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Boogie with the Yesses

T-Shirt from Concert

Anyone remember the World Series of Rock on August 15th 1976 at Hawthorne Racecourse?

The contention the Town of Cicero made against the event was that, “It would be a nuisance and attract trouble-making, drug-smoking teenagers.” Fortunately, the judge hearing the case disagreed and what would eventually be known as the concert of a lifetime for many Cicero and Chicago area residents was allowed to go forward. Circuit Court Judge Joseph M. Wosik (who also happened to have grown up in Cicero) stated in his ruling that he intended to be there “…to see for myself what goes on.”

The judge not only attended the event but took to the stage and congratulated the crowd on their behavior. Then he turned his suit jacket inside out to show a festively pattered lining and proceeded to barn dance with Ronnie Van Zandt of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Although there was no real trouble, the Town’s assertion of drug smoking teenagers did tend to hit the nail on the head. At one point, Cicero Town President, Christy Berkos, said that the marijuana fumes were so strong, he was in danger of getting high. To which the Judge replied, “If we were kids today, we’d probably be out here, too. I’m glad I made the decision I did.”

The concert, which was originally part of the World Series of Rock events to be held at Comiskey Park, had to be moved. The first concert in the set resulted in a fire at the ballpark and the second concert was canceled altogether.

The concert at Hawthorne began at noon and lasted until dusk. The strong lineup included Gary Wright, Peter Frampton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the headlining band was Yes. The concert drew roughly 70,000 people, more than the population of the town at the time. People came from all over the area and many states away. Those were only the reported numbers. You have to figure at least half of the kids that lived in the area weren’t paying to get into a track that they knew like the back of their hand.

One of the concertgoers that lived a few blocks from the track said it like this:
I woke up and could hear them tuning up and man it was loud. Then I walk outside and see a couple of freaks (“freaks” being a description of the way the people looked, not the actual street gang) sleeping in a car. Now, I’m like 14 years old and I have no idea what’s going on but I think to myself, “I gotta check this out”. So I head over to the track. Now, I was hustling at the track for a few years already – you know, selling programs and all that kind of stuff. So I knew I could get in without any problems.

I could smell the weed from Laramie. But that was nothing compared to what it was like when I got in there and the concert really started to get in gear. I mean, people were passing joints and bottles of booze around. It was just a whole new thing for me. I somehow found a couple of my friends there. And we were just taking it all in when someone walking by just hands us a joint. I mean, I never saw this guy before or since and he just hands us this doobie. Don’t get me wrong, we all smoked dope by this time, it was just weird having it handed to you out of nowhere.

Anyway, we light up and are really getting into the music when this girl, actually I shouldn’t say girl cause to us this was a woman even though she was probably 17 or 18. To a couple soon-to-be freshmen she was a woman, and a hot one at that. So anyway, she says to us that we’re too young for this stuff and she should take our joint away.

My friend just started laughing and then… and I will never forget this ‘til the day I die… I’m in the middle of taking a hit and one of the guys with me says, “You can have the joint when you show us your tits.”

I was caught completely off guard by this, so I start hacking up smoke and damn near missed it when, all of a sudden, up comes this girl’s shirt. I probably looked like a cartoon character with eyes bugged out and my jaw on the ground. But I came out of it and tried to be suave. So I took a good hit on the joint and instead of just passing it to her, I put it right up to her lips. She took it, smiled and turned and walked away.

Man that was something.

A lot of people still talk and reminisce about that concert, especially at the local bars when some of the tunes are playing on the jukebox. To them, hearing a song, like “Freebird” or the talk box effected “Do you feel like I do”, takes them back to a whole different time and place.

I’ve heard more than one person reminisce about that concert with phrases like, “defining event” or “best time I ever had”. That summer, the country was focused on the revelry surrounding the country’s Bi-Centennial. But for the young people of Cicero, The World Series of Rock at Hawthorne blew any of the Fourth of July celebrations out of the water. When school was back in session a few weeks later, no one wanted to admit not being there.

For all of the people that were fortunate enough to get to see that show, and still have the stories to tell today, big thanks is owed to Judge Joseph Wosik – the guy that wanted to boogie with the Yesses.

4 Comments on Boogie with the Yesses

  1. This show was on August 14th 1976 not the 15th. Lots of reviews at Yes fan site

  2. Incorrect. The concert was on August 15, 1976. I researched it extensively and wrote a blog about all the evidence. Here it is. The blog is called, “Evidence that YES’ concert headliner in Cicero, Illinois was on August 15, 1976”

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