Piper Rock Festival, Newton Falls, Ohio. May 1970

Piper Rock Festival, Newton Falls, Ohio. May 1970
Authored By John Nicholson

The Piper Rock Festival was originally scheduled at Peace Park in Akron, Ohio. Tickets went on sale and after over 10,000 were sold, the City Of Akron got a restraining order against the promoters of the show. This was a classic move by county hall to try and stop freaks getting their not inconsiderable freak on. It happened time and again, but the savvy promoters were often one step ahead of the game, and had already scouted out an alternative location as a back up.

So the promoters of the show went on a search to find a suitable location to hold the concert without letting the authorities know where it would take place. Smart move, dude. 

They finally found a place at the Louis Lightner farm in Newton Falls on old State Route 534, about an hour from Akron near Youngstown. Just to give The Man no chance to nix this one, they actually waited until the day before the show to announce the new location. They decided to use a local biker gang as security! That’s never a good idea really, is it? 

On Sunday May 24, 1970 The Rascals, Canned Heat, The Byrds, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, Cold Blood, Glass Harp, Pig Iron Blues Band, Alice Cooper (a late edition not on the poster), Smith were scheduled to  play this one-day festival.

There was a lot of rain in the morning, some people checked out and went into town while it cleared, returning later. 

Someone who worked the show recalls: 

“There was an out-of-town crew who had built the stage. The workers were led by a hippie named "Thumper" who was a big guy with very long black hair and a big black beard. It was a bit of a disaster. It poured with rain all night and continued into the day.

The way we got equipment up to the top of the stage was to pass the amps and stuff hand-to-hand up a narrow wooden flight of stairs. It was nuts - we could have lost people.

"There was a clause in Canned Heat's contract that required the festival to give them limousine transportation, but they didn’t get it. The backstage area was a sea of mud. Most vehicles were up to their axles in it and stuck. But this crazy young farmer guy named Ed Hatch (who I knew from Akron) showed up in his pickup truck, which was the only thing that could move through the mud. He was immediately pressed into service. Since I knew him, he let me ride in the back when he drove out to pick up Kenny Rogers and band from their stuck tour bus out by the road and took them to the backstage area. So I got to ride in the truck bed with Kenny & his band.”

The Byrds refused to go on fearing getting electrocuted and there were a lot of sound problems in the morning and while things dried up and the sound improved in the afternoon,  the uptight straights were still intent on stopping the festival and eventually turned up with the cops when Pig Iron Blues Band were on stage with Canned Heat’s Bob Hite and Blind Owl. They told the promoters that this was to be the last band that’d be allowed to play. Word got to The Bear about this so, in a clever move, the whole of Canned Heat and The Rascals got on stage and used Pig Iron as a backing band, extending the show by a couple of hours.  Well, you said it was the last band, man, you didn’t say how long they could play for. Ha.

The Newton Falls Herald, reported that over 10,000 people came. It was referred to as a “lark in the mud” and that there was “skinny dipping in the Mahoning River.” The June 3 and 17, 1970 copies of the paper both had front page articles about concerns of its being repeated and seeking to ban future concerts. Those sneaky hippies had got the better of them again.

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