August 29, 1970 started out warm, sunny and optimistic. The organizers of the “youth musical celebration” known as the ManPOP festival were feeling pretty sunny too. They had already pulled off a minor miracle in putting the show together and now the day was finally upon them. Winnipeg promoters Frank Weiner and Jerry Shore had been putting on rock shows in the city for a few years but ManPOP was the biggest thing they'd ever tried. It was a one day musical celebration featuring a great bill with the best local Manitoba bands and a stacked lineup of big names including The Ides of March, The Youngbloods, Iron Butterfly, and headlined by the one and only Led Zeppelin. Little did the organizers, or the 14, 000 or so people in attendance, know that the easy going sunshine of the morning wouldn't last.

Recommended Playlist: Justin Tyme- Child Of Dawn, Dianne Heatherington and the Merry Go Round- Try (Just A Little Bit Harder),

The Ides Of March - Vehicle, The Youngbloods -Get Together, Led Zeppelin- Dazed And Confused (Live from the Royal Albert Hall - 1970)

The Epic Tale Of Winnipeg’s 1970
MANPOP Festival

It hadn't been easy, or cheap, to put the festival together. The organizers had to convince naysayers that it was worth it to hire big name foreign bands for what was supposed to be a celebration of Manitoba culture. The local paper, the Winnipeg Free Press, ran a survey in the “teen” section asking readers to list their musical choices for the festival. Three Dog Night was the third favourite, Iron Butterfly came in second, and Led Zeppelin was the run away winner. The organizers found an unlikely partner in provincial bureaucrat Maitland Steinkpopf, chairman of the Centennial Corporation. Steinkopf got excited about the idea of a music festival being a key part of the province's centennial celebrations. He advocated for the concert, got the budget approved (somewhere around $130,000), and ultimately granted permission for the hiring of the headlining act.

 

The organizers were given the nod to approach the Led Zeppelin which meant directly contacting the band's offices in London and hoping to get a brief chat with tyrannical manager Peter Grant. Early in the group's career Grant had discovered that by setting up all the shows himself he could keep the cut that went to booking agents, and local promoters, and it also allowed him to make demands about the treatment of his artists and the quality of the gigs. When the call was finally answered Led Zeppelin was offered a generous $35,000... and they turned it down. Grant informed the organizers that Led Zeppelin would not appear for any less than $50,000 and, having already come this far, the crew from Winnipeg accepted the deal and booked the “biggest band in the World” for their show.

As Winnipeg rockers Euphoria took the stage around 11 am a big crowd was gathering in the Winnipeg stadium. As the day wore on local acts like The Haymarket Riot, Justin Tyme, Sugar and Spice, The Fifth, and The Merry Go Round played sets on the big outdoor stage and got to feel like rock stars performing through the huge, Led Zeppelin worthy, sound system from Winnipeg's !!!!! Sound Company. Later in the afternoon dark clouds began to gather above the city. The warm summer sun was soon covered by a foreboding blanket that caused the crowd to cuddle and dance a bit closer and caused the organizers to panic. They day had started out so sunny and so had their plans. The concert organizers had been so focused on the headliners that they had missed a few other small details. As Chilliwack played around 2:30 the raindrops started to fall and it became clear that they no one had arranged a plan to cover the PA equipment. The huge, and very valuable, amplifiers were sitting vulnerable as the clouds opened up and fat rain drops hit the electrical connections. Soon the system shorted out... and it seemed like the show was over.

Winnipeg locals Justin Tyme

The crew from Kelly Deyoung sound packed up their water soaked gear and swore never to supply another speaker, mic, or amp to the organizers. This left the whole show in limbo. None of the headliners had played yet (Zeppelin wasn't due until after 9:00pm) and there was no sound system for them to use even if they were still wiling to go on in the rain. First they needed a new location. Luckily the nearby Winnipeg Arena wasn't being used and after a few phone calls from Maitland Steinkopf permission was given to move the show indoors, and buses were provided to move the wet and tired audience.

The organizers also needed make a sound system magically appear or there was no point in going on. As they huddled together local mad scientist amp builder Gar Gillies (the man behind the world famous Garnet Amplifiers) offered a possible solution to their gear problem. Gillies was famous for his big powerful handmade guitar cabinets, and nearly every musician in town had one of them. He figured that if he had enough of his cabinets in one place he could rig them together into something like a big-time PA system. A call was put out and musicians scrambled to their practice spaces to load up their Garnets and donate them to the cause. The promoters later told the headlining bands that they would be playing the same gear as The Guess Who (which was only sort of true). Gillies started collecting the gear at the Arena and proceeded to frankenstein together a sound system that was worthy of a rock n' roll show.

 

The final hurdle was the biggest of all... getting the headliners to actually play the show. Led Zeppelin were hiding away in a suite at the International Inn and they already had their money. Peter Grant had included a couple of interesting clauses in the band's ManPOP contract, including a rain guarantee and an agreement to pay the band half of their fee in cash in advance of any show. This meant they already had $25,000 and weren't required to play a single note. No one was brave enough to face the band and their fearsome manager until local singer Dianne Heatherington, of The Carousel, took it upon herself to do something.

 

She had her band members drive her to the hotel and found her way to Zeppelin's suite. She banged on the door and after a few moments one of the band's notorious roadies opened it, looked Heatherington up an down, and pulled her into the room. If they thought she was there as just another Winnipeg groupie they were sorely mistaken. Instead of partying with the band, she lit into Robert Plant and challenged Zeppelin to come and play the show. They'd come all this way anyway. There was a crowd of thousands of wet kids waiting around to see them. She continued the abuse until Plant gathered his fellow band mates and management in a corner, and after a quick discussion, they responded to her challenge. Led Zeppelin was still going to play ManPOP... if someone could come up with the rest of the money... in cash... right now. Maitland Steinkopf came through again, piling the money on a table and shaking hands with Peter Grant.

Despite all the problems the show got back on track at about 8:30. The place was packed, but because the Arena was smaller than the outdoor Stadium, a large crowd of angry kids milled around outside. About 1000 kids were left dripping out in the cold, but inside the packed building steam was already rising off the soaked audience. The Youngbloods took the makeshift stage (really just a rickety pile of risers) and plugged in to the jury rigged Garnett PA system. The stage didn't collapse and, from his perch at the board only 20 feet from the stage, Gar Gillies kept the sound system from exploding. The Ides of March then played a powerful set (said by many to have stolen the show), and after a long drawn out Innagaddadavita from Iron Butterfly, the time was finally here.

Despite all the problems the show got back on track at about 8:30. The place was packed, but because the Arena was smaller than the outdoor Stadium, a large crowd of angry kids milled around outside. About 1000 kids were left dripping out in the cold, but inside the packed building steam was already rising off the soaked audience. The Youngbloods took the makeshift stage (really just a rickety pile of risers) and plugged in to the jury rigged Garnett PA system. The stage didn't collapse and, from his perch at the board only 20 feet from the stage, Gar Gillies kept the sound system from exploding. The Ides of March then played a powerful set (said by many to have stolen the show), and after a long drawn out Innagaddadavita from Iron Butterfly, the time was finally here.

It was almost midnight when Led Zeppelin finally took the stage and, though they didn't have to be there, they played like it was the only place in the world. Though they had gone on late they didn't hold anything back and played for nearly 2 and a half hours straight. The band ended with a blast of “Black Dog” and the show over. Some of the kids who were at the show, and saw Zeppelin multiple times, claim that the band never sounded as good as they did that night plugged in to a home made PA in a steamy little hockey rink in Winnipeg. As the audience streamed out into the early morning and the organizers finally took a deep breath... somehow it had all worked out.

Back to Issue 4

Zeppelin drummer John Bonham on stage at Man Pop

© 2017 Rockenrolleum

  • cjsrlogo1
  • MixCloud_Logo
  • Facebook Social Icon