Most of the San Francisco rock bands play the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom, and they are also very suspicious of any representatives of the Hollywood establishment, labeling them "Hollywood Hippies". This presents a problem for the Philips/Adler camp, who know that their values are not in sync with most of the San Francisco artist community. They also understand that without the support of the local counter culture community, and media, they will not have a successful festival. So, in a effort to solve the problem, they develop a two prong strategy.
First, they send New York singer/songwriter Paul Simon to San Francisco, he is assigned the task of convincing members of the Grateful Dead of the festival's validity. Secondly, Lou Adler is dispatched to convince the city's most influential rock journalists, Ralph Gleason and Jann Wenner that the festival will be good for everyone concerned. I don't doubt that part of the sales pitch includes mention of the festival documentary which will be directed by D. A. Pennabaker, and released internationally in 1968.
So, it is confirmed that the Monterey Pop Festival will take place on June 16th, 17th, & the 18th, of 1967. It will be the largest rock festival in history, and open the door for promoters, and artists to see that rock, and big festivals can be lucrative businesses. In the coming decades rock festivals around the world will gross billions of dollars, and change the direction of Rock music forever.
Now, cynics may conclude that the Monterey Pop Festival is the turning point where, even before the Summer of Love can get started, the anti-establishment values of the counter culture started in '65, are victims of assimilation by their arch enemy, the corporate culture. However, it should be mentioned that the festival does open eyes, and ears to those values promoted by the counter culture. It also catapults young artists like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who and many other artists, from relative obscurity into the new status of "Rock Star". In addition, other well established artists like the Butterfield band also benefit from the festival, both artistically as well as financially.
In middle of the festival's business story there are many other subplots unfolding. Monterey will be an important opportunity for the new Butterfield Blues Band to prove their mettle in the face of the unpopular news of Bloomfield's departure from the band. It will be a tricky operation because the band is really only a few months old. In addition to the three new members, the repertoire is rearranged to reflect the new Rhythm & Blues influence, and Elvin Bishop is in the very important role of lead guitarist. So, there is an intense pressure for the band to perform better than they have done at any time in the past, with special emphasis on Butterfield as the front man.
Adding to this pressure, the band must face a campaign by the relatively new rock press who want to use the Bloomfield exit to sell papers. Some of them see a story in Butterfield's situation, and plan to take advantage of it. They manufacture a story about a competition between the Butterfield Blues Band, and the Electric Flag. One paper even suggests that the "great light" of Butterfield's band is Bloomfield, and "that light is dimmed without him". In an move directed toward supporting the battle of the bands promotion, festival organizers have positioned the Butterfield band between Al Kooper, who has recently left Blues Project, and headliners the Electric Flag. It is a manufacted story of a conflict between artists where no artistic conflict exists. What the press does not mention is the tamer reality, that the artists in the story are in fact friends, and harbor much professional respect for each other.
So, once the two bands complete their performances, the post game commentary begins. Predictably,while the press seem to favour the Electric Flag, they also suggest a division of opinion, even uncertain, and of course encourage readers to discuss the issues by reading their paper. However, some knowledgeable people who do not express their opinions to the media of the day, do open up years later. They have another perspective on how the Butterfield Blues Band versus The Electric Flag smack down unfolds.
Bill Graham doesn't think The Electric Flag lives up to its expectations.
There was a difference between the two for me, even though they can say, “Hey, we’re funky, and we want to get it on and lay it out.” I just didn’t feel the same about the band.” (Wolkin 148)
Butterfield's keyboardist Mark Naftalin is more diplomatic,
......” I don’t think that I felt that what was created there was as satisfying a vehicle for his (Bloomfield) talents as what I had known him before. Which was the Butterfield Blues Band. I thought the Flag was a very adequate vehicle for his talent. I just think a blues artist will shine more where there’s more blues artistry in the setting. And if you’re playing with someone like Paul Butterfield, you’re not going to get any more of a concentration of the blues artistry, in my opinion, unless you might happen to have a Jr. Wells of something like that. And so, in terms of context, that’s a hard thing to replace. (Wolkin 147)
Regardless of what anyone concludes about the individual manufactured conflicts, or the performances, the Monterey Pop Festival is a huge success. Almost fifty years after the event, owners of the images, and recordings are still collecting royalties. Also, music fans, as well as industry representatives, discover many new artists over the three days, and many great memories are created by the event.
But the success comes with a price tag. Butterfield has recently bought a house in Woodstock,N.Y., he has married again, and has a baby son at home, but he is rarely home to enjoy them. It is the invisible side of artists involved with the instability of going out on the road to sell a product. Billy Davenport knows this feeling, and has had enough, shortly after Monterey he hands in his resignation, and packs up to return home.
The Butterfield Blues Band live at The Monterey Pop Festival, June 1967.
1) Born In Chicago, 2) Tollin’ Bells, 3) One More Heartache, 4) Look Over Yonders Wall, 5) Droppin’ Out, 6) Marianne.
Paul Butterfield: vocals and harmonica, Elvin Bishop: guitar, Mark Naftalin: keyboards, Gene Dinwiddie: tenor sax, Keith Johnson: trumpet, Bugsy Maugh: bass, Billy Davenport: drums.