David Crosby and Jorma Kaukonen at Monterey Pop (Paul Ryan/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Monterey International Pop Festival, a three-day concert event that helped introduce many music fans to The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who and Janis Joplin.

The fest, which was held at California’s Monterey Fairgrounds, was headlined by The Mamas & the Papas, and also featured performances by Simon & Garfunkel, Otis Redding, Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Grateful Dead, Eric Burdon & The Animals, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar and many other notable acts.

Monterey Pop is considered the first significant music festival to showcase rock and pop artists, and it also was the first large-scale U.S. concert event for the Hendrix Experience and The Who. David Crosby, who played with The Byrds and sat in with Buffalo Springfield at the festival, recalls being blown away by both groups.

“That was the first time we’d seen Hendrix. He just slayed us, completely knocked our brains in the dirt,” Crosby tells ABC Radio. “We didn’t know what to do. We were just gobsmacked.” David says he also was treated to his first Who performance at the fest, and that they “were outrageous.”

Jefferson Airplane lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen also has fond memories of Monterey Pop, telling ABC Radio that getting to enjoy all the great music was “an amazing thing.” He points out that the event was significant because it was “the first major…festival that gave respect to pop music and rock.”

The festival was captured by filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker for the acclaimed 1968 documentary Monterey Pop. As previously reported, a 50th anniversary edition of the Monterey International Pop Festival takes place this weekend at Monterey Fairgrounds featuring performances by various contemporary acts, plus few artists who played the original fest.

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