Today in History – July 3, 1969: Newport Jazz Fest experiments with rock music

The Newport Jazz Festival first experimented with rock music on July 3, 1969.

The 1969 festival program was an experiment in the fusion of jazz, soul and rock music and audiences. Its lineup included, in addition to jazz, Friday night appearances by rock bands Jeff Beck, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Ten Years After and Jethro Tull. Saturday’s program mixed jazz bands such as Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck with others including John Mayall and Sly & the Family Stone.

James Brown was among those who appeared on Sunday afternoon, followed in the evening by Herbie Hancock, blues musician BB King and English rock band Led Zeppelin.

Miles Davis commented that the various artists involved were very supportive of each other and that he was enjoying the festival more than ever. He noticed and appreciated the fiery nature of the young audience. But some clashes took place. Excess crowds estimated at twenty thousand who had been unable to secure tickets filled an adjacent hill, and the weekend was marred by disruptions including collapsing fences and packed crowds at the most popular performances .

Saturday night’s unrest was particularly significant, prompting producer George Wein, who feared a riot, to announce that Led Zeppelin’s Sunday night appearance was cancelled. This show was allowed to go ahead as originally planned after much of the crowd left town following the announcement of the cancellation.

For 1971, the festival booked The Allman Brothers Band, a pioneering Southern bluesrock band. Many more fans were attracted than Festival Field could handle. On the second night of the festival, after the recording of what was to be released as “The Dave Brubeck Quartet featuring Gerry Mulligan – The Last Set at Newport” on Atlantic Records, more than 12,000 people (future festival-goers combined with young anti-Vietnam War protesters of that era) occupying the adjacent hill crushed the fence during Dionne Warwick’s performance of “What The World Needs Now Is Love”, sparking a major disruption.

That year’s festival was halted after the stage was rushed by intruders and equipment was destroyed.

The festival will not return to Newport in 1972, it will be in Newport York and then in Saratoga Springs for several years. The Newport Jazz Festival would eventually return to Newport in 1981.

Ryan Belmore is the editor of What’sUpNewp.
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named the best local news blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention. at the Common Good Awards. in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. As well as living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville and East Greenwich.

Belmore is currently Vice Chairman of the Fort Adams Trust Board and the Potter League For Animals Board. He previously served on the board of Lucy’s Hearth and the Newport County Arts and Culture Alliance.

Belmore and his wife, Jen, currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, a decision they made in 2021. Read more about it here – -publisher-some-personal -news/

Belmore visits Newport bi-weekly to support the 12+ paid contributors What’sUpNewp has on the ground across Rhode Island, a place he has called home for 39 years.

Belmore is a member of the Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION), the Society of Professional Journalists and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.

In 2020, Belmore was named member of the year by LION and won the Dominque Award from the Newport County Arts and Culture Alliance.
Belmore can be reached at and 401-662-1653.

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Ada J. Kenney