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Monterey Pop at 50: Music Festival Proved High Note in Rock History

Festival featured Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Grateful Dead, and more.

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There wouldn’t be a Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza—or dare we say, Woodstock—without the precursor to them all, 1967’s Monterey International Pop Music Festival.

The historic rock festival kicked off 50 years ago today and ran through June 18, 1967.

Of course, the backdrop for the festival proved a unique time in history itself: 1967 marked the beginning of the fabled “Summer of Love”; the rise of the “counterculture” and hippie movement; and a period of rising tensions in Vietnam. The festival became a sounding board for many of the artists, who saw themselves as role models or messengers of a new world order. For example, David Crosby, performing with the Byrds (and later filling in for an absent Neil Young in Buffalo Springfield), controversially introduced the Byrds’ “He Was a Friend of Mine” by openly discussing his views about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

The Byrds were just one of a highly eclectic lineup, which included established psychedelic-rockers like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service; East Coast folkies Simon & Garfunkel; and West Coast pop acts the Mamas and the Papas, Scott McKenzie, and The Association. But attendees were also treated to several little-known bands who wouldn’t be little known much longer: Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring newbie, Janis Joplin), the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the Who—all of whom saw their stars rise exponentially after their performances.

It would also mark one of the last great performances by soul sensation Otis Redding, who would die in a plane crash just six months later.

Above all, Monterey Pop laid the foundation for future festivals like the aforementioned Woodstock. Fifty years later, the performances and images of that day, many of which we’ve collected below, are still as crisp as ever in our minds and imaginations. (There’s also a concert film, which can be found in snippets on YouTube—or in full, at a record store of your choosing.) And they’re even staging a three-day anniversary concert, featuring stars of today like Norah Jones, Father John Misty, and Gary Clark Jr. Legend Booker T. Jones is even circling back for a second helping.

Below, get whisked away to the Monterey Pop Festival in ’67.

Jimi Hendrix at Monterey Pop Festival
Jimi Hendrix (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
The Byrds at Monterey Pop Festival
The Byrds (L-R) David Crosby and James McGuinn. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Moby Grape at Monterey Pop Festival
Alexander “Skip” Spence of Moby Grape (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Cass Elliot of The Mamas & The Papas at Monterey Pop Festival
Cass Elliot of The Mamas & The Papas performs on stage at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 18 1967 in Monterey, California. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Grateful Dead at Monterey Pop Festival
The Grateful Dead (Paul Ryan/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Jefferson Airplane at Monterey Pop Festival
Jefferson Airplane at the Monterey Pop Festival (Photo by Paul Ryan/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
The Who at Monterey Pop Festival
Singer Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwistle, guitarist Pete Townshend and drummer Keith Moon of “The Who” (Paul Ryan/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Janis Joplin, with Big Brother & Holding Co at Monterey Pop Festival
Janis Joplin, with Big Brother & Holding Co. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Country Joe And The Fish at Monterey Pop Festival
Country Joe And The Fish (L-R “Country” Joe McDonald, Bruce Barthol and Barry ‘The Fish” Melton). (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Simon and Garfunkel at Monterey Pop Festival
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel (GAB Archive/Redferns)
Elvin Bishop at Monterey Pop Festival
Elvin Bishop with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (GAB Archive/Redferns)
Hugh Masekela at Monterey Pop Festival
Hugh Masekela (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Monterey Pop Festival
(Ted Streshinsky/Corbis via Getty Images)
Janis Joplin at Monterey Pop Festival
Janis Joplin (Ted Streshinsky/Corbis via Getty Images)
Ravi Shankar at Monterey Pop Festival
Ravi Shankar (Don Nelson/Fotos International/Getty Images)
Monterey Pop Festival
(GAB Archive/Redferns)
Monterey Pop Festival
(GAB Archive/Redferns)
Eric Burdon and the Animals at Monterey Pop Festival
Eric Burdon and the Animals ( RB/Redferns)
Monterey Pop Festival
(GAB Archive/Redferns)