Summer of ’68: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix & Beach Boys Concerts at Lagoon Amusement Park

by ANNA SULLIVAN

After Lagoon Amusement Park opened its Patio Gardens concert venue in 1954, the Gardens hosted many famous acts there until the venue changed to a roller rink in the late 1970s. Some of the acts that visited Patio Gardens included such luminaries as Johnny Cash, Ella Fitzgerald, The Doors, Ray Charles and the Monkees. In the summer of 1968, three of the most popular names of the time decided to make a stop at Lagoon: Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix, and The Beach Boys.

"Jimi Hendrix Picking Peace, 1968." Photo by Brian C. Record. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Between 1886, when Lagoon opened as “Lake Park” and 1968, the park went through numerous changes, reflecting the change of the culture surrounding the park. When it first opened, Lake Park featured an “open-air dancing pavilion with delicately carved latticework and archways,” and true to its name, the park sat along the banks of the Great Salt Lake. (Lagoon Press Kit, 5) Some of the other activities available to guests there were swimming, boating, roller skating, dancing and bowling. After seven years of the success at Lake Park, the Great Salt Lake began to dry, receding and forcing the now murky lake to be closed to visitors.

As the park transitioned to its current location, it began to gravitate more toward rides as attractions, and finally in 1954, Patio Gardens was erected to become a premier concert venue for Utah and its residents. As the summer of 1968 approached and Big Brother & the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix, and the Beach Boys prepared to make a tour stop in Farmington, Lagoon also opened its Opera House, where musicals would be performed for the next few years for the Utah summer theater. (Lagoon Press Kit, 6) The year 1968 was an important year for Lagoon, when it would contribute greatly to Utah’s history by bringing so many live performances to Farmington, primarily advertising in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Janis Joplin. Photo by Brian C. Record. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Janis Joplin, performing with Big Brother & the Holding Company, was the first of the three bands to come to Lagoon on July 20, 1968. In the days leading up to the concert, The Salt Lake Tribune ran daily advertisements for Lagoon, paying special attention to concerts that were coming to the music venues there, the Opera House and Patio Gardens. The first advertisement ran on July 18, 1968, in four panels, one of which loudly proclaimed “Big Brother & the Holding Co.,” and in smaller words below, “with Janis Joplin.” (Advertisement, B6). It is interesting to note that while Joplin’s name ran fairly small in all advertisements, in the single article devoted to the concert leading up to the show, Big Brother & the Holding Company was downplayed, while the focus was on Joplin.

The article states: “Two big-name rock groups will entertain Saturday at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. in the Patio Gardens of Lagoon. Appearing will be Big Brother & the Holding Company with Janis Joplin and Blue Cheer. Miss Joplin, 25, of Port Arthur, Tex., has emerged as one of the new stars of the rock music world. She has been working with the group for a year and a half.” (The Salt Lake Tribune, A13) The article’s claim that Joplin was a “new star” at the time of the concert is also notable, as she had been performing with Big Brother & the Holding Company for almost two years at the time of the concert. She had performed with the band in such venues as the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, the Avalon Room and perhaps most famously, the Monterey Pop Festival earlier in 1968. (Dalton, 131)

"Jimi Hendrix Guitar Backing, 1968." Photo by Brian C. Record. Collection of Brian C. Record.

The Salt Lake Tribune’s label of Joplin as a new artist speaks to Salt Lake City, and the Tribune more specifically as a conservative center then, just as it is now. While Joplin may have been more accepted in California, where many of her early concerts occurred, she was just starting to catch on in Utah. That Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company played at Lagoon, rather than a larger venue like the Great Saltair, shows that the band may not have been as popular in this conservative community.

Jimi Hendrix & the Experience came to Patio Gardens at Lagoon on August 30, 1968, a little more than a month after Joplin graced the stage. Like Joplin, Jimi Hendrix had advertisements in The Salt Lake Tribune leading up to his performance, which billed the concert as the “Jimi Hendrix Experience Dance Concert.” (Advertisement, B7) These advertisements were published for the two days before the concert as well as the day of the concert. And like Joplin’s performance, Hendrix was granted a short blurb two days before his concert. Neither advance story featured a photograph accompanying the preview.

"Jimi Hendrix pulling out all the strings, 1968." Photo by Brian C. Record. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Hendrix’s preview, however, was a bit longer, delving deeper into his musical history:

While working in Greenwich Village, Hendrix came to the attention of Chase Chandler, one of the Animals. Chandler persuaded him to go to England, where the Jimi Hendrix Experience originated. Jimi Hendrix writes all his own material including songs three albums: ‘Are You Experienced?’ ‘Axis: Bold as Love,’ and ‘Electric Ladyland,’ a newly recorded record set. (The Salt Lake Tribune, B11)

Despite the fact that Janis Joplin was also a songwriter who penned her own songs, The Salt Lake Tribune did not find that to be pertinent information for her, but it was for Hendrix. The two also had the similarity that their fame had risen at the Monterey Pop Festival; but it seems that in Utah, Hendrix may have been more revered.

Unlike Hendrix and the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company, the Beach Boys did not have a preview article leading up to the show. They had performed previously at the Patio Gardens, though; according to Lagoon, the band performed in 1963, 1964, 1965, and 1966. (The Beach Boys also performed in 1969 and 1970 following the 1968 concert.) What’s most surprising about the lack of recognition The Salt Lake Tribune gave the Beach Boys is that the band wrote a song about Salt Lake City in 1965, after visiting Lagoon and Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City

Down in Utah
The guys and I dig a city called Salt Lake
It’s got the grooviest kids
That’s why we never get tired of Salt Lake
And the way the kids talk so cool
Is an out of sight thing
And the number one radio station
Makes the town really swing yeah
Salt Lake City we’ll be coming soon

There’s a park near the city, yeah
All the kids dig the Lagoon now
It’s full of all kinds of girls
And rides and we’ll be flyin’ there soon now
And girl for girl
They’ve got the cutest of the Western states
They got the sun in the summer
And winter time the skiing is great yeah
Salt Lake City we’ll be coming soon. (Wilson)

As evidenced by the Beach Boys lyrics, they clearly appreciated Salt Lake City, and Lagoon in particular. Though The Salt Lake Tribune did publish advertisements for their show, those were paid for by Lagoon; there was no write-up before their show previewing the Beach Boys for those who might go see them, nor a review following the concert.

There were no concert reviews in The Salt Lake Tribune following the Big Brother & the Holding Company with Janis Joplin concert at Patio Gardens either, nor was there a review for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Despite the fact that other than advertisements in the newspaper, there was very little promotion for any of these bands, that did not impact their popularity negatively. All three artists went on to greater success, and save for the Beach Boys, neither Janis Joplin nor Jimi Hendrix returned to the Patio Gardens. Two years later, Joplin and Hendrix both died of drug overdoses, but their legacies lived on and Lagoon and Utah residents and visitors were a part of all of their careers. (Gent, 1)

The Patio Gardens was converted to a roller rink in 1978, and is now the Game Time Arcade. (Lagoon Press Kit, 6) Because no posters were made for the concerts, there is little evidence of them outside some photographs, and newspaper articles and advertisements. Customers who bought tickets to Lagoon on the days of the concerts were only given regular Lagoon tickets, not tickets with the bands’ names on them. Despite this lack of publicity, Patio Gardens was an important part of both Lagoon and Utah’s history.

Anna Sullivan will be a senior at The University of Utah in Fall 2010, majoring in journalism with a minor in creative writing.

Sources

“Death of Janis Joplin Attributed to Accidental Heroin Overdose,” The New York Times, October 6, 1970, 50.

“Jimi Hendrix to Perform,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 28, 1968, B11.

“Holding Co., Blue Cheer Set Lagoon Performance,” The Salt Lake Tribune, July 19, 1968, A13.

Lagoon Advertisement: Jimi Hendrix & the Beach Boys, The Salt Lake Tribune, August 30, 1968, C6.

Lagoon Advertisement: Jimi Hendrix, The Salt Lake Tribune, August 29, 1968, B7.

Lagoon Advertisement: Big Brother & the Holding Company, The Salt Lake Tribune, July 18, 1968, B6.

Lagoon Advertisement: Big Brother & the Holding Company, The Salt Lake Tribune, July 19, 1968, A12.

Lagoon Advertisement: Big Brother & the Holding Company, The Salt Lake Tribune, July 20, 1968, A11.

Lagoon Advertisement: Beach Boys, The Salt Lake Tribune, September 5, 1968, A17.

Lagoon Advertisement: Beach Boys, The Salt Lake Tribune, September 6, 1968, D7.

Lagoon Advertisement: Beach Boys, The Salt Lake Tribune, September 7, 1968, A8.

“Open Verdict Given in Hendrix’s Death,” The New York Times, September 29, 1970, 59.

Brian C. Record. Jimi Hendrix Picking Peace, 1968. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Brian C. Record. Jimi Hendrix Tripping at Lagoon¸1968. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Brian C. Record. Jimi Hendrix Guitar Backing, 1968. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Brian C. Record.  Mitch Mitchel in Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1968. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Brian C. Record. Jimi Hendrix Pulling Out All The Strings. 1968. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Brian C. Record. Janis Joplin, Patio Gardens at Lagoon. 1968. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Brian Wilson and Mike Love. “Salt Lake City,” Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!) Capitol Records, 1965.

David Dalton. Janis. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971.

Korral L.K. Broschinsky. Novelty Versus Nostalgia. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. University of Utah, June 9, 1997.

Images:

Record, Brian C. Jimi Hendrix Picking Peace, 1968. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Record, Brian C. Jimi Hendrix Tripping at Lagoon¸1968. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Record, Brian C. Jimi Hendrix Guitar Backing, 1968. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Record, Brian C.  Mitch Mitchel in Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1968. Collection of Brian C.

Record.

Record, Brian C. Jimi Hendrix Pulling Out All The Strings. 1968. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Record, Brian C. Janis Joplin, Patio Gardens at Lagoon. 1968. Collection of Brian C. Record.

Advertisements