Flashback Friday: The Seattle Pop Festival

An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 people attended the 1969 music festival.  (📷: Boyd Grafmyre Facebook page)

The Seattle Pop Festival was held once and only once on the weekend of July 25th, 1969 in Woodinville at the Gold Creek Park. The event was organized by Boyd Grafmyre, a local promoter known as the “Mahatma of Rock” who brought shows like The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, Chicago and others to Seattle. At the time, the music festival was the second major rock festival Washington ever had, the first being the infamous Sky River Rock Festival in 1968, aka “The Forgotten Woodstock” – also organized by Grafmyre.

Tickets cost $6/day or $15 for 3 days (editor’s note: sob, sob, sob) and an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 people came to enjoy the weekend of music and “a certain amount of nudity”. Instead of hiring police or off-duty police officers as security, Grafmyre hired The Black Panthers.

“I was there for the whole thing. What an experience at 18 years old. Open selling of psychedelics from guys with sandwich board menus. I personally think the line up was better than Woodstock,” commented @briansholdt on a post about the festival.

The lineup for the weekend of Seattle Pop Festival. (📷: Boyd Grafmyre Facebook page)

The Seattle Pop Festival line-up was a mix of 26 acts, some of whom were known nationwide and others who were smaller local bands. The list of names included Led Zeppelin, The Doors (which was the only time the two bands were on a bill together), Flying Burrito Brothers, Chuck Berry, The Byrds, The Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Bo Diddley, Crome Syrcus & The Floating Bridge. Grafmyre went big on transportation for the scheduled acts too; he chartered a helicopter to fly The Doors in from SeaTac airport and rented a Cadillac convertible for Chuck Berry (Berry’s preferred mode of transport).

Festival attendees say that on the last night, Jim Morrison heckled the crowd and shouted obscenities, while Led Zeppelin, who was just on the cusp of fame, blew the crowd away with their performance.

“Sunday night was supposed to belong to The Doors but it was stolen right out from under them by the great English blues group, Led Zeppelin,” wrote Patrick MacDonald for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Grafmyre passed away in late 2019 at the age of 79 in Port Townsend, but you can learn all about his legacy, his work in music and some fantastic pics from his lifetime at his website.

Thanks again to Cynthia Brothers for helping us out with our Flashback Friday series by providing us with all the material you read above. If you like this kind of local history content, you’ll definitely want to give @vanishingseattle a follow.