Westbury Music Fair
The 70s arrived about the same time the Westbury Music Fare went from adolescence to adulthood. From its modest beginnings as a tent, it grew into one of the most beloved places on Long Island to hear live music.
As legend has it, the two men who started the Westbury Music Fare wanted to bring a music venue to Long Island. They had previously found success in Pennsylvania with their Valley Forge Music Fare, and Long Island was the next logical step.
So they hopped into a car and drove east until they felt they were far enough from the city that the locals would go there instead of traveling to Manhattan. They ended up in Jericho.
The tent they built over an old lime mine in 1956 brought the locals in droves. These were mostly broadway shows in the early years, but soon the venue would become far better know for its musical performers.
In 1966, the Westbury Music Fair was finally given a permanent building, one that increased its capacity from 1,850 to 3,000 and gave patrons a sturdy roof, seats and air-conditioning.
The investment paid off, and the theater thrived through the 70s, drawing in world class performers of all genres including The Doors, The Who, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and Kenny Rogers. In 1976 alone, the theater earned $13 million.
The Westbury Music Fair is unique in that concerts are presented “in the round,” thanks to a revolving stage. As a result, pretty much every seat is a good seat, although a number of performers, no matter how seasoned find the experience a challenge.
Though the venue has changed hands many times since the 70s, the Westbury Music Fair continues on, now known as the NYCB Theatre at Westbury. Back in the day, it was the perfect alternative for someone who wanted a roomier venue than My Father’s Place, but didn’t want the headache of Nassau Coliseum.
Did you see any shows at Westbury Music Fair back in the day? I’d love to hear your memories of this iconic venue in our comments section below!
Saw my first concert there, Harry Chapin, around ‘76
I saw Danny Thomas with Julie Budd. I also saw Johnny Carson at one concert and Connie Francis at another… don’t remember what years, but a long time ago.
Peter, Paul and Mary
All fabulous shows!
Well, my high school graduation was held there in the 80s.
Eric thank you for this site.
You are most welcome, John! Thank you for visiting and giving your feedback. Much appreciated!
I saw Steve Lawrence and Edye Gorme and Johnny Mathis,
And several shows there. There were others, but these stood out. I kind of think I remember Peter, Paul and Mary too.
Joan Rivers and David Brenner!
Tony Orlando and Dawn
Did Jerry Lewis perform at Westbury in the 1970’s?
I remember seeing him there….Not sure but Mel Torme could have been there during that show
Saw Steely Dan there in the 70’s
I remember seeing “Top Banana” with Phil Silvers when it was still a tent!
Saw Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass in the 70’s, but can’t remember what year. Wonderful.
I went every May to see Tom Jones. I can’t remember the years that I saw him but never year that he played I was there.
My parents took us to see a lot of musicals there. I remember Fiddler on the Roof, possibly with Zero Mostel himself!
Danny Thomas was performing at Westbury Music Fair in November of either 1974 or 75. After the performance, Danny Thomas picked my friend and I up from hitchhiking! (We were stupid kids who did dumb things–14 and 17 years old). We went down to use the bathroom at Westbury Music Fair and as we were about to walk up the inclined driveway out of the parking lot, Danny Thomas, (who was performing there that evening) his wife, his manager and manager’s wife were driving out. We waved goodbye and and soon after they drove away, we saw two headlights coming back down the driveway! Mr. Thomas (who was driving) opened the car window and said, “What are you girls think your doing?” I answered, “We were just going to hitch back to Valerie’s house.” He said, “Get in the car. Where do you live?” and took us home! When we arrived at the house, Valerie’s brother, Michael, came out to yell at us (because it was late and there were no cell phones back then to call), Mr. Thomas asked him how to get back to the main road (my friend lived in a cul-de-sac). Michael kept looking at Danny Thomas like he kind of recognized him but couldn’t really place who he was. We thanked Mr. Thomas and he drove off! I said to Michael, “That was Danny Thomas!” Michael thought for a minute and said, “That was Danny Thomas!! You idiots! What were you doing in Danny Thomas’ car? Wait until Dad (he and Valerie’s father) and Claudia (my mom–our parents were dating) hear this!” Thank goodness we had Michael and the Playbill for proof! My mother made us write Mr. Thomas a thank you note and she drove us back to Westbury Music Fair the next night to give it to him with an apology for being so foolish! What a wonderful man to have taken a chance to help us two dumb kids! He did lecture us about the dangers of hitchhiking and said that he would never allow his kids to do it and so we shouldn’t either. Danny Thomas is a hero in more than one way in my book! That’s why I always remember to donate to Saint Jude’s…
I saw so many amazing shows: Diana Ross, Tom Jones, Barry White, Teddy Pendergass, Dionne Warwick, Freddy Prinze, Tony Orlando, The Spinners, Frankie Valli, Connie Francis, 5th Dime soon, Sha na na, Kris Kristofferson & many more. It was a fantastic venue to see concerts, especially if you belonged to the “inner circle”. You paid annually for the opportunity to get the best seats for all the concerts first.
Iron Butterfly opened for Jefferson Airplane. A version of In a Gadda
da Vida that felt like it lasted for two days, but my sense of time was experiencing acute elasticity at the time. Grace Slick, during an extended Jorma solo, sat scowling on an amp muttering things about *they oughta put all the dead babies they kill in Vietnam in the aisles of the supermarket so people have to step around them to get their shit.* Heavy, man. I can’t remember the date or the planet for that matter. I do remember Iron Butterfly finishing by setting their equipment on fire before exiting the stage. the keyboard guy put a brick on the keyboard so they left behind flames and cacophony. A few minutes went by. Then a little old guy came out w a fire extinguisher, turned off the sound and blew out the fires.
but I don’t remember the date. do you?
Sha-Na-Na probably the late 70’s, and the Oak Ridge Boys probably the early 80’s.
consists of the book itself
My mom took my sister and me to see Bobby Sherman back in the mid 60’s. There was so much screaming I don’t think I heard one song! Had a blast though!
I saw the Beach Boys, Chuck Mangione, Rodney Dangerfield, The Temptations and the Four Tops there.
During the 70’s went with my parents to see Liberace, Bobby Vinton, and Liza Minelli in Cabaret. It also had a “nick name” that being “the theater in the round.” At least that’s what my parents used to call it. Liberace had the older ladies mesmerized by his costumes and jewelry . What good times!
“Julia’s Garland” (fr. Guirlande de Julie)
I always enjoyed to Westbury music fair. My favorite entertainer who I believe played the most there was Sergio Franchi. He was just a great tenor and entertainer. My wife and I would always wait after the show to see him. One year his wife Eva was selling lithographs that he did. I purchased one and went backstage to meet him and he was a true gentleman. I still have the lithograph. Good memories
Anyone remember the opening act comedian for Johnny Mathis in 1973? My husband was saying how hysterical he found him to be, but searching I can’t seem to find who it was. Thank you.
My girlfriend & I and my best friend & his girlfriend who both of us married saw Cheech & Chong there in the early 80s it was one of the funiest nights in our lives seeing them live.We we’re pretty high too.
In the summer of 1975, I saw the 5th Dimension with Phoebe Snow opening for them. It was a great show! Being from SoCal, it reminded me of the Melodyland Theater in Anaheim next to Disneyland (CA’s first theater in the round). Sadly, it was demolished in 2003 to build a Church. Another SoCal theater in the round was the Carousel Theater in West Covina. I saw The Doors there on 1/19/68.
Can’t remember every concert I saw there but I definitely saw the Brian Setzer Orchestra , The Machine ( Pink Floyd tribute ) and on March 31st 1996 a highpoint in my life. At the “Spring Blues Festival” ,after he just finished his set , he was walking down the aisle past everyone holding out pens for him to sign their ticket stubs he looked up at me ,down then up again as I was over the top of the walkway out. I was holding my permanent sharpie marker in one hand and my Tobacco Sunburst 1968 Gibson ES-330 in the other. B.B. King waved up at me to hand it down to him ….I did. He signed it and handed me back my guitar and marker, then he walked out . people around me were stunned ,then freaked out congratulating me.
I was the ONLY person he signed anything for . people were waiting around his tour bus afterwards but he never came back out.
I still have that guitar.
Thank you Mr. King .