The East Coast of the U.S. saw it’s first major rock festival today in 1968 when the second Miami Pop Festival got underway, with Chuck Berry, The Amboy Dukes, The McCoys, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Marvin Gaye, The Turtles, The Box Tops, Three Dog Night, Pacific Gas and Electric, Steppenwolf, Procul Harum, Canned Heat, Iron Butterfly, and The Grateful Dead. There had been an earlier attempt at the same horse-racing track in May, put on by later Woodstock producer Michael Lang with headliner Jimi Hendrix that had drawn almost 25,000 until it was rained out (Jimi wrote Rainy Day, Dream Away there), but this one in on a sunny Florida winter weekend cracked the 100,000 mark.
Meanwhile on the West Coast, Vanilla Fudge and their then-unknown opening act Led Zeppelin checked out of Seattle’s Edgewater Inn this morning in 1968, having played the Seattle Center Arena (now called the Mercer Arena) and creating one of rock’s longest lasting legends of debauchery the night before with a mud shark they caught from their window and a willing groupie. They headed north to Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum where they would play tonight. Zeppelin’s first album wasn’t in record stores yet, but everyone who saw them certainly remembered, and by the time they came back to play the Green Lake Aqua Theater in May most people were there to see them, even though they were still the opening act for Three Dog Night.
Chris Bell, guitarist for the mostly unknown at the time but now legendary Memphis band Big Star joined the 27 club today in 1978 when he hit a telephone pole in his car.
The only surfer in The Beach Boys, 39 year old Dennis Wilson was on a friend’s boat in Marina Del Rey in California today in 1983, and though he’d been drinking heavily all day, made two successful dives to the seabed to retrieve items he’d drunkenly thrown from his own boat three years earlier…but the third dive didn’t go so well and Dennis drowned. He’d requested a burial at sea in his will, which wasn’t allowed without prior cremation for non-veterans of the Navy or Coast Guard, but then-President Ronald Reagan intervened on his behalf, and he was interned in the briny deep from a Coast Guard cutter off the California coast, interesting in that Reagan’s Interior secretary James Watt had famously banned the Beach Boys from playing a 4th of July party in Washington D.C. in favor of the mafia connected lounge singer Wayne Newton.
Zambian born British record producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, famous for making hit records with AC/DC, The Cars, Def Leppard, Huey Lewis and The News, and Foreigner to name but a few, went a little bit country today in 1993 when he married shagadelic Canadian singer Shania Twain. They would last 14 years together.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
The Edgar Winter Group’s keyboard player and namesake Edgar Winter is 70.
The Easybeats bass player Dick Diamonde is 68.
The Box Tops and Big Star singer and guitarist Alex Chilton would be 66 if he hadn’t been killed by a heart attack at 59 in his adopted home of New Orleans where he’d recently struck up a friendship with Ray Davies of The Kinks.