Who shot Monterey Pop? Photogs gather 50 years later

Michael Smyth/ Tahoe Onstage
Gathered for the first time since the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival are, from left, Henry Diltz, Jerry de Wilde, Elaine Mayes, Lisa Law, Ed Caraeff, Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal and Fred Arellano.
Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA — “The flowers of life come sooner or later, but pay attention because they only come once.”

The mantra of legendary guitarist Compay Segundo, in the film “The Buena Vista Social Club,” rings true in particular for Jerry de Wilde. It relates to his experiences, as well as six other notable photographers who captured iconic images of The International Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Most don’t realize that the photographs weren’t really notable until 20 years or so after it all happened.

Thursday night at the Monterey Museum of Art, all seven gathered in the same place for the first time since 1967 for a photographers’ roundtable to share their stories, and at least one surprise, on the eve of the 50th anniversary festival being held on the same county fairgrounds as the original June 16-18.

Henry Diltz, Jerry de Wilde, Elaine Mayes, Lisa Law, Ed Caraeff, Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal and Fred Arellano, each not only captured noted photographs (and in some cases with borrowed, second-hand, and high school newspaper-issued cameras) but also participated in the festival.

Law helped people on acid re-center themselves in the “Trip Tent” (and shared a spiritual moment with a young Dennis Hopper). Arellano essentially fell into a job driving organizers and artists to and from the airport due to a chance meeting with Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, who simply asked him if he knew where it was. O’Neal acted as a stagehand, helping changeover between bands, and was rewarded with a prime side-stage location from which to shoot.

Harrison Ford
A carpenter at the festival flashes a peace sign. His name is Harrison Ford.
Photo credit unknown

It was a different time, of course, with the Vietnam War and a decided chasm between the conservative society and the counterculture in 1967. Law shared a conversation she had with the local police, which basically showed up on Day 1 with its entire staff in riot gear to quell concerns of conservative residents about how to handle the drug culture.

“If you plan on arresting people for smoking weed and taking acid, then you’ll basically be arresting everyone here,” Law told the officer. Elaine Mayes’ photograph of a policeman stringing his squad car antenna with orchids, which organizer Lou Adler had flown in and placed on each seat, captured just how peaceful it actually was.

Ravi Shankar’s 3.5-hour set and Jimi Hendrix were agreed upon as the performances that made the biggest impacts. Shankar’s niece Norah Jones will perform on Saturday.

The story of the Hendrix photo, Stratocaster in flames and brilliantly captured by Ed Caraeff with literally the last frames of film he had, has an additional twist that most either don’t know or have forgotten. The story goes that you can walk on that stage and look down to find burn marks from the lighter fluid or “Jimi Hendrix 1967” scrawled with knife, marking the spot. The legend is not true.  Arellano, who had graduated from high school just two days before the festival, pointed out that there was actually an extension built in the shape of a trapezoid to the front of the stage, and that is where it actually all went down. The trapezoid was temporary and removed after the festival.

But that’s only half of the surprise. The extension was built in part by a carpenter and a couple of buddies who threw their tools in a car and drove up from Southern California looking for work. That carpenter would eventually be one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Harrison Ford.

-Author Michael Smyth will file stories each day from this weekend’s festival.

  • Monterey International Pop Festival
    Celebrates 50 Years
    Tickets on sale
  • Friday
    9:40 – 10:55pm – Leon Bridges
    8:00 – 9:10pm – Father John Misty
    6:30 – 7:30pm – Regina Spektor (solo)
    5:10 – 6:00pm – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
    3:50 – 4:40pm – Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
    2:30- 3:20pm – Eric Burdon & The Animals
    1:15 – 2:00pm – Langhorne Slim & The Law
    12:00 – 12:45pm – Sara Watkins (solo)
  • Saturday
    9:25 – 10:55pm – Jack Johnson
    7:45 – 8:55pm – Norah Jones
    6:15 – 7:15pm – Jim James
    4:55 – 5:45pm – Dr. Dog
    3:40 – 4:25pm – Jamtown featuring Cisco Adler, Donavon Frankenreiter & G. Love
    2:25 – 3:10pm – Jackie Greene
    1:10 – 1:55pm – North Mississippi Allstars
    12:00 – 12:45pm – Jacob Banks
  • Sunday
    9:25 – 10:55pm – Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band
    7:50 – 8:55pm – The Head And The Heart
    6:20 – 7:20pm – Gary Clark Jr.
    5:00 – 5:50pm – Kurt Vile & The Violators
    3:40 – 4:30pm – Booker T’s Stax Revue
    2:25 – 3:10pm – Nicki Bluhm & Dirty Dozen Brass Band
    1:10 – 1:55pm – Hiss Golden Messenger
    12:00 – 12:45pm – ALO

ABOUT Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth
Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website https://michaelsmythmedia.com/


2 Responses

  1. Hi Michael!
    This was a great article! My name is Fred Arellano and I am one of the seven surviving photographers from Monterey Pop. I wish we could have been formally introduced, I have lots of great stories ( and photos)of that event. Check out my website sometime! http://www.vintagerockphotography.com/ Thanks Again!! Fred

  2. Very cool story. I would have loved to here all the stories! This should be a TV event or show, I’m sure others would be interested also. ✌????

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