Monday, December 15, 2014

Piedmont Park Free Concerts

By Spring 1969 midtown Atlanta's Piedmont Park had become the primary setting for free concerts, usually on Sundays, from the afternoon into the evening. The central location drew local and regional talent, most memorably the Allman Brothers Band, who had recently relocated from Jacksonville FL to Macon GA. Atlanta had yet to open any substantial rock clubs, therefore the park became a key venue for musicians to showcase material to a large audience. 

Piedmont Park, Atlanta, 1969
Photo by Carter Tomassi,

Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks recalled:
"After several weeks of work learning this new material we were busting to get out of that [Macon] warehouse and play it for people. So... we loaded ourselves and our equipment into our Econoline and what other rides we could glom and headed to Atlanta (later to be renamed Hotlanta, I believe we coined this term but can't prove it). We went straight to Piedmont Park and found a perfect spot to set up. It was a rather large flat space at the top of some stairs with some electrical outlets within reach. We didn't ask permission, we just set up and started pouring out all of this music we had only played for ourselves up to that time.... When we finished some people were so transfixed they simply laid down and spent the night there. Others made sure that the place was cleaned up. Of course the next Sunday we went back and there was a shit load more folks than were there the week before as well as a couple of other Atlanta bands that wanted to play. This grew into a weekly event that went from that little place to a big flatbed stage set up on the end of a very large field that someone provided complete with a massive generator. Plus many more bands. The crowd grew to the level of around 10,000 after a few weeks and I don't recall a single incident of violence in all the months that this magical thing continued."

Duane Allman, Piedmont Park, Atlanta, May 11, 1969
The Great Speckled Bird, Vol. 2, No. 10, May 19, 1969
Cover photo by Bill Fibben
According to Duane Allman:
"Playing the park's such a good thing because people don't even expect you to be there. About the nicest way you can play is just for nothing, you know. And it's not really for nothing. It's for your own personal satisfaction–and other people's–rather than for any kind of financial thing."
UPDATE, APRIL 2018: Glenn Phillips (guitarist, composer, co-founder of the Hampton Grease Band) left a comment 4/4/18 on my 1/19/15 Discovery, Inc. post. Here's an excerpt in which he pinpoints the essential birth of the Piedmont Park free concerts. (For full context, click the Discovery label in the right column, then read the comments section.):
"The [Hampton] Grease Band's spontaneous Piedmont Park shows started [...] in the spring of '68 when I discovered there was a live outlet in the pavilion [...]. We started playing there pretty much every week and did shows there by ourselves on the grass by the pavilion, in the pavilion, in the tall brick gazebo off to the side of the pavilion (which also had a live outlet at the time, but was a pain in the ass to carry our equipment up to), and on the stone steps (which is where the Allman Brothers first appeared with us on May 11, 1969, when Phil Walden called the Grease Band personally to see if it was okay if the Allman Brothers played with us that day)."  


  • Hampton Grease Band, Crust, Smoke, Nail, Little Phil & The Night Shadows, Toni Ganim, Anne Romaine - March 29 (The Great Speckled Bird first birthday celebration)
  • "BE-IN. Atlantis Rising festivities in the park. Music, food, etc." - April 20
  • "BE-IN. Atlantis Rising festivities in Piedmont Park, all afternoon, music, rapping etc." - April 27
  • "ROCK CONCERT/BE-IN. Celebrate opening of Atlantis Rising community trade fair, six rock groups" - May 3
  • Allman Brothers Band, Hampton Grease Band - May 11
  • Allman Brothers Band - May 18
  • Booger Band - May 25 (during Atlanta Arts Festival)
  • "BE-IN. Nexus House sponsors a be-in with bands, 2 pm, community supper, 5 pm" - June 22 
  • Brick Wall, The Bag, Jim Cross, Semore, Barry Bailey, John Ivy - June 28 ("Grand Opening Be-In" for Atlantis Rising)
  • Grateful Dead, Chicago Transit Authority, Spirit, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, It's A Beautiful Day, Allman Brothers Band, Hampton Grease Band - July 7 (Monday concert following July 4th weekend's Atlanta International Pop Festival in Hampton GA, arranged by festival promoters)
  • The Unpolished Brass - August 10
  • Solid Blues - August 24 ("Socialist politics, folksingers, rock music, and guerrilla theatre... Jenness for Mayor rally")
  • "Free Grease Job - Labor of Love" - Hampton Grease Band, Robin - August 31
  • Allman Brothers Band - September 14
  • "Mini-Pop Festival" - Allman Brothers Band, Hampton Grease Band, Brick Wall, Sweet Younguns, Booger Band, Radar, Hand Band - September 21 (rally for firebombed Atlantis Rising trade mart; 23 arrests made, initiated by disclosure of undercover narcotics officers; police used tear gas and batons on crowd, some of whom threw rocks; GSB photographer Bill Fibben arrested for taking pictures of police action, "interfering with arrest")
  • Allman Brothers Band - September 27
  • "Piedmont Music Festival" - Allman Brothers Band, Mother Earth with Tracy Nelson, Billy Joe Royal, Joe South, Boz Scaggs, Second Coming, Royal Blues, Hand Band, Boogie Chillun, Lee Moses - October 17-19
  • Community Council of the Atlanta Area, Inc., meeting in the park with free music - November 2
  • "Free Music In The Park" - February 28-March 1 (sponsored by Universal Life Church)
  • "Free Music In The Park" - March 7-8 (sponsored by Universal Life Church)
  • Axis, Handle, Chakra, Paul Hanson & Pat Alger - March 20
  • Screaming Yellow, Shayde - April 19
  • "Spring Peace Festival" - Stump Brothers, Axis, Ether, Celestial Voluptuous Banana, Country Pye, Eric Quincy Tate, Light Brigade, Eros, Robyn, Perpetual Motion, Ruffin, What Brothers, Stuff, White Lie, Stonehenge, Last Era, Bremrod, Booger Jam, Total Electric, Corn Cobb Jam, Pegasus Lantern Light Show - June 6-7
  • Allman Brothers Band, Majester Ludi, Chakra, Ether - June 14
  • "Peace Festival" - Stump Brothers, Axis, Celestial Voluptuous Banana, Eric Quincy Tate, Nancy Harmon & The Victory Voices, Robyn, Twelve Eyes, What Brothers, White Lie, Pegasus Lantern Light Show - June 21 
  • Hampton Grease Jam, Chakra, Milan, Flint - June 28
  • Brewer & Shipley - July 19
  • "Free Music" - July 26
  • 15 Minutes, Joel, Buckwheat, What Brothers, Malford Mann, Babylon - August 9
  • Duckbutter, Axis, Hydra, Flint, Joel, Ewing Street Times - August 16
  • Younguns, Perpetual Motion, Hydra, Plymouth Rock, Interprize - August 30
  • Sunrise, Horizon, Milkweed, Chakra, Street Explosion - September 13
  • Radar, Younguns, Booger, Perpetual Motion, Chair - September 20
  • Allman Brothers Band, Hampton Grease Band, Eric Quincy Tate, Avenue of Happiness, Stump Brothers, Chakra - September 27
  • Stonehenge, Jelly Roll, Crossover, What Brothers, August, Underground Balloon Corporation, Kaleidoscopic Light Show - October 4
  • "Women's Festival" - Anne Romaine, Ruthie Gordon, Carol & Barbara, Esther LeFevre, The Ribs - October 10
  • Sweetwater; Warm; Looney Tunes; Red, White & Blue(grass); Chair - October 18
  • Hydra; Red, White & Blue(grass); Younguns - October 25
  • Joe South, Glass - October 30
  • Avenue of Happiness - December 23
  • Stonehenge, Chakra - March 28
  • Stump Brothers, East Side Blues Band, Horse Roscoe - April 3
  • Wet Willie; Alex Taylor, Friends & Neighbors - April 4
  • Thunder, What Brothers, Smooth's Barn Dance, Perpetual Motion, John Flynt, Flood - April 11
  • Hydra, Flint, Foxes - May 23
  • Goose Creek Symphony, Sunrise, Kudzu, Signal, Gladstone, David Harris (speaker) - May 30
  • Allman Brothers Band - May 31
  • What Brothers, Kudzu, Howling Bull - June 13
  • Milkweed, Hansen & Alger, Fox Watson, Doris Abrahams, Vince Quinn, Jeff Espina - June 20
  • Hydra, Duckbutter, A Man Called Joad, Glass Menagerie, Perpetual Motion - July 4 (12th Gate benefit)


The Great Speckled Bird, Vol. 2 Nos. 6, 7, 11, 15, 16, 24
The Great Speckled Bird, Vol. 3 Nos. 9, 25, 29
Midnight Riders, by Scott Freeman, published by Little, Brown and Company, 1995
Skydog, The Duane Allman Story, by Randy Poe, published by Backbeat Books, 2006, 2008.

Note: Entries in quotes are from The Great Speckled Bird calendar pages.

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