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Knebworth Fair

A project by Frederick "Freddy" Bannister

After the mega success of the 1975 bash with Pink Floyd as headliners, in 1976 veteran promoter Frederick “Freddy” Bannister bet big on the biggest band of the time. Originally Freddy had booked Queen to headline, but when the Stones offered themselves as festival fodder what red blooded promoter could resist such a prize? The Rolling Stones were duly booked and Queen were sidelined — although they also headlined the Hyde Park free concert in ’76 to a massive crowd, which did much to raise them in the popularity stakes.

Freddy assembled a workmanlike parade of artists to compliment the Stones — although he was careful not to pick any bands who were likely to upstage the old prancers. As it was, Don Harrison flopped, Hot Tuna were quite well received, 10cc were not, Lynyrd Skynyrd blew many people away with their long rendition of Freebird and Todd Rundgren enhanced his popularity with a hot set, the first of four appearances at Knebworth festivals between 1976 and 1979.

The Stones also insisted that the promoter should attempt to try to instill a carnival atmosphere at the show by hiring a large number of clowns, buskers and other circus acts, who were supposed to entertain the crowd between sets. This was only partly successful, as in every big festival, people were not keen to move from their spots once they had possessed them and therefore many of the acts were not seen by the majority of the crowd. The stage itself was in the shape of a giant tongue — modelled on the Stones logo which allowed Jagger to parade himself nicely — but which also meant the audience were further away from most of the performers than ever.

Held on the grounds of the Knebworth House in Knebworth, England, the festival first occurred in 1974 when The Allman Brothers Band, The Doobie Brothers and other artists attracted 60,000 people. Since then the venue has hosted numerous outdoor concerts, featuring artists including Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Rolling Stones, Genesis, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, Deep Purple, Queen, Status Quo, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Robert Plant, Dire Straits, Oasis, Robbie Williams, Europe and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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