Farm Aid '97 Back On Track

Benefit concert will take place, but not in Texas.

Willie Nelson's annual Farm Aid benefit concert has had its ups and downs

in the past 12 years, but none so quickly as in the past 24 hours. Tuesday

night, Nelson decided to cancel the Oct. 4 event citing a lack of corporate

support to stage it. A day later, the show was back on, but not in Texas

as originally planned--the concert, with its star-studded line-up intact,

has been moved to Chicago.

"It was a late deal," said Farm Aid program director Harry Smith on

Thursday morning. "Part of what happened was that Chicago -- after all the

publicity -- came to us with a great offer to come back to Illinois."

The concert, featuring Farm Aid mainstays Nelson, Neil Young and John

Mellencamp, along with Beck, John Fogerty, the Supersuckers and others, was

shifted from Irving, Texas's 50,000-seat Texas Stadium to the 30,000-seat

New World Music Theater in Tinley Park, Ill., outside of Chicago. The move

brings the event back to Illinois for the first time since its inaugural

staging in 1985.

Smith attributed the confusion about the on-again/off-again status of this

year's concert to a press leak late Tuesday. Publicity about the show's

cancellation prompted officials at New World to make their offer. "It

served a good purpose in a way, although yesterday was a very tough day for

us," Smith said. "We know we had a great line-up, so we didn't want to

waste it."

The Supersuckers are looking forward to their second year on the Farm Aid

stage. Singer Eddie Spaghetti said, "Being property owners, we're behind

independent aspects of farming, just like we're behind independent aspects

of making music. It's not as lucrative, but you can make a living at it."

Nelson hosted the first Farm Aid benefit in Champaign-Urbana to raise

awareness and money about the plight of struggling family farmers in

America. In the years leading up to this 10th concert (there were no

performances in 1989 and '91), the event has raised more than $13 million

and been held in Iowa, Nebraska, Kentucky, South Carolina, Louisiana and

Texas.

Organizers are now investigating which of the existing event sponsors will

make the move from Texas to Illinois, and also hoping that new underwriters

will sign up.

Smith said that there are no official projections for how much this year's

Farm Aid will raise. "Willie Nelson never wants to set a projection for

how much he's raising, just for this reason. You never know what's going

to happen with a big concert like this. We know that the amphitheater is

the largest amphitheater in the country, and we're obviously hoping for a

sell out."

Tickets for Farm Aid '97 go on sale Monday, Sept. 22. Cable TV's Nashville

Network will carry the event from 5 to 11 p.m. CDT. [Thurs., Sept. 18, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]