2 weeks after Woodstock, hippies flocked to Lewisville
LEWISVILLE Memories fade over 40 years. Landmarks come and go.
Little wonder Angus Wynne III couldn't recall where the stage stood
that Labor Day weekend in 1969 when fear and loathing, peace and
love, and the Texas International Pop Festival came to town.
"It doesn't matter," he said last week near a field of waist-high
weeds, somewhere close to where Led Zeppelin, B.B. King and the other
acts once played. "It's almost a contact high coming out here."
"Out here," near Interstate 35E and Hebron Road, apartment complexes
and shopping centers dash memories of that three-day scene. Long gone
are the fences and tents, the rock stars and young people, who
gathered in harmony (some sans clothes) for one laid-back, good-time party.
"It's not as pretty as Yasgur's Farm, but it was certainly a great
place to do this," said Wynne, a lead organizer of the event.
Yasgur's Farm, of course, is one of the hallowed sites of hippie-dom,
where the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in New York drew some
half-million people two weeks before Lewisville attracted crowds
estimated at more than 120,000.
When America watched news reports from Woodstock, the youthful
counterculture saw a celebration of their generation. But many of
their elders saw an unimaginable horde of immoral, drug-abusing freaks.
The same lines were drawn when Woodstock came to North Texas.
The Hog Farm commune, which served as the "please force" at Woodstock
"Please do this," "Please don't do that" had just returned to New
Mexico when the call came.
"We got word that there was a rock concert and a rodeo scheduled at
the same time, and people expected a little conflict," said the Hog
Farm's Wavy Gravy. "I remember the first thing I did was to get down
with the rodeo clowns and explain our situation. They were very helpful."
On the other hand, officials in Lewisville then a town of about
8,000 only wanted to shut the festival down.
"We talked it over," said Sam Houston, then the city's mayor, but
realized "there was no way we could stop it."
So Houston armed himself with a pistol and prepared for the worst.
Radio stations broadcast word of deaths from drug overdoses there
were none and a front-page story in the Aug. 31, 1969, Dallas
Morning News said "scores of youthful hippies and rock music fans
suffered 'bad trips' and 'freakouts' from mescaline and LSD."
Outside the fenced-in festival site, police made drug arrests and
towed cars left along the interstate. But uniformed officers didn't
"Uniforms would have set up a confrontational situation," Wynne said.
Houston said that "as long as they behaved themselves, we couldn't do
anything about it. It was impossible to control it."
Doug Terry, then a 21-year-old reporter for WFAA-TV, remembers
doctors dealing with overdoses.
"Inside the fence, [concertgoers] were completely in charge," he
said. "If you got 50,000 people together, you made your own laws."
The crowds arrive
By the time the festival opened, the hippie glitterati had already
arrived the Merry Pranksters, minus Ken Kesey, and the Hog Farm,
providing security and free food.
Crowds tramped toward the stage, across the freshly mowed field, past
tents for festival staff and vendors selling hippie essentials:
bangles and beads, incense and leather.
By late afternoon, the first act took the stage. Grand Funk Railroad
wasn't on the bill and wasn't being paid. But band manager Terry
Knight saw an opportunity.
"After the phenomenon of Woodstock, we suddenly had acts coming out
of the woodwork," Wynne said.
Stoney Burns, underground journalist and a voice of Dallas' hippie
culture, remembers the traffic, and how the motorcycle he was riding
roared through a drainage ditch near the festival site.
"We went up in the air and came down in the middle of all these
hippies," he said.
He stood near the stage listening to Rotary Connection "It was so
loud and so good" and remembers there were no police around, but
plenty of marijuana.
Mike Purcell, just back from Woodstock, said music in both places was
"top-drawer, to die for."
But Woodstock, because of its size, had the feel of a city.
Lewisville "wasn't as hip ... more of a carnival atmosphere ... a
When the music ended early each morning, some of the crowd trooped
off to the campground at Lewisville Lake. And after waking up, they
headed to the lake to bathe.
And man, that caused a stir.
Wynne remembers talking with Houston about the festival and getting a
mostly positive response.
"He said, 'This has been a great thing for us, but I've got to tell
you, I'm in danger of losing my job here.' "
People didn't mind the hippies, or the loud music or even the
marijuana, he said.
"'But you've got to do something about those naked swimmers.' "
The sight was so shocking that small boats, packed with men, cruised
the shoreline. Then there were the phone calls complaining of all
sorts of goings-on.
"I was at a meeting one night, and there were two old women saying
they'd seen this, that and the other," said James Polser, then a
member of the Lewisville City Council. "Come to find out, they'd
walked nearly a mile and a half to see it."
Organizers sent Wavy Gravy to maintain propriety.
In his white jumpsuit and Hoss Cartwright cowboy hat, Gravy scoured
"I'm out there saying, 'Ahoy, nude-o. If you want to stay out, you
have to put your pants on. Can you dig it?' " he said.
Jon Dillon, a few months shy of the first radio gig in his 40-year
career in Dallas, remembers the campground, and the free stage, and
the all-night concert by B.B. King and Johnny Winter.
And he recalls feeling a part of something larger.
"When you're 18, 19, 20, this was a big event, your first time out
there with all those people," he said. "But everyone was pretty much
ready for it.
"Mostly I remember just how cool it all was, how calm everything was.
The whole deal was like that for me, just people jamming to the music."
Sizing up the festival
At the end of this grand gathering, people tallied up what had happened.
A 27-year-old Arlington man died of heat exhaustion. A baby was born.
Lewisville City Manager Johnny Sartain reported that 80 arrests had
been made, 25 for drugs.
Police Chief Ralph Adams had written a resignation letter even before
the festival, then took vacation to help with on-site security. He
praised festivalgoers freely and later told The News: "I would trust
these people with my life."
When the festival ended, his resignation was accepted.
But Adams wasn't the only person won over by the crowd.
"I saw the first bunch coming down the road last week," Mrs. Jonathon
Edwards told a reporter at the time. "I didn't know what to think, so
I told the kids to stay in the house.
"Next thing I knew one of them was knocking on my door. Real funny
looking with all that hair. He just wanted to know if I needed
someone to mow my lawn. I finally said OK and he wouldn't even let me
pay him money. Just wanted some food."
Festival producers sold more than 120,000 tickets $6 in advance, $7
at the gate but hoped for a crowd of 200,000. They blamed the media
for scaring people away. In the end, they lost $100,000.
But Wynne still booking music calls it a success.
And some notable things happened, journalist Burns said.
"A lot of people had never seen that many freaks together," he said.
"Here you had this large gathering in a straight area and a lot of
dope and nothing bad happened.
"But to say there was some grand sociological significance, I don't
know," he said.
"It was just a bunch of people getting together and having a good time."
Here's a partial list of the performers:
Chicago Transit Authority
Sam and Dave
Sly and the Family Stone
Ten Years After
Tony Joe White
Texas International Pop Festival was full of surprises for artists,
After Woodstock, where most attendees walked in for free, organizers
of the Lewisville festival knew they needed better security.
So they hired men like James Polser, then 28 and selling Chevys at
Huffines before taking over his family's Lewisville Feed Mill in
1978. Handy on horseback, Polser and others patrolled the perimeter
of the property, and saw some sights that still shock them 40 years later:
"I was out there on my horse, riding the fence line, and there was a
man and a woman and a little baby, and they asked if they could put
the baby on my horse and take a picture of him," Polser recalled.
"I said that was fine. The only thing was that the woman and she
was a good-looking woman she had her pants on and that was all.
"And nobody paid any attention, except for me and my heart attack.
Gosh almighty, we saw things that would blow your mind."
How Wavy Gravy got his name
He arrived in Lewisville as Hugh Romney, the gentle, gravel-voiced
jokester who'd promised the crowd at Woodstock "breakfast in bed for 400,000."
But after a brush with blues royalty at the Texas International Pop
Festival, Romney would forever be Wavy Gravy.
Exhausted from hours spent around Lewisville Lake urging nude
festivalgoers to cover up, Romney collapsed on the free stage at a
"They had these conga drummers on the stage, and I said, 'Don't dance
on the wavy gravy,' " he said. "Then someone announced that B.B. King
was there, and he was going to play for free.
"I started to get up, and I felt this hand on my shoulder and it was
B.B. King. And he said, 'Are you Wavy Gravy?' and I just said, 'Yes,
sir,' and he said, 'Wavy Gravy, I can work around you.'
"And he stood me up next to his amplifier, and Johnny Winter comes
from the other side, and they played all night long.
"I was Hugh Romney at Woodstock, but I've been Wavy Gravy for 40 years."
'Lewd and loose in Lewisville'
A Dallas Morning News editorial helped whip up the fear and loathing
for all those hippies coming to hear all that music.
An Aug. 30, 1969, editorial headlined "Nausea at Lewisville" told readers:
"Young people assembling to hear music is one thing. Young people
assembling in unspeakable costumes, half-naked, barefooted, defying
propriety and scorning morality is another.
"... We hope readers of this newspaper will realize this weekend that
the great majority of youngsters in this area are at home where they
ought to be mowing yards, working at part-time jobs and preparing
for useful lives.
"In the meantime, the lewd and loose at Lewisville will swing and
sway. They are to be pitied."
Lu Mitchell remembers the heat, the refreshing water hose, leaflets
dropped from an airplane, the friendly crowd and enjoying the music,
particularly Janis Joplin, until 5 a.m.
A singer-songwriter herself, now living in Farmers Branch, Mitchell
didn't care much for the editorial stance. "I got so upset over that
that I wrote this song," she said. It's a song she still performs at age 85.
We were lewd and loose in Lewisville, we had us a time
Lewd and loose in Lewisville covered with dirt and grime
We were unsanitary and full of fleas
Some had beards clear down to their knees
Lewd and loose in Lewisville
The Dallas News told you so.
Led Zeppelin gets the news
Even among the stellar lineup at the Lewisville pop festival, none
was hotter in the summer of '69 than Led Zeppelin. So when the band
came to perform at the Fair Park Coliseum on Aug. 4, three weeks
before the festival, Angus Wynne III and his partners saw a chance
for some publicity.
"We found their road manager, and we said we wanted to make sure the
band recognized the festival from the stage," Wynne said. "And he
said, 'Well, the fellows think they're going to be on vacation then.
They don't know about it.'
"The band gets on stage, and after a couple of songs, Robert Plant
says, 'Anyone heard of the Texas International Pop Festival? We got
into town today and saw the posters with our name on them. We've
never heard of it. It's a classic ripoff, and if you have tickets,
you need to get your money back.' "
Furious, the producers found the road manager locked inside a limousine.
They pounded on the windows and almost tipped the car over before the
"He ran out there and he pulls Plant over to the side and whispers in
his ear," Wynne said. "Then Plant grabs him by the lapels and starts
"At the end of the song, Plant goes to the microphone and says,
'Yeah, we're going to play [at the festival]. Our weasel road manager
just told us.' "
Texas Pop Festival drew thousands in Lewisville, 40 years ago
By DAN EAKIN, Staff Writer
August 28, 2009
Some say as many as a quarter of a million people attended the
Woodstock Festival in upstate New York in August 1969, 40 years ago.
Two weeks later, a crowd estimated to be anywhere between 120,000 and
150,000 attended the Texas International Pop Festival in Lewisville.
Newcomers to Lewisville may not be aware that between Aug. 30 and
Sept. 1, 1969, some of the world's most famous pop stars came to this
city and were joined by multiplied thousands of people, mostly young
people, who came from all over for the spectacular event.
People slept in tents, in cars, under the stars or wherever they
could, long before many of the nice hotels now in South Lewisville
had been built. They slept at the speedway, at the lake, and even on
streets in front of businesses.
Names of the performers at the three-day event were like a line-up of
"Who's Who in Pop Music" at the end of the 1960s.
Among them were Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, B.B. King, Chicago,
Spirit, Canned Heat, Rotary Connection, Sweetwater, Incredible String
Band, James Cotton, Johnny Winter, Herbie Mann and many others.
According to various sources, the idea for the festival came from
Angus G. Wynne III, son of Angus G. Wynne, founder of Six Flags Over Texas.
Many of the hippies who came to the event camped out at Lewisville
Lake and reportedly skinny-dipped in broad daylight, passing around
bars of the floating Ivory Soap.
Some of the old-timers or long-timers of Lewisville remember the event.
Eric Ferris, Lewisville director of community development, said, "I
remember all of the young people that were camped out with their
tents in Lake Park and at the International Speed Way. The speedway
was located in the area of what is now in the Lakepointe/Waters Ridge
area. Also, I remember that the grocery store, which was located in
Huffines Plaza, was very crowded with concert attendees."
The official concerts took place in the vicinity of where Bankston
Honda and the Main Event Bowling Alley are now located, although some
unofficial singing and playing also took place at Lake Park.
Carol Crumpton, adult services librarian at the Lewisville Public
Library, was a student at North Texas State University at the time.
She and her boyfriend attended and decided to spend the night at Lake Park.
"When we drove up to a spot, I said, oooo, we can't park here. What's
"Mary Jane," her boyfriend replied, referring to the slang for marijuana.
"Drugs were flowing everywhere," she said. "And there were so many
people, we could hardly walk."
She said the festival planners "were not expecting near the crowd
they drew." Maybe several hundred, or even a few thousand, but
certainly not more than 100,000.
Drugs were so prevalent at the event that many in the future would
refer to it as the "pot" festival, rather than the pop festival.
A headline at the top of page one of the Sept. 2, 1969 Lewisville
Leader read boldly:
'Pot' Festival Ends, Citizens Sigh In Relief.
The unbylined story had little to nothing to say about the music or
the famous performers who were there.
The first few paragraphs read:
"Lewisville and area residents heaved a massive sigh of relief and
went back to the business of every day living as thousands of hippies
and other asserted visitors packed their bedrolls and pot and
prepared to leave for wherever they came from.
"A baby was born, a man died of heat exhaustion and hundreds of
people smoked pot, opium, marijuana and you-name-it during the
three-day nightmare the city just survived.
"A three-year-old girl was released from Parkland Hospital Monday
after swallowing LSD Sunday. She was in fair condition, but the
extent of brain damage is unknown.
"A man nearly died after swallowing his tongue while his doped-up
friends watched him passively. He was propped up against a tree with
blood running from his ears. Fire Marshal Ike Bradburry pulled the
man's tongue out with a spoon and saved his life.
"Hippies came and camped out all over Lewisville, in front of
businesses and a couple in front of the police station.
"They went swimming in the nude. Skinny dipping used to be at night,
but they did it in broad daylight and local authorities turned their backs.
"The deafening sounds roared in the festival field, the east end of
the Dallas International Motor Speedway, until all hours….until 1:30
Sunday morning. The visitors sat entranced either by the music or
the narcotics which had been freely sold, bartered or given away.
'Traffic came to almost a standstill for miles on I-35E."
There had been some talk of another Texas Pop Festival in Lewisville
this year, to commemorate the one in 1969.
Many local residents would just as soon not.