What was it like?
What I can tell you as Concert Promoter offers but one subjective perspective.
I additionally refer you to those who were also there and truly made it happen – most now geographically scattered across the country as a sad consequence of the great Flint Diaspora.
With over 3,000 “likes” and momentum continuing to build, the “Sherwood Forest, Davison, MI” Facebook page brings this unique venue far closer than anything I might convey. Keep this in mind for an immediate supplemental link as soon as you finish reading this issue of My City.
Many of these memories were featured as part of “Sunday Sixties” on WWCK FM 105 from 1980 through 1983.
But in April of 1969, radio station WTAC was top-rated in Flint and the Tri-Cities. Our sales department came up with the idea of having the station assume sponsorship of a major client promotion. The concept was to hold an outdoor family event to be labeled, “Wild Wednesday” at a place called “Sherwood Forest” – located just east of Flint and north of Davison.
A farmer named Don Sherwood had purchased several pieces of property adjacent to his own homestead. Over several years, Don had chopped down trees, leveled off fields, excavated a small lake, designed a baseball diamond, and brought in a number of miniature rides and games. Basically, Don’s “Sherwood Forest” was a self-assembled amusement park – a classic example of triumphant individualized effort – the successful creation of a dedicated, fiercely-focused entrepreneur who built and realized his dreams against enormous odds. It had plenty of space to set up booths, erect tents and host just about any event anyone might wish. Don was also completing construction on a 10,000 square-foot hall with a 25×10-foot stage attached to a smaller lodge already in place. Don Sherwood was also, physically, a big man. Had he jumped decades ahead, he might easily have been mistaken for General Norman Schwarzkopf, hero of 1992’s Gulf War. Sliding in time, they could have been twins.
The WTAC idea was to sell sponsorships to car dealers, clothing retailers, and food concessionaires, motorcycle shops, auto accessory outlets, jewelry stores and whoever else wanted to participate. Don was seeking to really put Sherwood Forest on the map. Three weeks of heavy WTAC advertising for “Wild Wednesday” was sure to offer long-term benefit. Then there came a happy, fortunate, final thought. Why not add a rock band line-up for a fenced-in patio area between the lake and the yet unfinished new hall?
I was approached about throwing some groups together for “Wild Wednesday” and hosting the program.
When the big day came on June 25, thousands of people turned out at Sherwood Forest for the rides, games, prizes, fun and excitement. WTAC sponsors were more than pleased with their investments. Most importantly, despite threatening clouds, 4,000 Flint-area rockers paid two dollars to attend an 8pm ‘til midnight concert on the Sherwood Patio with Bob Seger, The Rationals, SRC and The Bhang. It all came off flawlessly and ended on time.
The new hall opened in October 1969 with screaming headlines, thanks to the brilliantly infamous MC5 and a widely-covered police raid over the use of a particularly notable phrase.
Shortly thereafter, more local news was dramatically generated thanks to naughty Iggy and The Stooges, now professionally enshrined forever after formal induction into Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame almost a half-century later. Iggy was certainly famous that night as he sang, “Now I Want to Be Your Dog” with a clever artistic interpretation.
Dave Marsh covered Iggy’s bizarre behavior at Sherwood Forest in a feature article for Creem Magazine. Dave wrote, “Peter Cavanaugh’s continuous narrative describing Iggy’s near garroting by microphone cord sounded just like Chris Schenkle on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” Those words remain one of the finest reviews I’ve ever received.
Then came a series of sold-out indoor Sunday concerts through the spring of ’70 with such notables as Alice Cooper, Mitch Ryder, Dick Wagner & The Frost, and Third Power.
By the time June 1970 rolled in, our entire “WTAC Wild Wednesday” planning had become focused on creating a rock & roll spectacular. We were pulling out all the stops. We would run a full dozen groups for 12 straight hours from noon until midnight with adjacent concert stages and no recorded music – presenting continuous, non-stop, live rock & roll without pause or intermission.
Our first “Michigan Monster” included Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, MC5, The Rationals, Brownsville Station, Alice Cooper, Frijid Pink, Teegarden and Vanwinkle, The Frost and three opening acts – “at a single point in time and space – as twin concert stages explode under the summer sun and stars,” we said in our radio promotions.
From that day forward, until June 1974, Sherwood Forest continued hosting “Wild Wednesdays” and “Super Sundays” as major outdoor summer presentations, then moving indoors for Sunday concerts with a headline attraction and one or two local bands during the school year.
Our first ’74 “Wild Wednesday” had been scheduled for June 26 at Sherwood Forest. With Bob Seger again on the Michigan roster, I decided to close the show with a new band that had recently obtained enormous national radio exposure with their first album. “Montrose” featured lead singer, Sammy Hagar, later enjoying even greater fame as replacement for Van Halen’ s David Lee Roth. Remember “Bad Motor Scooter” or “Rock The Nation” or “Rock Candy”?
Ronnie Montrose and Sammy Hagar played the final set of what turned out to be our last “Wild Wednesday” – with a crowd exceeding 10,000 – a financial and artistic triumph.
But the changing nature of the rock promotion industry introduced stringent corporate control by large booking agencies, multi-page contractual requirements and ever-increasing logistical requirements. Rock & roll had outgrown Sherwood Forest. An era passed after six short, exciting and wonderful years.
It was a single point in time and space.