112- Farm Aid 30 years ago


Farm Aid 30th AnniversaryFarm Aid

Champaign, Illinois

Memorial Stadium

September 22nd, 1985.

Biggest concert lineup ever.

I have asked my good friend, Joe Alexander, to come on the podcast with me and talk about Farm Aid.  Joe has done many things in his past including working for me and he does public speaking, one of his topics right now is Farm Aid, and he also is a sports broadcaster.

Benefit concert to aid farmers in the United States.  It all started back stage after the Willie Nelson concert at the Illinois State Fair in 1985.

Joe and I will discuss how it all came about and was pulled off.  Joe has talked to numerous people who worked for the University of Illinois at the time and how this all came off in about a 5 to 6 week time frame.

Wasn’t it nice when government used to work.  And, all before cell phones.

Here is the list of acts and Joe has been told it was amazing who asked to be included but for whatever reason, mainly time, could not be on the line up card.30th Anniversary First Farm Aid


John Anderson

The Beach Boys

The Blasters

Bon Jovi

Jimmy Buffet

Glen Campbell

Johnny Cash

David Allan Coe

John Conlee

Ry Cooder

Lacy J. Dalton

Charlie Daniels

Charlie Daniels Band

John Denver

Bob Dylan

John Fogerty


Vince Gill

Arlo Guthrie

Sammy Hagar

Merle Haggard and the Strangers

Daryl Hall

Emmylou Harris

Don Henley

Waylon Jennings

Billy Joel

Randy Newman

George Jones

Rickie Lee Jones

B.B. King

Carole King

Robbie Krieger

Kris Krisofferson

Huey Lewis

Lone Justice

Loretta Lynn

Delbert McClinton

John Mellencamp

Roger Miller

Joni Mitchell

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Willie Nelson and Family

Randy Newman

Roy Orbison

Tom Petty and the Haertbreakers

Charley Pride

Bonnie Raitt

Lou Reed

Kenny Rogers

Johnny Rodriguez

John Schneider

Southern Pacific

Brian Setzer

Sissy Spacek

Tanya Tucker

Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen with Sammy Hagar performing Led Zeppelin

Debra Winger

Dottie West

Winter Brothers


Neil Young & International Harvestors

Dave Milsap

Joe Ely

Judy Rodman

Hoyt Axton

Some of these people did not perform just maybe an actress asking for help.  I also have struggled getting a list of performers that actually performed there.  Some maybe were scheduled and did not make it?  Or possibly played with a friend or the lists are just not accurate.

I did have a friend who had a satellite dish who copied the whole thing, I mean the whole thing, raw feed, on VCR tapes.  I even have the part they bleeped out when Sammy Hagar was discussing the habits of tractor pullers.  In his book red he said it was because bands like his and Van Halen “owned” the Midwest.  He loved playing the fair circuit and he had special words to describe tractor pullers.  And yes Eddie Van Halen and Sammy played Led Zeppelin because he said they did not have time to “practice” each other songs.  Well, since the Van halen brothers grew up covering Montrose songs, Sammy’s first band, it was really because the record company lawyers had not worked out the details yet.

Well back to Farm Aid.  Willie Nelson played the Illinois State Fair. “Big” Jim Thompson was governor of Illinois liked the fair and went to most concerts at the fair.  He went back stage and Willie and him talked and Willie I was told said we have to do something for the farmers.

Now this was 1985 right after the Reagan landslide in 1984 and Big Jim was thinking about bigger and better things than governor of Illinois.  Can anybody say Iowa and Presidential primary elections.  So he had his people get a hold of Willie who had moved on from Illinois to play the Iowa State Fair.

Joe can give us much more detail.

80,000 people general seating, rained for 5 hours, they served beer in Memorial Stadium, limos hauling big time stars all over.

And I just want to say thank you to all who tried to help us farmers and ranchers during the 1980s.  From somebody that survived it all I can say is thanks.

Just sit back listen and enjoy this story.

Reach Joe Alexander

@joealex75  or 217.871.8171

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