Larry Magid, cofounder of the Electric Factory. Photo courtesy of Tom Case, Felt Hammer Productions
Q&A with Larry Magid
“The people who lived through the ’60s got to see the world change, and the Electric Factory was right in the middle of it.”Larry Magid, renowned concert promoter and cofounder of the Electric Factory, shares his unique perspective on the business and visual culture of rock ‘n’ roll in Philadelphia during the 1960s. You were born and raised in Philadelphia. How did you get your start in the music industry? While going to Temple University, I got a part-time job with a music industry paper out of Philadelphia called Impact. I met some musicians there who had come in to plug their records. During registration for the new semester, I met a guy who asked me to help get a band for his fraternity party. I arranged Brooks O’Dell, and I quickly realized it was a great way to make money during college. The same friend asked again for another event in the spring, so I booked Lee Andrews & the Hearts—Lee Andrews is Questlove’s father—and so that was it. I started booking fraternity parties not only in Philly, but from New England down to Maryland and Northern Virginia and as far west as Pittsburgh. One thing led to another, I started getting bigger entertainers for concerts at colleges, and then I got a job as an agent in New York. How would you describe the music scene in Philadelphia in the ’60s? In 1961, when I was nineteen, there wasn’t much going on. There wasn’t a lot of live music in Philadelphia. There were shows in the Uptown Theatre on North Broad Street, but the local radio disc jockeys were the stars. Then I had an offer to come back to Philly to open up this club, the Electric Factory, which would turn out to have a significant impact on the start of contemporary rock music in America.
What was the role of the counterculture in the art and music of the ’60s? Anything new is counter to the culture of the day. It keeps evolving. The ’60s was the culmination of the first time that young people had power enough to change things, and not only in music and art. The Electric Factory became a rallying point for the counterculture and its participants, and it became a very important place for that movement because it featured the musical art of the day and some poster art as well as advertising art. It went along with the Pop Art culture that was happening. Music is a great reflection and symbol of the times. What are your thoughts about the collaboration between visual art and music? It’s very important—the arts feed off of each other. When you have young artists like Andy Warhol or any of the Pop artists of that time, they affected music, styles, and fashions of their time and vice versa. It’s all one big part of the art world, and music was our contribution. I went to the University of the Arts, which at that time was called the Philadelphia Museum School. We got a hold of some design students that were into the Pop Art explosion, and we hired some of them to come over and paint our venue. It was very psychedelic, a lot of Day-Glo inside and outside of the building. We also had a few different artists make posters for us over the years. Do you have any favorite Electric Factory posters? The early ones stick out in my mind because they helped popularize what we were doing: the Hendrix posters, Cream, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. After a while, posters went out of fashion, but we would make them because people liked having them. As fast as we would put them up they would disappear, because people would take them and put them on their bedroom wall. Some of the posters are so rare that they’re worth a lot of money now. The last time I saw an auction result of that Hendrix poster, an original one sold for something like $19,000. Some of the good ones go for $3,000–$4,000, others not as much.
Magid with the Electric Factory logo artwork, c. 1970
Jimi Hendrix performed in the first few weeks after the Electric Factory opened. Could you describe that show? It was a frenetic experience. I remember standing on a car with a bullhorn to get people to come into the club. We packed the house. He was everything I had imagined him to be and more. His playing was fantastic, the reception was unbelievable. His hands were painted in Day-Glo colors, so when we turned the lights down all you saw were his hands. It was a spectacular presentation. That show played a large role in making the Electric Factory the popular place it was to become. The people who lived through the ’60s got to see the world change, and the Electric Factory was right in the middle of it.
Jimi Hendrix at the Electric Factory poster by Ichabod, 1968
About Larry MagidDuring his four decades as a concert promoter, Larry Magid had a front-row seat to the innovative performances that helped define an era. The Electric Factory opened on February 2, 1968, as the first venue in Philadelphia to showcase the new music of the period. Magid featured rising stars and established performers such as Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, and many more at the Electric Factory and other venues across Philadelphia.
This interview was conducted by Ryan Carey. It has been condensed and edited for clarity. Images featured in this interview are from Larry Magid’s collection.