The second annual Atlanta International Pop Festival was held on the Fourth of July weekend in 1970. Technically, the festival transpired at a stock car race track in Byron, Georgia. To the kids attending this was Woodstock–“southern-style”. Some say close to 500,000 people showed up at the festival. It was the biggest crowd the Allman Brothers Band ever played for at that point.
Other groups included Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, B.B. King, Spirit, Johnny Winter and Bob Seger. The sinister Governor Lester Maddox called the weekend “one of the worst blights that has ever struck our state.” But, that was far from true. The festival served as a Georgia homecoming for the Allman Brothers Band who had not yet released their second record, Idlewild South.
This two disc collection was originally recorded by Ray Colcard and Harry Zerler, and released in 2003 with liner notes by Kirk West. The first set by the Allman Brothers Band started at 3PM on July 3. There was a rain delay. The band played several songs they just recorded for their upcoming second album. They started their set with the Blind Willie McTell song “Statesboro Blues”. Next, they rendered a Muddy Waters tune called “Trouble No More”.
They performed an original called “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'”. “Dreams” contends as one of the best recorded live versions of the song. Duane Allman’s slide guitar work on this number proves why he ranks as one of the best guitarists of all time. “Every Hungry Woman” emitted a soulful grit that epitomized the Allman Brothers’ essence. A cover of Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man” was next on the setlist as bassist Berry Oakley displayed his own memorable vocal style.
They showcased a new song by Dickey Betts called “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” for the first time in front of a live audience. One can never underestimate the six-string prowess of Dickey Betts. The band continued to lay cosmic grooves on the audience with Gregg Allman’s song “Whipping Post”. At the end of this first show, they performed “Mountain Jam” for ten minutes before a rain delay briefly interrupted the set. Once the rain passed, they closed the first night by finishing the lively version of “Mountain Jam”. Clearly, the Allman Brothers Band fired on all cylinders for this homecoming weekend.
On July 5, the Allman Brothers set started at 3:50 A.M. In Kirk West‘s liner notes, he wrote: “The crowd had experienced some amazing things during this hot weekend in the South. Jimi Hendrix playing the “Star Spangled Banner” while fireworks exploded overhead at midnight on the 4th of July. I sat on my 48-star American flag laid out on the dusty red Georgia clay, trippin’ my brains out on good, pure LSD. I wondered aloud what country could be better than the good old USA.”
The Brothers began the July 5 set with “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'” and then played an incandescent version of “Statesboro Blues”. “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” appeared again in the setlist. However, in this set the group played the T. Bone Walker tune “Stormy Monday” for the first time during the festival. “Whipping Post” sounded like an inspirational composition to lay on the crowd at that early hour.
The Allman Brothers invited Johnny Winter onstage to perform a twenty-eight minute, jaw-dropping version of “Mountain Jam” to end the festival. Kirk West wrote in the liner notes: “Thank the Lord those tape machines were loaded and rolling; that and the fact that I made it home in one piece. The Brothers all made it home fine…the front porch was only 14 miles away.”
Duane Allman would go on to record on the Derek & The Dominos record Layla. The Allman Brothers released Idlewild South in September of 1970 and eventually Live at Fillmore East before Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia, on October 29, 1971. These two Georgia gigs preserve the group’s brilliance in front of their home state crowd. Live at the Atlanta International Pop Festival ushered the Allman Brothers Band into their golden era.