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Music Inn reunion will celebrate Berkshires’ musical history

Music Inn in Lenox that loomed large during a period where musicians ruled the roost and legendary concert experiences like Woodstock drew epic crowds to relatively unheard-of locales.

Sheffield — “If you were there, you wouldn’t remember; but if you remember, you weren’t really there,” is how David Rothstein thinks of the decade between 1965 and 1975, an era he calls “a very unique time in the music industry.” Rothstein’s expertise was gleaned over the course of his tenure as co-owner of the former Music Inn, a venue in Lenox that loomed large during a period where musicians ruled the roost and legendary concert experiences like Woodstock drew epic crowds to relatively unheard-of locales. “The enthusiasm for Music Inn shows no sign of slowing down,” said Rothstein, who has been instrumental in this weekend’s gathering of Music Inn fans at the Race Brook Lodge, an establishment his family has owned since 1990. The weekend lineup, featuring several impromptu and organized events, is pegged as a reunion “for Music Inn people to gather again and have more fun.”

Race Brook Lodge. Photo courtesy Race Brook Lodge

Rothstein admits he’s not a particularly big music fan. He was in Venezuela when the Beatles happened; he recalls Josh White and Pete Seeger playing at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia’s cornerstone of the arts. Then there was the jazz club on South Street and, in the early days, Nina Simone played at the Rittenhouse Cafe on 30th Street and the Philadelphia sound was Bobby Darin, Roberta Flack and Mario Lanza. Rothstein’s first wife was a concert pianist, and his thesis in architecture school stemmed around designing a symphony hall for the Philadelphia Orchestra.

“I am the architect, I am the venue,” is how he puts it and, in that vein, form evokes function. He remembers looking at the field at Music Inn, where concerts were held in the courtyard, and recognizing he had a sense of how to present music. Rothstein acquired Music Inn in 1970—20 years after its founding—and booked a series of legendary shows including the likes of Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Joan Baez, James Taylor and Ray Davies while at the helm. “Those were big shows,” said Rothstein, noting that the Kinks drew a staggering crowd of 17,000 to Lenox; in addition, the Band, the Byrds and the Youngbloods all had their final performances at Music Inn.

A panel of friends and alumni discuss Music Inn at a 2017 reunion event. From left: David Rothstein, Sarah Eustis, Nancy Fitzpatrick, Vera Lacocq, Olga Weiss and Larry Gadd. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Last year’s Music Inn reunion, which coincided with the 250th anniversary of Lenox, drew nearly 500 people, a turnout that indicated the level of nostalgia for a bygone era. Part of the weekend reunion will be spent capturing stories that have accrued over the years. Rothstein’s introduction to the Berkshires is a story in itself. “When I arrived, Alice Brock (of Alice’s Restaurant fame) was camping on Bean Hill Road, driving around in her Cadillac convertible with all the young kids who had been in the movie.” Alice was planning to open a restaurant at Music Inn until the word got out that the hippies were coming. Suffice it to say “that crowd just invaded … and it became a happening,” he said of the hippies who ultimately brought a new generation of concertgoers to the hillside overlooking the Stockbridge Bowl. Today, 48 years later, people are still nostalgic for the counterculture vibe of Music Inn.

Dinky Dawson running sound for John McLaughlin at Music Inn. Photo: Nancy Dawson

This weekend’s events begin Friday afternoon at Race Brook Lodge with a reunion of the Dinky Dawson Sound Company. Dawson, the Music Inn sound guy, arrived with the Byrds and never left. On Saturday there will be an afternoon storytelling gathering in the barn at Race Brook Lodge followed by a concert and celebration with live music by Sarah Lee Guthrie and friends. The evening will also feature clips from the Music Inn documentary and footage from previous reunion gatherings. On Sunday, Music Inn documentary producer and drummer George Schuller will lead an epic jazz brunch at the Stagecoach Tavern.

From 1950 to 1980, Music Inn was home to a dynamic music scene that remains an important part of the Berkshires’ musical history. To preserve its history, multimedia producer Lynnette (Lucy) Najimy and photographer/graphic designer Lee Everett have researched and constructed a website archive to collect the articles, stories, memories and inquiries from people around the world, including media, publishers and musical researchers. “We’re packing a lot of history in,” said Rothstein of both the archives and the 2018 Music Inn reunion. For more information, call the Race Brook Lodge at (413) 229-2916.

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