In retrospect, it was quite the show. The Doors, Chicago, Alice Cooper and some guy named John Lennon performing with a new group called The Plastic Ono Band. Frequent contributor Juliette Jagger wrote this piece on the 1969 Rock’n’Roll Revival for Vice.
For many, the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival of 1969 is the stuff of legends. For some, like famed rock promoter and pop culture icon John Brower, it’s a footnote in his own musical story. Having taken place at Varsity Stadium on the University of Toronto campus on September 13th, 1969, the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival was a 12-hour concert that saw some of rock and roll’s earliest stars like Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard, sharing the stage for the first time with contemporary acts of the day like The Doors, Chicago and even a then virtually unknown Alice Cooper. It was also the debut performance of The Plastic Ono Band. Oh, and that whole lighters in the air thing that has become synonymous with rock concerts over the years, that originated there too. The best part about it all? It almost never happened.
Johnny Brower got his start as a rock promoter in Toronto during the late 1960’s. As a co-founder of the now famed Toronto venue The Rockpile, which was originally housed in the old Masonic Temple on Yonge Street and modeled after The Fillmore in San Francisco, Brower became the first concert promoter to bring international rock acts like The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart to Canada. Though the venue was quite successful, the redundancy of booking acts on a weekly basis quickly began to bore Brower, deciding instead to leave and join forces with his friend, Kenny Walker. The two began booking smaller concerts like Richie Havens at Massey Hall and Donovan also at Varsity Stadium. Then suddenly the festival circuit erupted.