This photo perfectly illustrates the deep and complex issues that need to be addressed there. It is not humane to build walls that separate loved ones. It is inhumane and wrong. -Clif
"It was 40-years-ago-today…" For 3 days, July 19-21, 1974, the Ozark Music Festival was held at the Missouri State Fairgrounds, in Sedalia, MO. It was the largest post-Woodstock rock festival ever held in the U.S., with estimates of between 180,000 to 200,00 people in attendance.
The night before the festival, myself and two friends, Steve and Mitzi, hitchhiked from where we lived in Aurora, MO, to the event. Arriving there late at night, we ran into a group of friends, and after we parked and sat on their tail-gate, we were transported into another world, where there was literally a constant stream of folks walking between the parked vehicles selling every kind of drug you would want, from acid to mescaline to heroin. One enterprising young guy had two mail carrier bags strapped around each shoulder and was walking along yelling “Acapulco Gold - get your Acapulco Gold here!!” And just down from us there was a carnival-like trailer with a large set of triple beam scales set up in the front window, where you could buy pot by ounce, or the pound, depending on what you wanted.
There were NO cops anywhere to be seen. Having been told it was going to be a “small bluegrass and pop-rock festival” that might attract a fifty thousand people. So, the city of Sedalia was unprepared for the huge crowds that were already arriving, and the area around the fairgrounds had been declared a “no-man’s land” by the powers-that-be. It was like the “Wild West.” Turns out, it had been advertised from coast-to-coast as the “don’t miss” event of the year, with the motto of “No Hassles Guaranteed.” And since the tickets we only $15, it drew folks from everywhere to see some of the biggest bands of the day.
On the morning of day-one, me and my friends walked into downtown to try to locate some food and at one intersection the policeman told us that the traffic was “backed up for 30+ miles in each direction.” Almost every restaurant and store in town was closed. We even passed a McDonald’s that had erected a fence around the lot and people (in protest) had thrown so much trash inside the fence that a VW Beetle parked inside was almost completely hidden by the waste…luckily my friends and I found a small cafe that was open, and after a 3-hour wait, we were able to get some breakfast. The folks there were real nice and happy to have our business, even if we were long-haired, and un-washed hippies. When we got back to the gates of the fairgrounds, I had my ticket ready, but there were holes cut in the fences where people were going in and lots of menacing looking Hell’s Angels who were guarding some holes. Needless to say, we ducked in an unguarded hole. I never needed my ticket.
In the next 3 days, I experienced some of the greatest music and witnessed some of the most-bizarre things I have ever seen, before, or since. It was extremely hot, so many women and men were partially - if not totally - nude. Food and water were almost impossible to find, and if you did, you paid dearly. I recall seeing ice selling for $10 a bag, which would be like $100 now.
The event was emceed by “Wolfman Jack” and while he was a beloved figure at the time, the crowd on the first night did not receive him very well, throwing bottles at him and yelling at him to “shut up.” Everyone just wanted to hear the music that was rotating between the two huge stages. I remember seeing Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elvin Bishop, The Eagles, Electric Flag, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes, Bob Seger, Marshall Tucker and many others. Jefferson Starship was a no-show (I believe), as were several others, but many who were not advertised came, including Aerosmith, who I did not see.
I was 15 at the time. It changed my life forever in so many ways. Mainly it gave a kid raised in a small town in the country the chance to experience the waning days of the 60’s-era hippie generation. A time when there was more individualism, and more really cool music. But, the state of MO was never the same after that show; concerts in the region became more like police-states, and the era of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” came to an end. Years, later, I met and eventually married a woman named Kathie Bartel, who was also at the festival. While we hadn’t known each other at the time, it was a shared memory that we had for the rest of our lives together (Kathie passed away in 2004.)
I see some of the spirit of the Ozark Mountain Music Festival living on in the youth of today; that same desire to connect to a simpler way of life, a rejection of commercialism, and a sense of individual spiritualism and compassion for the people around them. And that makes me very happy. :) ~Clif. July 19, 2014
PS: There is a documentary showing in Sedalia this weekend to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Ozark Music Festival, entitled: “The Ozark Music Festival: 3 Days of Sodom and Gomorrah.” Read about the film here: http://tinyurl.com/qeu435o.
I wish I was there to see it….
RIP Johnny Winter. Thanks for the music.