Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, and Noel Redding were the rage of England in that summer of love and psychedelica but they had yet to play the United States and thus were no more than a rumor to most of the Monterey crowd. Their appearance at the festival was magical: the way they looked, the way they performed, and the way they sounded were light years away from anything anyone had seen before.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience owned the future and the audience knew it in an instant. The banks of amplifiers and speakers wailing and groaning as Hendrix's fingers scurried across the strings of his guitar gave the trio's music as much density as other rock groups were getting out of the studio 8-track tape machines. And, of course, Hendrix is a masterful --though seemingly off-hand-- performer. Pete Townshend of The Who had become famous for destroying his guitar. Hendrix carried the ritual a couple of fantasies farther with lighter fluid and dramatic playing positions in "Wild Thing." When Jimi left the stage he had graduated from rumor to legend.
Otis Redding had been performing and recording for five years, but his fame and his following --despite a couple of undeniable hit records-- were largely confined to black rhythm and blues audiences in America and to Europe, where he and the Stax/Volt Revue had a justly fanatic following. The Monterey International Pop Festival was comprised of rock people who were still a year or two away from rediscovering their roots, "the love crowd," as he characterized them.
It's difficult to characterize the extent of his impact Saturday night. He was the last act in a day of music which had left the spectators satiated and pleasantly exhausted. Redding went on around midnight, close to the curfew agreed upon by festival organizers and the local police department and sherrif's office. Booker T. and the MGs and The MarKeys had played a brief instrumental set and played onstage to back Redding. Within moments after Otis Redding hit the stage, the crowd was on its feet, and --for the first and only time in a weekend of five massive concerts-- was impulsively rushing toward the stage to dance in the warmth of his fire.
He rocked and rolled past the curfew with a dazzling performance which no one could think of stopping. That night he gave the Monterey International Pop Festival its high point and he was embraced by the rock crowd as a new-found hero. Six months later he was killed in a place crash, leaving Monterey as perhaps the high point in his performing career.