The First Annual Midwest Rock Festival. Programs advertised the giants of the Rock Scene would make it. The whole scene on Friday promised yet two more days of well-knit sets of rock styles to dig. From that evening on, Mom Nature had bad luck crippled hopes with rain, electrical trouble and general hassles.
The grandstand at state fair park was strangely quiet Monday. The first Midwest Rock festival — three days of the loudest and perhaps best sound Milwaukee has heard — was over. Musically it was interesting, but, more important, it was an event, a bit of Milwaukee history. Never before had so many here had a chance to hear so much live rock for so long.
Declaring that they three day Midwest Rock festival “would have made Haight-Ashbury blush,” Assemblyman Robert T. Huber (D-West Allis) said Monday he would present complaints from his constituents to state fair officials.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Allen L. Samson decided not to bring charges against six young people believed to have taken hallucinogenic drugs, but he sternly lectured four of them.
Those who went to the Midwest Rock show at state fair park for music and fellowship had to settle mainly for fellowship Sunday.
Cree Indian folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie said here Friday night that she intended to present an endowment to the proposed Milwaukee Indian center.
The vibrations, sound wave and social, were all good Friday night as Milwaukee’s first — and not last — Midwest Rock Festival opened a supersonic three day happening at state fair park.
Milwaukee’s subterraneans arose from the underground en masse Friday — drawn out by the opening of the first annual Midwest Rock Festival at State Fair park.
Protest balladeer Buffy Sainte-Marie and English acid rock group “Blind Faith” will share the spotlight with other popular performers from around the world on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the first annual Midwest Rock Festival to be presented at State Fair Park in West Allis.
Back cover ad in the Kaleidoscope newspaper.
The 1969 Midwest Rock Festival is almost here, but people remain skeptical and perhaps with some justification. The most serious bad-rapping concerns the price—$7.00 per night at the gate. It is a steep rate, especially when you look at the lineup for the Woodstock Festival and realize that any given day there is heavier than the whole gig here. And the kids there are complaining already about Woodstock’s $7.00 price.