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Feature Stories

Summer of '88 Concert Debacle Recalled

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 17
8/23/2013


By Steve Propes

Exactly 25 years ago this month came the Summer of ’88 Together Rock and Country Festival at the Carson Street grounds of the Naval Hospital, now the site of the Long Beach Towne Center.

Pretty much the first sign of trouble was when the name Fats Domino was replaced by a new headliner, Chuck Berry. Both were icons in the roots of rock and roll. However, Fats Domino rarely traveled outside of New Orleans, while Chuck Berry, admittedly a very serious forefather of rock and roll, showed up at venues throughout the country on a regular basis. So Fats would be something special, not so much for Chuck.

However, the supporting acts were a serious lineup of some of the best rockers of the 1950s and 1960s – the Ventures, Wilson Pickett, Little Anthony, Johnny Rivers and Carl Perkins. The emcee duties were shared by comedic personality, Bowzer, bass voice of Sha Na Na and legendary border DJ Wolfman Jack, who welcomed the “fans from Lakeside,” certainly not a good sign.

The Lakewood Chamber of Commerce had billed the concert as a fundraiser. In July, I was approached by the promoter who wanted a DJ to provide music, while acts came off the stage and before the show started.

We signed a contract for a $500 fee, enough to make lugging a crate full of LPs onstage and off worth my while. Actually, to do that part, I subcontracted with a younger friend named Dave to do the heavy lifting, for real, as a box of about 50 records can be heavy.

When I got to the stage, I found the stage manager, contrary to my request to do so, had not anchored the DJ booth, making playing records on a shaky stage during act changes impossible, so I never performed for the crowd of under 3,500, certainly a disappointing turnout. The next day’s country lineup brought out slightly more fans, but the chamber lost in the six figures on this fundraising attempt.

When the chamber’s Dewey Smith alleged in an article that he had notified all contractors about payment, having missed yours truly, I filed suit for my $500. That’s when the People’s Court contacted me. I agreed to appear, but they never called back.

On the court date, a rep from the chamber told me the chamber didn’t want to have their case hashed out on TV. After discovery between the parties, I was told Smith ignored me because he thought I had conspired with the promoter to shake him down. I won.

The chamber’s lawyer then offered to settle for $250. I countered with $300, as I knew that $250 was the People’s Court appearance fee, which I would have made by appearing.

On October 20, the attorney sent me a check, which I made sure cleared before I sent the release. I still have a copy of that check. The chamber did not return calls asking for comment about this historical event. Oh yeah, deduct $50 from the $300 to finally pay Dave as promised.

steve@longbeachcomber.com