from - inside out north

Spalding rocks!
Sam Wichelow - Inside Out North

Back in 1967 Spalding became the rock and roll capital of Britain for just one day. Its rock festival brought together mods and rockers for one incendiary event. We uncover some of the amazing stories from when Spalding rocked!

It was early 1967 - before the first summer of love and flower power.

The sleepy market town of Spalding in deepest Lincolnshire was hardly the epicentre of cool.

But unwittingly, the town which stages flower festivals, became the birthplace of the rock festival on May 29 in a now-demolished tulip bulb auction warehouse.

Before, Woodstock and the Isle of Wight were staged, at a time when Glastonbury was still just a little hill on a map of Somerset, Spalding blazed a trail.

Imagine a bill that included Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton's Cream and Geno Washington and his Ram Jam band.

And the tickets were just £1 each.


Mods and rockers

Mods and rockers fresh from their seaside fracas joined music fans from all over the country on a sunny bank holiday weekend.

The event had been advertised nationally.

Estimates vary wildly but some reckon tens of thousands of ticketless fans arrived and the town braced itself for trouble and disorder.

John Thorne, then a cub reporter with the Spalding Guardian, remembers the event and the trepidation felt by the town.

He said: "It was just a job for me to cover. I wasn't particularly a fan of Jimi Hendrix but I had seen Geno Washington before and was a fan of his.

"The trouble never materialised but Spalding would never do anything like it again."


Show stealer

Geno Washington, widely said to have stolen the show with his performance despite the legends on the bill, cut his teeth performing at soul clubs and had a big following amongst the Mods.

He told Inside Out:

"The sun was shining, you could have been in Spain or California.

"The guards had so much money stuffed in their pockets from bribes, they couldn't get more in.

"There were thousands and thousands of people there - mods, rockers, hippies. People were hanging from the ceiling. The atmosphere was electric.

"Anyone who was there that day will never forget it."

Whilst making the film everyone around that day in 1967 seemed to have a story to tell.


Girls, groupies and guitars...

At the Red Lion Hotel where Hendrix stayed, the manager Nigel Wilkins remembers the guitar legend's attempt to lure young female fans up to his room.

Nigel said: "He'd been talking to the girls and then popped back inside his window. He then tied his bed sheets together and dangled them out of the window.

"One of the girls was my girlfriend of the time."

She later assured him she didn't climb the makeshift ladder to the first floor. Not even for an autograph.

Local band Sounds Force Five played between each act as the roadies changed the equipment on the stage which was made from articulated lorry trailers.

Colin Ward, the drummer joked, "they put us on to guarantee an audience".

Singer Mike Peacey said: "It was like all our Christmases had come at once. We were sat backstage with Hendrix and Clapton. It was surreal."

The five piece, who recently reformed for a 40th anniversary gig, travelled to a hip tailor in London's Carnaby Street to have bespoke stage outfits made.

But they never got to wear them.

Fans broke into the makeshift dressing rooms and stole them believing they belonged to Hendrix.

And legend has it his scorched and smashed-up guitar ended up at the bottom of a landfill site in Spalding.

Now if that was found it would certainly be the most valuable thing ever dug up from the fertile Lincolnshire soil...

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