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more bare breasts than I could have ever hoped for

December 9, 2011

While I was posting last week about Wolfman Jack, among others, Wikipedia

reminded me about the Ozark Music Festival, which the Wolfman hosted.  I

was one of the 350,000 or so sweltering souls at the festival.  This is my best

recollection of the event.

 

Today is the perfect time to tell it.  It’s below freezing outside, which is a stun-

ning palette of whites, off-whites, slightly-off-whites and greys. Fog’s wandering

through the valley.  The shallows of the pond are solidifying,  slowly herding

the ducks to the middle.

 

Friday,July 19th, 1974, was the polar opposite of today, if the poles could get

hot.  It was a typically miserable mid-summer day in southeastern Kansas.

We could almost swim in the humidity — we being me and my friends Dick

and Ducks.  We worked at an adolescent group home.  That morning we had

to interview a kid for admission, then we were heading to central Missouri

to rock out for the weekend.

 

The festival, being held at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, had lined

up some top groups.  Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, BTO, Charlie Daniels, the

Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ted Nugent, Boz Scaggs, Bob Seger and Spirit led the

way.  We were particularly keen to catch the Eagles.  Their Desperado album,

released in ’73, had captivated us with its treatment of the Dalton gang

shootout in nearby Coffeyville.

 

Our interviewee and his social worker didn’t show up until late afternoon.

Then we had to drive to Kansas City to leave my seven-year-old son with my

parents.  After supper with them, we called the Missouri Highway Patrol and

found out that the interstate to Sedalia was actually clear.  We headed out.

 

We got there about 11 p.m.  As we neared the main stages, we walked through

a traffic tunnel filled with drug vendors.  I made a few purchases, knowing that

if I ran out and had no money left, I could hang around the pot-smoke-filled

tunnel until I’d reached my target saturation point.

 

We found a spot between two school buses parked next to the fence that sep-

arated the spectators from the spectacles.  There was a service road on the

other side of the buses.  Joe Walsh was just finishing “Rocky Mountain Way”.

I asked a neighbour if the Eagles had played yet.

 

“Oh, yeah, man,” he replied.  “Just before Walsh.  Two fuckin’ hours.”

 

Walsh was the last act of the night.  Wolfman Jack came out and asked us to

settle in for the night because there was a lot of music lined up for tomorrow.

When the first band kicked things off Saturday, it was already hot.  It hit 107 F.

(42 C.).  One would think such a temp would burn the humidity out of the air.

One would be wrong that day.

 

It was just brutal.  We stayed in our spot, moving only to keep in the shade.

The spot was not without its advantages.  We were close to the stages.  The

thousands of folks constantly walking by included hundreds of bare-breasted

women.  I hate to admit this even now, but I would lose interest from time to

time.  It had to be the heat.

 

By afternoon, the overdoses began piling up.  Speed and a blistering sun don’t

particularly go well together.  Golf carts with a driver and a slumped over pas- 

senger beeped their way through the throngs on the road.  Helicopters flew

the OD’s out.

 

By evening, it was slightly less hot.  I amused myself by watching a couple

copulate under the bus in front of us.  They would roll one way, then back,

as if they were somehow cradled by the flat Missouri ground.  When they

finished, she exited from under one side of the bus, he the other.  I wonder

if they still write each other.

 

Then a guy tried to climb over the fence that separated the air-conditioned

RV’s of the musicians from the sweaty masses.  A security guard clubbed the

guy’s knuckles until he gave up.  Later, when Kansas demi-god Jim Ryun

addressed those masses and frothed on about all the love and peace he saw,

I wanted to yell out about the knuckle busting.  But that would have required

energy.

 

At 10 p.m. it was still beastly, even though there was abundant shade.  I was

still dripping sweat, wondering why we couldn’t get a break like the famous

thunderstorm at Woodstock.  Then, from a cloudless sky, I felt water drops

cool on my skin.  Was this our deliverance?

 

No.  It was a guy on top of one of the buses pissing on us.  Mind you, it wasn’t

malicious urination.  He was yelling “Whee!” and twisting his body in an

oscillating water sprinkler manner.  It was over before anyone could muster

up enough strength or interest to move. 

 

Dick, Ducks and I left Sunday when there were still some bands to play.  We

were wrung out.  With the relentless heat and humidity, the endless casualties

and the choppers overhead, it was too much like Vietnam for me.  On the plus

side, the music was better and our beer stayed cooler.


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4 Comments
  1. beth reed permalink
    December 10, 2011 7:15 am

    LOL What a memory and experience. I would have loved that concert but would have not stayed since my body requires comfort. It’s funny what we do when we are young.
    The humidity is a wicked beast. But you survived and that was a good thing. Did you ever get to see the Eagles?

    • December 10, 2011 11:52 am

      Actually, I did, two years later at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. Kemper was built for rodeos, hockey and basketball, so it’s more rectangular than most large venues. My seat, without exaggeration, was as far away from the stage as possible. The only advantage to that was all the pot smoke that drifted to the rafters when the lights went down and the crowd sparked up. The band walked out and Glenn Rey said “Hello, we’re the Eagles, from Los Angeles.” There was no snappy patter between songs, and the guys looked like dots in the distance. Other than Frey’s intro, five people picked at random from the audience could have been lip-synching their tunes, for all I could tell. But when they did “Lyin’ Eyes” and got to the line “another night, it’s gonna be a long one,” they sang “a Missouri night” and the crowd went nuts. Joe Walsh was with the band by then. Actually, he joined about a month after The Ozark Music Festival. The lads came out of an Eagles song midway through the concert and charged right into “Funk 49”. And, damn, did they nail it.

  2. beth reed permalink
    December 11, 2011 7:43 pm

    OMG How awesome. You have had some great experiences. I got to meet John Fogerty when I lived in Vegas at a party. He was all jusst into himself, thought he s all that.
    Like you I went to Dallas to see The scorpions and Iron maiden but could barely see them from where I was sitting.
    I love music of all kinds but the best i ever seen was in 1979 at the grand ole opry. It was wonderful.

    • December 12, 2011 11:11 am

      You find the best of music in the oddest places. I went to a blue grass festival in Winfield, Kansas, in the early 70’s, where I heard a band cover Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk”. Paul Desmond’s incredible saxophone lead was redone on banjo. It was unbelievable. Later, another group led the audience in a 2 a.m. version of “Amazing Grace”. Also unbelievable.

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