A look back at SPAC: 30 years ago

Over the weekend, I found an old program from the 1979 Newport Jazz Festival at Saratoga, and one of the things that intrigued me was the summer schedule for SPAC that year.

There were three weeks of the New York City Ballet in July, and three weeks in August of the Philadelphia Orchestra – including a world premiere commissioned by SPAC. The Acting Company returned for an expanded six-week season of theater in the Spa Little Theater. The special event concerts ranged from Frank Sinatra to the Allman Brothers Band, from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to Steve Martin to Shaun Cassidy. And the summer was capped off with a three-day country music festival in early September.

The jazz festival ran for 12 hours each day and featured such performers as Grover Washington, Jr., Muddy Waters (with special guest Johnny Winter), Fats Domino, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Carmen McRae, Lonnie Liston Smith, Machito, Lionel Hampton, Betty Carter, B.B. King and the Festival Jam Session featuring George Benson, Art Blakey, Jon Faddis, David Friesen, Dizzy Gillespie, Roland Hanna, Eddie Harris, Roy Haynes, Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Ronnie Laws, Gerry Mulligan and Cal Tjader – all in the same band.

Oh yeah, and one more thing – lawn tickets to the jazz fest cost $9.50, while reserved amphitheater tickets were just $15 (balcony) and $16 (downstairs).

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