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"I PREDICT A RIOT"

BY MUSIC BIZ LEGEND RON WATTS

11-08-2006

Don't believe all that hippy peace and love nonsense…Ron Watts who earned fame and fortune as a rock promoter cut his teeth as a a vocalist fronting notorious '70s band Brewers Droop, and he knows the truth of it. In this final extract from his autobiography, Ron recalls the Buxton Festival, which could so easily have turned into the Altamont of The Peak District. But didn't.

"Buxton summed up everything that could be bad, dangerous and downright disgraceful about the festivals of the early '70s.

Whoever had the bright idea to stage an open-air event on an exposed moor in a place that has the highest annual rainfall in England should have been forced to endure the conditions their paying customers went through.

Chuck Berry topped the bill, and a host of other acts played including the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Nazareth and Wizzard.

It rained, and the field turned into a quagmire and the Hells Angels who had been hired as security drank until their money ran out, then went through the crowd solicting ‘donations' for more beer.

Chuck was pissed off with the situation, as we all were. The dressing rooms were an old RAF bomb shelter and the people running the event completely amateurish.

Mr Berry came on, did 20 minutes, then went into his famous duckwalk. He started at one end of the stage, carried on into the wings, and duckwalked straight into a waiting car and away.

We were due on stage next and the atmosphere was evil.

Right from the first number the air was filled with flying bottles, cans, anything that could be thrown was thrown and I was the main target of anyone who wanted to vent their frustration at being ripped-off and treated badly.

I stopped mid-song and launched into a rant with all the venom I could muster.

'I know you're pissed off, but it isn't your fault, it isn't our fault. It's the promoter's fault.'

That got some of the crowd on my side and then, with miraculous timing, a helicopter flew overhead.

'Look' I shouted, pointing up. 'There he is. There's the bastard flying off now. And he's got all the money with him.'

That got a cheer and amazingly, we finished the set without major incident.

Next time we were playing in the area, some very serious-looking men came into the dressing room, introduced themselves as detectives, and thanked us for our performance, which they said, had averted a riot.

Our guitarist claims we got a mention in the Police Gazette, but that might just be wishful thinking.'

From “Hundred Watts - A Life In Music” by Ron Watts. £7.99 inc p&p from Heroes Publising, P.O. Box 1703, Perry Barr, Birmingham B42 1UZ. More details from www.heroespublishing.co.uk

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