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10 Historic Blues Rock Performances of the 1960s

The 1960s was a transformative decade for music, particularly for the blues rock genre, which saw a surge in popularity and influence. This time period was documented on film that recorded legendary performances that offer a glimpse into the raw energy and the cultural shifts of the era. From the T.A.M.I. Show in 1964 to Woodstock in 1969, the transformational change is clearly documented as blues and rock converged to become Blues Rock.

Festival

Festival was directed by Murray Lerner and released in 1967. It chronicles the Newport Folk Festival from 1963 to 1966 and features nearly 50 different artists. The roster includes Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan, Son House, Howlin’ Wolf, Mississippi John Hurt, Mississippi Fred McDowell, the Staple Singers, and many others. The film includes Bob Dylan’s historic performance in 1965 when he began playing the electric guitar backed by the Butterfield Blues Band. The two videos are first, Dylan’s performance in 1965 and second, a discussion and performances by Son House, Mike Bloomfield, and Paul Butterfield.

The T.A.M.I. Show  

The Teenage Awards Music International concert took place at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on October 28-29, 1964. It features a legendary lineup of some of the biggest names and most popular artists of that era. That time period was the birth era of the blues rock genre and the Rolling Stones carried the banner spearheaded by Chuck Berry and James Brown. It’s an insightful peak into the pre-blues rock landscape, showcasing the raw energy and diverse musical styles that would influence countless artists and shape the future of rock music. The concert captures the dynamic performances and cultural vibrancy of the 1960s, providing a snapshot of a pivotal moment in music history when genres were blending, and new musical expressions were emerging.

Monterey Pop

The Monterey International Pop Festival” took place June 16-18, 1967 in Monterey, California. It was one of the first festivals to primarily feature rock bands. It was filmed by D. A. Pennebaker and features historic performances by the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company. The festival was conceived by John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas and record producer Lou Adler. The festival site had a capacity of 7,000 to 10,000 each day but between ticket holders and people milling around outside the perimeter of the grounds, the total was estimated at over 100,000. The historical significance of the festival is that it ushered in the hippie Summer of Love in San Francisco and ultimately the nation.

Cream’s Farewell Concert

Cream’s farewell concert took place on November 26, 1968, at Royal Albert Hall in London, England. It was the final performance of one the most influential blues rock groups from the seminal period of the genre. Cream formed in 1966 with Eric Clapton (lead guitar & vocals), Jack Bruce (bass guitar & lead vocals) and Ginger Baker (drums). The set list for the concert included their biggest hits from “White Room” and “Politician” to “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Toad” (featuring Ginger Baker’s extended drum solo to name some. The “Farewell Concert” was filmed by Tony Palmer and released as both the documentary Cream’s Farewell Concert in 1969 and as live cuts on the band’s final album, Goodbye.

The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus

The “Rolling Stones” put together a rock and roll circus that was comprised of both musicians and circus performers and filmed it. The event took place over a two-day period on December 11 and 12 1968 in Wembley, London. The musical artists included the Rolling Stones, the Who, Jethro Tull, “Taj Mahal, and the Dirty Mac Band comprised of John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Mitch Mitchell, and Yoko Ono. The circus elements were provided by acrobats, clowns, trapeze artists, and a fire eater. Due to a variety of reasons from the Rolling Stones not being satisfied with their performance to technical and logistical issues the film was not released for public consumption until 1996.

The Beatles’ Let It Be  

The Beatles quit touring in August 1966 but on January 30, 1969, they performed an impromptu set on the rooftop of their Apple Records office in London. Their performance stopped traffic and was ultimately halted by the authorities. They were previewing material from their upcoming album Let It Be. The rooftop performance was included in the documentary film Let It Be that was released in 1970. It documents the final days that the Beatles were together as a group after their psychedelic period with Sgt Pepper’s and Magical Mystery Tour when they returned to their roots with hard blues rock.

Woodstock    

Just as the Altamont Free Concert and the tragedy involved was seen as an omen for the demise of the hippie counter-culture, Woodstock was viewed as the pinnacle of the “flower power,” “free love” and the “turn on, tune in, and drop out” movement. The film was directed by Michael Wadliegh and included dozens of the top rock acts at the time from Jimi Hendrix, Santana and Janis Joplin to Canned Heat, Joe Cocker, and Ten Years After. When the film was released in 1970 it only contained a fraction of the hundreds of hours of film footage documenting all the performances. The festival took place in upstate New York about 43 miles from Woodstock from August 15 to 18, 1969. An estimated 400,000 people attended.

The Who at the Isle of Wight  

In August 1969, two weeks after their successful appearance at the Woodstock Festival the Who performed at the Isle of Wight Festival. The festival was held on August 30 and 31 and is considered iconic in the annals of rock music. The crowd was estimated at being around 150,000 people and the Who performed on day two delivering a powerful set. Their set included “I Can’t Explain,” “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me,” “Feel Me,” “My Generation,” “Magic Bus” and many others. The Who had just released their historic rock opera Tommy in May and they performed many of the songs from it. The footage is over an hour long and very grainy but it captures the band’s raw energy and musical innovation by showcasing their musical prowess and dynamic stage presence.

Sweet Toronto

Sweet Toronto was directed by legendary rock documentary cinematographer D.A. Pennebaker. The film captures the “Toronto Rock and Roll Revival,” which was a one-day festival held at Varsity Stadium in Toronto, Canada on September 13, 1969. The festival featured legends of seminal rock and roll like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard. The closing act of the festival was John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, at a time when Lennon was contemplating leaving the Beatles. The band featured John Lennon (guitar and vocals), Eric Clapton (guitar), Klaus Voormann (bass guitar), Alan White (drums) and Yoko Ono (primal screaming). Pennebaker’s documentary style captured the raw spontaneity of the live performances with his unobtrusive filming technique without staged setups or scripted scenes.

Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter was a 1970 film release directed by David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin that captures the Rolling Stones’ 1969 U.S. tour. The documentary culminates with the tragic and infamous Altamont Free Concert where an attendee was brutally killed by a Hells Angels member acting as security in front of the stage. It was interpreted as a sign that the innocence of the baby boomer generation that had embraced the peaceful hippie philosophy was over. The concert had originally been planned as a second Woodstock on the West Coast and included performances by the “Flying Burrito Brothers,” “Jefferson Airplane” and Santana on December 6, 1969 to close out the decade.

The film footage of these ten concert and festival performances from the 1960s showcase the birth period of the blues rock genre. Each film captures a unique moment in time including the passing of the baton from classic blues musicians to the blues rockers that followed them. The combination of all these performances tells the story and offers invaluable insights into the musical innovations and cultural movements that defined the 1960s decade.

Bob Gersztyn

As a teenager in Detroit, Michigan during the early 1960’s Bob Gersztyn saw many Motown and other R&B artists including Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. After his discharge from the army in 1968 he attended school on the GI Bill and spent the next 3 years attending concerts and festivals weekly. It was the seminal period in Detroit rock & roll that Bob witnessed spawning the MC5 and Stooges along with shows featuring everyone from Jimi Hendrix and the “Doors” to B. B. King and John Lee Hooker. In 1971 He moved to Los Angeles, California to finish his schooling where he became an inner city pastor promoting and hosting gospel concerts. He moved to Oregon in 1982 and began photographing and reviewing concerts for music publications. Since that time he has published myriads of photographs, articles, interviews, and contributed to 2 encyclopedias and published 6 books on everything from music to the military. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Bob%20Gersztyn His rock & roll photo art is available for sale on Etsy @: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ConcertPhotoImages?ref=seller-platform-mcnav Bob may be contacted personally at bobgersztyn@gmail.com

11 thoughts on “10 Historic Blues Rock Performances of the 1960s

  • Lest we not forget the 1969 Atlanta International Pop Festival (much more than pop, though) which occurred a month earlier than, and helped set the stage for, Woodstock.

    The 1969 Atlanta International Pop Festival featured blues-rock artists (now legends) including Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, Al Kooper, The Butterfield Blues Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Blood Sweat and Tears, Joe Cocker, Chicago (Chicago Transit Authority, at the time), Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, and many more.

    Great follow-up in 1970, with the Allman Brothers Band being one of the main headliners.

    Reply
  • Lest we not forget the 1969 Atlanta International Pop Festival (much more than pop, though) which occurred a month earlier than, and helped set the stage for, Woodstock.

    The 1969 Atlanta International Pop Festival featured blues-rock artists (now legends) including Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, Al Kooper, The Butterfield Blues Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Blood Sweat and Tears, Joe Cocker, Chicago (Chicago Transit Authority, at the time), Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, and many more.

    Great follow-up in 1970, with the Allman Brothers Band being one of the main headliners.

    Reply
  • Kind of a stretch to have The Beatles and The Who listed as “blues rock”.

    Reply
  • Pingback: 10 Historic Concert Footage From the 1960’s | ♪Jesus♬Rocks♬The♬World♪

  • Did you people ever hear of Steppenwolf!? They did a lot more than just Born to Be Wild and Magic Carpet Ride!! John Kay cut his teeth on Mississippi Delta Blues plus he wrote some great stuff. Listen to the Steppenwolf Seven album. Gerry Edmonton, their drummer, was one of the best in the world of Rock. Tired of seeing Led Zeppelin in every article!!

    Reply
    • I agree I have seen Steppenwolf at least 10 times and they never disappointed the crowd, John Kay was a master of the craft called Rock & Roll.

      Reply
  • Peter Green John Mayall and Ten Years After The Doors.

    Reply
  • I feel you, Baybluesman, Was there for both Atlanta festivals. Check out Electric Church, the Jimi Hendrix documentary, if you want a taste. It is criminal that someone is still sitting on the footage of that magical July 4th week in 1970. Alex Cooley RIP

    Reply
    • Thanks Wynn – I will check into the Electric Church documentary.
      Bb

      Reply

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