The Country Music Fesival at Portsmouth Airport 8th/9th/10th August 1980
Portsmouth's ambitious three day open-air Country and Western music festival looked to have ended on a financially sour note today
For only about 20,000 of the expected 150,000 fans turned up over the weekend, to see the lavish event on the city's former airport.
Promoters Fullmore Festivals spent an estimated, £500 000 on staging the shows with stars Glen Campbell, the Nashville Superplckers,
But ticket sales are estimated to have netted only shoot £170,000.
British Rail which ran scores of special trains for the hoped-for influx of fans, admitted today it had had "caught a cold" financially
And traders on the 120 acre site were also counting the cost of the poor attendance.
Said, Gerry Coates whose Basingstoke travel firm spent about £25,000 building a mini Texas town on the airport, “I stand to lose about £12 000. I do not think there was enough national publicity."
A series of zany competitions planned by Mr. Coates was cancelled because of lack of entrants and to cut losses.
One competition offered a holiday in Texas as top prize,
Said Mr, Coates: 'I called it off because that would have cost me another £500 "
Mr. Robin West , a director of Fullmore Festivals, told The News today: "Personally I will be happy to try and have another festival next year. We will be looking very closely at what happened this year to see what lessons we can learn."
Mr. West said he was unable to comment on the financial side of the festival.
Today City Council Leisure Committee chairman Mr, Charles Moss who pressed for the festival to be given the go-ahead by the corporation said: "Whatever the final implications for the promoters, they can be proud to have presented such a marvellous show.
Everything was right The sound was superb, the weather, perfect, and the level of performance was first class,
It was an outstanding success in every way but people just did not turn up," he said.
The city council will not lose any money over the festival,
It was paid £20,000 before the event to cover costs of police, marquees, fencing, and other services,
It also took three percent, of the gate money,
'Said Mr, Mos; "We have made a profit although we will have to give some money back to the promoters because we did not have to tag
on all the services that we expected."
He said he would support the promoters if they wished to attempt another Country and Western event next year. ,
A spokesman for Southern Region of British Rail said today: "We caught a cold, Normal services would have been adequate to have catered for the numbers using trains to get to and from the festival,"
Southern Region managed to cancel some of Its planned 80 special trains but many still ran to ensure they were in the right places for normal services today, he said.
A Portsmouth police spokesman sold today: "It was like a holiday for us, The whole atmosphere was like a carnival everyone enjoyed themselves and the problems for the police were so small that they can be forgotten about." Traffic control arrangements around the festival site worked smoothly and there were no delays, he said.
If any performer could be relied upon to give Portsmouth's Country Music Festival the finale it deserved, it was Johnny Cash.
For his shortage of hit numbers in recent years Cash still stands like a
great oak tree at the heart of the country music business.
He is to C. & W. what John Wayne was to the western movie. Solid and
reliable, the guardian of old values and the rock against which the tide of new trends and performers beat, and then fall back.
The fans who flocked in their thousands to Portsmouth Airport last night ----groups of them came from, Europe and American as well as all over retain ----
were the same people who had recognized his immense talent in the fifties
and were now looking to salute him in the autumn of his career.
Cash commands loyalty because he has remained his own man. Throughout the lean years, and the fat, the music and the message have been truw to their roots. There is integrity about some of his songs which owes much to the darker days of his private life ---- an integrity which , even as the cheques got fatter and the houses bigger --- has protected that special relationship he enjoys with his followers.
On a balmy evening --- warm enough to remind him of his beloved South --- Cash grabbed his audience with the song which has become his anthem "Folsom Prison," and held it, with help from wife June Carter and very fine musicians, for the next 90 minutes.
He still sings the Kris Kristofferson classic, "Sunday Morning Coming Dawn," better than any other artist, and the roars - as well as the gunfire - which greeted the songs in his cowboy medley showed the western element among his followers to be as strong as ever.
We were treated to the hauntingly beautiful "Streets of
Laredo' and what Cash himself describes as the greatest Cow-boy song of all, "Ghost Riders in the Sky."
He reminded us that it was 24 years since he wrote "I Walk The Line," but his delivery last night enhanced by the finest sound system any performer
could ask for gave it a verve and freshness which rolled back the years.
June Carter, whose spirit had helped to deliver Cash from the pills and the depression, rolled back the years still further with some of the early Carter family numbers.
The audience called for, and got, a rousing rendition of Jackson, culminating in Mr. Cash giving Mrs. Cash the sort of kiss which must have done much to fortify the over forties:
The Portsmouth air certainly seemed to agree with the man in black. After a somewhat tepid concert in Brighton last year, the old growler was in a joyous mood and his encore rounded off by the ever-popular "Orange Blossom Special” had him cavorting around the stage like some youngster in a rock band. Nice one J.C.
Billie Jo Spears, a' top of the bill star in her own right,
preceded Cash. She struck up an immediate rapport with her audience and it is easy to see why with her wit and warmth she is in such heavy demand -- -
a hundred personal appearances a year.
She was at her best when giving the country treatment of the disco number '"I Will survive," but the biggest cheers from an adoring audience were reserved for the song which took her to the top, of the U.S. and British hit parades in 1975, "Lay Your Blanket on the Ground:"
Saturday night was a night without stars - real big Nashville stars at any rate. But the gloom which had fallen over the Festival programme since Dolly Parton's withdrawal' was not completely unrelieved.
A brave attempt was made to produce a new Tennessee super-novum by assembling the Nashville Superpickers, seven of the cream of Music City's session men, to top the bill.
With tireless good humour and much mutual backscratching, the galloped through an unadventurous set ranging from a messy opening "Orange Blossom Special" to an harmonica version of "Amazing Grace."
But, when all's said, and done, it must be admitted that the their did not live up to their massive build-up and the fault lay in the sheer quality of their individual musicianship.
As they are all virtuosi - and no one could fault the guitar laying of Phil Baugh, the fiddling of Buddy Spicher or the strident hasp of Terry McMillan - to name but three - no single member of the band exerts a controlling
influence so the lead was passed back and forth four or five times in a number and, as a result no consistent sound emerged!
The band failed to function as a unit and the music often sagged between high spots of individual brilliance.
Earlier Merle Haggard's wife, Leona Williams, treated us to the feminist version of hubby's anthem, "Working Man's Blues." Producing a sound as pure and as easily digested as country butter, she sang, played fiddle and acoustic guitar (rather pointless without a microphone) but overestimated-her vocal talents in tackling "How Great Thou Art."
Hank Williams Junior, guitar slung-casually over one shoulder, produced good raunchy music right from the stars and knocked some life into What had been a rather subdued audience. Soon the six-guns were blazing as Hank, secure in the mane of his legendary father, tackled the record for the greatest number of country singers named in one song.
Tom T. Hall confine his references to predecessors to rather indulgent ad-libs between songs, but country fans like their music put in context and responded well to Hall's homely patter.
Musically, he proved a slick, all-round entertainer, switching easily from piano to bongo to harmonica. His low-key mix of gospel, bluegrass and unpolluted country sentiment marked him as the most accomplished middle-of-the-road performer of the night.
Finally, a word of praise for the engineers who managed the difficult task of producing a clear, well-balanced sound at an outdoor event - even the upper register rang through loud and clear. Technical brilliance at least made the most of what was, musically, a fairly undistinguished evening. PT