Toronto Rock and Roll Revival

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Toronto Rock and Roll Revival
1969 toronto festival poster.jpg
Toronto Rock and Roll Revival 1969, the original 1969 concert poster
Genre Rock, pop, etc.
DatesSeptember 13, 1969
Location(s) Toronto, Ontario
Years active1969

The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival was a one-day, twelve-hour music festival held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on September 13, 1969. It featured a number of popular musical acts from the 1950s and 1960s. [1] The festival is particularly notable as featuring an appearance by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, as the Plastic Ono Band, which resulted in the release of their Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album. The festival was also the subject of the D.A. Pennebaker film, Sweet Toronto .

Toronto Provincial capital city in Ontario, Canada

Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the most populous city in Canada, with a population of 2,731,571 as of 2016. Current to 2016, the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA), of which the majority is within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), held a population of 5,928,040, making it Canada's most populous CMA. The city is the anchor of the Golden Horseshoe, an urban agglomeration of 9,245,438 people surrounding the western end of Lake Ontario. Toronto is an international centre of business, finance, arts, and culture, and is recognized as one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world.

Ontario Province of Canada

Ontario is a province of Canada. Located in Central Canada, it is Canada's most populous province, with 38.3 percent of the country's population, and is the second-largest province in total area. Ontario is fourth-largest jurisdiction in total area when the territories of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are included. It is home to the nation's capital city, Ottawa, and the nation's most populous city, Toronto, which is also Ontario's provincial capital.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Its southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Canada's capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.


History and performers

The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival was held at Varsity Stadium, at the University of Toronto, before an audience of over 20,000. The originally listed performers for the festival were Whiskey Howl, Bo Diddley, Chicago, Junior Walker and the All Stars, Tony Joe White, Alice Cooper, Chuck Berry, Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Doug Kershaw, and The Doors. Kim Fowley was listed as the Master of Ceremonies. [2] Screaming Lord Sutch was later added to the bill, as was the Toronto area band FLAPPING. Prior to the addition of FLAPPING, the only local band on the bill was Whiskey Howl. The appearance of John Lennon, Yoko Ono and The Plastic Ono Band was not publicly known in advance.

Varsity Stadium stadium in Toronto

Varsity Stadium is an outdoor collegiate football stadium located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is home to the Toronto Varsity Blues, the athletic teams of the University of Toronto. Athletic events have been hosted on the site since 1898; the current stadium was built in 2007 to replace the original permanent stadium built in 1911. Varsity Stadium is also a former home of the Toronto Argonauts, and has previously hosted the Grey Cup, the Vanier Cup, several matches of the 1976 Summer Olympics soccer tournament, and the final game of the North American Soccer League's 1984 Soccer Bowl series. It is located next to Varsity Arena.

University of Toronto university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The University of Toronto is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, located on the grounds that surround Queen's Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of higher learning in the colony of Upper Canada, and serves as the flagship campus of the three campuses of the University of Toronto. The other two satellite campuses are located in Scarborough (UTSC) and Mississauga (UTM). Originally controlled by the Church of England, the university assumed its present name in 1850 upon becoming a secular institution. As a collegiate university, it comprises eleven colleges each with substantial autonomy on financial and institutional affairs and significant differences in character and history.

Whiskey Howl was a Toronto-based Canadian blues band, most popular between 1969 and 1972. The band is notable as being one of the early Canadian bands promoting and developing blues music in Canada.

As recounted by co-producer John Brower:

The festival was produced by John Brower and Kenny Walker, who had also produced a 2 day festival in June of 1969 at the same facility. The Rock and Roll Revival was notable for its almost having been cancelled the week of the show when poor ticket sales prompted the backers George and Thor Eaton of Canadian department store fame to pull out. Upon hearing this news, Kim Fowley, who was in Toronto early that week with Rodney Bingenheimer to promote for the festival, suggested that Brower call Apple Records in London and invite John and Yoko to come over and be the emcees. Fowley correctly surmised that given Lennon's love of the music of Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Gene Vincent he would be prompted to accept the invitation. Lennon however went Brower one better by suggesting that they wouldn't want to come unless they could play. Brower accepted that offer and quickly arranged plane tickets for John and Yoko, Klaus Voormann, Alan White, and Eric Clapton along with Beatles road manager Mal Evans and Yoko's assistant Anthony Fawcett.


The T. Eaton Company Limited, commonly known as Eaton's, was a Canadian retailer that was once Canada's largest department store chain. It was founded in 1869 in Toronto by Timothy Eaton, a Presbyterian Ulster Scot immigrant from what is now Northern Ireland. Eaton's grew to become a retail and social institution in Canada, with stores across the country, buying-offices around the globe, and a catalogue that was found in the homes of most Canadians. A changing economic and retail environment in the late 20th century, along with mismanagement, culminated in the chain's bankruptcy in 1999.

Rodney Bingenheimer American DJ

Rodney Bingenheimer is an American radio disc jockey who was on the Los Angeles rock station KROQ. He joined SiriusXM's Little Steven's Underground Garage on July 16, 2017. He is notable for helping numerous bands become successful in the American market. His contribution to the music business has been described as important. He developed a reputation for being the first American D.J. to identify new artists and play "edgy new bands" such as Blondie, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Van Halen, Guns N' Roses, Duran Duran, The Cure, Joan Jett, Hole, Symbol Six, No Doubt, Blur, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, The Bangles, X, Germs and many others.

Apple Records is a record label founded by the Beatles in 1968 as a division of Apple Corps Ltd. It was initially intended as a creative outlet for the Beatles, both as a group and individually, plus a selection of other artists including Mary Hopkin, James Taylor, Badfinger, and Billy Preston. In practice, the roster had become dominated by the mid-1970s with releases of the former Beatles as solo artists. Allen Klein managed the label from 1969 to 1973, then it was managed by Neil Aspinall on behalf of the Beatles and their heirs. Aspinall retired in 2007 and was replaced by Jeff Jones.

Media outlets in Toronto, including CHUM radio, refused to believe Brower and ticket sales remained stillborn until Detroit promoter and radio personality Russ Gibb played nightly the tape recording of Fawcett reciting the names to Brower for the plane tickets. This caused a last minute stampede into Toronto from Detroit and once wire services reported the entourage had boarded their flight in London CHUM radio went on the air with the news and the stadium sold out during the afternoon of the event. Also notable was the escort into Toronto for both The Doors and John and Yoko by The Vagabonds motorcycle club, whose 80 members rode 40 in front and 40 in back for John and Yoko's limousine after having run wild trying to catch The Doors who were not expecting an escort from the Toronto airport to the university stadium in the city center.

CHUM Limited is a defunct Canadian media company based in Toronto, Ontario in operation from 1945 to 2007. It held full or joint control of two Canadian television systems—Citytv and A-Channel —comprising 11 local stations, one CBC Television affiliate, one provincial educational channel, and 20 branded specialty television channels, most notably MuchMusic and its various spinoffs. In addition, CHUM owned 33 radio stations across Canada under its CHUM Radio Network division. At various points in its history, CHUM also owned other radio stations as well as ATV and the Atlantic Satellite Network in Atlantic Canada.

Detroit Largest city in Michigan

Detroit is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Michigan, the largest American city on the United States–Canada border, and the seat of Wayne County. The municipality of Detroit had a 2018 estimated population of 672,662, making it the 23rd-most populous city in the United States. The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area. Regarded as a major cultural center, Detroit is known for its contributions to music and as a repository for art, architecture and design.

Russ Gibb was a concert promoter, and media personality from Dearborn, Michigan, best known for his role in the "Paul is dead" phenomenon, a story he broke as a disc jockey on radio station WKNR-FM in Detroit.

It was at this festival that audience members first lit matches and lighters to welcome a performer on stage. Fowley came up with this as a means to ease John Lennon's stage fright. Fowley appeared on stage just before introducing the Plastic Ono Band and had everyone get their matches ready whereupon Lennon and company took the stage to a spectacular show of lights. This has since become a tradition in rock and roll, but was first experienced here.

Stage fright or performance anxiety is the anxiety, fear, or persistent phobia which may be aroused in an individual by the requirement to perform in front of an audience, whether actually or potentially. Performing in front of an unknown audience can cause significantly more anxiety than performing in front of familiar faces. In some cases, the person will suffer no such fright from this, while they might suffer from not knowing who they're performing to. In the context of public speaking, this may precede or accompany participation in any activity involving public self-presentation. In some cases stage fright may be a part of a larger pattern of social phobia, but many people experience stage fright without any wider problems. Quite often, stage fright arises in a mere anticipation of a performance, often a long time ahead. It has numerous manifestations: stuttering, tachycardia, tremor in the hands and legs, sweaty hands, facial nerve tics, dry mouth, and dizziness.

Brower and Lennon attempted to produce a world peace festival in 1970, but failed to agree on details and were overwhelmed with both political and internecine opposition.

It was at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival that the Alice Cooper "chicken incident" took place. A chicken was reportedly thrown on stage and thrown back into the audience by lead singer Alice; a photo of which was sent by wire around the world. Various reports ranged from Alice biting the chicken's head off before returning it to the crowd, to Alice's own claim that audience members in the front of the crowd tore the poor bird to pieces in a frenzy of rock and roll pandemonium.

Alice Cooper American rock singer, songwriter and musician

Alice Cooper is an American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spans over 50 years. With his distinctive raspy voice and a stage show that features guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, deadly snakes, baby dolls, and dueling swords, Cooper is considered by music journalists and peers alike to be "The Godfather of Shock Rock". Though sometimes also called "The Father of Shock Rock", the former is Cooper's most commonly agreed-upon title. He has drawn equally from horror films, vaudeville, and garage rock to pioneer a macabre and theatrical brand of rock designed to shock people.

An unauthorized Doors recording from the Toronto performance features Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger playing the melody and chorus from The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" in the middle of his guitar solo on "Light My Fire." The Doors closed the festival and Morrison begins their song "The End" by telling the audience he was honored to be on the same stage as the "illustrious musical geniuses" who had preceded the group that day.

Various mutually supportive performances occurred at the festival. The Alice Cooper Band was the backing band for Gene Vincent, [3] while a member of FLAPPING, Ron Marinelli, Danny Taylor, and Hugh Leggat a member of Nucleus, were members of the backing band for Chuck Berry. [4] In addition, appearances at the festival served to revitalize the careers of certain performers from the 1950s. For example, according to one reviewer, in relation to Little Richard's performance:

...he and his extremely tight band proceeded to tear through his classics at breakneck speed. With sweat gushing down his heavily made up face, he jumped on the piano and drove the young crowd crazy, exhorting them to get up and dance to blazing numbers like 'Rip It Up', 'Good Golly Miss Molly', and 'Jenny, Jenny'. By the time he finished racing through the closing notes of his 'Long Tall Sally' finale, he was sopping wet with his shirt torn to shreds by the crowd below. In 30 frenetic minutes Little Richard had just made his comeback." [5]

The Doors, as the headlining act, closed the show. The band's appearance at the 1969 festival would be their last appearance in Toronto, prior to the 1971 death of Jim Morrison.

Audio and video releases

D. A. Pennebaker, who had made the 1967 documentary Dont Look Back , concerning Bob Dylan's 1965 UK tour, and the 1968 documentary Monterey Pop , concerning the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, also filmed the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival. The resulting documentary, Sweet Toronto , was released in 1971. As a result of Pennebaker's involvement, the performances of most of the artists were recorded and filmed. This has led to many authorized and unauthorized audio and video releases. Authorized video releases include the complete concert performances of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.[ citation needed ]

The following artists live music performances were issued on album and cassette:

Chicago Transit Authority – "Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival 1969 – Vol. I" (Accord 7140, 1981)

Chuck Berry – "Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival 1969 – Vol. II & Vol. III" (Accord 7171/7172, 1982)

Alice Cooper – "Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival 1969 – Vol. IV" (Accord 7162, 1982)

Bo Diddley – "Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival 1969 – Vol. V" (Accord 7182, 1982)

[Some of above have also been issued on various titled CD/Cassette releases from many odd labels]

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – "Live Peace in Toronto 1969" (Apple 3362, 1969)

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  1. Toronto Rock & Roll Revival Promotional Handbill Archived 2009-08-30 at the Wayback Machine ;
  2. Fowley was also at the time Gene Vincent's record producer. See Harvey Kubernick, Kim Fowley: John Lennon's Toronto Revival Archived 2009-04-13 at Interview with Kim Fowley, April 10, 2009;
  3. Uncredited, Toronto '69;
  4. See "Nucleus" section at Toronto Rock and Roll Revival Website
  5. Brian Ferdman, Review of Little Richard - Live at the Toronto Peace Festival 1969, March 27, 2009;