Summer Jam at Watkins Glen
The concert was produced by Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplik, two promoters who previously organized a successful Grateful Dead concert at Dillon Stadium, Hartford, Connecticut, in 1972. At the Dillon Stadium concert, the Grateful Dead were joined on-stage by Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, and Jai Johanny Johanson, members of The Allman Brothers Band. This impromptu jam planted the seeds that would eventually spawn the “Summer Jam” concert in Watkins Glen, NY.
Similar to the 1969 Woodstock Festival, an enormous traffic jam created chaos for those who attempted to make it to the concert site. Long and narrow country roads forced fans to abandon their vehicles and walk 5–8 miles on that hot summer day. 150,000 tickets were sold for $10 each, but for all the other people it was a free concert. The crowd was so huge that a large part of the audience was not able to see the stage; however, twelve huge sound amplifiers, installed courtesy of legendary promoter Bill Graham, allowed the audience to at least hear.
Although the concert was scheduled to start on July 28, thousands of music fans were already at the concert site on the 27th. Robbie Robertson of The Band requested to do a soundcheck, but was perplexed that so many people were sitting in front of the stage. Bill Graham allowed the soundcheck with the crowd of people in front, and The Band ran through a few numbers to the delight of the audience. The Allman Brothers Band did their soundcheck next, playing “One Way Out” and “Ramblin’ Man”.
The Grateful Dead’s legendary soundcheck turned into a two set marathon, featuring their familiar tunes such as “Sugaree”, “Tennessee Jed” and “Wharf Rat”. They also performed a unique jam that was eventually included on their retrospective CD box set So Many Roads (1965-1995).
Shelly Finkel now currently serves as the Chairman of Strategy and Development for SFX Entertainment.
Jim Koplik currently owns the Comcast Theater in Hartford, Connecticut.