On this Day in Movie History, June 20, 1969: Hendrix Earns Biggest Paycheck for a Single Concert Appearance

It was on this day, June 20, 1969, guitarist Jimi Hendrix earned the biggest paycheck ever paid (to that time) for a single concert appearance. But what you may know regarding this story may be completely wrong. According to many Hendrix was paid $125,000 to appear for a single set at the Newport Jazz Festival. But this is Wrong!


The Newport Jazz Festival, a music festival held every summer in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, was established in 1954 by socialite Elaine Lorillard, who, together with husband Louis Lorillard, financed the festival for many years. The couple hired jazz impresario George Wein to organize the event to help them bring jazz to the resort town.

The festival’s 1969 program was an experiment in fusing jazz, soul and rock music and audiences. Its lineup included, besides jazz, Friday evening appearances by rock groups Jeff Beck, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Ten Years After and Jethro Tull. Saturday’s schedule mixed jazz acts such as Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck with others including John Mayall and Sly & the Family Stone. James Brown was among those who appeared Sunday afternoon followed in the evening by Herbie Hancock, blues musician B. B. King and English rock group Led Zeppelin.

Nowhere is it listed that Hendrix was to play this festival.

George Wein, tired of the avant-garde jazz movement, envisioned rock music as a translation of the blues, and thus an extension (although distant) of the roots of jazz. For the festival he labeled this music as “Jazz-Rock.”

“The avant-garde movement is going nowhere,” Wein writes in the producers’ forward of the 1969 program. “It’s been around about ten years and all it has done, in addition to destroying the precious quality known in jazz as style, is to confuse an entire decade of young musicians who feel it is necessary to be associated with the so-called forward line.” He goes on to condemn the state of jazz by praising what many genre hard-liners would consider its primary antagonists: “the better rock kids have enthusiasm and drive that many young jazz musicians seem to lack. They know there is a public out there and they go get it. They improvise, jam, play with a beat, play the blues and have many of the characteristics of jazz. But is it JAZZ?”

Now this is all interesting, but Hendrix did not play at the Newport Jazz Festival. He played instead, at the Newport 69 Festival on June 20, 1969.

There were two separate events staged in the late 1960s that are commonly referred to as the “Newport Pop Festival.” The first was called the Newport Pop Festival, held at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California, the weekend of August 3–4, 1968. The second event was originally billed as “Newport 69,” and was held over the three-day weekend of June 20–22, 1969 in Northridge, California at Devonshire Downs. (Devonshire Downs was a racetrack at that time but now is part of the North Campus for California State University at Northridge.) It was at this later event that Hendrix played on this day in 1969.

In published writings over the last 40 years, this latter event has been referred to as the “Newport 69 Pop Festival,” the “Newport Pop Festival 1969” and simply the “Newport Pop Festival.” Subsequently, much confusion has been created over the years between the 1968 and 1969 events. Some of this confusion was generated by the participating musicians themselves who, later, in their interviews, kept getting the two events mixed up.

The latter event was organized by Mark Robinson (age 25) who was one of the three promoters of the original Newport Pop Festival in 1968. The other two promoters of the 68 event were Gary R. Schmidt (age 26) and his father Al Schmidt. Al was not a rock n roller but an entrepreneural business man that helped with the money and licensing. There was a brief law suit between the two Schmidts and Robinson just prior to the “Newport 69” show which the Schmidts had declined to be involved in because of the cost of the acts, The entire band budget for the 68 show was under 50,000 dollars while Robinson paid Jimi Hendrix alone 50,000 dollars for the 69 event.

Here is the lineup for the three day event “Newport 69”

Friday, June 20, 1969
Albert King, Edwin Hawkins Singers, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Joe Cocker, Southwind, Spirit and Taj Mahal.

Saturday, June 21, 1969
Albert Collins, Brenton Wood, Buffy Ste. Marie, Charity, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Eric Burdon, Friends of Distinction, Jethro Tull, Lee Michaels, Love, Steppenwolf and Sweetwater.

Sunday, June 22, 1969
Booker T & the MGs, Chambers Brothers, the Flock, the Grass Roots, Johnny Winter, Marvin Gaye, Mother Earth, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles, Eric Burdon, and Mother Earth (jam), Poco (formerly Pogo), the Byrds, the Rascals and Three Dog Night.

Attended by 150,000 fans, this festival on June 20–22, 1969 was the largest pop concert up to that time and is considered the more famous of the two Newport Pop Festivals, possibly because of the appearance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, which got top billing at the venue.

So, over forty years, Hendrix has gone from making at that time $50,000 (This was an amount of money unheard of at that time for a rock act.) to making $125,000 for his single concert appearance (which is wrong! even though it appears this way on the web); and has gone from having correctly played the Newport 69, held in Northridge, California at Devonshire Downs to having played at the Newport Jazz Festival (wrong!), held as it has always been for 55 years in Newport, Rhode Island (a full continent away).

Remember, as its been said before, “if you can remember the ’70s, man, you weren’t there.” And hopefully this straightens out this matter once and for all.

If anyone says otherwise, ask them, “Man, what are you smoking?”

1909 – Errol (Leslie Thomson) Flynn (actor: Captain Blood, In the Wake of the Bounty, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Too Much Too Soon; autobiography: My Wicked, Wicked Ways; died Oct 14, 1959)

1931 – Olympia Dukakis (Academy Award-winning actress: Moonstruck [1987]; Steel Magnolias, Working Girl, The Cemetery Club, Death Wish, Look Who’s Talking; cousin of U.S. presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis)

1931 – Martin Landau (Academy Award-winning supporting actor: Ed Wood [1994]; Mission Impossible, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Tucker: The Man and His Dreams, By Dawn’s Early Light, Mistress, North by Northwest, Pork Chop Hill)

1931 – James Tolkan (actor: Dick Tracy, Back to the Future, Serpico, Mary, The Hat Squad, Cobra)

1933 – Danny Aiello (Daniel Louis Aiello, Jr.) (actor: Lady Blue, Moonstruck, Do the Right Thing, Ruby, Mistress, Me and the Kid, The Cemetery Club, The Pickle, The Godfather Part 2, Fort Apache, The Bronx, Harlem Nights, Dellaventura)

1933 – Brett Halsey (actor: Black Cat, Dangerous Obsession, Twice-Told Tales, Return to Peyton Place, The Crash of Flight 401)

1934 – Rossana Podesta (actress: The Sensual Man, Sodom and Gomorrah)

1940 – John Mahoney (actor: Frasier, Cheers, The Human Factor, Primal Fear, In the Line of Fire, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Ten Million Dollar Getaway, Love Hurts, The Russia House, Tin Men, Moonstruck, The Manhattan Project)

1947 – Candy Clark (actress: American Graffiti, Handle with Care, The Big Sleep, National Lampoon Goes to the Movies, Johnny Belinda, Blue Thunder, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Radioland Murders, Niagara, Niagara)

1949 – Dave Thomas (comedian, actor: Coneheads, Cold Sweat, Sesame Street Presents: Follow that Bird, Stripes, Second City TV, The New Show, Grace Under Fire; TV host: The Dave Thomas Comedy Show)

1952 – John Goodman (actor: Roseanne, The Flintstones, The Babe, King Ralph, Born Yesterday, Matinee, Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, Blues Brothers 2000, What Planet Are You From?, O Brother, Where Art Thou?)

1964 – Michael Landon Jr. (actor: Bonanza: The Return, Bonanza: The Ghosts)

1967 – Nicole (Mary) Kidman (Academy Award-winning actress [The Hours (2003)]; Days of Thunder, Far and Away, Malice, Batman Forever, Billy Bathgate, The Portrait of a Lady, Eyes Wide Shut, Practical Magic, Moulin Rouge)


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