Texas International Pop Festival

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Lewisville's own version of Woodstock

Pop Festival sticker

Labor Day weekend 1969, just two weeks after Woodstock, Lewisville was the location of one of the largest music events Texas had ever seen. The event drew more than 100,000 music fans -- including more than a fair share of colorfully dressed hippies that sparked a bit of controversy among the locals -- for three days of live entertainment at the former Dallas International Motor Speedway (near the modern-day Waters Ridge development) and a smaller free stage on the shores of Lewisville Lake.

The Texas International Pop Festival was headed by promoter Angus Wynne and featured such performers as Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Santana, Sly & the Family Stone, Canned Heat, Grand Funk Railroad, Chicago Transit Authority, Johnny Winter, Sweetwater and B.B. King. According to participants, it was during this event that Wavy Gravy got his nickname. But it was reports of nude bathing in the lake and easily obtained narcotics that fascinated (and scandalized) much of the public outside the concert grounds.

An official Texas Historical Marker was installed at the A-train Hebron Station in 2011. To read more about that marker, and other historical markers around Lewisville, click here

Texas International Pop Festival on Wikipedia

Texas International Pop Festival on YouTube

Pop Festival tickets

Pop Festival lineup

 

 Historical documents courtesy of the family of Murphy Martin,
 former longtime news anchor for WFAA Channel 8
 

Transcript of Murphy Martin interview with Lewisville Police Chief Ralph Adams 
Transcript of on-air commentary by Murphy Martin

Flyer distributed in opposition to the Pop Festival 

Pop Festival tv interview photo

 
 MEMORIES OF A ROCK FEST OF OLD: 'LEWD AND LOOSE IN LEWISVILLE'
(Reprint Courtesy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
 
Date: June 20, 1997
Writen by DAVE FERMAN, STAR-TELEGRAM WRITER

You may think Blockbuster RockFest '97 is the first major multiday rock festival North Texas has ever seen.

If so, you are wrong.

Back in the hot, heady summer of 1969, just a few weeks after the original Woodstock captured the world's attention, the tie-dyed hippie nation came to town - specifically tiny, unassuming Lewisville.

The Texas International Pop Festival - or, as just about everyone called it, "Lewisville" - brought the counterculture (plus Led Zeppelin, Sly Stone, Grand Funk Railroad, B.B. King, Janis Joplin, Canned Heat and a whole bunch more) to a big field adjacent to the Dallas International Motor Speedway for a Labor Day weekend of music, sunburn, music, skinny-dipping, music, pot, traffic jams, and more music.

Lewisville was actually the third big rock festival of the summer, and the second to be held at or near a raceway: Over the July Fourth weekend, the Atlanta International Raceway hosted the Atlanta Pop Festival, which included Joplin and Grand Funk.

After the huge success of Atlanta, Angus Wynne, the 25-year-old booking agent, club owner and president of Showco, decided to try the same sort of venture in North Texas. He called Alex Cooley, who had put on the Atlanta festival, and started making plans.

"In our youth, we were very enthusiastic," Wynne told the Star-Telegram in 1989. "We just didn't know how hare-brained an idea it was."

The upstanding citizens of Lewisville were not pleased: The local newspaper ran editorials against the show, and Mayor Sam Houston consulted an attorney to see if there was any way to stop the fest.

There wasn't, and so on Saturday, Aug. 30, Grand Funk roared into one of its patented boogie numbers, Are You Ready?, and the show was on. The rest of Saturday, and all of Sunday and Monday, were filled with music, heat and a surprisingly calm atmosphere.

"It was a mini-Woodstock in every respect, and it worked just fine," says Scott Fraser, guitarist-vocalist for Fort Worth band Space Opera, which played the festival. "It was fun and it was well-controlled. I remember being onstage and seeing a vehicle flying through the makeshift campsite that was the audience and thinking, `I hope he doesn't run over a baby or a child,' but nobody was hurt. That was the only problem I remember."

Counterculture DJ Wavy Gravy was on hand to help out; Minnie Pearl Inc. donated 3,000 fried chickens to his Hog Farm collective. And all in all there were few problems: The final attendance was 120,000 or so, and there were only 36 arrests.

There was also one death: John Allen Shope, 27, of Arlington, collapsed the first day and died of heat exhaustion at a Dallas hospital.

The festival was so relatively problem-free that on the final day both the mayor and the city's police chief, Ralph Adams, climbed onstage and congratulated the audience on its good behavior.

"You have really shown us older people you know what you are doing," Adams said. "Some of them should take an example from this."

In the end, the Lewisville festival lost Wynne and his fellow organizers around $100,000; just a few months later, a death and general unpleasantness at the Rolling Stones' show at the Altamont raceway outside San Francisco (documented in the movie Gimme Shelter) put a dark cloud over huge festivals in general.

There would be big shows in North Texas in the coming years (including numerous concerts at the Cotton Bowl and Texas Stadium) but none to match Lewisville for sheer size and madness.

The concert site became an industrial park in the '80s; nearly 28 years later, there's hardly anything to remember the festival by except for some hazy memories, a torn poster or two, and a song, Lewd and Loose in Lewisville, by Dallas folk singer Lu Mitchell.

"It was a very loving, gentle environment," Mitchell said in 1989. "Whatever discomfort we had, we endured, 'cause it was like, `We're all in this together and isn't it wonderful?' It was freedom - we'd been let out to do something we never thought we'd be able to do. But, God, it was so long ago."
 
 The Forgotten Festival: The 1969 Texas International Pop Festival
 (originally published by the Houston Press and Dallas Observer)
 

Date: September 3, 2009

Writen by CHRIS GRAY, HOUSTON PRESS REPORTER

 

This entire summer, pop culture has been inundated with Woodstock nostalgia. Warner Home Video got the ball rolling back in June with a deluxe DVD edition of Woodstock, featuring the four-hour director's cut of Michael Wadleigh's Oscar-winning 1970 documentary and yards of bonus footage in a box designed to look like a fringe jacket.

 

Rhino Records followed a few weeks later with Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm, a six-disc monster with performances by most of the artists who appeared that rain-soaked August weekend in upstate New York — Richie Havens, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe & the Fish, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Grateful Dead — with stage announcements like Chip Monck's famous "brown acid" remarks.

Rolling Stone weighed in with a portfolio of conveniently unearthed "lost" photographs, and The New York Times devoted most of the front page of its August 9 Arts & Leisure section to Jon Pareles's commemorative essay.

"It was as much an endpoint as a beginning, a holiday of naiveté and dumb luck before the realities of capitalism resumed," the paper's chief pop music critic wrote. "Woodstock's young, left-of-center crowd was quickly recognized as a potential army of consumers that mainstream merchants would not underestimate again."

Oh, there's more. Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee's based-on-a-true-story comic memoir, Taking Woodstock, opened across the country last weekend, and various books and television remembrances have been popping up for weeks.

All this product, literally hundreds of dollars worth, is enough to make an old hippie choke on his or her love beads. But another significant Aquarian anniversary is about to pass with hardly a nostalgic peep from the media — this one a lot closer to home.

Labor Day weekend 1969, scarcely two weeks after Woodstock, thousands upon thousands of hippies and shorter-haired young people from across the South and Southwest descended on another outdoor musical gathering. This one, held at the Dallas International Motor Speedway — a racetrack on the shores of Lake Lewisville in Denton County — was the Texas International Pop Festival.

Texas Pop's attendance was quite a bit smaller than Woodstock's, an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 compared to anywhere between 300,000 and 500,000. But it was still a lot of folks, perhaps the largest public gathering in the state to date. In Got No Shoes, Got No Blues, an unreleased film about the festival, one onlooker sizes up the masses of people around him the only way he knows how: by comparing it to a football game.

Texas Pop's smaller size probably worked to its advantage; the festival was not plagued with the traffic, hygiene and overcrowding problems of Woodstock. There were no fights, and the dozen or two arrests were mostly people trying to sneak in. The fences held, keeping the festival from becoming a free-for-all like in New York.

It didn't rain, which made a world of difference, and exactly one person died from heatstroke. Exactly one person was also born at the Speedway that weekend, proving yet again that God has a very interesting sense of humor.

But in many other respects, the two festivals could have been identical. Yes, there were plenty of drugs and nudity at both. But, notes Richard Hayter, who ran the website www.texaspopfestival.com and who is working on a book about the festival, the doctors who showed up expecting to treat a bunch of overdoses all weekend instead wound up mostly patching up people's cut bare feet.

Many performers — Joplin, Santana, Sly & the Family Stone, Canned Heat, Johnny Winter, Incredible String Band, Ten Years After and Sweetwater — barely had a chance to unpack their road cases from Woodstock. Appropriately, Texas Pop swapped the folky strains of Havens, Baez and CSNY for a heavy blues element: B.B. King, Freddie King, James Cotton, Delaney & Bonnie, Sam & Dave and Tony Joe White all played, B.B. King all three days. Texas Pop marked Santana's Lone Star debut, and fell at the end of the first U.S. tour by a band of brash young British blues-rockers — Led Zeppelin, who "brought the house down," Hayter says.

One more thing Texas Pop had in common with Woodstock was that financially, they were both disasters. The main promoter, Angus Wynne — heir to the Six Flags amusement-park empire — and his partners, one of whom had produced that summer's Atlanta International Pop Festival, lost around $100,000 on the Texas festival, a 1985 Dallas Morning News article reported.

Probably the most remarkable thing about Texas Pop is that it happened at all. This was Texas in 1969. The narrative of Got No Shoes, Got No Blues juxtaposes images and interviews from the festival with a typical cowboy-hatted, pickup-driving redneck who, as he sips from a can of Pearl, listens to a Dallas radio talk show decrying Texas Pop as an example of "hippie hypocrisy" and moral ruin. A Morning News editorial about the festival spells out the establishment's opinion in no uncertain terms.

"Young people assembling to hear music is one thing," it begins. "Young people assembling in unspeakable costumes, half-naked, barefooted, defying propriety and scorning morality is another. Who and where are their parents? Where do these young people get the money to loaf around the country in their smelly regalia?

"The great majority of youngsters in this area are at home where they ought to be, mowing yards, working part-time jobs and preparing for useful lives," the editors conclude. "In the meantime, the lewd and loose in Lewisville will swing and sway. They are to be pitied."

The Texas Pop Festival may have occurred in Woodstock's shadow, and may not be getting nearly the amount of retrospective hosannas, but it hasn't wilted. Hayter runs an active Texas Pop Yahoo! discussion group; lately there's been talk on there of some sort of reunion event. He compares the festival's relative lack of anniversary attention to Farrah Fawcett dying the same day as Michael Jackson, but he and others who were there don't need a bunch of CDs, DVDs and articles to remind them of that weekend, because that weekend has never left them.

"I get a lot of mail and e-mail from people who went," he says. "A lot of people say that festival changed their lives — that from that weekend on, they completely did an about-face. I've talked to a lot of people who were in the service, and had either just got out or were on leave or whatever, and it just completely changed their outlook. I think that's the biggest thing."

 
   
THE BEST LITTLE WOODSTOCK IN TEXAS
Love, peace and music came to Lewisville for 3 unlikely days in 1969
(Originally Published by the Dallas Morning News)
 

 Date: August 6, 1989
 Written by: RUSSELL SMITH, MORNING NEWS POP MUSIC CRITIC 

Oh, how quickly we forget.

Two weeks after Woodstock, on a Labor Day weekend not quite 20 years ago, Lewisville reluctantly hosted the Texas International Pop Festival. It was a benign skirmish in the war between the hippies and "the Establishment' during the long, hot summer of 1969 -- not to mention the wildest weekend in Lewisville history.

The three-day music festival had the Lewisville mayor at odds with his police chief, some of the townfolk felt scandalized, and conservative Dallas newspaper writers went ballistic.

The lineup of performers was amazing. It included Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, B.B. King, Chicago Transit Authority, Canned Heat, Sam and Dave, Nazz, Ten Years After, Grand Funk Railway, Herbie Mann and a dozen other name acts.

Today, the woman who answers the phone at the Lewisville Chamber of Commerce says none of this rings a bell.

"Twenty years ago?' she says. "I'm only 19.'

She canvasses the office for help, settling on the person who's been there the longest (12 years). He has indeed heard of the Texas International Pop Festival. But that's all. The chamber suggests a call to one of the local newspapers.

"What's a pop festival?' asks the sweet lady who answers the phone at the Lewisville Daily Leader. She kindly defers to City Hall, where a surveyor who's lived in Lewisville for 19 years provides directions to a field that once was a racetrack, the burial ground of all those '60s vibes.

The only sign of life in 1989 is a brand-new Bennigan's.

"I wish it had never occurred,' says Sam Houston, who was the mayor of Lewisville from 1969 to 1973. "It certainly caused me nothing but misery and everybody in Lewisville nothing but misery. A few of the businesses may have prospered as a result of it, but the majority, it hurt them, I think.'

Now a state district judge in Denton County, he has no fond memories of Lewisville's little Woodstock. "Not a one,' Judge Houston says.

"He was a real gentleman about the whole thing,' festival organizer Angus Wynne says of the former mayor. "In fairness to him, he was really concerned about his community and kind of picked up on the whole Woodstock propaganda thing that had been promulgated through some of the horror stories that the conservative press was spreading.'

"People thought, "Here are these awful-looking kids, unchained, turned loose, torn from the pages of Life -- out there fornicating and smoking dope and generally having a good time.' '

The Texas International Pop Festival attracted 120,000 people from all over the country -- mostly hippies -- during its three days on leased grounds at the now-defunct Dallas International Speedway. (The site today is slated for a residential development, with a canal wide enough for residents to drive their boats straight from home to the lake.)

Besides a 30-act musical roster, the festival became a carnival of earthy and sometimes dubious delights: from hippie vendors and a brotherly emphasis on sharing, to pot-smoking, LSD and, over at Lake Lewisville, very public skinny-dipping.

Mr. Wynne, who had been at Woodstock a couple of weeks before his own festival, says the Lewisville event had the same communal spirit.

"It had that real anything-goes feeling,' he says, "where everybody was looking out for each other. It was real serene -- "Brother' this, "Brother' that.'

"It sounds real corny to describe it like that, but that's the way it was.'

"The thing is,' says Judge Houston, "we had a very volatile situation. Lewisville was a very small town (less than 8,000 residents) . . . and we did not know what was coming. I learned about it in July. The people who had the racetrack had already leased it out to the pop festival people, and it had already been pretty well solidified.

"We had no ordinances we could use to stop it,' he says. "Frankly, we didn't realize what it was until . . . reporters started calling us from all over the country and asking us what we thought about it.

"Woodstock had occurred just a little bit before, and it didn't take us long to learn about what we had on our hands.'

One young man died of heat prostration at the festival and more than a dozen were arrested for drugs outside the festival grounds. Judge Houston says the worst situation was at Lake Lewisville Park, where skinny-dipping flower children attracted gawkers from far and wide, causing many a traffic jam and culture clash. A rodeo had hit town the same weekend.

While news stories from the time told of residents charmed by extremely polite hippies who mowed their lawns for free and sang to their children, Judge Houston was less taken with the visitors.

"If that happened, it was the exception rather than the rule,' he says. "The bunch out at Lake Lewisville Park was rowdy. . . . Plus, (there were) the people coming from out of town to observe the nude sunbathers and the goings-on in general.

"And,' Judge Houston says, "there were all different groups. There were very conservative people who came out there to be with very liberal people, and it was just very volatile. . . . Anything could have set off one of the worst riots this country has ever seen, in my opinion.

"But it didn't happen, thank heavens.'

"I have no money, but it makes no difference,' a young man told a reporter on the festival's second day. "We all share what we can. All this waiting can be uncomfortable, but look around -- there is no pushing, no shoving and not much impatience.

"If someone has food and you don't, they'll share it. That is what this is all about.'

Lucy McCall, now a Taos, N.M.-based herbalist and "a grown-up flower child,' was 17 when she spent three days at the Lewisville festival.

"There was a lot of room,' she says. "Woodstock, I heard, was packed. This was a big field, and people were dancing all over the place.'

"What I encountered was love and peace and having one good time,' she says. "The people were very good and kind. I didn't see much violence there; I wasn't around any. There was a lot of metaphysical what-have-you and artistic this-and-that. It freaked Dallas out completely.'

Ralph Adams, then Lewisville's outgoing police chief, took on the job of handling security at the festival.

"Good scene,' he told the crowd on the final day. "I can't say too much good about you people. You've shown the elders something that they've hated to be shown for a long time.'

Perhaps one reason for the peaceful, easy feeling at the Texas International Pop Festival was the fact that liquor wasn't sold on the grounds. If there was any violence, the media never got wind of it.

Not that everyone was getting high on life, mind you.

"It was all soft,' Mr. Wynne says. "Psychedelics and pot, I believe, were the prevalent stimulants of choice.'

"I think probably everybody was stoned,' says Ms. McCall. "But back then, the drug scene was not as sordid as it is now. Cocaine and heroin and speed have become a serious problem in this country.'

Drug use, Mr. Wynne says, "was probably more evident then, because here you were out in the middle of a field. People were less self-conscious about it than one would be in a closed environment where you might offend someone.

"Most of the people that were out there were of that emerging generation that participated in it or for whom it was not a big deal,' he says. "So it was relatively easy going on that score.'

The promoters, Mr. Wynne says, had an agreement with the city that no uniformed police officers would enter the festival grounds. An informal "peer security' force was known as "the Friends.'

"There was no policeman kept out of there,' says Judge Houston today. "They were in there, I think, in plainclothes. . . . (But) we didn't have a large enough police force to do anything.'

"If anything bad had really happened, there would have been only one thing to do, and that would have been to have the governor call in the National Guard. I don't think there were enough police in North Texas to take care of it.'

"I would trust those people (the festivalgoers) with my life,' Police Chief Adams declared at the time.

"He got to know everybody pretty well and got to understand the so-called hippie point of view,' says Mr. Wynne. "He was immediately convinced that these were not bad people, that they were real easy to get along with and that, despite the long hair and the hippie look, they were just ordinary folks. And they all liked him a lot.'

Editorialists at The Dallas Morning News were having none of it.

"Young people assembling to hear music is one thing. Young people assembling in unspeakable costumes, half-naked, bare-footed, defying propriety and scorning morality is another,' fumed an editorial headlined "Nausea at Lewisville.'

"Who and where are their parents? Where do these young people get the money to loaf around the country in their smelly regalia?'

The short piece closed with the assurance that most kids were "where they ought to be -- mowing yards, working at part-time jobs and preparing for useful lives.'

Mr. Wynne points to that kind of talk, along with higher-than-anticipated security and insurance costs, as factors that helped investors lose "probably $100,000 on the thing.'

"Parents were led to believe that it was gonna be a real horror show down here,' he says.

"I can't say this was the most organized thing in the world, either,' adds Mr. Wynne. "There were loose ends flapping all over the place, as you could imagine from a bunch of young guys that had never done anything like this and were trying to pull it off in record time.'

When it was all over, the participants, the police chief, some of the residents and even the disapproving media sang the praises of the Texas International Pop Festival. No serious problems had arisen -- and such good manners, too.

"When all these kids came to town,' says Mr. Wynne, "they went so far out of their way to be nice to the residents. They would mow their lawns and call them "sir' and "ma'am' and pick up their trash.

"That was part of the mind-blow thing that went on here. People expected all these folks to be real nasty, and here they were handing them flowers, just as polite as they could be. It disarmed them totally.'

It took years for Mr. Wynne, who has worked in the promotion and management end of the entertainment business for much of the last 20 years, to get the festival behind him. First, there was the lost money to recoup, and then a lawsuit filed (unsuccessfully) by some area farmers who said their property had been devalued. He now heads Wynne Entertainment in Dallas.

It seems to bother him a bit, the notion that the gentlemanly Sam Houston felt hoodwinked, taken advantage of by the Texas International Pop Festival and its organizers.

Says the judge: "I just understood that you had to be reasonable in a situation like that. There were some things that you could do and some things that you couldn't.

"Everybody's rights certainly had to be looked out for, but, on the other hand, our main job was to protect the city of Lewisville.'

"I don't know whether "hoodwinked' would be the correct word,' Judge Houston says. "I just think that, once we learned about it, we didn't have enough time to do anything about it. And that was probably contrived.'

Standing in the empty field that would have been the backstage area on Labor Day weekend 1969, Mr. Wynne is amazed that no trace remains even of the racetrack where his pop festival was held.

A young man flying remote-control airplanes nearby in the open spaces off I-35 says he's heard of the Texas International Pop Festival.

"Yeah -- Jimi Hendrix played there, right?' the kid says en-thus-ias-tically, if erroneously. "Man, he was the best.'

"I get more people that bring up the subject,' Mr. Wynne says, "and they all have their favorite festival stories. I won't say it was a turning point, but it happened at a time in people's lives that was generally a turning point of some sort, because of all the sociological and political changes that were going down.'

It keeps coming back to Judge Houston, too. Like a bad trip.

"I hope it's another 20 years before somebody calls me again,' he says.

 

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