The NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL-JULY 2-4 1971:The last one (in Newport) for a long time.
The summer of 71 found me on break from college, working full time, 7:00 AM- 3:30PM, Monday through Friday, with an easy job of driving a tractor cutting the lawns and fields of the local school district. Break time was whenever you needed one, beers at lunch and plenty of beers after work in the garage while you cleaned up,with no one to bother you. It was a great summer job and I got two paid days off for the July 4th holiday weekend.So, Why not go to the NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL? Why not ride with 2 other guys in a 2 seater Corvette? Why not go with two guys who know basically nothing about jazz or rock music for that matter? Why not bring strange pharmaceuticals ?
Arriving in Newport well after midnight we found no hotel or motel rooms available so we camped out in a supermarket parking lot with hundreds of others, some who were having races and bumper car tournaments, rolling passenger filled shopping carts down an incline. It was loud, raunchy and laughable. Sunrise was met with a huge police presence and an evacuation of the lot. We found a “paid” parking lot a few minutes later and set up “camp” not far from some older guys we knew from our town. It was the last we saw of them. After breakfast ( coffee and cigarettes) we found the box office and got tickets for the evening performances of The Dave Pike Set, Buddy Rich, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, and Roberta Flack. We headed out for lunch/dinner which was 99 cents all you can eat fish plus free iced tea. Then we prepared for our evening by taking a shower in a 25 cent car wash. We changed into cleaner clothes before heading to the amphitheater, which was a beautiful outdoor hillside venue. According to my friends, I did a standup comedy routine for those waiting to get in. Somehow I had a large KFC sticker on my shirt, again according to my compatriots, so it was easy to find me as I mingled in the crowd. The music was great and so was my “air” drumming with BUDDY RICH (again according to my friends). The highlight of the evening was ROBERTA FLACK finishing her set with DUKE ELLINGTON (solo) on piano doing FIRST TIME EVER I SAW YOUR FACE. It was heavenly as I sat on the field of grass and communed with the music and the beautiful night sky. Note: Earlier in the evening there was a large, nasty crowd tying to gain free entrance. When the fences came down from their pushing and shaking it, the “freebies” rushed the area trampling some folks seated on the grass by us. One “freebie” who was on the top of the fence and when the fence came down the metal ripped his groin area, supposedly cutting his balls. Blood was everywhere. The police and ambulance arrived. Needless to say with all the freebies now in the place, the environment became dangerously packed and I was not in the best of shape to enjoy their company so I shifted up front with the rich folks.
I woke up the next morning in the middle of a crowded beach, yes in the middle, with my shirt being used as my pillow. I must have been some sight to see as my back was completely sun burned. Finally,I found my friends who were trying to get tickets that night’s show but were told the shows/ weekend might be cancelled due to the unruly crowd. So homeward bound we decided. And it was a great idea as the “riots” of that afternoon forced the evening shows to be cancelled thereby ending the peaceful run of NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL in Newport Rhode Island. Freaking hippies.