Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Canada's Festival Express - The Radio Documentary - Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, The Band

In June 1970 a bunch of musicians gathered in central Canada. They boarded a train and headed west.
It was no ordinary group of travellers. 

There was Janis Joplin, the Band, the Grateful Dead, Buddy Guy and a host of others. It was Festival Express. The train was full of the most popular musicians of the day. It was chugging its way from city to city for a series of concerts. Sort of a movable Woodstock. And it was heading for my home town.

I was so excited I was vibrating. 

I read everything I could about the concert. I got my hands on a round "rumpersticker," Yes you read right  "RUMPersticker" - to wear proudly on the the back pocket of my Lee jeans.  

There were free concerts on weekends on an empty lot in "East Village" (Where they created a mini Hait-Ashbury on a section of 8th Avenue S.E. in Calgary where the municipal building stands today). 

I was barely a teenager but I was hoping upon hope that my parents would let me go to the big show. No way. 1) I was too young to hang around with with a bunch of pot smoking hippys. 2) The ticket price ($10 advanced, $12 at the door) was OUTRAGEOUS. 

I may not have gone to Festival Express when it came to Calgary's McMahon Stadium on July 4, 1970 but 30 years later I did get to produce a one-hour radio documentary about Festival Express for the program DNTO on CBC Radio One. It aired about three years before the documentary film came out. Here it is on YouTube for your listening pleasure.

The movie Festival Express was supposed to come out one year after my documentary aired on CBC but it didn't come out until 2003. I was pleased that the producers invited me to the premier at the Toronto Film Festival. Thank goodness this movie finally made it. Festival Express is a piece of Rock and Roll history particularly because it was Janis Joplin's final concert tour. It is also Canadian history. Thank goodness the story has been told and the music has been preserved. I hope you listened to my radio documentary and enjoyed it.


  1. I remember it coming to town. I could only read about it after the fact. I was, of course, only eight years old. I had innocently told my grandfather I wanted to be a hippie when I grew up, which triggered a fairly acrimonious relationship it took a better part of a decade to reconcile.

    1. Wonderful story Mr Mundt. Funny how an event neither of us attended left such an impression on us. P.S. I was at Prince's Island for the free show the day before. It was mega hippie-ville.

  2. I was 19 and growing my hair and got a ride from Grand Forks with a couple of Airmen to make it to Winnipeg for the Canada Day show. I had seen the Dead in Tucson in April of 1969 and really wanted to see them again. Wow, what a show. It was an all day affair. The folkies got eveything going and Buddy Guy rocked. The Dead came on as the sun went down, then the Band and Janis. Far Flingin Out!
    Cool Site, What a Long Strange Trip its Been.