The Midwest Rock Festival brought Page, Clapton to 'Stallis.
The Midwest Rock Festival brought Page, Clapton to 'Stallis.

Meeting Jimmy Page in West Allis

This morning I spent some time with Bruce Cole, who created and maintains and grows the Jean Cuje Milwaukee Music Collection at Marquette University. Bruce has been in loads of bands over a number of decades and his passion for local music seems to grow as time goes on.

He told me about his experiences meeting Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton when one of his bands opened for Cream at The Scene Downtown in the late ‘60s and then he briefly met Jimmy Page in 1969 in West Allis.

What? Jimmy Page in West Allis? Yes, Led Zeppelin was one of the top-billed acts at the two-day Midwest Rock Festival at State Fair Park on July 25-27, 1969 (Buffy Sainte-Marie was at the top of the bill).

A slew of local bands warmed things up on the flatbed trailer that served as the stage in the infield of the racetrack. Cole even sat in briefly with Shag at one of its three appearances. The day two line-up featured Mc5, Blind Faith (with Clapton, Baker and Steve Winwood), Delaney & Bonnie and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, along with Shag and SRC.

The closing night featured Jeff Beck Group, Johnny Winter, Joe Cocker and the Grease Band, Jethro Tull, Bob Seger, Jim Schwall, MC-5, Zephyr, Litter, Shag and SRC.

Opening night was the hot one with Sainte-Marie and Led Zeppelin, joined by 1st Edition, Pacific Gas & Electric, SRC, Shag and Sweetwater.

Led Zeppelin's appearance was part of an American tour that also included dates at New York's Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park, the Atlanta International Pop Festival, the Seattle Pop Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival and other big events. In October, the band went on to release the follow-up to its self-titled debut, "Led Zeppelin II."

That night, the band played "Train Kept a-Rollin'," "I Can't Quit You," "Dazed and Confused," "White Summer," "How Many More Times" and "Communication Breakdown," which was the group's standard set list for the summer jaunt.

A bootleg of the gig was released as "Stroll On." There are also bootlegs of Blind Faith's performance, too.

Twenty-one-year-old Anthony Shelton was there, fresh from a stint with the Army in Vietnam. He was preparing to start studying to become a teacher at Illinois State University. His cousin, who he says was like a brother to him, lived in Milwaukee.

"I went up on Thursday and stayed until midweek," Shelton remembers.  "He took me to the festival and I got to see all the fun my generation was having while I had been gone for, what at the time seemed to be, a very long time.

"All I can really say about seeing Zeppelin was that, I was and still am a big fan, was that their live performance in 1969 was much better than when I saw them in Indy in '77.  Plant's voice was gone by '77, in '69 he was still great.

"I've always thought Zep was better on record than in concert.  I saw them three times: Midwest Rock Fest, Chicago '72 and Indy '77 and I never walked away thinking that I had seen 'God' or something.  I did see the Stones in '69 at the U of I and '72 -- also, 75, 78 81 so on and so forth -- in Chicago and thought they were better than Zeppelin in concert.

"I didn't think they walked on water, let's put it that way.  I thought Blind Faith sounded better at the Midwest Rock Fest than Zep did."

Were you at this event? If so, tell us about it using the talkback feature below.

Talkbacks

Brwmeistr | Jan. 11, 2014 at 8:22 a.m. (report)

I was living in Menomonie that summer, working for Dunn Co Highway Dept, and hitchhiked to Milwaukee for all 3 days of the show. I'd not heard of several of the groups, some of which (Mayall's Bluesbreakers, for example) became lifelong favorites. I tripped all weekend, and smoked a toke or two of anything that passed by, and had an absolutely transformative weekend of incredible music that has stayed with me ever since. 44 years later I still remember most of it, and have NEVER forgotten the music!

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kinnickinnic | Oct. 15, 2008 at 6:31 a.m. (report)

I was living on the streets in Berkeley CA in July. I talked to my sister in Milwaukee, who's husband worked at Radio Doctors.
She said I had to get back to Milwaukee to see this concert. So I took off hitchhiking back to Milwaukee. I was supposed to meet up with them there and get a free set of tickets for all three days, but he got busted for possesion there.
I never did get free tickets, So I could only afford to go for the first two days. I thought Led Zepplen was to loud and scary. But then I was tripping the whole time on some stuff a guy called Blue Sunshine. Plus I drank some wine called Bahli Hi.
The best act for my state of mind was Blind Faith. Especially "I Can't Find My Way Home".
Which was true, because I didn't make it back to the East Side of Milwaukee,but headed right back to CA with two 'chicks' (sorry) from Oregon. One gave birth to twins in Laramie WY. There I got a free haircut from the 'pigs' (sorry).
It rained all three days and was quite miserable. But I'll never for get it. Seems like yesterday.

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CoolerKing | Sept. 18, 2008 at 11:48 a.m. (report)

I didn't meet the height and age requirements back then, but having the MC5 play 2 days in a row would've been well worth it.

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Stoli | Sept. 17, 2008 at 2:05 p.m. (report)

34720 Did a little more digging on this... Check out Clapton's quote about his first impressions of Led Zeppelin. Priceless!

http://www.thisdayinrock.com/?p=10836

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