On September 13, 1969, John Lennon performed with the Plastic Ono Band and Eric Clapton at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival.
Held at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium, the festival itself was a bit of a glorious hodgepodge, with some of rock’s founders (including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis) sharing a stage with some up-and-comers (Alice Cooper, Chicago Transit Authority), with the Doors as the headliners.
Toronto rock promoters John Brower and Kenny Walker organised a festival held at Varsity Stadium on 13 September 1969, around the notion of a revival of rock and roll stars from the 1950s, booking Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, and Gene Vincent.
On 12 September, Brower contacted Lennon, who was still a member of the Beatles, to ask him to be the master of ceremonies for the festival.Instead, Lennon offered to perform at the show with a new group, the Plastic Ono Band. Brower readily agreed, but since Lennon did not actually have a new group, he quickly began making phone calls to potential members to accompany himself and Yoko Ono. He initially approached Beatles band-mate George Harrison to play lead guitar, but Harrison declined, so Lennon turned to Eric Clapton, who had previously performed with Lennon in the one-off super group, the Dirty Mac. Bassist Klaus Voormann and drummer Alan White soon agreed to perform, along with their assistants, Anthony Fawcett, Terry Doran, and Jill and Dan Richter. Voormann was a long-time friend of Lennon, but White, who was a respected session musician in London but did not know Lennon personally, initially thought that someone was prank calling him and only believed that the real John Lennon was on the phone when he called a second time.
They flew to Canada the next morning ,the day of the show, and rehearsed on the plane.
With so little time to prepare, they started out with three covers: Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes,” Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)” and Larry Williams’ “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.” Then came three Lennon originals: “Yer Blues,” — which Clapton had played with Lennon at the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus a year earlier — “Cold Turkey” and “Give Peace a Chance,” for which Lennon improvised lyrics when he couldn’t remember the original ones.
The band played eight songs to a crowd of 20,000 people.
What makes it even more remarkable all of this happened during the completion of the Beatles album, ‘Abby Road’.
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