On July 6, 1974, legendary rockers Aerosmith captivated the crowd at Stepping Stone Ranch in West Greenwich (originally the Town of Escoheag), pounding out hits like “Dream On” and “Same Old Song and Dance” and closing their 12-song set with fan favorite, “Mama Kin”. The band was part of a 12-hour festival called Freedom Jam, featuring top-billed artists along with others like Sha Na Na and Brownsville Station. They’re all part of a Stepping Stone Ranch honor roll, which includes luminaries like Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, The Moody Blues, Muddy Waters, The Big Bopper, and Pink Floyd – who’ve graced that stage, all while the property remained an active ranch and rustic wedding venue.
However, as riding lessons, boarding, and other equine-focused programming brought the ranch to nearly 30 horses, the entertainment business slowed considerably. Some annual shows, like the Cajun & Bluegrass Festival (the event that launched today’s Rhythm & Roots Festival) and reggae shows continued through the late ‘90s/early 2000s, but ranch owners Darrell and Heidi Waldron had their hands full. It wasn’t until the couple was talking to longtime friend and musician Lori Lawhorne that ideas for a revival concert started swirling.
“We’re hoping it’ll bring new life to the ranch,” says Darrell, who has a special relationship with the ranch. Since he was 13, he’d spent summers there as a stable boy, sleeping in the barn’s hayloft. It’s where he and Heidi, who at the same age also went to Stepping Stone, met and fell in love. They married 10 years later and today, are excited to share with others a return to “the good ‘ol days.”
Lori and her husband Dave Ross (longtime familiar face at Ross Music in Warwick) have organized two marquee events to benefit the ranch and bring it back to its former glory, starting with “Steppingstock” on July 20. The concert marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the iconic three-day music festival in 1969 held in New York State and arguably the most famous rock festival ever.
Steppingstock will feature, among other acts, three tribute bands, featuring the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young by Trinity, the music of The Who by Who Are You, and the music of Jimi Hendrix by Blue Wild Gypsy. The second summer event, Rock the Ranch, unfolds on August 11, featuring southern/country rock acts like Scott Fowler & Southbound, Barefoot Rebel (a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute), and Brothers All (an Allman Brothers tribute band). Tickets for each event are just $20 and children under 10 are free, but make sure to bring your own lawn chairs! A portion of ticket sales from both events will go toward restoring the stage for more acts to come.