August 8, 1969: Jazz Concert at Castle Hill
Summertime jazz finally went outdoors to stay in 1954, courtesy of the Newport Jazz Festival and Jazz Night at the Boston Arts Festival. In 1955, Castle Hill, on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, joined the al fresco party. Their venerable classical concert series invited a jazz band for the first time. The band was Louis Armstrong’s.
Series organizers wanted jazz, but not just any jazz. They wanted mainstream names with crossover appeal who wouldn’t rock the suburban boat. Still, not everyone associated with Castle Hill embraced the idea of jazz concerts, and Count Basie’s contract couldn’t be signed in 1956 until background checks on performers were completed. When asked if this was prompted by concern over subversive influences, the concert organizer responsible replied, “no comment.” What, I wonder, was he afraid of—Dope? African-Americans? Beatniks? All of the above?
In Basie’s Old Testament days, Jimmy Rushing sang “Baby, Don’t You Tell on Me.” Perhaps the Count called it at Castle Hill.
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