Newport Folk Festival

From Academic Kids

The Newport Folk Festival is an annual folk-oriented music festival founded in 1959 by George Wein, founder of the already-well-established Newport Jazz Festival, and his partner, Albert Grossman.

Grossman was soon to become the manager of Bob Dylan, who would become the artist most famously (and infamously) associated with the festival. Dylan appeared without incident in 1963 and 1964, accompanied by Joan Baez (who in turn had been one of the first discoveries of the first Newport Folk Festival in the company of Chicago musician Bob Gibson).

In 1965, however, Dylan was roundly booed for appearing with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, a professional, racially-mixed electric blues band. Dylan was regarded by folk purists as betraying his "folkie roots" by so doing, although defenders noted that he had an album in the Top Twenty radio airplay charts for most of 1965 which used electric instrumentation, and that the performance was modelled on the standard practice of Muddy Waters, a black musician who had been using the electric guitar in his performances for years.

Dylan left the stage as a result of the booing, but was persuaded to return by Joan Baez. He sang two songs, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", clearly a farewell to the "traditional folkies" who had booed him offstage, and "Mister Tambourine Man", which was to become a hit for The Byrds, and left Newport, not to return until 2002, when he was welcomed back with open arms.

Bruce Jackson, who was a director of the Newport Folk Festival, calls the stories of the audience booing Bob Dylan at Newport '65 "the myth of Newport". His article on the subject is at [1] ( Professor Jackson was present at the 1965 concert and in 2002 reviewed an audio tape of the performance, with a partial transcript at the link. It seems the booing at the concert was directed at emcee Peter Yarrow, who upset the crowd when he attempted to keep Dylan's spot to its proper length rather than let the crowd hear more of his music. There's nothing to indicate the crowd disliked Dylan's music, electrified or not.

The Newport Folk Festival fell on hard times in the later 1960's, even briefly closing its doors, in 1971, but survived this to continue as one of the major folk music festivals in the United States, next to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, which began in 1960 and has continued to run without interruption ever since.

In recent years a multi-act bill, only loosely centered around folk music, has toured the US under the Newport Folk Festival moniker.

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