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Newport Jazz Festival






Newport Jazz Festival Lineup 1969


Program and festival lineup courtesy of



*Note: if you were there and would like to share your memories, pictures or tape please send it



Was it the most infamous?
Yeah, I was there.
While I've since become a huge fan of Ellington and Mingus, I didn't go to hear them.  I went to hear Jimmy Smith, Les McCann, Aretha Franklin, James Cotton, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, and Cannonball Adderly.


Fri, July 2: A friend of mine owned a VW bus.  He, his girlfriend, his girl friend's sister and I (age 20) drove up from southern Connecticut on Friday and drove up the hillside, where all the traffic was being directed.  We decided to park and camp for the night on the hill, from which we could see the stage, and to wait until Saturday or Sunday to pay the admission price.  I don't remember hearing Buddy Rich, Duke Ellington, Roberta Flack or Stan Kenton that Friday.  But we camped that night on the hillside amidst tents of other young people all drinking and doing drugs.  In the middle of the night I recall motorcycles racing around among the tents, and hearing screams, and being scared to death because it was pitch black, the assumption being that the cyclists couldn’t possibly avoid running people over.

Sat, July 3: We awoke in the morning to the news that there was a hospital tent open and that many people were in it, most due to drug overdoses.  There were reports of bad acid having played a big part in the hospitalizations.  According to your website, the music began Saturday at 2 p.m. with Freddie Hubbard and Charles Mingus.  (Sadly, I don’t remember them.) But I do remember hearing Eubie Blake and Willie “the Lion” Smith that afternoon - a huge thrill for me..  That evening, I remember hearing Dave Brubeck, followed by Dionne Warwick – and it was during Dionne Warwick’s performance that a mass of campers who'd been camped on the hill – having observed that there remained empty seats among the folding chairs reserved for those who’d actually paid the price of admission – decided to simply storm the venue and take these better seats.  Masses of young people ran down the hill, across the narrow street, and began climbing the chain link fence.  When police cars occupied the road to prevent such access, people jumped on the hoods of the police cars and started jumping up and down.  After warnings, police on both sides of the chain link fence started using billyclubs to hit the fingers of those trying to climb the fence.  I believe a few persistent people made it over the fence.  While I have a recollection of the fence giving way and large numbers making it through where it had collapsed, that may actually just be my imagination at work, confusing it with other events of that era.. Somehow, I was shocked when, eventually, Dionne Warwicke stopped singing – amidst loud protests from the crowd on the hill that the music ought to be open to all, and that, with empty seats going unoccupied inside, it was “unfair” to let those seats go unused while people were forced to remain on the hill for free.  After some time, the announcement was made that the Festival had been cancelled.  People returned to their tents amidst a huge amount of grumbling about the unfairness of it all.


Sun, July 4, 1971:  We woke to the sound of police megaphones ordering us to pack up and leave, as (unbeknownst to us) we were on private property.  There was more grumbling and a general aversion to leaving.  After all, we ourselves had not engaged in any of the misconduct (apparently, apart from being on private property) and having driven a long way to get there, having our hearts set on good music, and having been willing to buy tickets until we realized what great seats were available on the hillside for free, we shared the notion that we would leave when we were ready to – i.e., after cleaning up, putting food and coffee in our bellies, etc.  But the instruction to vacate was soon followed by tear gas, which proved very effective in getting all of us moving very quickly.  It was a huge disappointment to me, I'd already seen Miles and some others, and would later hear most of the rest, but the cancellation of the event in that wonderful venue was so sad, and to think it was because of the misbehavior of a selfish crowd, well, I guess I didn't deserve the privlege of hearing Eubie Blake and Willie the Lion.  But kudos to the promoters who make such things possible, sometimes, despite problematic fans.




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