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Music

Music image
Parent Issue
Day
4
Month
July
Year
1975
OCR Text

This is part 11 af a series on The history o) Aun Arbor's music scène writtert hy Peter Andrews, long-time local music activist, currently the head J Stage One, a company which provides ttagütgfor the music industry. In 1 W l!A( , a student organization known as the University Activities Center, and ( anterbury House, a cliurch-supported coffee house, sponsored the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival. Tlie Festival was an authentic August weekend of pure blues. It lasted from Friday to Sunday, and wlien it wüs all over besides breaking even financially, it has accomplished soniething truly great. It had begun to put the rural and urban black music experienc into the mainstream of awareness. It established th.it obscuro black bluespeople and all their genius, once exposed to a mass audiencc. whether they be black or white, wilt be loved and respected. It reversed a trend that takes place in uur society that wipes originality away, rcplacing it with washed-down. middle óf the road copies. With the Festival, it became hip' to be up on the blues. Blues record sales doubled immediately in the local stores. There were about an average of 6 or 7 thousand per show ai this first Festival. With a charge of $10 per ticket tor the whole weekend, as well as single tickets tor sale, they grossed gome $70,000 with expenses in the same immedialo arca. In l-70 the event was lepeated. again in eaily August, hut just up the road this year was the Goosc Lake Pop Festival taking place just outside Jackson. about 45 minutes from Ann Arbor. The Cioose I alcfe event was a tragic attempt to draw hundreds of thousands of persons to an ill-prepared site where they could hear all the biggiesof the day. Richard Songer owned the land. developing it with the help of Detroit promoter RussGibb (Uncle Russ ot the original Grande Ballroom). Well, they did draw a siable crowd, half of which didn't pay. Later they also drew a citizen's grand jury in Jackson which tried to charge people with "permitting the use of drugs" and the like. Whilo Goose Lake was bombing out up the road, the . Ann Arbor Festival was becoming another giant arlisiic success - but Goose Lake was proving too tnuch of a draw to counter, and ticket sales were down some 30 percent beluw anticipated figures. This meant a loss of around $30.000 which was enough to flip the University Administration right out. UAC didn't have 515,000 to lose nor did Canterbury House, and the Jniversity with its multi-million dollar annual budget :ertainly didn't have a penny to spare. I mean, .al niusic programs are one lliing, tliey need our sup ,ioi t in order to survive, but if these students ihink ihey can irresponsibly run around losingmoney, then someoae's got to teil them a differeni story. I don't tliink one single top administrator, or .i single Regent, liad ever secn or heard of one of ihe many artists who appeared at those two '■"estivals. For perhaps that reason, and l'm certain for some inbred superioiityracist leusons, the Ann Arbor Blues Festival was cancelled after ll)70. Those responsible for this uiforgivable loss of money were .oíd to adapi a little financia] responsioilily, and perliaps return to soine more traditional tumi of entertainment that ixtuld support itself. The Blues Committee struegled to raise money to pay off the deficit. A benefit was held that winter leaturing Jolinny Winter and Luther Allison among others. It j aiscd some money, but not nough. In the beginning of 1971 1 became wliat they called livents Director of the Univer sity of Michigan. I can express first hand the great frustration ihat Blues Coiymittee must have ' feit, knowing that there is a willing audience ready to enjoy and spiritually profit f rom exposure to great music. and being unable to get any meaningful ' coopération out of University officials, who control all the concert halls in town. But I'm jumping ahead of myself too fast. First let's finish the sixties . . . One of the highlights in the last ten years of Ann bor contemporary music lias been the long history of the Community Parks Program. The first free Sunday concerts began in 1 966 as a jazz program featuring the likes of Joseph Jarman and Stanley Cowell. By 1967 the rock and roll nomenon was taking everyone by storm. That summer members of the local band Seventh Seal (including Billy Kirchen, now with Commander Cody) held the weekly get-downs in West Park, a beautiful piece of land on Ann Arbor's west side, complete with baiulshell. One Sunday the Grateful Dead came to town to play. During their manee someone handed the band an American flag wliich they spread under tlieir teet. That did it. Thé goud city fatliers were flooded with calis from tressed citiens demanding an immediate stop to these rabble gatherings with all that loud garbage they cali music. That wintei the Republican-dominated City Council passed a law banningamplified music in city parks. Well, in those days the youth of the city were having no part of the Council tion. John Sinclair and the MC5, aftcr being refused a permit at the start of the summer of '68, rented a generator, and played in West Park anyway. The second weekend the pólice carne on stage to shut the thing down, but were called off by Lieutenant Hugene Staudemier who wanted to try and work something out. While Staudemier was negotiating, the MC5 went into their sing-a-long "Kick Out The Jams Motherfucker" routine, thereby forcing an end to reaswnable discussion on the part of the city. Several days later members of the MC5 were arrested for operating music without a permit. The concert went on again that Sunday anyway. By then the city fathers were getting the'message, and ' Mayor Helcher worked out a deal to allow the concerts to continue for the season. That winter the White Panther Party launched a petition drive to firmly establish the concerts, and by the summer of '69 they were clearly hert to stay. The series could not remain in West Park for long, however, as it was centrally located in the middle of a residential neighborhood. A move somewhere else was clinched one Sunday as the Tate Blues Band was playing. Seems the boys in the band had been hitting the rocket reducer a little heavy backstage, and when it carne time for Tate to go on he was so lit he could barely walk. That Sunday he was wearing his American flag pants and shirt. While performing, Terry began to rip the stars and stripes right off his body revealing his privates. The nares and pólice in the crowd went nuts. They jumped up and down sort of like an old Charlie Chaplin movie, running in circles and pointing and bumping into each other. But Staudemier came forward and cooked out'the cops once again. By then you see, the city was afraid to do anything at the park with all those deranged misfits out there hopped up on who knows what ready to go nuts without their music. lt was the accomplishment of placing that thought in their heads that eventually ensured the future of the program, which was moved to Gallup Park on the outskirts of town the following year. There the program thrived in spite of little city help and less funds. Bucket drives, donations and small amounts from the concessions somehow got us through the summer. In the last four years the Sunday concerts llave averaged about 4500 people per show. with as many as 10,000 on some days. Trouble or violence has never been prevelant at the park, thanks to the cooperation of Captain Bob Conn of the Ann Arbor Pólice, but especially to the Psychedelic Ranga s who work to help keep things running smoothly and collect the bucket drive money. Drug Help has provided emergency aid. The concerts continue to this day. It looked this year, up until the defeat of the Republican Councii majority, like the city might not come up with a site or any funds. But then Stephenson and the GOP were exiled to Barton Hills last April for regrooving at the golf course. The Democrats are much more culturally sensitive, and for the first time I think we are on the verge of having a positive social atmosphere in Ann Arbor where cultural activities like the Park Program can actually flourish with city help. Mayor Wheeler is on the record V as saying he favors the establishmenfof a permanent park orogram site fully developed for annual use. We've come a went way since 1967 and not being able-to get a permit, because peopie have consistently supported the program, and even breaking the law to bring it into being. In the ncxt installment of this series. Pete takes a look at lus tenure as Events Director of the Universitv of Michigan concert series. "The first Ann Arbor Blues Festival proved that obscure black bluespeople, once exposed to a mass audience, will be loved and respected. After the Festival, blues record sales doubled in local stores'