'Bigger than the music': Legendary producer of Rhythm & Roots Festival dies (2024)

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Chuck Wentworth, the legendary producer of the , died last Thursday. The Wakefield resident was 72.

"We will profoundly miss his guidance, humility and sense of humor," the festival's new owners wrote in a Sunday announcement on Facebook. "We are grateful to have met Chuck and experienced his fierce love of family and passion for all things music and the fans that came year after year to enjoy it."

Faced with serious health issues, Wentworth announced in 2022 that the festival – a Labor Day tradition that draws thousands of fans of folk, Cajun and bluegrass music to Charlestown each year – was shutting down. But aConnecticut production company,GoodWorks Entertainment, stepped up and purchased it a few months later.

Wentworth stayed on as a consultant and mentor to the new owners, and his family remains heavily involved in running the festival,GoodWorks CEOTyler Grill said in a brief phone interview on Monday.

"So many people come just because he built this incredible weekend that became bigger than the music," Grill said. "A family reunion, basically."

'Bigger than the music': Legendary producer of Rhythm & Roots Festival dies (1)

Legacy includes Cajun dances, longtime URI radio show

A Pawtucket native, Wentworth grew up attending the Newport Jazz Festival with his father, whom he credited for his love of music. He attended the University of Rhode Island and hosted a folk music show on the college's station, WRIU-FM, for 37 years.

Wentworth started his career as a festival organizer when he, his wife and two of his children were the only people who showed up to volunteer at the Cajun & Bluegrass Festival at Stepping Stone Ranch in Escoheag, West Greenwich, on a Friday night in 1981.

He returned year after year, gradually assuming more responsibility, he recalled in a 2015 interview with the The Providence Journal. Eventually, he became a co-producer of the festival.

In 1997, Wentworth parted ways with the festival's original founder – essentially accusing him of being financially irresponsible, The Journal reported. In 1998, he and a new partner changed the event's name to the Rhythm & Roots Festival.

They moved it to Ninigret Park in Charlestown the following year, feeling that the festival had outgrown its original location.

Wentworth's company, Lagniappe Productions, also produced Cajun dances at the Holy Ghost Brotherhood Hall in East Providence and the Mardi Gras Ball at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston. He maintained a day job as a supervisor of aquaculture facilities at URI until he retired in 2006.

'More than just a festival'

Asked about his proudest accomplishment in a 2019 interview with the Westerly Sun, Wentworth replied, "Surviving as an independent festival producer for nearly 40 years in a corporate environment."

When he announced plans to end the annual festival, at least a dozen potential buyers were interested in taking it over. But Wentworth determined that GoodWorks "were the only ones who had the ability to keep it all alive," he told the Providence Journal in 2022.

The goal was to keep Wentworth's legacy alive, Grill said. After the sale, Wentworth remained deeply involved with Rhythm & Roots and devoted himself to teaching the new owners about how he ran and organized the annual event.

'Bigger than the music': Legendary producer of Rhythm & Roots Festival dies (2)

His family also remains closely involved: According to the festival's website, Wentworth's wife, sister and three children all hold various roles that range from driving around the performers to selling merchandise, as do at least five of his nine grandchildren.

"Rhythm and Roots is much more than just a festival, it is a family, a place where best friends are made and people fall in love, learn how to dance, eat their first jambalaya," Grill wrote in a tribute on Facebook. "It’s not just some concert, it is a vibe, a way of life. Rhythm and Roots is Chuck; if you spent 5 minutes with Chuck and the Wentworth family, you know that their love and bond is deep within the veins of the festival."

In a social media post announcing his death, Wentworth's family said that they plan to hold a celebration of his life "to share memories, stories and moments." The date has not yet been announced.

"Chuck’s legacy lives on through the memories he created at the festival and ball, the artists he championed, and the joy he brought to countless hearts," the Wentworth family wrote. "His commitment to celebrating music and fostering connections will forever resonate with those who experienced the magic of Rhythm & Roots."

'Bigger than the music': Legendary producer of Rhythm & Roots Festival dies (2024)


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