The Way It Was — Goose Lake International Music Festival, 1970

The festival featured Jethro Tull, Chicago, the Stooges, and more
Goose Lake international music festival
Photograph courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University (The Detroit News)

1970 Narcotics, nudity, and nookie: What would a 1970s-era rock festival be without them? Of course, there was the music, too.

At the Goose Lake International Music Festival, held 50 years ago on Aug. 7-9 just outside Jackson, Michigan, in Leoni Township, the lineup included top international bands, including The Faces with Rod Stewart, Jethro Tull, the James Gang with Joe Walsh, Chicago, Mountain, and Ten Years After, as well as Detroit-area groups such as Savage Grace, the Up, Mitch Ryder & Detroit, Brownsville Station, and the Stooges.

The idea for the outdoor festival was hatched by three metro Detroiters: Richard Songer, who made a mint in construction; Russ Gibb, WKNR disc jockey and owner of the Grande Ballroom on Grand River; and Tom Wright, Gibbs’ manager at the Grande. Held a year after 1969’s Woodstock, Goose Lake was much more organized than that free-spirited gathering. An ingenious touch was a revolving stage so that there wouldn’t be a lull between acts.

The promoters initially hoped the crowd would reach around 60,000, but Goose Lake ballooned to more than 200,000 music lovers. The festival was intended to be an annual event, but complaints about illicit drug sales outraged politicians. Songer was indicted for promoting the sale of drugs but was acquitted. The festival turned out to be just a one-year affair.

Today, the site is a campground. In 2019, the Goose Lake Jamboree, in nearby Jonesville, attracted several thousand fans. 

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