Drummer Colin was, and still is, a member of Sounds Force 5, a young, up and coming local band at the time – tasked with supporting household names at the event in the Tulip Bulb Auction Hall (where Holland Market is now). Just mingling backstage with the huge names in rock music was astonishing enough.
Colin recalled: “We couldn’t quite believe it – there we were talking to Jimi Hendrix, talking to Eric Clapton, meeting Pink Floyd,” said Colin. “We were only teenaged lads but they were all happy to talk to us.
“They were saying ‘what’s the crowd like?’ and ‘what’s it like out there?’
“In those days there wasn’t an ‘us and them’ scenario – we were all on the same gig.”
For Colin, meeting Ginger Baker – founder of Clapton’s band Cream and regarded as rock’s first superstar drummer – was the stuff of dreams. However, the sound reproduction in a cavernous, skeletal auction hall was anything but.
“It was terrible,” said Colin.
In fact it frustrated Hendrix so much that even this 24-year-old American who was already famous for smashing up his guitars as part of his act went one step further, dousing this one in lighter fuel and setting light to it. Little more than three years later this legendary artist was dead.
“If only we knew then what we now know,” said Colin. “Nobody thought about picking up what was left of this smashed guitar that he’d set fire to. It would be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds today.”
Clapton, too, was in a “foul temper”, Colin later hearing that this was due to The Jimi Hendrix Experience being the headline act.
Little is known about the person responsible for bringing together this stellar line-up in a small Lincolnshire market town and deciding the running order.
“I can’t remember the promoter’s name or anything much about him,” said Colin. “I might be wrong but I think he had something to do with Spalding Market. He came from Mansfield and spotted the bulb auction hall and thought it would be a good place to put on this festival idea of his.”
Other acts on the bill on Monday, May 29, 1967 included Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band, Move and Zoot Money and His Big Roll Band.
Colin, who went on to establish Spalding-based events firm Live Promotions, said: “It was one of the first – if not the first – rock festival. It preceded Isle of Wight and Glastonbury and Woodstock even.
“Most people take festivals for granted nowadays – they are everywhere, but it’s fantastic to think this was put on in Spalding.”
It’s well known that Hendrix stayed in The Red Lion Hotel in Market Place the night before Barbeque 67, but no thought had been given as to how busy the town would be on the day itself and how his band would get to the venue.
“In the end, Albert Munton – the father of our guitarist Rob – got in his estate car and fetched ‘The Ex’ from the Red Lion Hotel,” recalled Colin.
Sounds Force 5 couldn’t believe their luck when asked to play in between each of the well-known acts – and for longer than anybody else. It remains the biggest event that the five-piece band has ever played at.
The stage was constructed from scaffolding and boards. The first time Colin realised that some of the vast crowd had been forced under it was when somebody grabbed one of his ankles as he was sitting at his drum kit!
Two other members of the band – singer Mike Peacey and keyboardist Len Doughty (both Long Sutton residents at the time) – remain so to this day and Tony Jefferies, who was also there in May 1967, joined later.
Sounds Force 5 will be playing at the Castle Sports Complex on Saturday, May 27, along with Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band and Zoot Money as part of Spalding Beer and Music Festival’s homage to the 50th anniversary of Barbeque 67.
Colin said: “We’ll be playing one or two songs that we did back then. We have tried to keep the legacy of that day going because of its moment in history.
“It’s a special birthday for us and we’ll all be remembering that fantastic event 50 years ago.”