Monday, May 25, 2020

Incident At Kickapoo Creek Rock Festival (Heyworth, Illinois) - 50th Anniversary

The Incident at Kickapoo Creek outdoor rock festival was planned for Memorial Day weekend (May 30-31, 1970) however people started arriving as early as Thursday May 28th.  By Sunday an estimated 40,000-60,000 people had converged on L. David Lewis' farm outside of Heyworth, Illinois in rural McLean County for a celebration of music, sun, drugs and mud.

The first band performed at midnight, early Friday morning.   Over the course of the next three days between 30-40 bands played.  The Spotify playlist above is just a small sample of the bands that were there though it includes one recording made at the outdoor concert:  Canned Heat's "Reefer Blues."

For more music recorded live at the festival including Canned Heat, B.B. King, Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Ted Nugent, listen to our show from last year (More details):

The Bands

Headlining / National Acts

Friday May 29th / Saturday May 30th
  • Smith
  • New Colony Six
Pat McBride, Ronnie Rice, Bruce Gordon, Chuck 
Jobes, Billy Herman and Gerry Van Kollenburg
Saturday May 30th (evening) / Sunday May 31st (early morning)
  • The Amboy Dukes (Ted Nugent)
  • Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • B.B. King
Sunday May 31st
  • Frijid Pink
  • Country Joe and the Fish
  • Canned Heat
Originally on the bill but did not perform:
  • The Kinks - One of the earliest advertisements for the festival that ran in the Daily Illini included the Kinks on the bill.   Their name was gone however from all the promotional materials that followed.   The Kinks performed in Chicago at the Aragon Ballroom on May 29th and 30th instead.
  • Delaney & Bonnie & Friends - appear to have been scheduled right up until the start of the festival.  It is unclear why they cancelled or were not able to play.

Supporting / Regional Acts

The majority of the supporting acts were local groups represented by Blytham Ltd., a Champaign-Urbana talent agency run by Robert Nutt and Irving Azoff.   Below is a list of bands that played at Kickapoo Creek or were scheduled to play.
  • Aorta - from Rockford / Chicago, Illinois.  The band was listed on early advertisements for the concert but was dropped from ads as the event got close.  No evidence that they were there.
  • Arrow Memphis - from Collinsville, Illinois.
  • Backstreet - (aka Backstreet Majority) from central Illinois.  Band members included Harry Washburn, Bobby Carlin, Michael Day and Howie Reeder.
  • The Basic Need - from central Illinois (possibly Clinton).
  • Bloomsbury People - from Waukesha, Wisconsin.   
  • Blue - from St. Louis, Missouri.   Michael MacDonald was at some point a member of this group (see also The Guild).  Other members included Russ Bono, Pat Malloy and Bob Bortz.
  • Bluesweed - (aka Blues Weed) from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.   According to an interview with band members Perry Hamilton and James Kingelhoffer, the group was at the festival and scheduled to play but a downpour of rain right before going on postponed their stage time and they were ultimately bumped.
  • Bucktooth - (aka Buck Tooth) According to Feb 1970 ad, Buck Tooth was made up of former members of four popular Champaign-Urbana area groups.
  • The Challengers - by one newspaper report this group performed on Friday.
  • Devil's Kitchen Bandfrom Carbondale, Illinois however the group relocated to San Francisco from 1968-1970 and was the "house band" at the Family Dog Ballroom.   Having returned to Illinois around the time of Kickapoo, the group got added to the bill at the last minute when their managers (John Loyd and Harvey Morrison) were asked to help run the festival's sound.  Devil's Kitchen performed in the afternoon on Friday or Saturday.  Band members included Bob Laughton, Brett Champlin, Randy Bradle, and Robbie Stokes.  This was their last concert.
  • East Street - ?
  • The Esquires - originally from northern Illinois though based in Champaign-Urbana at this time.  By one newspaper report this group was the very first to perform with a start time of midnight, early Friday morning.
  • Fat Water - from Chicago / Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.  Band members included:  Vicky Hubly, Bill "Boris" Schneider, G.E. Stinson, Don Cody and Peter Milio.
  • Feather Train - (aka Feathertrain) from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.  Members of the group at this time would have been Bruce Hall, Frank Pytko, Dana Walden, Larry Mitchell, Gary Richrath, and Freddie Fletcher.
  • The Finchley Boys - from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.  Members of the group included George Faber, Garrett Oostdyk, J. Michael Powers and Larry Tabeling.  According to guitarist Garrett Oostdyk the band's stage time was moved up to noon on Sunday to help "wake up the crowd."
  • Dan Fogelberg  - from Peoria, Illinois and reportedly played at Kickapoo though not listed on any promotional posters or advertisements.  In 1970, Fogelberg was still a student at the University of Illinois and performed primarily in coffee houses around Champaign-Urbana.  He was however represented by Blytham Ltd. so it is possible he was at Kickapoo.  Here is what Dan sounded like in 1970:  
  • For Days & A Night - from Chicago though they played around central Illinois frequently.
  • Fuse - from Rockford, Illinois.  Band members included Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Joe Sundberg, Craig Myers,  Chip Greenman and Tom Peterson (Cheap Trick).  According to drummer Chip Greenman, Fuse was the opening act launching the festival.  This however conflicts other such claims.  In the photo below you can see Fuse's van backed up to the Kickapoo stage.
  • Genesis - most likely a Champaign-Urbana group though possibly from Wisconsin.  They played in C-U a lot in 1970.  Definitely NOT the English rock group featuring Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel as has been reported in the past.   Also NOT the American psychedelic group from Los Angeles that released an LP in 1968.
  • Gidians Bible - from Bloomington-Normal, Illinois.
  • The Guild from Mascoutah, Illinois. Michael MacDonald was a member of this group around this time (see also Blue).
  • Hot Set Up - ?
  • Joe Kelley Blues Band - from Chicago, Illinois.
  • Light Brigade - from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
  • The Litter - from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • Monterey Hand - from Chicago featuring guitarist James "JY" Young (Styx).  Photo from Kickapoo below appears to show Rick Young, Marco Mundo and JY.
  • Moses - from Charleston / Matoon, Illinois.  Band members pictured below:  Steve Dalton, Marc Nale, Eddie Pearcy, Gary Tate (rear) and Jim Hite.
  • Nickel Bag - from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.
  • Night People - from the Quad Cities, IL / IA.
  • One-Eyed Jacks - from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.   Band members at the time included Mike Murphy, Tom Kelly and Doug Livingston.  One newspaper report published on Saturday May 30th states the group opened the show at 5 pm on Friday.  However many accounts have them playing on Saturday evening.  Possible that they played twice over the weekend.
  • Chuck & Mary Perrin - from Pekin, Illinois.  The first to perform on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Phoenix - from Granite City / Collinsville, Illinois.
  • REO Speedwagonfrom Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.  Members at the time would have been Terry Lutrell, Steve Scorfina, Greg Philbin, Alan Gratzer and Neil Doughty.
  • Siegel-Schwall Band - from Chicago, Illinois.   
  • Seven - ?
  • Spare Chaynge -  from St. Joseph, Illinois (Champaign County).  
  • Tayles - from Madison, Wisconsin.  
  • The Truth - from the St. Louis area.
  • Uncle Meat from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. According to guitarist Kent Paris, the group was one of the first bands to play (likely on Friday).  In photo below: Kent Paris (rhythm guitar/ vocals), Jim Leonard (road manager), Michael McKeehan (bass/vocals), Chris Martin (lead vocalist), Alan Bates (drums) and Martin Cupp (lead guitar).
  • Zebra - ?

Urban Legends & Local Myths

Creedence Clearwater Revival or at least John Fogerty attended Kickapoo which inspired him to write "Just got home from Illinois..." - the opening line to their 1970 song "Lookin' Out My Back Door."  

This story or a version of it is still told around the Bloomington-Normal area to this day.  Unfortunately, it is NOT true and has been disproved many times.  From the Pantagraph's Flick Facts published April 24, 2016:

Question: True or false? In the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, "Lookin' Out My Back Door," John Fogerty opens with the line, "Just got back from Illinois ... oh boy!" a magic moment for the Bloomington area, written by Fogerty in 1970 after the band's performance at the Kickapoo Creek Festival in rural Heyworth.

Answer: That's the widely told story. But it's false, says Rick Halberg, a former radio personality at WBNQ and WWCT (today an employee at Country Financial) and a "walking encyclopedia" of rock 'n roll knowledge. Explains Rick, "When I was assisting (B-N filmmaker) Craig Raycraft with the original 'Incident at Kickapoo Creek’ movie, we talked to Fogerty's people about the story. John relayed to us — through his manager — that he had not attended the festival but was resting at home in California after finishing up a European tour. The reason he mentioned Illinois in the opening line of the song? Because it rhymed with `Oh boy!’ "

Another rumor that circulated around the time of Kickapoo Creek was that the Beatles were going to get back together and play at the festival.  Perhaps laughable now but I suspect this bit of wishful thinking was common among festival-goers in 1970... and many years after.