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Man From Mars Productions

The Concert That Never Happened
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  WDRC transmitter building at 869 Blue Hills Avenue in Bloomfield
WDRC's transmitter building at 869 Blue Hills Avenue in Bloomfield

The long, hot summer of 1967 was just underway. Hartford had endured racial protests during the previous four summers but an escalation of violence and mass arrests in the city's predominately North End were just weeks away.

For most of WDRC's young listeners, the summer of love was symbolically launched on the other side of the continent. In mid June the Monterey International Pop Festival gathered thousands of rock and roll fans who peacefully enjoyed the likes of Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and Papas, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and The Who on the same stage. It was the first large-scale, outdoor concert ever - and was remarkably tranquil.

As always, WDRC program director Charlie Parker was out in front of the trends. He dreamed up a free outdoor concert that he could tie-in with a commercial sponsor. An added bonus was promoting the station's studio relocation from its Bloomfield transmitter site to plush, new studios at 750 Main Street in downtown Hartford.

It was the era of Rowan & Martin's hit TV show Laugh-In. In January, thousands flocked to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco for a Human Be-In. Charlie dubbed his concert an Out-In. He hoped to attract thousands of Big D listeners to the Blue Hills Drive-In Theatre adjoining WDRC's building at 869 Blue Hills Avenue.

Billboard magazine, August 30, 1952
Billboard magazine, August 30, 1952

Blue Hills Drive-In was a popular attraction from 1952-74. During the 1950s it's innovative manager, Melvin LeRoy, enticed movie goers with such innovations as a television in the concession lobby (1953) and a minature railroad circling the entire grounds (1956).

2012 Google photo showing WDRC transmitter site & former Blue Hills Drive-In Theatre
2012 Google photo showing WDRC transmitter site & former Blue Hills Drive-In Theatre

On November 8, 2015 this website received the following e-mail and WDRC Out-In promo - June 1967 audio file:

Hello Mr. Brouder,

I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed your website, wdrcobg.com. I grew up at 887 Blue Hills Avenue in the shadow of the twin towers. We listened to WDRC all the time! (on our telephone, television, dental fillings, etc). My Dad was manager of the Blue Hills Drive In which was right next door to WDRC. He was given a promo which has been on reel to reel tape since the day it was recorded. I have recently become a life member of the Vintage Radio And Communications Museum of Ct in Windsor, CT where I acquired an old reel to reel tape recorder. I was amazed to hear that this old tape survived and delighted that it did! I'm hoping that you would be interested to add it on your website.

By the way, the show mentioned in the promo never happened. At the time, the police advised against it citing concerns about civil unrest. Several months later, the city of Hartford (less than a mile away), would erupt in riots after the news of Dr. Martin Luther King's death.

Best regards always and keep up the great work!

Terry Wright, North Granby, CT (e-mail)

Terry's promo sat in a box for 48 years but played back perfectly to reveal WDRC's Don Wade rushing through 90 seconds of copy. Concert goers would have been treated to the Fifth Dimension and Big Al Anderson's Wildweeds, among others. WDRC's move to 750 Main Street was accomplished and Governor John Dempsey recorded an announcement welcoming the station back to downtown Hartford.

As for the long hot summer of '67, the wisdom of station and city officials to cancel the free concert proved sage. From July 12-15 riots erupted in Hartford leaving 16 police officers injured and three dozen people in jail. The unrest was punctuated by looting, vandalism, shootings and arson. Racial unrest continued in 1968 and there was a major riot in September 1969.

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