The First Man Behind Philadelphia's Music Scene …And it's Not Who You Think It Is

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Herb Spivak booked and promoted the Atlantic City Pop Festival in 1969, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary August 1-3. He also booked the Philadelphia Spectrum's grand opening in 1967, which is scheduled to be torn down this fall. The Spectrum's final shows include Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam.

They ship just a few hours after baking to ensure freshness.

It was September 30, 1967 when Philadelphia's 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 Philadelphia's original Electric Factory, the Atlantic City Pop Festival (celebrating 40th anniversary August 1 - 3) and Philly based HA Winston & Co. restaurants 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. Spivak 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 of Philadelphia.

In 1964 Spivak bought The Showboat (1409 Lombard Street, Phila., PA) 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 40th anniversary this year, 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 Atlantic City 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." In addition, Spivak works with his son, Stephen developing content for Spivak also enjoys spending time with his wife of 52 years, Marcia, their four children and four grandchildren. But, once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur, so chances are Spivak has another dream on the horizon.


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Dallyn Pavey
Dish Public Relations
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