Spring Bank Holiday Monday, May 29 1967, was meant to be “a day of fear” in Spalding because of an event simply described as “the beat concert”.
But Barbecue 67 was to be a landmark on the British rock music scene, where household names such as the late Jimi Hendrix, ‘King of the Swingers’ Geno Washington, The Move and a young guitarist called Eric Clapton were to take some early steps on the road to stardom in a South Holland market town.
Former Spalding Grammar School student Robert ‘Charlie’ Goodhand, one of the so-called “‘debauched youth’ to get into the seven-hour concert, said: “On the day, it was actually fairly low key and a lot of parents wouldn’t let their kids go.
“It was a pound to get in (£16.25 in 2015) and I used to work in Fine Fare supermarket and I got a pound for a day’s work.
“So it cost me a day’s work to go.”
Charlie’s school friend at the time and now a lecturer at Hull University, Les Fairbanks, added: “I couldn’t get a ticket but there used to be a caravan site in Cradge Bank (Spalding) and in the last caravan, there was a chap that I got to know and he was a bouncer on the door.
“I asked ‘have you got any tickets?’ and he said ‘here, you can have those’, so I got in for free.
“I’d just got near the front and there was Jimi Hendrix, with somebody who was drunk tried to throw himself forward and hit the deck.”
Forty-eight years on from that bank holiday afternoon, at least 100 people gathered outside the Red Lion Hotel, Spalding, on Friday to mark that special day with a permanent memorial in the form of a blue plaque unveiled to mark the place where Hendrix stayed for one night only.
Mike Peacey, lead singer with Spalding’s very own band Sounds Force Five who supported the star acts, said: “Barbecue 67 really was a unique occasion.
“There had been nothing like it and it was almost accidental in that the bands which were booked for that event weren’t big names when they were booked.
“When the event came along, suddenly there were absolutely cracking big names and so it was kind of almost a unique happening.
“From that, really did come the roots of the festival scene that we know today.
“But it started in Spalding on that day and people don’t realise that.”
The blue plaque was commissioned by Spalding and District Civic Society, with help from Red Lion Hotel’s manager Nigel Wilkins and Spalding county councillor Elizabeth Sneath, to mark the day “when 4,000 rockers and hippies descended on the town,” according to a statement from the society.
During the plaque unveiling ceremony, Chris Thompson said: “I was 18 and still at Spalding Grammar School.
“We could hardly believe the line-up for this rock concert at the Bulb Auction (now Holland Market car park) and in Spalding.
“We’d been saving up for the pricey £1 ticket, a day’s wages in 1967, and the Free Press had been doing its best to work up expectations of riots and general mayhem.”
Writing at time, much-loved Free Press and Spalding Guardian reporter Sheila Robson said: “I’d come to see what a rave looked like.
“What was it that persuaded youngsters from all over the country to spend seven suffocating hours just listening to a few bands in a bare concrete hall?
“I was quite unprepared for the beauty of it...like some splendid, savage painting by (16th-century) Greek painter El Greco.
“Pitch dark, except for the pool of light that flooded over the performers’ arena.
“Thousands of hands clapped in unison, thousands of voices chanted ‘Geno’ as their perspiring idol gave all he’d got in number after number.
“I’ve never been in a crowd that frightened me less.”
After Barbecue 67, Hendrix enjoyed three more years of fame with songs such as Voodoo Chile, Purple Haze and Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower before his untimely death in a London hotel room in September 1970.
Cream made way for Eric Clapton’s stellar career, but not before Sunshine of Your Love was released, while The Move and Pink Floyd became staple diets of the average household’s radio listening.
Sounds Force Five’s keyboardist Len Doughty said: “Barbecue 67 was quite overwhelming but we did it and it’s something that sticks in our minds forever.”