The Summer of Love kicked off 50 years ago with the Monterey Pop Festival, which Variety hailed as a “landmark” following its June 16-18, 1967 bow. It’s hard to argue with that assessment seeing as performers included The Mamas & the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds and the Grateful Dead — all burgeoning acts of the hippie scene. It also introduced American audiences to Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Ravi Shankar and blues band Big Brother and the Holding Company, featuring Janis Joplin. Big Brother’s performance of “Ball and Chain” was especially notable, Variety wrote, with Joplin delivering a performance “like she’d invented sex.” No wonder. Joplin later said, “When I’m on stage I get real stoned, real sensual. A lot of times when I get off I want to make love. I did it; it’s natural.”
The festival was organized in only seven weeks by the Foundation, a group led by musician John Phillips and producer Lou Adler. Documentary pro D.A. Pennebaker filmed the five concerts that weekend at a cost of $129,000, intended as a 90-minute ABC special. But sponsors weren’t interested, so Pennebaker and co-cinematographer Richard Leacock released it theatrically. “Monterey Pop,” the film, became a big profit-maker, thanks to commercial plays, reissues, campus screenings and album sales. Among the last: a gold-certified Hendrix and Otis Redding live recording released in 1970.
Meanwhile, not far away, the Kingston Trio gave their final concert performance at San Francisco’s Hungry i nightclub, where they’d made their sensational debut a decade earlier. And their closing was another sign of the changing tastes in music.
The Kingston Trio — Nick Reynolds, Bob Shane and John Stewart — were a phenomenon starting in 1958, with 19 hit albums, including five No. 1 LPs. Their hit singles included “Tom Dooley” and the Pete Seeger-written “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and they were a big influence on pop music by focusing on the acoustic guitar; thanks to them, millions of middle-class kids bought guitars, singing and strumming their hearts out.
The Kingston Trio began a two-week gig at the Hungry i climaxed with their final live performance, on June 17, 1967. Group members spoke with Variety, observing that the Hungry i audiences had been in in their mid-30s or older. The younger audiences had different tastes, which were embodied by the lineup at the Monterey Pop Festival. The Trio’s Reynolds told Variety, “We grew up. And it got to the place where it just wasn’t groovy doing the old stuff anymore.”