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1972 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival

1972 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival image
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The activities that produced the festival were the work of community alternative institutions, most of whom had worked all summer long providing the same services on a smaller scale to the weekly Community Parks Program. All the people and institutions were paid by the festival for their services, but more on that later.

The Festival was community self-determination in action.

The Psychedelic Rangers were on hand, over 200 of them, parking cars outside the gates, doing security and general aid work inside and outside the grounds. The Rangers, organized by Genie Plamondon (inside) and Frank Duff (outside), were present to help with any trouble and to stop the dealing of bogus drugs like downers, heroin, reds, barbs, etc. At one point we witnessed a knife fight backstage, one of the few incidents of its kind; immediately several Rangers moved in and subdued the man with the knife, taking it away and putting those responsible for the fight outside the gates immediately. There were some criticisms of the Rangers’ performance outside the gates, the result of poor preparation on the part of the organizers. But with a few rare exceptions the Rangers’ presence helped keep everything functioning smoothly, and was primarily responsible for the fact that only four city police had to be tolerated inside the grounds.

The problem of bad dope, downers, etc., especially mixed with alcohol, the existence of adulterated psychedelics, all these things plagued the park concerts this summer and invade most gatherings of our people. To aid the victims of this chemical warfare on our community, people from Drug-Help and the Free People’s Clinic were on hand during all shows, dealing with overdoses, freak-outs, and poisoning of all kinds. Their facility treated most people during the nighttime shows.

If you needed some food the Tribal Council Food Committee was on hand serving fresh fruit, organic cookies and brownies, yogurt, whole-wheat sandwiches, juices, rice and vegetable dishes, and other tasty and healthy treats. It was a mammoth operation securing and storing all that food, and hopefully the Food Committee will be providing other needed community food services with their share of the money they collected. People with children could leave them at the Children’s Community Center organized by the People’s Education Committee; literature, pins, and t-shirts of every description were available at literature booths staffed by the Michigan Marijuana Initiative, Rainbow People’s Party, Hamilton St. Collective, McGovern For President, Rising Up Angry, United Farm Workers, and others. Salvation Records was on hand selling rare blues and jazz records by the performing musicians; people were selling the SUN and the official Festival program produced by CREEM magazine and Rainbow Graphics; over a hundred people were found places to stay in town by Ozone House, and for those who brought their pet there was even a dog-watering trough!


Saturday night Little Sonny started around 7 p.m., electric blues direct from the depths of Detroit. Soon Dr. John took the spotlight along with a new band and several others, throwing glittering gris-gris into the crowd and singing the Dr.’s favorites. Dr. John’s Louisiana music was influenced heavily by black southern blues, in fact, you can hear him do Willie Dixon’s blues classic Wang Dang Doodle on the new Mar Y Sol pop festival album. From Dr. John to Pharoah Sanders and his group. Pharoah was intense, alternately wailing on his sax and screaming into the microphone as the crowd cheered. Pharoah picking up a vibrating musical bowl, sending out its vibrations, chanting in melody “Love is Everywhere, Love is Everywhere.” Pharoah’s albums on Impulse are a must for anyone who likes to get high and spin jams.... Saturday night broke totally loose when slick dressed all-in-white Bobby Blue Bland took the stage, along with Dr. John playing lead guitar. I Pity the Fool, Turn on Your Love Life, Bobby slid and strut around the stage, belting out tunes that have been taken up by many of the most popular contemporary rock and roll bands.


The area backstage was devoted to different festival services, mobile homes used as artists’ dressing-rooms, and a food stand for staff, guests, and musicians. Walking around you’d come across some of the greatest music-makers in history, jokin’ and meeting with each other, sometimes for the first time. Pete Andrews and David Sinclair were running about signing checks and making sure everything came off as planned, now and then stopping to take a toke or two, but mostly on the run. Press people wandered around doing interviews and getting their identification buttons.

A series of trailers and vans housed the media activities of the Festival. WNRZ-FM in Ann Arbor broadcast the entire proceedings in stereo from a borrowed van, Larry Monroe and Mike O’Brien handled most of the historic broadcast, using the time in between bands to rap generally, do commercials, and interview most of the musicians directly after or before their sets. Sun Ra, Hound-Dog Taylor, Howlin’ Wolf, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, and many more all passed through the NRZ van and shared their thoughts as well as their music with the thousands out there in radioland. WABX was in a van nearby; the big X broadcast most of the festival but not all, with Paul Greiner, Danny Carlisle, and Mark Parenteau handling some on the scene announcing and a few live interviews. The broadcast rights were given to the two stations for free, by Rainbow Multi-Media, in order that many more people than those in attendance could be turned on to the new musical experience offered by the powerful blues and jazz performed.

The people from Atlantic Records had a series of trailers where they recorded the entire proceedings for an eventual album (to be designed and produced by Rainbow Multi-Media) on huge 16 track tape-recorders. And the last media unit was a constant buzz of activity as a local video group operated a huge video projection screen facing out towards the audience from up high on the side of the stage. People too far out in the mass of people to see the musicians well could check out the video projection screen and see images from four cameras selected by editors in the trailer, sometimes superimposed on each other.

The P.A. crew, headed by Kurt Andrews of Vulcan Sound Systems, Inc., which also provided the P.A. to the community park program at cost all summer, had a difficult time with equipment Friday night, but things were booming from the huge speaker, cabinets after that. The stage-crew was led by Craig Blazier, who also handled the job all summer, and MC’s Mike Turner and Anne LaVasseur introduced the bands, rapped out messages of varied description, and boogied along with most everybody else.


Ann Arbor’s own Mojo Boogie Band brought everybody back to Sunday afternoon, blowin’ rainbow blues with the unique addition of space saxophonist Steve McKay. Luther Allison from Chicago was next, getting down on his knees clenching tight knocking people out. Luther was GREAT, and hopefully he’ll be able to go off food stamps soon and receive the popularity he deserves. Next up was Bonnie Raitt, another rainbow permutation of the blues. Sister Bonnie was soon joined by Sippi Wallace, one of the oldest living ladies of the blues, who now sings gospel in the churches of the inner Motor City. A quick stage-change and Archie Shepp turned the place out along with a group that included Jimmy Garrison, of the legendary John Coltrane quartet, on bass. This band had to be seen to be believed; the set ended with a cheering crowd standing up and asking for “More, More,” a response to this music of new consciousness that hopefully will convince our favorite local radio stations to let us hear more. The crowd was still on their feet as Freddie King and his band quickly took over, people on stage and off stompin’ together to Freddie’s geetar.


“We consider the Festival to be a first major step in our community toward self-reliance, self-determination, and the development of an alternative, communalist, non-profit economic system which would be controlled by people within our community and not by people who have no more to do with our culture and our music than, say, Richard M. Nixon.”

So reads part of the introduction of the festival program signed by John Sinclair and Peter Andrews for Rainbow Multi-Media. In these days when it still takes money to get things done, Rainbow Multi-Media is one of the first “corporations” of its kind, existing solely for the purpose of developing our music, culture and community to the highest level possible.

Most Festivals are put on by a promoter whose main interest is to rip-off a huge sum of money for putting on an event at the minimum possible expense to himself, which usually means paying almost no attention to the needs of the PEOPLE attending who make the whole thing possible in the first place. But Rainbow Multi-Media worked to put on the best possible show, provide all needed services, and make some funds sorely needed for its own and other community nonprofit projects. John, Peter and Dave had recently formed Rainbow Multi-Media when they decided to try and bring back the old blues festival with the addition of jazz. The University of Michigan, which had backed past festivals, was approached for the needed money, but because the last festivals had lost money and Robben Fleming had come down on gatherings of dope-smokers, the U refused. The search was still on for the needed capital when John Sinclair was approached back stage at a free concert in Lansing by Rick Dykstra, a young brother who had inherited some money and wanted to put it behind something worthwhile. The needed financing secured, work began on all fronts starting months before the actual event. Multi-Media staff worked sending out the promotion and publicity materials, arranging the booking and transportation of the performers, and all the other myriad tasks that made the whole thing work.

As a result, everybody had a good time, the community got a chance to work jointly on a project of this kind, and the several hundred brothers and sisters who worked at the festival, in these days of sparse job opportunities, were paid for their work. The Rainbow Corporation will have some money (a full report on expenditures and profits will be made in the next SUN, but right now it looks like there will be a very small amount left over above the break -even point) for its projects aimed at developing the Michigan rock and roll Community, including a non-profit printing and recording facility. And the People’s Ballroom (10%), the Community Parks Program (10%), and Trotter House and Project Community, both black community organizations (5% each), will receive a share of whatever money is made to help continue their vital activities.


Boogie Woogie Red with Ann Arbor’s Boogie Brothers started the last show Sunday night, with sister Sara Brown on bass. Next up was thunderin’ Lightnin’ Slim and afterwards Leo Smith, Maurice Mclntyre and Marion Brown, in a creative jazz ensemble that included a bizarre array of African percussion instruments used in place of traditional jazz drums. The Miles Davis band was next, the final total space out of three days of many such moments. Miles on the wah-wah pedal hooked up to his trumpet, the whole band pushing for wave upon wave of electronic sound and multi-rhythms.

Then Jane Fonda took the microphone next and rapped briefly about her trip to North Vietnam and the continued U.S. bombing of the life-line Vietnamese dikes which the Nixon administration continues to deny despite constant international evidence. Jane made everyone think of the bombs still falling on the other side of the planet, sent by the desperate, dying war machine. Afterwards, Otis Rush rushed in next and sang the blues with his band, finishing the night off, the last performance of Blues and Jazz 1972.


We’ll leave you now to get back to checkin’ out the photos on these pages. As you know if you were there or if you’ve managed to get through this article, the festival was a success on most every level.

There was one ugly incident outside the gates that involved some members of the old order trying to deal with this whole new rainbow phenomenon. One of the few police present violated the understanding that had been reached and tried to arrest a brother who was puffing the weed a little bit too close for the cop’s comfort. The unfortunate officer was jumped on by the crowd as he tried to make an arrest, which failed as the brother with the weed got away in the confusion. The police just don’t know how to deal with situations like this festival. Only people who relate to the music and feel a part of the gathering, people who are part of the culture and not out to exploit or suppress it, can do the job right. Police Chief Krasny understood that too when he praised the festival operators for running it successfully, a far cry from a few summers ago when bands were being arrested in West Park for playing music. It’s only come about because the community has stuck together to resist the snuff and force change over the years.

Three days, five big shows, the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival was a smashing artistic success, “but what’s just as important to us” (ended the official program), if the event is financially successful we will have enough seed capital for Rainbow Multi-Media to develop some of the projects we’ve been planning and dreaming about for many years; a number of community institutions and organizations will benefit substantially; a large number of brothers and sisters from our community will have a few more dollars towards the rent and groceries; the artists will receive a decent compensation for their work; and everyone will come out of the Festival feeling good enough to work through the winter to build up the people’s institutions we’ve all begun now to create together. And that’s what we would call A REAL GOOD TIME.

David Denton, R.P.P