This day in rock history has been named the worst day in rock n roll history. It was on this day in 1969, Meredith Hunter was killed while attending the 1969 Altamont Speedway Free Festival. The show included appearances from:
- Jefferson Airplane
- The Flying Burrito Brothers
- Crosby, Still, Nash & Young
- The Rolling Stones
During the Rolling Stones set, Hunter was stabbed by a member of the Hells Angels.
According to some, the Rolling Stones management team hired the Hells Angels as security for $500 worth of beer. However, Sam Cutler, who was the band’s road manager at the time, has claimed this was not the case.
As he explains it, the Hells Angels were there to make sure that nobody tampered with the generators.
Members of the Hells Angels recall telling Cutler they had no interest in policing the show. They were there to watch the show and make sure nobody climbed on stage. That was all.
Regardless of how the arrangements came to be, the show quickly got out of hand. By the time it was over, 3 concertgoers had been accidentally killed and Hunter had been stabbed to death by Alan Passaro of the Hells Angels.
The Story Behind Meredith Hunter At Altamont Festival
Having heard of the free show, Meredith Hunter decided to attend with his girlfriend, Patti Bredehoft. While there, things quickly got out of hand. The energy at the event was tense, to say the least.
Needing a break from the chaos, Bredehoft and Hunter stepped away to hang out by their car. While there, Bredehoft recalled Hunter grabbing the revolver from his trunk, explaining that he wanted it to protect himself because things were getting really bad. Referring to the Hells Angels, he said, “They’re pushing people off the stage, and beating people up.”
Bredehoft was ready to go home at this point but Hunter insisted they return to the show for the Stones set.
Having returned to the stage, Hunter stood on top of a speaker box to find the best view. According to bystanders, some Angels made their way over to him and pulled him off the box.
Hunter shook off the Angel that pulled him down before he was grabbed again and punched in the mouth.
Hunter attempted to flee but the Angels chased him down.
In footage caught moments later, and used in the documentary Gimme Shelter, Hunter ran back towards the stage with the gun in hand. Alan Passaro then jumped Hunter from behind, stabbing him. The assault continued before Hunter was left bloody and wounded on the ground.
A bystander named Paul Cox, along with others carried Hunter through the crowd to the Red Cross tent that was on site. Medics planned to helicopter him to a nearby hospital but Hunter passed before the helicopter arrived.
Police arrested and charged Passaro but a jury acquitted him for his role in Hunter’s death on the grounds of self-defense.
Other Notable Rock Events From December 6
1961 – The Beatles (with Pete Best on drums) met with Brian Epstein to talk about his proposal to manage them.
1962 – Bob Dylan recorded “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”
1965 – The Rolling Stones recorded “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Mother’s Little Helper.”
1965 – The Beatles released the songs “We Can Work It Out” and “Day Tripper,” as well as the album Rubber Soul.
1966 – The Beatles recorded messages for Christmas and New Year’s. Radio Caroline and Radio London played the recordings from ships anchored off Britain.
1968 – The Rolling Stones released Beggars Banquet.
1969 – Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” started its 2-week run at the top of US charts.
1969 – Led Zeppelin entered the US single charts for the first time with “Whole Lotta Love.”
1970 – Gimme Shelter opened in New York City. The film was a tour documentary of The Rolling Stones.
1971 – Deep Purple recorded “Smoke On The Water.”
1972 – Keith Richards learned that a warrant was issued for him and his girlfriend while reading the morning paper.
1975 – Reacting to a survey that said 984 out of 1000 unmarried women had sex while listening to rock music, Reverand Charles Boykin organized a burning of albums by Elton John and The Rolling Stones.
1975 – Paul Simon topped the US charts with Still Crazy After All These Years.
1978 – Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols smashed a glass in Todd Smith’s face during a fight.
1986 – Europe topped charts in the UK and several other countries with “The Final Countdown,” inspired by David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
1988 – Roy Orbison died at 52 of a heart attack.
1989 – The Grateful Dead played at the Earthquake Relief Fund Benefit to help those suffering as a result of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
1994 – Tower Records released The Beatle’s Live at the BBC. The album featured 69 tracks recorded for different shows.
1994 – Bush released Sixteen Stone.
2003 – Elvis Costello married Diana Krall at Elton John’s mansion in the UK.
2004 – Mötley Crüe announced their reunion tour with Tommy Lee.
2006 – Elvis Costello and Diana Krall welcomed Dexter Henry Lorcan and Frank Harlan James to their family. The twins were born on the couple’s 3rd anniversary.
2009 – Weezer’s bus crashed, injuring Rivers Cuomo.
2012 – Metallica allowed their music to stream on Spotify for the first time.
2013 – The Fender Stratocaster that Bob Dylan played at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival sold for $965,000.
2016 – Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) reported that people spent more money on vinyl than downloads for the first time in history.
1956 – Peter Buck of R.E.M. (Guitar)
1956 – Randy Rhoads of Quiet Riot (Guitar)
1961 – David Lovering of Pixies (Drums)
1961 – Jonathan Melvoin of Smashing Pumpkins (Tour Keyboards)
On This Day In History – December 6
The events of December 6, 1969 at Altamont Speedway, cast a shadow over the world of rock and roll, marking a tragic moment that stained the history of music.
The Altamont Speedway Free Festival, intended as a celebration of music and counterculture, spiraled into chaos and ended in the death of Meredith Hunter.
Despite the contrasting array of milestones and musical achievements that December 6 has seen over the years, the memory of that fateful day in 1969 stands as a somber cautionary tale, a reminder of the responsibilities inherent in managing large-scale events and the need for peace and respect in every gathering, especially those meant to celebrate the power of music.