DEL MAR FAIR : A MUSICAL SOMETHING FOR ALL EARS
You can’t please all the people all the time.
But during more than 20 years of booking entertainment for state and county fairs around the country, promoter Mel Simas has learned that if you try hard enough, you can come awfully close.
The way to do it, Simas said, is to book as diverse a selection of talent as possible so that virtually every age group--and every musical taste--finds something to its liking.
That’s why this year’s lineup of acts for the Del Mar Fair’s 18-day run--Thursday through July 6--is more eclectic than ever before.
The list includes Swing Era crooners Rosemary Clooney and Frankie Laine, new wave hot-shots the Untouchables and Belinda Carlisle, veteran country-Western honky-tonkers Ricky Skaggs and Merle Haggard, current Top 40 chart-toppers Mr. Mister and Mike and the Mechanics, and disco favorites the Miami Sound Machine and El DeBarge.
Satisfied? The 44-year-old Simas, in charge of Del Mar Fair entertainment for the third straight summer, hopes so.
“All types of people go to the fair,” said Simas, who’s also setting up concert series this year at the San Fernando Valley, Ventura County and Western Idaho Home fairs.
“As a result, you have to make sure all types of music are represented, from more established, middle-of-the-road acts that the older people want to see, to the newer acts that will attract the teens.”
In some ways, Simas said, booking fairs is a lot easier than booking regular concerts.
“Most people who buy tickets for a specific concert are younger, and they generally want to see only those acts that are on top at that moment--the ones they hear on the radio, the ones their friends are talking about,” he said.
“But with a fair, you get everyone from young people to seniors and, as a result, you have a great deal more flexibility. Last year, for example, our biggest show featured Sha-Na-Na, which doesn’t have any kind of draw to speak of on the concert circuit.
“But they’re still an excellent act, and when we had them they filled the Grandstand to capacity with more than 30,000 people.”
But booking fairs has its drawbacks, Simas added.
“For one thing, a lot of acts like to play for a guaranteed fee, plus a percentage of the ticket sales,” he said. “But since our shows are free to everyone on the fairgrounds, we can’t do that. So even though we’re spending an average of $10,000 to $13,000 per act, many of the ones we approach turn us down because they feel they can make more playing someplace else.
“And then there’s the fact that with regular concerts, promoters will often shift around dates to accommodate any unexpected changes in a band’s touring schedule.
“Again, we can’t do that: Our dates are set in cement, since the fair is only around for so long, and if a band can’t fit in with our schedule--or if something comes up and they can’t play on the day they’re supposed to--there’s nothing we can do.”
Still, Simas said, this year’s Grandstand concert lineup offers something for everybody.
The concert schedule follows; all shows start at 7:30 p.m., except where noted:
Miami Sound Machine, represented on the dance charts with the infectious “Congo,” Thursday.
Juice Newton, the sweet-voiced country-Western balladeer whose string of hits began with a remake of “Angel of the Morning” several years ago, Friday.
Menudo, the latest teeny-bop idols, Saturday (also at 2 p.m.).
Dick Clark’s Good Ol’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Show, an oldies package featuring rock pioneers Freddie Cannon, the Shirelles and the Coasters, Sunday (also at 2 p.m.).
Bourgeois Tagg, an upstart rock ‘n’ roll group, Monday.
Doc Severinsen and Xebron, a pair of jazz acts (Severinsen is best-known as leader of the “Tonight Show” band), Tuesday.
Steve Taylor and Some Band, a Christian rock ensemble, next Wednesday.
Rosemary Clooney, a veteran of the Swing Era, June 26 (2 p.m. only).
The Beat Farmers, San Diego’s own entry into the “American roots rock” field, June 26.
Blood, Sweat and Tears featuring David Clayton-Thomas, whose horn-heavy hits include “And When I Die” and “You Make Me So Very Happy,” June 27.
Rockin’ Sidney, a new rock group, June 28 (2 p.m. only).
Mr. Mister, one of the bigger new wave groups, June 28.
Lou Rawls, the longtime soul and blues singer whose hits include the sultry “You’ll Never Find,” June 29. (Also at 2 p.m.)
The Untouchables, a popular new wave group, June 30.
Ricky Skaggs, the traditional country singer who burst on the scene several years ago with “Honey,” July 1.
The Kingston Trio, survivors of the early-1960s Greenwich Village folk scene, July 2.
Frankie Laine, another Swing Era balladeer whose hits include “I Believe” and the theme from “Rawhide,” July 3 (2 p.m. only).
Mike and the Mechanics, led by former Genesis guitarist Michael Rutherford and high on the charts with “All I Need Is a Miracle,” July 3.
Merle Haggard, a mainstay of the country-Western charts since his 1969 breakthrough hit, “Okie from Muskogee,” July 4 (also at 2 p.m.).
Jermaine Jackson, older brother of Michael, July 5 (also at 2 p.m.).
Belinda Carlisle, formerly of all-girl new wave group the Go-Go’s and now hoping for solo success, July 6 (2 p.m. only).
El DeBarge, the dashing Latino whose family group, DeBarge, scored a big dance hit last year with “Rhythm of the Night,” July 6.