LOS ANGELES — Before Burning Man and Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza, Glastonbury and Governors Island, there was Monterey Pop.
Fifty years ago (June 16-18, 1967), the three-day concert south of San Francisco became the centerpiece of the ‘‘Summer of Love’’ and paved the way for today’s festivals. The Monterey International Pop Festival created the template for giving emerging artists exposure alongside blockbuster bands while showcasing different genres of music in outdoor settings.
John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas came up with the idea for three days of music with proceeds going to charitable causes. He brought in Grammy-winning record producer Lou Adler, promoter Alan Pariser, and publicist Derek Taylor, who worked with the Beatles.
The festival was planned in seven weeks with the goal of validating rock music as an art form in the same way that jazz and folk were regarded.
‘‘The focus was the music and how to present it in the best possible way,’’ Adler said recently at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. ‘‘The byproduct of that was the feeling that took place in Monterey — love and flowers.’’
Organizers sought out the best musicians, sound and lighting systems, and food to ‘‘lift the level of what rock ’n’ roll should be,’’ Adler said.
They signed on Jefferson Airplane, The Who, the Grateful Dead, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Simon & Garfunkel, Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, and The Mamas & the Papas.
‘‘We sort of had our pick,’’ Adler recalled, noting no one booked acts that far out at the time.
It was Shankar’s introduction to an American audience, and the Indian sitar player was the only one who got paid, Adler said. He received $3,000, while the others had their flights and hotels comped.
Backstage, the era’s peace and love vibe didn’t extend to Hendrix and Pete Townshend of The Who. Both were known for destroying guitars.
Adler recalled that neither wanted the other to perform first, so Phillips flipped a coin. The Who won.
‘‘Hendrix jumped up on a table and said, ‘OK, you little [expletive],’’ Adler recalled. ‘‘’No matter what you do, I’ll do something that burns you.’’’
Aware that The Who planned an explosive finale, Hendrix capped his set with a version of ‘‘Wild Thing,’’ kneeling over his guitar and setting it on fire before smashing it repeatedly and tossing the remains into the crowd.
Held at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey Pop had attendance numbers that vary from 25,000 to 90,000 people. It was a one-time-only event because by the next year, things had changed. Adler cites money issues and ‘‘angry people who didn’t like that hippies were in their town.’’
The festival’s golden anniversary is being marked at the Monterey Fairgrounds with a three-day celebration that culminates this Sunday. The lineup includes three acts that played the original: Eric Burdon and the Animals, Booker T. Stax Revue, and the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh. Three-day tickets cost $295 to $695 for a VIP package. The prices in 1967 ranged from $3 to $6.50.