Anytime we produced advertising for “Wild Wednesday” on WTAC, I used the above instrumental cut from the WHO’s debut album”My Generation” as background. The track is entitled, “The Ox.” It was improvised by Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Keith Moon and keyboardist Nicky Hopkins.Through the years, “The Ox” became our “Wild Wednesday Theme.” I still love the energy. Give it a click to revive a memory or two.
A nice young man named David Forsmark was kind enough to commemorate our 30th “Wild Wednesday” Anniversary a short seventeen years ago, helping to craft an extended front page Flint Journal article published on Sunday June 27, 1999.
You can tell from his picture that this David is a very serious person.
Here is David’s bio from his website, http://www.davidforsmark.com.
“David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan.
David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006.
For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews for the Flint Journal. David was also the popular culture critic for Credo, a weekly newspaper “for Catholic and other Christians” where he became possibly the first Baptist to win 2 Catholic press awards.
His work has also appeared in National Review Online, St. Austin Review and other publications.
David is married to Karen, his high school sweetheart. They have 2 children. Amanda, a Human Biology major at the University of Michigan, is the current reigning “Miss U of M, Flint,” their son Travis, a high school senior, is rated one of the state’s top baseball prospects.
And here’s what David (I call him, “Dave”) wrote ten years ago.
MADE MERRY – AGAIN – SHERWOOD FOREST : HOW IT BEGAN; HOW IT ENDED
Ted Nugent remembers accidentally shooting a fan with an arrow.
Question Mark – of Question Mark and the Mysterians – remembers being snubbed backstage by Rick Derringer.
Wayne Price remembers convincing Bob Seger to play his signature ballad “Turn the Page” for the first time onstage.
Who’s Wayne Price?
One of thousands of Flint area rock fans who flocked to the region’s answer to Woodstock: Sherwood Forest .
Though it functioned as a community center, dance hall and concert venue for more than 20 years, Don Sherwood ‘s Sherwood Forest in Richfield Township was the happening place in metro Flint in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, part of a burgeoning Michigan rock ‘n’ roll scene where future stars such as Seger, Alice Cooper and Nugent cut their teeth.
But back to Wayne Price.
The Otter Lake resident figures Seger owes him something. It was 1973. Price and his friends from LakeVille High School coaxed the Ann Arbor singer into performing a new ballad about life on the road called “Turn the Page” for the first time at Sherwood Forest .
Price, his brother Jim, and their friends Wendy Maxfield, Paul Vert, Rick Glanton and Tim Owen kept shouting for the song, though most of the audience wanted to hear “Heavy Music.”
Seger heard Price’s pleas, but noted that his saxophone player, who was needed for the intro and ending, was absent. That didn’t stop the insistent teens, even when Seger admitted he’d never performed the song outside a studio. He relented and honored their request.
“He did it live for the first time at Sherwood Forest ,” Price said proudly. “He owes me royalties (for talking him into it). He did it great. It was fantastic.”
That was the kind of place Sherwood Forest was in the early 1970s. It was too small to attract many of the day’s big names, though some like Blue Oyster Cult did perform there, but big enough to lure some Michigan artists on the verge of breaking nationally.
Sherwood Forest was sort of a bridge between the rock festivals of the late ’60s and amphitheaters like Pine Knob Music Theatre that would become the norm by the late ’70s.
It wasn’t unique, but it was unique to Flint rock fans.
“Quite honestly, there were many venues much like Sherwood Forest ,” Nugent recalled. “The spirit of these gatherings superceded geography and structure. You could play 100 shows a year in Michigan without playing the same place twice, and I personally craved every opportunity.”
Nugent made his mark with Sherwood Forest audiences, figuratively and literally. He was famous for shooting arrows into the air. One hit an audience member. “I remember hitting a girl in the head with an arrow,” he said. “Instead of suing me, she had me sign the arrow!”
The audiences, he said, were something else. “I remember the energy; I remember the ‘uninhibitedness’ and the atmosphere of unadulterated creativity,” the Nuge said.
Clio’s Question Mark, of “96 Tears” fame, had a new version of his band the Mysterians onstage when they opened for Edgar Winter’s White Trash, which included guitarist Rick Derringer.
“It was the first time I’d seen Derringer since the ’60s, when he toured with the McCoys, and he wouldn’t even speak to me,” Question Mark complained.
But his other memories of the place are more positive. “It was always great. It was just like a party. There was no competition (between the bands) or anything like that,” he said. “Everybody had a lot of fun.”
Though Sherwood Forest is long gone, memories of its indoor and outdoor shows, the festival atmosphere, the pond behind the hill where audiences sat, the bands and the audiences still linger.
Its heyday was in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the rules of rock ‘n’ roll concert promoting were being written. Sherwood Forest had begun to feature a series of concerts called Wild Wednesdays, Super Sundays and The Big One that were headlined by acts like Nugent, Seger and Cooper.
They were promoted by Pete Cavanaugh, known to thousands of mid-Michigan rock ‘n’ roll fans then as “Peter C” of WTAC radio. He said the Sherwood Forest concerts became a phenomenon because of the context of the times.
“You have to remember that it was only a dozen years from ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ to Woodstock,” Cavanaugh said.
The Wild Frontier
Rock concert promoting was a wild frontier.
“We were making it up as we went along,” Cavanaugh said.
The concerts were a great way to promote some of the progressive rock that WTAC played late at night. The station took over sponsorship of the Wild Wednesday promotions – the name is loosely based on a soft drink – in 1969 and within two years they had become major local events.
According to Cavanaugh, there was no master plan to make Sherwood Forest the state Mecca for rock ‘n’ roll. It happened almost by accident.
“I was approached about throwing some groups together for Wild Wednesday and hosting the program,” Cavanaugh said. “A fellow WTAC announcer, Johnny Irons, and I entered into a partnership agreement wherein we would combine efforts and equally share in all proceeds. Working on Wild Wednesday, we lined-up six local groups and co-headliners The Rationals and Bob Seger.
“When the big day came on June 21, (1971) more than 10,000 turned out at Sherwood Forest . Despite threatening clouds, 4,000 plus rockers paid $2 to attend the 8-’til-midnight concert on the Sherwood patio. Despite the fact that we spent a lot of our time telling advertisers what a good investment WTAC was, we were surprised at this kind of turnout.”
In the wake of that success, Cavanaugh and company had several other Wild Wednesday concerts throughout the summer and learned what worked and what didn’t.
First, they decided to book bands that had enjoyed significant local airplay. And they learned that people loved having seven or eight local bands to round out a ticket that usually included two or three bigger names.
One Super Sunday concert featured a number of Flint and Detroit area bands and was headlined by the Bob Seger System, S.R.C. and The Stooges (featuring the notorious Iggy Pop). Approximately 4,000 rockers attended, and “this represented our first truly major turnout at Sherwood Forest for a ‘rock ‘n’ roll only’ event,” Cavanaugh said.
On the map
But the event Cavanaugh thinks put the Sherwood Forest on the map was the first indoor show in 1969 at the grand opening of the Sherwood lodge, which had been expanded recently.
Cavanaugh knew exactly what band he wanted – notorious Detroit radical rockers MC5, a loud, crude, rock ‘n’ roll band that preached revolution with a evangelical fervor. Their manager, Davison native John Sinclair, helped found the White Panthers, a radical white complement to the Black Panthers. MC5’s music featured anti-police rhetoric and a frequent use of obscenity.
“Promoting concerts was never about ideology for me, or even about the money. I just loved the music,” Cavanaugh insisted. “It was all about the music. They (MC5) were the best live rock ‘n’ roll band I’d ever seen, bar none. But they were also theater, and part of the appeal was that this was a band your parents could really hate.”
The local law enforcement wasn’t wild about them, either. Sinclair was a Davison high school graduate and his encounters with the law and his notorious anti-police statements hadn’t earned him any friends in the department.
The promotional effort packed 2,000 bodies into the hall, but also made Davison Township Police Chief Ed Boyce determined to do something about the “cop-hating dopers who were coming onto his turf,” Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh said the concert was everything he’d expected, and he was elated with how things were going. He and Pete Flanders, who had just started at WTAC, decided to go down the road to see how a competing concert sponsored by WTRX was going. The empty parking lot at the Knights of Columbus hall gave them the answer.
They returned to Sherwood Forest to see people streaming out of the lodge with police officers from five suburban departments directing people to their cars.
Cavanaugh found out later that Boyce had assembled his force, waited for MC5 to use a certain obscenity, then burst in and declared the concert over for violating a local obscenity ordinance. But it took the police so long to wade through the crowd, that MC5, most of whom had certain illegal substances on them, ducked out the back door, piled into their van and hit the highway – avoiding arrest, but leaving their equipment behind.
After Boyce and Cavanaugh vented their tempers, the two men got together to work out a practical arrangement. The Davison Township Police Department would provide officers for security – paid for by Cavanaugh – and it would be written into all artists’ contracts that no one would use the a certain four-letter word in the future.
The incident helped give Sherwood Forest a notorious enough reputation to make it the cool place to be among rebellious-minded teenagers. And despite the fact that it led to better security arrangements with the local police and got them involved in a positive way, that reputation also sowed the seeds of trouble with neighbors and an ambitious county sheriff.
How it ended
So, why would a venue that regularly attracted more than 10,000 fans to outdoor concerts and crowds of 2,000 for indoor shows cease operations?
Cavanaugh lists two reasons: The controversy surrounding Sherwood Forest ; and the changing nature of the rock ‘n’ roll business.
It was Sherwood himself who pulled the plug on Wild Wednesday. “We did catch some flak. We were accused of things,” he said. “I just felt, do I want to get jump on and spend all my time at the courthouse? Not especially.”
The concerts generated complaints from neighbors who didn’t like the traffic or the noise. The most vocal of these, according to Flint Journal reports at the time, was orchard owner George Masters, whose property was adjacent to Sherwood ‘s.
Among the more sensational charges Masters made were that he found used hypodermic needles in his mailbox, and that truckloads of beer were being delivered on concert nights, despite the fact that Sherwood did not have a liquor license.
Masters downplays the stories now, which he called wild rumors, and declined to be quoted for this story.
Cavanaugh suspects these rumors, and others that involved open sexual activity, were fallout from Woodstock and an active rumor mill.
“I’m pretty sure I would have noticed naked women running around,” he laughed.
Cavanaugh admitted that the rock counter culture was at a low point by 1973. Some nationally reported incidents of violence at other venues and young people’s switch from marijuana to hard drugs made concert promoters a little uneasy.
But the controversy reached new lows when newly elected Genesee County Sheriff John P. O’Brien decided to mount a raid on Wild Wednesday on Aug. 1, 1973.
Note From Peter C.—The following events described in the Journal were deleted from the published “Local DJ” due to space limitations, but are included in the new, free, online version in Chapters 46 “Honest Ambition” and 47 “Pussy Cheer” .
In what Cavanaugh views as a stunt designed to build the resume of a recently elected sheriff, O’Brien, with TV cameras in tow, planned a drug bust at Sherwood Forest . It went awry when an undercover cop fired shots into the air after a crowd surrounded him.
“Suddenly, the intruding bystanders were set-upon by guys with radios, pummeled to the ground and handcuffed. Sheriff O’ Brien materialized with TV crews taping away,” Cavanaugh said.
“Words were thrown in anger and then fists, followed by rocks and bottles.
“He and his deputies ran to their cars and shot up the driveway toward Richfield Road. He stopped at the entrance-gate and ordered it closed. He sealed-off the site and issued an emergency radio call for all available reenforcements to join him in quelling the ‘rioting at Sherwood Forest .’ He summoned the Michigan State Police and police from surrounding counties. He was going to ‘march right in and clean-out the whole crowd’ as soon as help arrived.
“Ed Boyce and I reached the entrance first. It was hard telling which one of us was more angry. Chief Boyce had not been informed of the drug bust, and the county sheriff was on his turf, Cavanaugh explained.
After arguments and legal activity, Cavanaugh and Flint attorney Stewart Newblatt met with O’Brien and hammered out an agreement that the sheriff’s department would send undercover detectives to future concerts, that Chief Boyce would be kept informed and that a sign would be posted warning that “Dealers would be dealt with” by the police.
A short solution
But that agreement did not even last for one concert.
After more angry meetings, according to Cavanaugh, agreements were reached where legally, nothing had changed at Sherwood Forest .
By then, the business of rock ‘n’ roll had changed. Artists fees were soaring, agencies were snapping up the big acts and demanding higher guarantees. And many of the Sherwood Forest mainstays were starting to get known nationally.
“Bob Seger was now playing regularly throughout all of the Midwest and had developed a strong following in Florida and Texas. Ted Nugent was appearing throughout the entire country. Alice Cooper and Frijid Pink were international,” Cavanaugh said. “I was grabbing occasional dates on new national talent by spotting them early and booking them far in advance before the rest of the world caught on. Other than that, rock ‘n’ roll had become quite corporate.”
The last Wild Wednesday was June 26, 1974. During that concert, someone called in a report of an overdose at the concert, and the ambulance was involved in a traffic accident in which two people were killed.
“The story was not that an opponent of the shows or even a prankster was responsible for the deaths,” Cavanaugh recounted bitterly, “but that Wild Wednesday had killed two people. That was kind of the last straw. We all just went on to other things.”
Sherwood pulled the plug himself.
Pulling the plug
The troubles clouded other activities there. “It just was too much hassle,” said Sherwood . “We could be having a birthday party for a 12-year-old and here comes the police responding to a complaint.”
Six years later, he sold the property and moved to the Mackinaw City area.
New owners tried adding life to Sherwood Forest with a dinner theater in the lodge, but the building was destroyed by fire in 1989, and the site was virtually abandoned.
Last fall, Cavanaugh visited the site with John Smith, a longtime friend and former DJ here.
“It was such a gray day that it seemed like a scene from depressing black-and-white Bergman film,” Smith remembered. “The road just tapers off into nowhere, and not only are the buildings gone, there are shallow pits where they once stood – like some kind of Carthagian destruction has taken place. We were told that sand was mined from there for a while. There is just nothing left.
Behind the Richfield Township Hall, however, where rancorous meetings were held about the ” Sherwood Forest problem,” stands the statue of Robin Hood that greeted so many concert goers. “I think somebody claimed it as a trophy,” Smith said.
“They lost a good thing,” rued Sherwood , who now runs a carriage museum on Mackinac Island. “There never has been anything like it since in Flint and there probably never will be.”