memories of the ’70s – Summer Jam at Watkins Glen

6a01a3fcec1396970b01b8d1449be1970cIn the early 1970s, fans of three major bands descended on New York State to experience the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen.

Produced by Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplik, the Summer Jam featured three major bands of the era: The Grateful Dead, The Band and The Allman Brothers.

The promoters sold 150,000 tickets at $10 each, but in the end, over 600,000 people showed up. Slated for July 28, 1973.  fans started showing up on the 27th to the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Raceway in upstate New York.

The Grateful Dead played first, an extended two hour set as the band is well-known for in its live performances. The Band played two hours as well, but during the performance had to contend with a thunderstorm and the concert area becoming a mud pit.

The Allman Brothers Band performed for three hours followed by an all-star jam for an hour with members of all three bands performing songs such as Not Fade Away, Mountain Jam and Johnny B. Goode.

And for all those people in the northeast who didn’t appear at Watkins Glen, a pirate radio station CFR AM/FM from Hartford, Connecticut set up five days before the concert, pretending to be from Canada. With a rotating group of DJs, their studio was located in an RV, and played tunes, reported on the concert set-up and traffic as the big day approached.

On the day of the concert, CFR AM/FM interviewed band members and broadcast the concert live as well as stayed after the concert’s conclusion to help fans get home through the traffic. The pirate radio station benefited from Watkins Glen’s location on a hill to send its signal far and wide throughout the northeast.

The concert promoters sent a submission to the Guinness Book of World Records for hosting the largest audience at a rock festival. Never repeated by the bands, the festival was one of the summer success stories of 1973, with no injuries and many good memories.


About Waheeda Harris

A pop culture junkie with a penchant for exploring our planet.
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