Monterey Pop Festival Inaugurates the “Summer of Love”

The celebrated “Summer of Love” was inaugurated with the first large-scale pop music festival, an event that would serve as a prototype for similar festivals, such as 1969’s Woodstock, throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Summary of Event

On the damp weekend of June 16-18, 1967, an estimated fifty thousand music lovers gathered in Monterey, California, for the first and only Monterey International Pop Festival at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, site of an annual jazz festival. No one, including nervous city officials, knew what to expect, and to everyone’s delight the event took place without any reported ugly incidents. Monterey International Pop Festival (1967)
“Summer of Love”[Summer of Love]
United States;counterculture
Rock and roll
[kw]Monterey Pop Festival Inaugurates the “Summer of Love” (June 16-18, 1967)
[kw]Festival Inaugurates the “Summer of Love”, Monterey Pop (June 16-18, 1967)[Festival Inaugurates the Summer of Love, Monterey Pop]
[kw]”Summer of Love”, Monterey Pop Festival Inaugurates the (June 16-18, 1967)[Summer of Love, Monterey Pop Festival Inaugurates the]
Monterey International Pop Festival (1967)
“Summer of Love”[Summer of Love]
United States;counterculture
Rock and roll
[g]North America;June 16-18, 1967: Monterey Pop Festival Inaugurates the “Summer of Love”[09330]
[g]United States;June 16-18, 1967: Monterey Pop Festival Inaugurates the “Summer of Love”[09330]
[c]Music;June 16-18, 1967: Monterey Pop Festival Inaugurates the “Summer of Love”[09330]
[c]Cultural and intellectual history;June 16-18, 1967: Monterey Pop Festival Inaugurates the “Summer of Love”[09330]
Adler, Lou
Phillips, John
Redding, Otis
Townshend, Pete
Hendrix, Jimi
Joplin, Janis
Shankar, Ravi

Originally, the festival was the idea of a pair of enterprising young men in Los Angeles who had raised seed money and secured a lease to the fairgrounds. Once the pair invited John Phillips, the head of the band the Mamas and the Papas, to join forces, however, he brought in his producer-manager, Lou Adler, at the time an influential power broker in the music business, and control quickly changed hands. A board of governors was enlisted, including such popular artists as Paul McCartney, Paul Simon Simon, Paul , Smokey Robinson, and Brian Wilson, and a plan was hatched to donate the festival’s proceeds to worthy charities.

The plan was to present the most important musical acts of the period, and although the event was billed as an international festival, the acts were primarily from California. In fact, every major California rock band was in attendance, with the notable exceptions of the Beach Boys Beach Boys (fearful they were passé in the psychedelic spirit of the times) and the Doors, Doors, the who had recently released their first album. Rumors circulated that the Beatles, Donovan, Bob Dylan, and even the Rolling Stones might make surprise appearances (Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones was conspicuously present); none, however, took the stage.

The Friday evening show was an eclectic assemblage of new and veteran performers. An unknown Canadian group named the Paupers Paupers, the (musical group) gave a surprising performance complete with the bassist creating waves of feedback and guitarists occasionally playing drums along with the drummer. Eric Burden Burden, Eric debuted his new version of the Animals, Animals, the (musical group) and Johnny Rivers Rivers, Johnny , an Adler protégé, gave a slick performance. The highlight of the night, though, came with an appearance by Simon and Garfunkel Simon and Garfunkel .

Saturday afternoon was devoted to the blues, with Los Angeles’s Canned Heat Canned Heat starting the show and Country Joe and the Fish Country Joe and the Fish , the Paul Butterfield Blues Band Paul Butterfield Blues Band , and the Steve Miller Band Steve Miller Band following. Al Kooper Kooper, Al , recently departed from the Blues Project, gave a solo performance on the piano, and Mike Bloomfield Bloomfield, Mike , formerly of the Butterfield band, introduced his new group, the Electric Flag Electric Flag , which gave a rousing performance, with drummer-singer Buddy Miles Miles, Buddy called back for an encore.

Unquestionably, though, the highlight of the afternoon was the inspired performance of Janis Joplin, the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company Big Brother and the Holding Company . Joplin was already a fixture in the clubs of San Francisco, but this one appearance brought her to the attention of a much wider audience and drove the crowd to hysterical appreciation. Joplin, in fact, made such an impression that her band made a reprise appearance Sunday night; D. A. Pennebaker’s film Monterey Pop
Monterey Pop (Pennebaker) (1969) captures the impassioned energy of that second performance.

Saturday night’s proceedings were begun by a newcomer, Moby Grape Moby Grape , a San Francisco band that gained a reputation for combining psychedelia with tight melodic structure. The Byrds, Byrds, the minus singer Gene Clark, gave a solid performance that included their recent hit, “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star,” “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star” (Byrds)[So You Want to Be a Rock n Roll Star] featuring the trumpet of South African Hugh Masekela Masekela, Hugh , who appeared briefly with the band and later on his own. The Jefferson Airplane Jefferson Airplane , featuring new singer Grace Slick Slick, Grace , put on an excellent show, but the evening really belonged to Otis Redding, a veteran of the soul circuit who knew how to work an audience. Redding sang some of his standards, among them “Shake,” “Shake” (Redding)[Shake (Redding)] and drove the crowd to distraction with a wrenching version of “Try a Little Tenderness.” “Try a Little Tenderness” (Redding)[Try a Little Tenderness]

Sunday afternoon featured a two-and-a-half-hour show by Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar, who mesmerized an audience largely unfamiliar with his ragas. Delighted but surprised at his reception, Shankar told the audience, “I love all of you, and how grateful I am for your love of me. What am I doing at a pop festival when my music is classical? I knew I’d be meeting you at one place, you to whom music means so much.”

Sunday evening began with performances by the Blues Project Blues Project and the Buffalo Springfield Buffalo Springfield , the latter without Neil Young but accompanied by David Crosby of the Byrds, and the Grateful Dead Grateful Dead . Midway through the evening, the Who, Who, the (musical group) a band led by Pete Townshend that had enjoyed a few minor hits in the United States, worked themselves into a frenzy of smashed guitars, smoke bombs, and feedback that electrified the crowd. Two sets later, Jimi Hendrix and his band made their American debut, and in an effort to top the Who, Hendrix played the guitar with his teeth and behind his back and, for his finale, set his guitar on fire and then smashed it into his amplifier. The Mamas and the Papas Mamas and the Papas, the closed the show with a selection of their most popular songs and called Scott McKenzie out to perform his recent hit “San Francisco.”


The festival was, quite simply, a seminal event in the history of American rock and roll. Although there were annual folk and jazz festivals across the country, there had never before been a carefully organized rock festival. San Francisco had provided precursor events—the Trips Festival in January of 1966 (at which the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company played) and the Human Be-In on January 14, 1967, in Golden Gate Park (at which the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, and Quicksilver Messenger Service performed), for example—but a festival of such scope had never been attempted.

Monterey Pop became the touchstone by which later events would be measured. Before Monterey, it was typical for a collection of bands to tour a number of cities, putting on the same choreographed performances at each location, but the concept of a festival, a gathering at one site of a number of groups, quickly became the norm. Similar events followed in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, and the Isle of Wight, but the culmination came in 1969 at Woodstock in upstate New York, where many of the same bands gathered once again. In fact, the planners of the Woodstock festival saw the success at Monterey as an incentive to embark on their massive project. The idea of making a film to record the Woodstock event and a live album of the festival’s performances was inspired by the production of Monterey Pop and the Monterey recordings of Hendrix, Redding, Ravi Shankar, the Mamas and the Papas, and the Jefferson Airplane.

The Monterey festival also brought national and international attention to a host of bands known primarily in the San Francisco region. The Jefferson Airplane had the strongest reputation, and the Grateful Dead and Moby Grape had each released their first albums shortly before the festival; however, their fans were still largely limited to San Francisco. Quicksilver Messenger Service, Steve Miller, Electric Flag, and Big Brother and the Holding Company managed to parlay their appearances into recording contracts. Suddenly, record companies were falling over one another to sign Northern California bands. Later groups such as It’s a Beautiful Day, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, the Sons of Champlin, Sly and the Family Stone, the Doobie Brothers, and Joy of Cooking received their own contracts and enjoyed a broader audience than they otherwise could have achieved outside the environs of Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Many San Francisco bands were initially wary of a festival engineered by Southern California masterminds that attempted to imitate the Bay Area’s relaxed versions of outdoor concerts. Some bands such as the Grateful Dead, who refused to sign away film rights, found themselves excluded from the film; the Grateful Dead even staged a series of free concerts at the football field of nearby Monterey Peninsula College, where audiences were camping out. After the festival, San Francisco became an established music capital, with its own recording studios and a thriving community of musicians and producers, and promoter Bill Graham Graham, Bill rose to international stature as the rock mogul who could put on any show, anywhere, with any band.

Other artists suddenly found themselves with an instant reputation and lucrative contracts. The career of Jimi Hendrix was launched by his Monterey show; his first album appeared later that summer, and he became a popular draw at concert halls. For a year or so, Hendrix continued to titillate audiences with his stage antics, until he grew weary of the clowning and decided to place emphasis on the music itself.

Otis Redding likewise acquired a vast, adulatory white audience and considerable airplay on the growing number of white FM radio stations, and his popularity soared in the United States and Europe. His most famous song, the posthumously released “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” (Redding)[Sittin on the Dock of the Bay] was written a few days after his Monterey appearance while Redding was resting on a houseboat in Sausalito. The Who, who had played to an audience of 250 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a week before the festival, emerged with a two-night engagement at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium (thus beginning a long and productive relationship with promoter Bill Graham), a cross-country tour, and a new, appreciative audience in America.

As these bands grew in popularity, so too did the demands they could place on promoters and record companies. Suddenly, rock artists could choose their producers or oversee their records themselves; they could demand the best recording facilities and could take longer to prepare their records, as the Jefferson Airplane did in recording the eccentric After Bathing at Baxter’s
After Bathing at Baxter’s (Jefferson Airplane)[After Bathing at Baxters] (1967). In fact, the band constantly battled with its record company and managed to prevail in using taboo language, which was left uncensored, on Volunteers
Volunteers (Jefferson Airplane) (1969).

The Grateful Dead, always a performance band, was allowed to release a series of rambling, utterly uncommercial recordings that would have been rejected before the post-Monterey euphoria with San Francisco bands. Live recordings multiplied, with Quicksilver Messenger Service’s Happy Trails (1969), the Jefferson Airplane’s Bless Its Pointed Little Head (1969), and Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills
Cheap Thrills (Big Brother and the Holding Company) (1968) capturing the energy and dynamism of San Francisco concerts.

There was also a hidden, less savory side to all this new attention. Bands such as Moby Grape, which eagerly embraced the exaggerations of their publicity machines, suddenly saw their careers evaporate as they self-destructed. The history of Moby Grape’s dissolution—its changes in personnel, reformations, and steady decline in artistry—forms one of the saddest yet most illustrative of rock’s cautionary tales. When the band’s first album was released in May, 1967, Columbia Records Columbia Records
Record labels;Columbia , in an unprecedented move, released ten of the album’s thirteen songs simultaneously as singles. The band was a favorite with other musicians, but they could never match the artistry of their first recording, and subsequent albums marked a steady decline in performance. Many of the other bands at the Monterey concert rose to instant stardom and then fell apart as a result of jealousies, self-indulgence, or exaggerated expectations. Within three years, four of the principal performers—Hendrix, Joplin, Redding, and Al Wilson of Canned Heat—were dead, and most of the show’s bands dissolved in the 1970’s.

The best aspect of the festival was the general spirit of goodwill. The crowds were adoring of the bands and remarkably tolerant of one another. Even the Monterey police, who had planned for the worst, turned a blind eye on marijuana consumption and helped ensure an atmosphere of harmony. Many band members calmly mingled with their fans, and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones grandly strolled through the midway chatting with anyone. To most observers, this behavior seemed the perfect embodiment of the hippie ethos of peace and love, and it set the tone for the remarkably docile spirit of the Woodstock festival two years later—a spirit destroyed with the horror of the Altamont, California, festival in December of 1969, at which there was considerable violence and one audience member was murdered.

Never again would a nonprofit festival occur, and the social conditions that gave rise to such an event never again emerged. Festivals became money-making schemes, and bands that had freely donated their time now vied for increasingly outlandish contracts and amenities. Monterey Pop was remarkable, though, for showing that such generosity was possible and that such an assemblage of talent could be created. It was truly a one-time-only event. Monterey International Pop Festival (1967)
“Summer of Love”[Summer of Love]
United States;counterculture
Rock and roll

Further Reading

  • Christgau, Robert. “Anatomy of a Love Festival.” In Any Old Way You Choose It: Rock and Other Pop Music, 1967-1973. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1973. Christgau brings the passion and knowledge of a firsthand account of the festival. Many of his observations are incisive and revealing.
  • Herman, Gary. Rock ’n’ Roll Babylon. New York: Perigee Books, 1982. Initial chapter presents a dystopian view of the festival, emphasizing the personal and commercial exploitation of the artists.
  • Hill, Sarah. “When Deep Soul Met the Love Crowd: Otis Redding, Monterey Pop Festival, June 17, 1967.” In Performance and Popular Music: History, Place, and Time, edited by Ian Inglis. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2006. Analysis of the cultural interaction between Redding’s soul sensibility and the hippies present at the Monterey Pop Festival. Bibliographic references and index.
  • McDonough, Jack. San Francisco Rock: The Illustrated History of San Francisco Rock Music. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1985. Provides excellent background information for the San Francisco music scene and the role that the city’s bands played in the event.
  • Mayes, Elaine. It Happened in Monterey: Modern Rock’s Defining Moment, The Monterey International Pop Festival, Monterey, California, June 16, 17, 18, 1967. Culver City, Calif.: Britannia Press, 2002. Photographic study of the Monterey Pop festival, capturing both the public and the private moments of the entertainers and the audience in attendance.
  • Miles, Barry. Hippie. New York: Sterling, 2004. Miles, a biographer of several of the Beat poets, here produces a history of the Beats’ descendants, the hippies. Examines each year from 1965 through 1971 in detail; places the Monterey Pop Festival and the Summer of Love in their cultural context. Index.
  • Sanders, Ellen. Trips: Rock Life in the Sixties. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973. Offers an impressionistic, firsthand account of the event. Although thin on details about the bands and performances, the essay about the Monterey festival captures the unique ambiance of the event.
  • Santelli, Robert. Aquarius Rising. New York: Dell, 1980. A very good overview of the festival preparations, the bands that played there, and the event’s significance.
  • Selvin, Joel. Monterey Pop. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1992. Twenty-fifth anniversary tribute offers the most comprehensive discussion of the preparations for the event, the bands that played, and the songs performed. Culled from numerous firsthand accounts by the musicians themselves.

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