The Man Behind the Music Celebrates the 45th Anniversary of the Atlantic City Pop Festival

Posted on Wednesday, July 30, 2014



Herb Spivak, founding partner of the Electric Factory is celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Atlantic City Pop Festival and also 50 years in the music business. Held on August 1st, 2nd and 3rd in 1969, the Atlantic City Pop Festival had more than 100,000 people in attendance and featured 30 acts (10 each day) including, Janis Joplin, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, Frank Zappa, The Chambers Brothers and Mamma Cass. Presently, Herb keeps busy running Hope’s Cookie’s in Rosemont and dabbles on varies music projects. Read more on Herb below…



…And it’s not who you think. 


1965034_10152567590929719_1120763430612987994_nIt was September 30, 1967 when the Spectrum celebrated its grand opening with the Quaker City Jazz Festival. Herb Spivak booked the two day event that opened with Dizzy Gillespie playing the Star Spangled banner. Spivak, the founding partner of the original Electric Factory, the Atlantic City Pop Festival (celebrating 45th anniversary August 1 – 3) and HA Winston & Co wanted to be a geologist. But, discovered there were more financial rewards in rock and roll than in rocks and became a successful club owner, concert promoter and restaurateur instead. This nice Jewish boy from Wynnefield was the biggest buyer of talent in Philadelphia in the mid 1960s. Herb remained an owner of Electric Factory Concerts until 2000, when it was bought by SFX Entertainment (later known as Clear Channel and presently Live Nation). Spivak, along with partners Larry Magid and brothers Jerry and Allen Spivak are the pioneers of the Philadelphia music scene.



Herb Spivak became a taproom operator at the age of 22 after the death of his father, Harry “Speedie” Spivak. Along with brothers Jerry and Allen, he owned and operated several bars called Speedie’s throughout the city.



In 1964 (50 years ago this Labor Day) Spivak bought The Showboat at 1409 Lombard Street in the basement of the Douglas Hotel. After eight months of operation, Spivak doubled the seating capacity to 200 and renamed it the Showboat Jazz Theatr (the missing  E was solely to get attention). Jazz greats Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Lou Rawls and Dinah Washington regularly played there.


One night, after playing the Showboat, legendary jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis and Spivak were on their way to the Harvey House for a late bite. As they walked by the Academy of Music, Lewis stopped and said “I’d like to play there some day.” The next morning, Spivak met with the manager of the Academy and booked Ramsey Lewis, who played two sold out concerts on Mother’s Day in 1965. “ And that was how it all began,” says Spivak. “It was that easy in those days!”



 By the end of the 60s, jazz was “out” and rock was “in”. Spivak and partner, Shelly Kaplan were itching to do something new and exciting. They heard about the Electric Circus, a nightclub in New York’s East Village where you could play games, watch circus performers and dance under psychedelic lights. The Philadelphia partners wanted to create that kind of experience in Philly, where people could just hang out. They opened the Electric Factory in February 1968 in a converted Goodyear Tire plant at 22nd and Arch. The logo design was the father of electricity and Spivak’s local hero, Benjamin Franklin.  Spivak thought live music would encourage people to come every night and asked 25-year-old Larry Magid to come back from New York to book the shows and manage the club. Magid would later become a partner. Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, The Who and Cream were just a few of the rock superstars that graced the Electric Factory stage. Philadelphia’s legendary rock club was not quite three years old when it closed in 1970. Acts wanting more money, legal expenses brought on by the city and changing times forced the closing.



 Celebrating its 45th anniversary this weekend, The Atlantic City Pop Festival took place just two weeks before Woodstock on August 1, 2 and 3, 1969. Spivak had been reading about the Miami Pop Festival and decided to do one here. On his way to the shore one weekend, he instinctively pulled into the Atlantic City Racetrack and asked for the owner, Bob Levy. On a hand shake deal, Spivak secured the racetrack and borrowed money to promote the legendary festival. Spivak and Magid booked the talent for the three day festival. They hired Electric Factory manager, Dave Kasanow to drive around the country in a Volkswagen Beetle and promote the show by handing out posters and doing interviews on rock radio stations. “It was very grass roots,” recalls Spivak. “Not exactly like things are done today.” More than 100,000 people attended the Atlantic City Pop Festival, which featured 30 acts (10 each day) including, Janis Joplin, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, Frank Zappa, The Chambers Brothers and Mamma Cass. 



 In 1970 Herb reopened the ailing Showboat as Chances Are, a singles bar that included a loft filled with pinball machines and adult games, good for breaking the ice on a first date. After a short run, Chances Are closed in February 1972. Spivak decided to move his singles bar concept to Front & Chestnut streets. While in the building’s attic one day, he found an old sign that said “Winston Shipping Company” and decided to go with the property’s original name. He added the initials of H for Herb and A for Alan (Jerry was living in Mill Valley, California), and HA Winston & Co was born. Herb didn’t want to serve a full menu and decided to offer just a few food items to his customers. He set up an open kitchen in the window and started grilling burgers. The Winston “Gourmet” Burger became an instant success, as did their famous French Onion Soup. Soon, the three brothers were running 22 restaurants from New York to Florida, an enterprise which spanned over 15 years.



 Spivak joined his daughter, Hope at Hope’s Cookies in the late 80s and is operating the landmark location in Rosemont, PA (1125 W. Lancaster Ave.). Hope’s Cookies is known for its award-winning cookies, ice cream and yogurt creations and is one of the country’s largest manufacturers of frozen cookie dough. Herb also launched , a website that sends fresh baked cookies all over the country. “They ship just a few hours after baking to ensure freshness.”



 Herb still has his hands in the music industry to this day. He is currently collaborating with Bill Rogers of BRE on a the new Sun Center and a number of other projects. In addition, Spivak works with his son, Stephen developing content for Spivak also enjoys spending time with his wife of 56 years, Marcia, their four children and six grandchildren. But, once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur, so chances are Spivak has another dream on the horizon.