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The Long Forgotten 8th National Jazz, Pop, Ballads And Blues Festival

This was the festival that began life as the Richmond Jazz Festival in 1960, morphed into the Jazz and Blues Festival in 1963 and had in 1964 played host to The Rolling Stones

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The 8th National Jazz & Blues Festival

The 8th National Jazz, Pop, Ballads and Blues Festival held on the second weekend of August 1968 is one of the least remembered of all the late 1960s outdoor events. It’s possibly because it had such a diverse line-up that it lacked some of the musical focus that other festivals managed to achieve. Yet even a cursory run down of the artists that performed shows it to be one worth looking back upon.

This was the festival that began life as the Richmond Jazz Festival in 1960, morphed into the Jazz and Blues Festival in 1963 and had in 1964 played host to The Rolling Stones and in 1966 Cream played their second ever gig at the new Festival site in Windsor.

In 1968 the festival moved to Kempton Park, more at home to horse racing than music fans, and as its new name suggests it tried to cover just about every musical base. Friday was definitely the ‘Pop’ night with Herd, Peter Frampton’s band as headliners along with Marmalade, who had just had their first hit with ‘Lovin’ Things’, and “The Killer” himself, Jerry Lee Lewis, closed the show. Definitely not pop was the Rory Gallagher led blues band, Taste who had only just moved to England from Ireland. They would become ubiquitous on the circuit of clubs, universities and festivals over the next few years before Rory broke up the band to go solo with a new trio.

Saturday afternoon was given over to jazz with Jon Hendricks topping the bill along with Ronnie Scott’s Quintet and opening the proceedings was the always inventive Mike Westbrook Band.

Deep Purple were another daylight hours act on Saturday, this was the very earliest incarnation of the band that had just finished recording their debut album, Shades of Deep Purple; their set was much of their debut and included both ‘Hush’ and ‘Hey Joe’. Their line-up at the time was Rod Evans on vocals, Jon Lord on organ, guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore, Nicky Simper on bass and Ian Paice on drums.

Joe Cocker was there with the Grease Band and was a relative unknown having released his first single, ‘Marjorine’ in May that barely scrapped into the UK Top.50. However, within a few months everyone had heard of him when he topped the charts with his cover of Lennon & McCartney’s ‘With A Little Help From My Friends.’

You can all join in_edited-1Two other bands that fall into the long forgotten category are the Nite People, a Prog Rock band from Bournemouth who never managed to get above support band status and Clouds. Clouds released their debut album Scrapbook in 1969 and were also featured in the famous Island sampler, You Can All Join In that was released in early 1969, featuring Free, Traffic, Fairport Convention, Tramline and Jethro Tull – all artists that appeared at Kempton Park.

Before the big names on Saturday evening was Tyrannosaurus Rexin the pre electric folk days with Marc and Steve Took sitting cross legged on the stand delicately doing ‘Deborah’ that had briefly flirted with the charts a couple of months earlier.

Ten Years After, a year before their appearance at Woodstock that catapulted them to world wide fame were next on stage; they had released their debut album in October 1967 and were very much a blues band. The Jeff Beck Group followed TYA and this was a band to savour. Rod Stewart on vocals, Ronnie Wood on bass, the late, lamented Nicky Hopkins on piano and Micky Waller on drums. Their classic album, Truth had just been released and the tracks from it, including, ‘The Shape of Things’, ‘Beck’s Bolero’, ‘Morning Dew’ and ‘You Shook Me’, made up much of their set.

Also appearing was the Nice, whose awesome rendition of ‘America’ was on the UK charts. Played live this featured Keith Emerson plunging knives between the keys of his Hammond B3 to sustain the notes while he rocked the hell out of Leonard Bernstein’s classic from ‘West Side Story’. While it sounds exciting on record, experiencing it being performed live was something that no one who saw it will ever forget. Topping the bill was the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, whose single ‘Fire’ had just got to No.1 on the UK charts.
680800 Kempton Park _edited-1
Sunday opened with a singer called Sonya, followed by Al Stewart who had released his debut Bedsitter Images the previous year. Folk-Rock band, Eclection had just released their debut album and this band that featured both Trevor Lucas and Gerry Conway who would later form Fotheringay (Lucas married Sandy Denny), was excellent. They have long been forgotten but anyone who saw them at the time or heard that first album remembers them fondly.

Eclection were followed by Fairport Convention, whose line-up at the time was arguably its best, Sandy Denny and Ian Matthews on vocals, Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol on guitars, Ashley Hutchings on bass and Martin Lamble on drums. The band had just released their debut album, but that album was recorded with a different line-up. They had already started recording their second album, What We Did On Our Holidays and much of their set was taken from this new material.

The last act in the afternoon session was The Incredible String Band who were another, along with TYA and Joe Cocker that would play at Woodstock the following year.

Tramline opened the evening session. Their cover of traffic’s ‘Pearly Queen’ was on the Island sampler on You Can All Join In. Their main claim to fame is that their guitarist was the excellent Micky Moody who later played with Whitesnake. They were followed by Dynaflow Blues, who took their name from an old Johnny Shines song, but about whom we know absolutely nothing.

The evening progressed with Chicken Shack featuring the excellent Stan Webb on guitar and Christine Perfect, who would later join Fleetwood Mac and marry John Mcvie, on piano. Barely known at the time was the next band to play, Jethro Tull, who were in the middle of recording their debut album, This Was and whose set was made up of this amazing record, including the brilliant ‘Song For Jeffrey’.

Spencer Davis Group feature Eddie Hardin and Pete York followed Tull, a tough ask, and then it was time for John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. The band that has more incarnations than most any other in the history of the blues and at this time featured Colin Allen on drums, Steve Thompson on bass and Mick Taylor on guitar. Eleven months later Taylor made his debut at Hyde Park with the Rolling Stones. Two weeks after appearing at the Kempton Festival Mayall’s band went into the studio to record Blues from Laurel Canyon.

To close the festival was Traffic, Messrs, Winwood, Capaldi, Mason and Wood had chalked up three top 10 singles in the UK and managed to pull off the near enough impossible feat of producing incredibly catchy singles that were at the same time cool. They had already recorded their second, self titled, album that would come out in October 1968. Their set included ‘Pearly Queen’, ‘Feelin’ Alright’, and ‘40,000 Headmen’ which all appeared on the LP; naturally their set closed with ‘Dear Mr Fantasy’ from their first album.

And there you have it. The long forgotten, 8th National Jazz, Pop, Ballads and Blues Festival at Kempton Park Racecourse; a veritable curate’s egg of a festival, but one that would have been a treat to attend.

We’ve recreated the long deleted sampler, You Can All Join In, minus a couple of unavailable tracks and added tracks that were played at the festival.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Claudia Staehr

    August 10, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    See p. 22 of Herb Staehr’s book: “Alvin Lee & Ten Years After-Visual History” for a full write-up. Also a photo of the complete handbill. Here is the Facebook page for the book: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alvin-Lee-and-Ten-Years-After-Visual-History-Herb-Staehr/148739255176995?fref=ts

  2. Mark Fuller

    October 17, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    re, the mysterious Sonya………could that be a typo ??? because, as Wikipedia (I know) says of Sonja Kristina, Curved Air’s vocalist-to-be, ” By 1968, …… Kristina was helping to run, and performing at, the Wednesday evening sessions at London’s Troubadour Folk Club. She was generally known on the folk scene as “Sonja” having previously appeared several times on the British children’s TV show “Song and Story” under that name”….either way, what a time to be alive and gig-attending……

  3. Jerry D. Withers

    August 9, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Now I’ll have to check my copy of You Can All Join In (which was the first Island album I ever owned! 🙂 ) to see which tracks got left off the playlist. [I’m guessing “What’s That Sound” (actual title, “For What It’s Worth”) by the pre-Spooky Tooth band Art, and “Gasoline Alley” by Wynder K. Frog (aka Derek “Blue” Weaver, if I recall correctly). And speaking of Eclection, why no mention of their chief composer, Georg Hultgreen (years before he became Georg Kajanus [Sailor, Data, Noir])? Just asking… 🙂

  4. Kevin

    August 9, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks so much for this page. I was only 12, here in the States at the time. I finally got to see Traffic on their last tour in 75. I just took my 2 grandsons to see Jeff Beck (for the 2nd time) two weeks ago. So, with luck, in 50 years, they’ll still be saying “I saw Jeff Beck”…and in a strange way….this festival will still be living on. Happy to say that one grandson is also listening to Traffic.

  5. Tony Coward

    September 17, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Sunbury. Came from Sheffield to see Joe Cocker ,Did. What we had seen in our local pubs Barely eighteen,up to our ankles in mud ,midnight. Arthur Brown performed “Fire”, appearing from a crane via the stage, on a zip wire to do his stuff,.Amazing, thanks Arthur, Then a pause, shall we go back to car and sleep? Cream had just broken up,calamity! Then unmistakable Sawf London drawl of Ginger Baker announced, I,ve got a surprise! It,s Eric…… Henceforward a performance of vertuosity, 47mins, yet to be exceeded, Drum solo’s definative. Best night I ever had, thanks Peter and Eric, I was there.

  6. Larry

    August 9, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    Traffic and Spencer Davis on the same bill. I wonder if SW sat in with Spencer Davis.

  7. Philip Lovgreen

    August 10, 2017 at 12:44 am

    I can remember all this as if it was yesterday. Happy days, wonderful, peaceful times. If only we could go back.

  8. Philip Lovgreen

    August 10, 2017 at 12:50 am

    Talking of the Spencer David Group, does anyone remember the film ‘Here we go around the mulberry bush’. I don’t think it’s ever been on tv, came out in late 67 or early 68. I saw it at the Odeon in Sutton, Surrey. I bought the soundtrack LP of it. It was about a lad (Barry Evans) who was lusting after a girl (Adrienne Posta). The group actually featured in it but it was after Stevie Winwood had left.

  9. jon

    August 10, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    was this the one where one of the covered walkways collapsed?

    • Bob Martin

      August 11, 2018 at 3:08 am

      It certainly was Jon, this was my very first music festival and it occurred when Eric Clapton(who was only advertised as “With Special Guest”) joined Ginger Baker & Phil Seaman (Battle of the Drums) on stage, a group of fans then surged forward to get a better view on top of a temporary corrugated iron covered walkway and the roof then collapsed. I believe several fans were badly hurt and unfortunately hospitalised that night. Otherwise it was a fantastic night topped off with the brilliant Traffic.

  10. Bob Martin

    August 15, 2018 at 12:10 am

    It’s very strange that the article writer Richard Havers, makes no mention of Saturday nights appearance of Ginger Baker with the late Phil Seaman giving us the “Battle of the Drums” performance and then the unscheduled(and well kept secret)appearance of Eric Clapton slinking on from the shadows to join them on stage (I had such an Awesome Night) but also doesn’t say anything of the unfortunate temporary walkway collapsing at the end of Eric & Gingers act and the start of Arthur Browns performance, where many fans were hurt and hospitalised.

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