Atlanta Pop ’70, Fifty Years On Tuesday, Jun 30 2020 

This Independence Day marks the half century anniversary of the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival. 

The following memories of mine were written and published a decade ago on the occasion of the event’s 40th anniversary. They have been edited, and updated, though my memory of that time long ago far away is absolutely no better on its own than ten years ago.

Which is why I reached out to a few friends who were at the festival, and, I’ve included the memories of those who responded and have any somewhat cogent recollection at all. They are added in italics. c d k 

Captain Canada and The Mailman.

It’s fifty years gone this Fourth of July weekend since those nicknames were bestowed upon my pal Stephen and me at the Atlanta Pop Festival.

Many if not most of the memories of that magical interlude have long been lost in the daze of time. But this I can say for sure. We came upon those identities honestly.

As for the rest of that weekend outside Byron, Georgia, the tales told here are probably true, but perhaps not. Only the synapses of my and pals’ hippocampi know for sure. And they’ve long since lost most if not all connectitude to that time and place.

Stephen was The Mailman; I, Captain Canada.

The sordid details: We knew in advance there was going to be triple digit Fahrenheit at the festival. So the day before we left, we purchased pith helmets at Big Deal Lucille’s, our name for an army surplus store downtown. If such a chapeau provided protection for long lost Stanley Livingston in Africa, we presumed such would work for us.

I went with basic khaki.

Stephen opted for that light grayish blue with maroon straps that we’ve come to associate with the United States Postal Service.

So hot was it that the very first day down there, we, along with our traveling companions Don and Merrily, sought respite in the nearest body of water. Which lake or stream or pond — frankly I can’t recall — we found by following the gaggle of hippies on hoods of cars all headed, they said, as if guided by a stoned Trip Tik in that direction.

When Stephen jumped in the not so deep, pith helmet firmly in place, one bleary-eyed bather adroitly observed, “It’s the Mailman.”

Firmer monikers have been borne of lesser tales.

The origin of Captain Canada is somewhat more convoluted. The statute of limitations having lapsed, the story can be revealed. With haste and for the last time, so we can move on.

The day before we departed Louisville, our friend Becker needed help moving from one furn apt. to another. Among the items he intended to discard was a flag of Canada. Which artifact I commandeered, immediately tying about it about my neck like a cape.

That’s but the germination of the nickname.

One person I ran into, Captain Canada. Lo and behold, he knew how to party. H.K.

Which sobriquet flowered fully on the first night of music at the festival. (Caveat: The imagery that might manifest from the description of the following interlude is not for the faint of heart, grannie or youths under the age of majority.)

That weekend marked my first experimentation with psychedelics. When the mescaline kicked in, it started to rain a bit. At which point it seemed an eminently logical to my then “experienced” mind to fully disrobe. No matter that we were sitting in throng of several hundred thousand. It struck me as the natural thing to do.

Besides, I didn’t want my clothes to get wet. I had hand fashioned with a magic marker a “Who is Ron Dante?” t-shirt which I thought too clever and pithy to not be able to wear again once the showers had abated.

From such reasoning, wackier tales have been told.

The inclemency didn’t however prevent me from wearing my Canadian flag cape, which I did for the entire festival. Or, that pith helmet. From which point on, and for several years thereafter, I was known to a few as Captain Canada.

Enough of that.

 * * * * *

Admittedly I am finding it difficult to accurately describe how wonderful and fun that weekend was. The ascendent experience is proving to be beyond sensible description.

When I’ve attempted to do so through the decades, I have reverted to this.

The Atlanta Pop Festival is something outside the timeline of my life.

It is as if it was all a dream, so fantastic, so unreal, so joyous was the moment.

It was one of those once in a lifetime situations that I am proud to say I made it through and had the time of my life. H.K. 

The flip side: It was not the same for everyone.

I don’t remember it particularly fondly. I slept in a ditch. A.B.

But most loved it.

My major impression of it was that it was HOT and HUMID. Nudity was not only a cultural expression, but almost a matter of comfort. Everyone focused on the music, the experience, and yes, truth be told, recreational drugs. There was plenty of all. A.A.

The performers included the following whose music I do recall if only to a limited extent. Jimi Hendrix, who played with fireworks filling the sky behind him on the 4th of July. The Allman Brothers Band, including a jam with Johnny Winter. The Chambers Brothers. (For which set, I stood directly in front of the speakers, as a result of which stupidity, the hearing in my right ear has never fully recovered.) BB King. Grand Funk Railroad. Hampton Grease Band. Ten Years After.

Among the groups that I have no or only vague recollection hearing: Procol Harum. Poco. Terry Reid. Ravi Shankar. John Sebastian. Mountain. Spirit. Ginger Baker. Chakra. Cactus. Gypsy. Bloodrock. Captain Beefheart.

What fascinates me is how few who attended, myself included, speak of the musical moments.

I remember so little about the music, except the Allman Brothers and the Hampton Grease Band with frontman Bruce Hampton. I was so spent by the time Hendrix hit the stage, I retreated to my little campsite. Were there fireworks? A.B.

So, what do I remember? The Main Stage, a local band called the Allman Brothers. I remember being blown away listening to Duane Allman play guitar for hours off stage after the set. My second memory is being awakened in the middle of the night on July 4 by the sounds of Jimi Hendrix playing the opening licks of the Star Spangled Banner. I sort of remember some other great performances — BB King, Mountain, Bob Seger, Richie Havens comes to mind. A.A.

The unfortunate thing about the festival is I don’t remember a whole lot because I was tripping the whole time. But I do remember Hendrix playing the national anthem on the Fourth of July, woke up fireworks going off and said to myself, “Fuck, man.” H.K.

The tuneage was more a nucleus around which this grand, garish carnival evolved, an excuse for the gathering of southern tribes.

The sounds were a backdrop to the experience. A.B. 

 * * * * *

Considering the entire experience, I do have an acute feeling of personal evolution. After graduating from law school a couple of months before, I had taken the bar exam the weekend before the festival, didn’t think I’d had passed it since I frankly hadn’t studied much.

Thus I hadn’t a clue what was in store for the rest of my life.

It was your classic pivotal moment at the onslaught of adulthood.

So, hey, let’s go get stoned and rock.

I’d lived at home with my parents until my senior year in law school. My growth had thus been stunted. So my socialization abilities were still in their early stages.

Hey. let’s mingle en masse and talk jabberwocky.

So, without getting too awfully philosophical, I’ll just offer that this eminently eye-opening weekend fostered a sense of freedom and wonder and creative possibility which I hadn’t previously conceptualized.

 * * * * *

Mostly it was just a load of damn fun.

As for specifics, there are but a few I remember.

An interlude where I handed a merchant enough Uniform Commercial Code razzmatazz in the middle of the night that he cashed a personal check for some biker dude. Which black leathered hulk expressed his appreciation by telling me he had my back in case I needed something taken care of during the festival.

Not wanting one blistering afternoon to walk all the way to the water spigot a mile away, I, much to the chagrin of Don and Merrily, filled our thermos with $3 worth of Pepsi.

My gang arrived on Thursday, the day before the festival itself began. So, we avoided all the traffic delays, and found a camping spot away from the stage area, right at the edge of a grove of trees.

Camped next to us was a group, which included a gal who wore a wig the whole weekend in that  awful heat, because she didn’t like the color of her hair after dyeing it. How antithetical to the whole counter culture ethos, I thought at the time. Her buddy turned me onto Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac for the first time.

There was another somewhat bucolic spot where many settled on the other side of the stage.

“We camped in the pecan grove. Because the trees were lined in rows, it was kind of like being the suburbs.” K.S. 

While listening to some band, there was a couple having sex the next blanket over, with the girl shouting in ecstasy “Ooooooooh, the stars!” While her head was resting on my lap. Trust me, it felt as odd at the time as it sounds now.

Running into a couple of fellows from Louisville. One was the younger brother of Marc and Bruce, a couple of high school contemporaries of mine. The only thing I remembered about him was that he’d been a Putt Putt champion years before. He had hitchhiked with his GF over to the festival from Athens, where he was attending UGa. We shared some herb.

The other was a fellow a couple of years older than me, whom I’d known from back home. The last time I’d seen him was when he was a at Vanderbilt, and I was visiting as a HS senior. It was at a Joey Dee and the Starlighters dance at skating rink, and he, in his cups, was was attempting to regale a some sorority sisters. We shared some herb.

The pathway from our camping spot to the stage, lined with hundreds and hundreds of people selling drugs.

Lots and lots of topless and totally nude women. Alas, none of whom were inclined to fall prey to my not so considerable charms.

Wendy What Went Wrong*

* An acquaintance from home brought along a date he barely knew for the weekend. Her name was Wendy. If you’re too young to get the extrapolated nickname, ask your aunt who saw the Beach Boys in the early 60s.

Laughter. Early. Often.

Juicy peaches bigger than my fist for a nickel.

The Heat. And I’m talking temperature not cops, which were essentially nowhere to be seen.

The Chambers Brothers doing “People Get Ready.”

Hendrix playing the “Star Spangled Banner” at midnight — or thereabouts — on the Fourth.

The Allman Brothers Band, whom I’d never heard of before. Particularly, “Every Hungry Woman,” during which I was drawn closer to the stage — with Wendy What Went Wrong alongside — as if it were a siren call. They were to become My Band.

I also remember not hearing Duane Allman jam the Thursday night before the official start of the festival, on a second small stage across the road in the middle of the woods. Listened to a band or two that I didn’t know. They kept announcing that Sky Dog Allman was coming to jam. I’d never heard of him. I tried to wait to hear what the fuss was about, until I crapped out, and trundled back to our campsite.

The Hampton Grease Band.

Through my own personal haze, trundling back to our campsite on the final morning, while Richie Havens sang “Here Comes The Sun” at sunrise.

Frankly, sadly, that’s about it for the music.

One friend remembers an act other than Hendrix, the Allmans or Hampton Grease Band.

“Mountain.” K.S. 

 * * * * *

It’s not like I/ we weren’t paying attention to the songs. It’s just that the entire experience was so overwhelming, that there was so much sensory input, so many diffused interactions that the music was but one element. An important one, but just one of many nonetheless.

I guess it’s fair to ask, beyond the fact that it was a super time, if there were any cultural imperatives to be learned from Atlanta Pop?

Well, yes. One, there is power in numbers.

Law enforcement was basically non existent. Byron had a couple of part time cops, I believe. A number of state troopers were sent to the scene. Governor Lester Maddox wanted it shut down, but that wasn’t going to happen.

I’ve read that nobody was arrested, despite the drugs and nudity. There were just way more of us than them that weekend. Besides it was a ferociously peaceful gathering. (Apparently there was a brouhaha about opening the gates and freeing up the festival. It passed me by. We actually bought tickets in advance. $14 for the weekend.)

Pepsi doesn’t quench thirst like H2O.

Nobody had a clue who Ron Dante was? Nor much cared*

*FYI, he was the studio guy responsible for The Archies. That’s right, “Sugar, Sugar.”

Pith helmets are an effective way of protection from the sun.

Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman — both of whom died within fifteen months of the festival — were the best. I’m grateful that I heard them in person when they were still around. And that I remember at least some of their playing there.

Plus, I can now, forty years after the fact, lord it over today’s guitar fawning “youngsters.”

I also recall not having to deal with too much traffic on the way out.

We waited until Monday, and it didn’t take long to get to the Interstate. Not far from Byron, we stopped to eat at a KFC.

After that meal, I got in the back of Don’s family’s station wagon to close my eyes for a bit during the ride home.

Next thing I remember was being aroused in front of my apartment back in Louisville.

With a smile on my face.

— c d kaplan

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Diversion Tip: NYT Short Film of the Day Thursday, May 7 2020 

Who among us, in these oh so strange and perilous times, isn’t looking for some little way to escape?

If only for a moment or two.

I mean really, how much hard news can a person take?

If you’re looking for live sports, there’s Korean baseball, played in front of empty stands, but the fascination grows old quickly.

Netflix. Prime. Hulu. Criterion.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But there come times during the day when you just want a quick shot, a respite from real life concerns, a mask free interlude, and move on.

So here’s one I discovered that fills that bill, the New York Times Short Film of the Day.

 * * * * *

Some examples.

Today’s (Thursday 5/07) is a clever Oscar nominated confection that’s less than two minutes long.

Yesterday’s was a smile-inducing bit of shtick from mid 20th C.

A couple more for your viewing pleasure:

Borscht Belt vs. Harlem Globetrotters. On black and white TV. So so very very silly, but I couldn’t stop smiling at the schmaltz:

Some are a bit more serious. A lot of them are musical.

And then there’s the clip of the cultural zenith that was the Soul Train dance line to “Love Train.”

Hit it Don Cornelius.

Anyway, you can savor them all at the link in the lede above.

— c d kaplan

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My Favorite JazzFest Musical Memories, Part Deux Sunday, Apr 26 2020 

Oh my, the power of suggestion.

As I write this Saturday afternoon, I’m listening to old JazzFest classic sets at, which the station will be streaming again Sunday the 26th, and next Thursday through Sunday, noon to 8:00 EDT.

Today’s sumptuous slate opened with Bonerama, which as I write I am confirming to myself might be my favorite of the current New Orleans fusion maestros. (I’d like to more definitive, but, my ears are easily turned, faves change on a whim.)

You know Bonerama’s like funk and rock and some second line Longhairish rumba, all fronted by — Ready for it? — a trio of trombones. Which they play straight up or synthesized.

I mean, ya know, it’s New Orleans. Where else?

And, listening to them open today with “Big Chief,” reminded me of a favorite JF musical moment I’d forgotten.

At the first Fest after Katrina, a miracle really but so endearing and fun, Bonerama’s set featured a searing version of the Zeppelenized version of Memphis Minnie’s seriously appropriate at that moment, “When the Levee Breaks.”

I couldn’t find a youtube of that particular performance, but here’s the band doing it another time at a different gig:

OK, I assume you now realize that, unlike the first entry in this series, meant to help take my mind off the reality that I’m not actually at JazzFest in 2020, this will not be a podcast.

But it does include music. So, hey, it’s got that goin’ for it, which is nice.

 * * * * *

So, as I’ve mentioned a trillion times, my first JazzFest was in ’76. My first experience was not actually at the Fest during the day, but an evening show on the Riverboat President. Allen Toussaint. Professor Longhair. Gatemouth Brown.

Pretty overwhelming actually. Joyously so. To be brutally honest, mea culpa, I’m pretty sure I’d never heard of any of them at age 31, despite my addiction to rock & roll and all its permutations.

Chuckie had some catchin’ up to do. A task not the least bit onerous.

That was a Friday night. The following Sunday, Longhair closed the first weekend of Fest.

It remains to this day, thousands of concerts before and after, my favorite set of music E.V.E.R..

I could go on and on about the situation. I’ll just say I was swallowed whole by it.

Longhair could, as they say, tickle the ivories. In a manner as unique as any in the history of music.

Here’s a grainy video of Fess at another gig:

And, yes, in case you’re wondering, that’s the same Earl King-penned “Big Chief” tune Bonerama covered at the outset of their set today.

 * * * * *

For years, until some time in 90s, the whole daily Fest was contained within the infield of the Fairgrounds Race Track. All the stage, concessions, porta potties, crafts.

It was getting crowded.

But, before the Fest spread out all over the grounds, the Congo Square stage was jammed along the backstretch between the Jazz Tent and maybe Fais Do Do, if that stage was called that back then.

Anyway, Congo Square was bumper to bumper that afternoon. When I experienced the dancingest music I’d ever heard, an enthralling set of tuneage that made me seek out contemporary African music at every opportunity.

I shvitzed through my clothes so much did I dance. Blisters on my toes.

For Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens.

Urgent. Primal. Invigorating. Have I mentioned, I and everybody else at the stage could not not dance? The whole time?

A sample of their stuff. Again, not from JF.

 * * * * *

Two of my favorite musical memories actually came back to back on the same day in ’94.

My buddy Mark joined me down there after returning from a visit to India. He was so spiritually light, we put some weights around his ankles. At any rate . . .

. . . we were wandering around the grounds, as one is wont to do, and by chance and dumb luck came upon Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Touré.

From Mississippi to Mali.

From Timbuktu to Tunica.

A merger of the Delta blues and the rhythms of the Sidasso.

We were transfixed. We stopped meandering and let the sublime sounds soak in.

After that laid us low, with the skies turning ominous, we strolled over to the Gentilly Stage, where one time New Orleanian Randy Newman was weaving his sardonic magic.

My memory is that Newman was singing “I Love L A,” when the clouds opened and poured forth. With those kind of softball sized raindrops one can get drenched with in the Crescent City.

Newman stopped in the middle of the song, and broke into his iconic “Louisiana 1927.”

It was a transcendent JazzFest moment, which many performers in years hence when covering the song would reference.

Here’s a different live rendition, one which can’t quite capture how special that moment in the downpour was, but as good a way to end this portion of the proceedings.

I’ll be back with more in a day or two or three.

— c d kaplan

“Marriage Story”: Film Review & Podcast Thursday, Dec 12 2019 

I, for one, am truly grateful that, among the gifts bestowed to us during the holiday season, are many of the year’s best films.

More important. Some of them are actual adult dramas, not just comic books and Star Wars reboots.

So, it has come to pass that Noah Baumbach’s heralded “Marriage Story” has arrived on Netflix. (That’s the new paradigm, kids, get used to it.)

The filmtells the searing tale of how Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) deal with each other during the reality of their separation and divorce.

The film is most astutely observed, a sometimes funny look at the phenomenon that plagues about half of all marriages.

It is a master class in tour de force acting. Johansson and Driver craft two of the year’s finest performances.

For more details and observations of the film, listen to the podcast below:

Audio MP3

“Ad Astra”: Film Review & Podcast Tuesday, Sep 24 2019 

It’s been a big year for Brad Pitt.

First he stole the show in Tarantino’s Oscar-favorite homage to Hollywood circa ’69. And bested a Bruce Lee character while doing it.

Now, as an astronaut like his father before him, he is off to deep space to see if dad is still alive somewhere near Saturn?

Papa (Tommy Lee Jones) led a mission 16 years previous and hasn’t been heard from. Most feel he is dead. Space Control seems to believe he still lives and has gone rogue.

What we have here is another take on Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” full with Pitt’s voice over inner turmoil, just like Martin Sheen before him in “Apocalypse Now.”

Lots of cool CGI here. It does take place after in outer space.

Along with attempts for it to be more cerebral than your average popcorn fare.

For more details, and to find out if the film works or not, listen to the podcast below.

Audio MP3