Goose Lake Festival

The Goose Lake festival was the brainchild of Richard Songer, a Southfield native who’d made a fortune in construction, building many of Michigan’s highways, ramps and bridges. He purchased 350 acres near Goose Lake, just outside Jackson, and in 1970, Songer, then 35 years old, decided to transform the property into a park. He told the press: “It’s a dream of mine to put together some place for the young people to go.” With that in mind, Songer planned to build a performance venue on his property and stage a series of concerts, starting with a three-day rock festival to take place August 7 through 9.

A novice in concert promotion, Songer sought the help of two men with practical experience, Russ Gibb and Tom Wright. “Uncle Russ” was a DJ on WKNR-FM and owned and booked the Grande Ballroom, Detroit’s premiere rock venue in the late ’60s and early ’70s, while Wright was a photographer and sometime roadie who managed the Grande. In May 1969, three months before Woodstock, Gibb and Wright staged the Detroit Rock and Roll Revival, a huge outdoor concert at the Michigan State Fairgrounds, and with Songer footing the bills, they set out to go the Revival one better at Goose Lake.

“We began by taking the rough outline that they had,” remembers Wright, “which was a rectangle on a blackboard where the stage was going to go, and then fine tuning it to handle a high-energy music scenario.” Wright’s design for Goose Lake was meant to be permanent, and Songer spared no expense to see the job was done right, with his construction crew at Gibb and Wright’s beck and call. “He brought in his crew of highway guys and they built roads; they paved the parking; they built the restroom setup; the kitchen facilities — it was like a state park for millionaires. It was beautiful.”

read more at Goose Lake Memories

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