“Out of Sight” a phrase, appropriately from the 60’s, used by Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal to describe his personal experience at the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967.
As I listen to Tom reminisce the festival, which has been credited to kick off the Summer of Love, it is clear to me that photographing this legendary moment not only helped launch a successful photography career but also commenced friendships with music legends (like Mama Cass) and epic stories to tell for a lifetime. It is also evident that I, along with anyone else born after 1967, missed out on one epic weekend in Monterey, California.
Scroll down for a glimpse of what 1967 was like in Monterey (well, for 3-days anyway). From the crowd to the iconic look of that time and the legendary artists that launched a career and even friendships, it is all seen here through the perspective and work of Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal .
This was the first day of the festival and nobody knew what to do but as Tom remembers, it didn’t take too long for everyone to start interacting with one another and feeling the spirit of the festival. “That is the beauty of this shot…it captures the mood at the beginning of it all.”
This image is iconic of how the dress and style was changing. Tom recalls how David Bennet Cohen, of Country Joe & The Fish, was so stylish for the time. When you look at this image of David performing on stage you immediately know this an iconic moment from the 60’s.
Being up close and personal with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead would be a “pinch me” moment for most Dead Heads but for Tom (also a fan) it was comfortable and essentially relaxed. “I had seen him before so I felt like I knew him making it easy to photograph him. He had a warm, happy connection with the audience. He always had a grin on his face.”
These two look like fun and according to Tom this photograph of Michelle Phillips and Mama Cass says a lot about their personalities. “This was exactly who they were.” The Mamas and The Papas are very significant to Tom’s career. “This was the beginning of my friendship with Mama Cass. I shot her album cover after meeting her at The Monterey Pop Festival.”
Fun Fact: John Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas was one of the founders of The Monterey Pop Festival.
Most would recall the moment Jimmy Hendrix lit his guitar on fire but for Tom the two things that come to mind when remembering Hendrix at The Monterey Pop Festival are what an impressive guitarist Hendrix was and how he got this now well known shot of the guitar legend.
“I took this shot by putting the camera on top of my head and made a guesstimate at how far he was.” Keep in mind that this was before autofocus. “I blindly aimed and just kept advancing the shutter and taking the shot. I had to count my pictures because film was not cheap and you can go through a whole roll fast.”
As Tom and I wrap up our conversation about the Monterey Pop Festival he shares with me "that everything you have ever heard about it was true” as if I didn’t already have #FOMO. “Jimmy Hendrix was outstanding and so powerful. He was like a tornado coming through. I have never seen anything like that. Janis Joplin was simply amazing and Otis Redding’s energy was explosive. To be a fly on the wall backstage was a big deal to me. It was a really big deal.”
I don’t know about the rest of you but I am looking forward to hopefully experiencing this same energy at the 50th anniversary Monterey Pop Festival coming June 2017!