Byron Concert Site Gets Historic Marker

– 1970 Atlanta International Pop Festival Site Receives Marker from Georgia Historical Society –

Only a part of the name is a misnomer. Byron is nowhere near Atlanta, but it was definitely a pop festival. Famous and soon-to-be famous acts included: The Allman Brothers Band, Jimi Hendrix, Ten Years After, Procol Harum, B. B. King, Mountain, Captain Beefheart, Rare Earth, The Chambers Brothers, Chicago Transit Authority, Poco, Ravi Shankar, Grand Funk Railroad, Spirit, The Bob Seger System, and others. Atlanta concert promoter Alex Cooley sold tickets at a mere $14 each.

Christina M. Wright’s story in The Macon Telegraph has the scoop on honoring the epic “three days of love peace and music” in Byron, Georgia, over a long Independence Day weekend in 1970.

In retrospect it was a time of relative innocence despite the nudity and omnipresent acid and other hallucinogenics. No arrests were made and the only person shot was a photographer who accidentally shot himself in the hand while climbing a telephone pole. Governor Lester Maddox circled the event vainly in a helicopter.

At midnight on the morning of July 4th, Jimi Hendrix would deliver his explosive performance of The Star Spangled Banner with fireworks on and off the stage before the largest crowd of his career. In ten short weeks he would be dead.

Should an event be honored simply because between 250,000 and 600,000 people gathered in a soybean field for a music concert? If not, should it be remembered for the cultural change it signaled or for the amazing talent presented?

For additional information and a lot of pictures, please see:

http://alexcooley.com/fest-atlpop2.html
http://www.retronaut.co/2012/08/2nd-annual-atlanta-pop-festival-1970/
http://www.messyoptics.com/bird/APF_00.html

8 comments

  1. Calypso says:

    “Governor Lester Maddox circled the event vainly in a helicopter.”

    Man, you’d think the guv could have gotten a complimentary ticket or something.

    Sounds like a pretty cool happening. Though not living in Georgia (and being only 13 at the time), that would have been one great weekend to experience.

    Have you ever been experienced? Well, I have.

    • Ken says:

      I think Maddox was threatening to send in the Georgia State Patrol, besides I don’t think Governor Maddox would have hung around very long. I have difficulty envisioning Lester grooving to “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” or rocking out to “Purple Haze”, “Mississippi Queen”, “25 or 6 to 4”, “Get Ready” or “I’d Love to Change the World”.

      Riding a bicycle backwards? Yes. Orange Sunshine? No.

  2. polpol says:

    I was one of the 500,000 or so present, sitting stage center just across the road that transversed the site. Fantastic Music, Hendrix was magical with not only fireworks, but also an electrical storm booming behind the stage. By the time we arrived, the fences had been torn down and it became a free event.

  3. seenbetrdayz says:

    And I thought nothing cool ever happens where I live. Please allow me to add this here, Ken:

    2 years ago the current owner of the property decided to have a ‘racer’s reunion’ car show. It was a big hit. I had the pleasure and privilege of helping work the event back when I was a volunteer with the fire department here. There were no fires, just one person who had a bit of trouble challenging the Georgia heat.

    Although it’s not in any shape whatsoever to race on, the old track has a lot of potential for future events. They had the 2nd annual racers reunion this past May, but I missed it this time, unfortunately. Hopefully they can keep the interest going, and perhaps this acknowledgement from the GA Historical Society might help with that.

    http://stockcar.racersreunion.com/events/middle-georgia-raceway

    After a few decades of non-usage, pine trees were actually growing up through the asphalt, and the bleachers are condemned. But crews did a lot of work to get the track ready for the car show; I believe they had some before & after photos on the event’s facebook page.

    This guy’s got a lot of videos up on his channel, you can browse through them and see some of the hard work they did to get the place cleaned up.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnEZuAXrva4&feature=relmfu
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AineI_C0N_k&feature=related

    Sadly, I don’t think they’ll get racing going again, because there’s more neighborhoods around than the pecan orchards present 30 years ago. It’s true that the most memorable event was the Pop Festival, but there are some side legends on the topics of racing and moonshine stills.

    (Disclaimer: I’m not in any way associated with the owner(s) of the Mid-GA Raceway. I wish I were, though. It would be pretty damn cool to own a race track.)

  4. SallyForth says:

    Heyy-uhl-yeah! Georgia has always kicked major butt in music and still rocks! This was a little before my time, but I sure do have my share of music from the Byron performers:

    The Allman Brothers Band, Jimi Hendrix, Ten Years After, Procol Harum, B. B. King, Mountain, Captain Beefheart, Rare Earth, The Chambers Brothers, Chicago Transit Authority, Poco, Ravi Shankar, Grand Funk Railroad, Spirit, Bob Seger

    Performers also included Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Canned Heat, Spirit, Ten Wheel Drive, Joe Cocker, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Dave Brubeck, Grand Funk Railroad, and others.

    The only name I see missing that should have been included is the Doobie Brothers.

    In more recent years, Cooley gave us The Tabernacle (a gutted building that used to be the First Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta) with great music during and after the Olympics. This home-grown Georgia giant in the music world internationally is now enjoying being a N GA mountain man – thanks for all the memories, Alex Cooley, and for helping save Eddie’s Attic in the here and now. Now about that doobie…..

    • Ken says:

      I remember seeing an Alex Cooley concert at The Fabulous Fox Theater. We were inside and exiting after the show. As we got closer to the exit, we could hear applause and cheers outside the building.

      None of us could figure it out until we got outside and there was Alex Cooley simply standing on the sidewalk with open arms and upturned palms. The posture was clearly asking for our opinions and everyone was letting Cooley know we had a great time!

      Umm, who performed that night? I can’t exactly remember, but I do remember having a great time and I remember Alex Cooley standing there wanting to know if everyone had a great time.

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