National Jazz & Blues Festival , Sunbury, 1968

National Jazz & Blues Festival , Sunbury, 1968
Authored By John Nicholson

An important festival as the UK got its groove on. Held between August 9-11th, 1968. After the disaster at Windsor in 1967, the festival moved in 1968 to Kempton Park Racecourse in Surrey. 

It didn’t always go smoothly. Arthur Brown set his hair on fire, playing ‘Fire’ as you would imagine. He did this a lot, so it didn’t perturb the crowd unduly.  Then there was the little fact that a walkway collapsed under the weight of those sitting on it. 

This actually injured 74 people, some of whom had to be taken to hospital. 

But these were minor concerns for a crowd of up to 50,000 keen to hear the latest bands of the day who were tearing up places like the Marquee. However, the organization of the festival went through some difficulties before getting off the ground, when the Windsor Borough Council refused to grant a dancing licence. Yes, you needed a licence to dance!

As expressed by the secretary of the Marquee John Gee on the programme of the club published in February 1868, on January 8th the NJF appealed at the Windsor Court. 

All very heavy vibes but the good guys had some heavy friends.

Witnesses called on behalf of the Festival organisers included Mr. Robin Scott, controller of BBC's Radio One and Two, Mr. George Melly, pop music critic of The Observer, and Mr. Frederick Woods, critic of The Gramophone. 

Windsor's police chief, Supt. John Snowley said that the police had no objection to the festival and that last year they had received full co-operation from the Festival Organisers. 

So despite the locals' attempt to nix the grooving, it went ahead anyway. Harold Pendleton described the decision of the Windsor Magistrates as "an enormous, staggering relief".

The full line-up was Time Box, Marmalade, Mike Westbrook Band, Ronnie Scott Quintet, Jon Hendricks, Don Rendell, Ian Carr Quintet, Alan Haven Trio, Joe Cocker and the Grease Band, Deep Purple, Tyrannosaurus Rex, The Jeff Beck Group, The Nice, Ginger Baker, Arthur Brown, Eclection, The Johnstons, Sonya, Nite People, Al Stewart, Fairport Convention, Tramline, John Mayall, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Chicken Shack, Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Dynaflow Blues, John Peel, Savoy Brown, Duster Bennett, The Herd, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Taste, Incredible String Band.

This was the cream of UK blues, rock and folk and it’d cost you 15 shillings to get in on the Saturday 

After the event, the Daily Record was quoted as saying “Plagued by disaster and countless setbacks The Sunbury Festival presented some of the best musical entertainment ever seen”.

Amen to that.

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