Dizzy, Zappa and Zeppelin: Laurel Park’s Clubhouse Festival On Maryland Million Day Reprises Past Music Festivals

by | 10.18.2018 | 6:26pm
Laurel Park in Maryland

There are hundreds of indelible images at Laurel Park.

Secretariat and Barbaro winning the Laurel Futurity. Lester Piggott's three victories in the D.C. International. Ben's Cat winning his third consecutive Maryland Million Turf Sprints. Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention singing “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama.”


Led Zeppelin playing “You Shook Me.”


James Brown singing “Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud.”

Building upon Maryland's version of the Breeders' Cup – the 33rd Jim McKay Maryland Million – Laurel will play host Saturday to the inaugural Clubhouse Festival, an entertainment experience that will introduce Thoroughbred racing to a new generation of fans with music by Grammy nominated Steve Aoki and a host of other top tier performers.

The Stronach Group, parent company of Laurel Park, has worked diligently to update racing with significant entertainment, events and exceptional dining. Clubhouse Festival will be the first at renovated Laurel Park, but it isn't the first time the 107-year-old facility has hosted exceptional entertainment events.

In the late 1960s, Laurel played host to three Jazz Festivals featuring Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Etta Jones and Thelonious Monk among others.  Attendance for each festival was estimated at approximately 25,000. Before the 1967 concert, workshops were organized by George Wein's Newport Jazz Festival All-Stars and free admission was offered to thousands of Baltimore students.

In July of 1969, a month before Woodstock, Wein teamed up with concert promoter Elzie Street to produce the Laurel Pop Festival, a two-day music festival that has become known for an incredible and eclectic list of 12 performers who have all been inducted into music Hall of Fames across the world. Those performers included Led Zeppelin, Sly and the Family Stone, Buddy Guy, Al Kooper and the Jeff Beck Group featuring Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood.

The Friday, July 11 show kicked off with legendary blues guitarist and Kennedy Center Honoree Buddy Guy before Kooper performed. After releasing his first solo album I Stand Alone, which critic Bruce Eder described as a “dazzling, almost overpoweringly beautiful body of music.” Kooper, the Zelig of popular music, brought a 15-piece band to perform at Laurel just months before releasing his second album “You Never Know Who Your Friends Are.”

The Friday show continued with Jethro Tull and Johnny Winter before Led Zeppelin performed a set that included “Dazed and Confused,” “Communication Breakdown” and “What Is and What Should Never Be.”

The second night of the festival was delayed several times by rain. It was reported that it wasn't until 10 p.m., that the Jeff Beck Group, featuring future Faces Stewart and Wood. Ten Years After, the Guess Who and Zappa and the Mothers followed before Sly and the Family Stone wrapped up the festival after 2 a.m.

The Washington Post's review of the Pop Festival was written by Carl Bernstein, who wasn't impressed, writing in part that the festival “provided some demoralizing insights into the state of rock music today and the people who are producing it.”

Bernstein would cover the Watergate scandal three years later with Bob Woodward.

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