Summerfest 1971 and beyond

Summerfest is an annual music festival held in a permanent, seventy-five acre Festival Park along the beautiful shoreline of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The festival runs for eleven days, on eleven stages, with performances from more than 800 acts with over a 1,000 performances.  Since the 1970s, it’s run from late June through early July.  Summerfest attracts between eight and nine hundred thousand people each year, making it “The World’s Largest Music Festival,” a title that’s been certified by Guinness World Records since 1999.

My first experience at Summerfest was in 1971. Though memories of these things sometimes fade, I located newspaper clippings published at that time to corroborate my recollection.  Among other things I recall, it was a very wet experience.

710726 MilJour Summerfest.jpg

Admission to the festival grounds was a dollar fifty at the gate or an even dollar if you bought a mail order ticket in advance. There  were no additional postage or handling charges.  Just mail a buck with a SASE.  Postage was eight cents back then.  A savings of just thirty-four cents, once you subtract the cost for two stamps, wasn’t even enough incentive for a college kid to plan ahead.  Besides, my summer job at the local cheese factory kept me in enough pocket money to enjoy an occasional concert spontaneously.

This event was on a Sunday, the final day of the festival.  Early on, it had been promoted as a “Surprise Rock Spectacular.”  The acts were revealed just two weeks before the show. They were John Sebastian, recently gone solo from the Luvin’ Spoonful; Poco, founded by some former Buffalo Springfield members; and Mountain, four loud, hard rockers led by behemoth guitar shredder, Leslie West.  A band named Tayles, from Madison, Wisconsin, and Mylon, a southern gospel-rock group were the opening acts.

Fifty thousand music fans were gathering at the Lakefront Amphitheater stage when my date and I arrived late Sunday afternoon.  It had been raining intermittently all day, leaving a sparkling sheen on every exposed surface.

Like today, Summerfest was sponsored primarily by Milwaukee’s famous breweries.  Miller High Life and Pabst Blue Ribbon are perhaps the only originals still around.  Unlike today, festival beer was served up in glass bottles.  A new minimum drinking age of eighteen had been enacted recently, so there was plenty of bottled beer consumption, resulting in plenty of empty bottles.

One newspaper account had listed John Sebastian as the concert headliner, clearly an error as we’d suspected and confirmed by handbills posted on the festival grounds.  Mountain would be the main attraction. We missed Mylon who, I learned recently, was managed by Felix Pappalardi of Mountain, the concert headliners.   We arrived instead near the end of Tayles’ set.

I’d really been looking forward to hearing Poco and hoped the concert wouldn’t be affected by the rain which had started up again.  After a lengthy delay, Poco came out on stage, tuned up a bit, and began playing.

After just two songs, Hurry Up and Hear That Music, frontman Richie Furay tersely announced that Rusty Young, their pedal steel guitarist, had been hit by a beer bottle.  To my great disappointment, Poco abruptly left the stage as loud booing and buckets of rain began to pour forth.

When the rain eventually eased up, a soggy audience cheered as John Sebastian, acoustic guitar in hand, strolled out to a microphone and announced, “I’ll play for ya. Jus’ don’t throw no bottles at me.”  He played an entire set and two encores without incident.  Memorable songs included Younger GirlDarlin’ Be Home Soon and Red-Eye Express.  Sometimes all it takes to tame an otherwise unruly concert crowd is politely asking not to be a beer-bottle target.

Finally, as rain continued to fall, Mountain took the stage.  Leslie West, Felix Pappalardi, Corky Laing, and Steve Knight simply blew us away.  If any bottles were thrown toward the stage during Mountain’s set, the high decibel sound waves might’ve stopped them in flight.  I could still hear Nantucket Sleighride, Mississippi Queen, and For Yasgur’s Farm ringing in my ears on the long drive home after the show.  It helped me forget about how wet and cold we were.

In four decades of semi-regular Summerfest attendance since then, I’ve heard such notable artists as Roy Orbison, the Moody Blues, Robin Trower, Linda Ronstadt, Kansas, Michael Franti, the Freddy Jones Band, Green Children and many others, including jazz, folk and blues musicians from all over the world.  There were rising stars and those at the end of long careers.  I saw comedian Billy Crystal perform there early in his career, and heard Linda Ronstadt announce to the Milwaukee crowd, “It’s so great to be here in Indiana!”  We were quick to correct her geography.  My wife saw comedian George Carlin arrested by Milwaukee police for performing his Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television routine.

The biggest stars continue to perform at Summerfest in what’s now a 25,000-seat amphitheater at one end of the festival grounds for which tickets are sold at much higher prices than Summerfest’s nominal gate cost.  And though it’s no longer just a buck fifty for general admission, Summerfest remains one of the best bargains for live music around, still hosting hundreds of musical acts on eleven different stages, over eleven consecutive days.

On my July 2, 2018 radio show, Life Out of Tunes on Asheville FM, I’ll be spinning songs from that first Summerfest experience and from other artists I’ve heard at the festival over the years.

Fundraising or Fun-raising?

Most of you know I have a weekly music show on a local community radio station in Asheville.  As a matter of fact, it goes by the same name as this blog, Life Out of Tunes.  It’s a joy for me to play music for a listening audience and it’s fun to know those listeners are not only from here in Asheville, but from anywhere in the country and perhaps the world.

Spring Fund Drive Logo by Jess Speer

In order to make that happen, many resources are needed — human, technical and financial.  The community radio station for which I volunteer, Asheville FM, is no different with regard to those needs.  That’s why twice each year we hold fund drives.  With spring now in full swing, we are celebrating the season with new ideas and new goals to make our commercial-free radio station even better and stronger than it is now!

The Asheville FM spring fund raiser begins Saturday, April 28 and runs through Friday, May 4.  Our focus this time is GROWTH.  Community radio is a powerful medium, but we need your support to continue presenting more than sixty shows spanning virtually every genre of music, as well as providing news and community interest programming.  Our goal is $23,000.  It’s ambitious, but attainable.  So please consider contributing any amount by clicking on the DONATE button next time you visit AshevilleFM.org(If you call the station at (828) 259-3936 and pledge or donate during my show, Life Out of Tunes, on Monday, April 30 between 2:00 and 3:00 pm Eastern time, I’ll be especially grateful!)

That brings to mind some memories.  In 1982 I was associate director of the Janesville (WI) Public Library.  I also fronted a band named Heavy Chevy & the Circuit Riders.  We were a fifties and sixties rock ‘n’ roll revival band that specialized in working fund raisers for schools and other non-profit organizations.  Here we are rehearsing just before a library fundraiser.  (That’s me in the green shirt.)

Heavy Chevy & the Circuit Riders (1982)

Later that year I was asked to co-host local televised segments of the annual Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon alongside Janesville school district’s PR manager and the manager of Total TV.  During the telethon I offered to shave off my mustache while on camera for a specific donation.  I don’t recall the dollar amount.  A donor called to offer the requested amount, but asked me to shave only half the mustache.  His hope, he said, was that someone else would call with the same donation amount to shave off the rest.  Someone brought me a can of shaving cream and a razor. I continued the telethon with only half-a-stache until a second caller made the rest come off.  Another caller who recognized me from a Heavy Chevy gig requested that I recite the spoken interlude of a song, Little Darlin’  by the Diamonds.  It was a song from the Heavy Chevy playlist, so I accommodated her request and she made her donation.

Telethon ad from Sept 5, 1982 Janesville Gazette

Isn’t it a shame no visual archive of that telethon show exists?   Well, perhaps not.  Unfortunately, though, there is an audio-visual archive of Heavy Chevy & the Circuit Riders on YouTube.  Here is:

The Ballad of Heavy Chevy

Please give generously to support community radio on Asheville FM !
Thank you !

The Annotated Playlist in My Head

Perhaps it’s a lingering librarian obsession within me.  A way to catalog and shelve that playlist in my head.  Or maybe it’s because I can’t think of anything else to write about.  Either way, here’s an annotated edition of the playlist from my January 29, 2018 Life Out of Tunes radio show.

  1.  Ernest TubbWalking the Floor Over You.  This tune was floating around in my head for many years as I reminisced about running playbacks of The Ernest Tubb Show in a previous blog post.  One thing missing from the radio broadcast was a visual of Tubb flipping over his guitar at the end of the show and displaying the word THANKS in big block letters stuck to the back of it.  My No Left Turns bandmate and cousin Mike, whose dad was a country music fan, would do the same thing with his electric guitar at our gigs.
  2. Chris ReaThe Road To Hell (Pts. 1 & 2).  Not only have I been a Chris Rea fan since the 1980s, but I have two friends, also Chris Rea fans, who would agree that we, as a country, are traveling down that road.  This one was for you, Mike and Brad.
  3. The FlockI Am the Tall Tree.  I always liked the Flock from Chicago.  I missed their performance at the Pop House, a teen club in my hometown, around 1966-67.  I have it on good authority they closed their show with, “We’re gonna play one more song, then get the flock outta here.”
  4. Umphrey’s McGeeForks.  I confess to enjoying jam bands.  The Grateful Dead have always been among my favorites.  UM elevates it with scorching, jazz-infused solos and time signature changes accompanied by smart lyrics.
  5. First FridayMaryanne.  A blast from my past, circa 1969-70.  While students at ND, these guys were talented enough to record an album.  I bought the LP new at that time and played it so often, the grooves wore out.  A favorite at parties both on and off campus, First Friday disbanded upon graduation.  Members of Umphrey’s McGee are ND alums too, separated from First Friday by three decades.  This must be where I say, “Go Irish!”
  6. The Rums & CokeGlad All Over.  Growing up in Wisconsin during the 60s, I knew many “garage bands.” but had never heard of this one until researching a recent post to Wisconsin Garage Bands 1960s, a Facebook page I admin.  A five-piece, all-girl band from south of Milwaukee, the Rums & Coke were popular in southeastern Wisconsin.  They recorded this Dave Clark Five song across the border in Chicago and released it as a single in 1966.
  7. Roxanne & Dan KedingLittle Drummer.  Originally from Chicago, this talented folk duo moved to Wisconsin, near the town where I was working and where we became friends.  I was invited to join them and four other musicians for a one-off fundraising gig, performing together as a 50/60s rock ‘n’ roll revival band, Heavy Chevy & the Circuit Riders.  That aside, the Kedings recorded an album of traditional folk songs, From Far & Near, in 1980.  It was followed by an album of children’s songs, In Came That Rooster, in 1981.  I had both albums.  They split up and eventually I split, leaving both LPs behind.  I regretted it (leaving the records, that is) until I found From Far & Near at a used record store in Asheville, NC, 850 miles from where it originated!  From far and near indeed!  An old Irish folk song about love at first sight, I selected this track for Frank, my Irish friend.
  8. The ClienteleLunar Days.  If you caught a glimpse of either the super-moon or the lunar eclipse last night, you’ll understand why I spun this tune.
  9. Van MorrisonMoondance.  See #8.  “Can I just have one more moondance with you?”
  10. The BroadcastBattle Cry.  Threw in something from a great Asheville band featuring an equally great vocalist.
  11. Hot TunaWater Song.  Sylvia (the one with whom I moondance) and I heard Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy (a.k.a. Hot Tuna) shred this guitar instrumental in concert a couple years ago.

Hope you enjoyed reading the stories behind each song on this week’s playlist!  If you missed it, you can still listen to this Life Out of Tunes show through Monday, February 5, 2018 by following the link:  https://www.ashevillefm.org/show/life-out-of-tunes/ and clicking on the “Play Archive” button.  Peace!

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, I was finishing my senior year in high school.  His senseless death impacted me.  I’d been accepted at the University of Notre Dame as a freshman for the fall semester where it didn’t take long before I’d become one of the “effete corps of impudent snobs” so colorfully described by vice-president Spiro Agnew.  We didn’t like war.  Or discrimination.  Or pollution.  Or republicans.  I guess that qualified me as an “effete snob” or, in the words of one conservative music blogger who no longer reads my work, a “smug hippie.”

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  The memory of his senseless death impacts me all over again.  On this commemoration of his birth, January 15, I’ll broadcast my weekly radio show.  Every tune will deal in some way with resistance, struggle and hope.  Isn’t it strange?  Nearly fifty years have passed and we’re still singing about the same things.  Listen to Life Out of Tunes at 2:00 pm (EST) on MLK day for an earful.  “Remember.  Celebrate.  Act.  A day on… not a day off.”

Life Out of Tunes radio, hosted by Joey Books
Monday, January 15, 2018, 2:00-3:00 pm (EST)
Asheville FM, WSFM-LP, 103.3 (Asheville, NC)
Streaming globally at: https://www.ashevillefm.org/show/life-out-of-tunes/

Not-So-Cheap Self Promotion

Waking up grumpy on Mondays?  After your morning coffee and a quick walk around the neighborhood with Fido, you might be heading off to work.  Or perhaps you’re not working, whether by choice or by circumstance.  Whatever the case may be, figure out a way you can listen to my new radio show, Life Out of Tunes, on Monday afternoons at two o’clock on Asheville FM.  It could brighten your day.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking Accardi has sunk to a new level of cheap self-promotion.  I can assure you that is not the case.  Maintaining this blog isn’t cheap!

My first show will feature a sampling of great music from Chicago which has had an influence on me.  Tunes, old and new, from the Mauds, the Siegel-Schwall Band, Steve Goodman, Patricia Barber, Koko Taylor, Rotary Connection, Bill MacKay & Ryley Walker and the Safes, just to name a few.  But I’m warning you.  They won’t be the “hits.”  This ain’t no oldies program.  Together we can explore and enjoy a few deep tracks from these great artists.

Life Out of Tunes on the radio, hosted by Joey Books, can be heard Mondays, 2:00 to 3:00 PM (Eastern) on Asheville FM (WSFM-LP, 103.3) and streaming worldwide at http://ashevillefm.org.

Tune in and turn it up!

Life Out of Tunes: the Radio Show

I’m pleased to announce my new weekly radio show, “Life Out of Tunes” on Asheville FM (WSFM-LP 103.3).  Asheville FM is a volunteer-based, listener-supported community radio station and I’m proud to be aboard!

Broadcasting as DJ “Joey Books,” my show will begin Monday, December 4, 2017, airing weekly from 2:00 to 3:00 (Eastern) every Monday afternoon. It will feature a freeform selection of music with connections to this blog, Life Out of Tunes.

I’ll share a few memories and personal observations on the music that helped shape my life, so you can expect a wide variety of songs and an occasional story or two.

Asheville FM streams worldwide at ashevillefm.org, where you can check out the entire on-air schedule and “Listen Live.”  So tune in and turn it up!

 

A Progressive Thanksgiving Dinner

I won’t be home for Thanksgiving this year.  It’s happened before, missing the big family gathering along with all those special foods prepared for the occasion.

Instead, I’ll be hosting a Thanksgiving Day edition of Closer to the Edge, an outstanding Progressive music radio show on Asheville FM (WSFM-LP, 103.3).  I feel honored to have been asked to substitute for host JD, the “Professor of Prog” while he takes a well-earned holiday break.

For three hours, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm (Eastern) on Thanksgiving Day I’ll be serving up some of the best in classic Prog music for the main course, garnished with a healthful helping of contemporary selections.  We’ll begin with an Hors D’oeuvre (served with mathematical precision) and progress through each subsequent course until Supper’s Ready.

I’ll be spinning some delicious classic dishes from the likes of Touch, Wishbone Ash and the Moody Blues, followed by fresh desserts from Anathema and others.  There may even be something special from Wisconsin for all you cheeseheads.

So tune in Thanksgiving Day, November 23, at 2:00 pm EST to hear me, Joey Books, take over as guest chef on Closer to the Edge. You can stream it live on AshevilleFM.org by clicking on the “Listen Live” button.  Join me for a truly Progressive Thanksgiving dinner!