- When Rock Ruled
- Share Your Concert Stories!
The Who. The Lovin’ Spoonful. Jefferson Airplane. Iron Butterfly.
Four decades ago, Drew made an improbable appearance on the stage of a cultural revolution. We asked alumni from the peace-and-love generation to reminisce about their favorite rock concerts in the Forest.
Illustration by Tim Marrs; photograph for The Acorn, University Archives
The first concert I saw at Drew, days after I arrived in the fall of 1966, featured Chad and Jeremy, a likable folk duo from the lightweight division of the British Invasion. When I told one of my rhythm-and-blues friends the show was only so-so, he replied, “What made you think it would be even that good?”
Today, I remember it more charitably, and not because “Summer Song” had unexpected resonance. No, it was the opening act to a part of Drew the college catalog never mentioned: A century after its founding, this quiet Methodist seminary was about to become a heavily trafficked outpost on the 1960s rock ’n’ roll highway.
On a Saturday night in 1969, for a couple of bucks, you could see Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chuck Berry and Rhinoceros in Baldwin Gymnasium. OK, David Clayton-Thomas, the lead singer of BS&T, bailed out of the late show with a sore throat, and Rhinoceros remains better known as a large mammal. But Chuck Berry, when he still had all his voice, sang “Johnny B. Goode,” live, three minutes from Tolley Hall.
While rock concerts were not unusual by 1966, they were still moderately subversive. Our parents did not pay the $1,800 annual Drew tuition so Jefferson Airplane could remind us that the dormouse said to “feed your head.”
By modern standards, the whole operation was primitive. Rows of folding chairs were set up in the gym, whose acoustics sounded like a subway tunnel at rush hour. The speakers and amps, by today’s standards, would embarrass a sixth grader.
Didn’t matter. In March of 1968, The Who played that stage, unleashing a 45-minute blitzkrieg of sound. The gym, which seated 1,500, was half-full. The social committee was criticized for overpricing the tickets at $4.50. It was a great show.
Students did all the work, for nothing, and there were rough patches. Iron Butterfly didn’t go on until nearly midnight, meaning “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” ended around lunchtime.
Frank Zappa, ever the contrarian, made sarcastic remarks about the teeny-bops in the audience and then got into their faces by playing a set of wildly eclectic improvisations. The crowd shifted in its folding chairs, then started muttering, then left. So did Zappa. My friend Robert Hancock, maybe the only improv fan in the house, went backstage and told him, “You were right.” About the teens, he meant. Zappa just shrugged.
My favorite band, the Lovin’ Spoonful, played Drew just before finals in May 1967. I wanted the best show ever. It was good. It wasn’t great. They played for two hours, which was about their entire repertoire, but it lacked the transcendent spark of their best live work.
Turned out guitarist Zal Yanovsky wasn’t speaking to drummer Joe Butler and had decided to leave the band. Sometimes just believing in the magic doesn’t set you free. That’s rock ’n’ roll.
The diciest moment came in the fall of 1967, when the chairman of the social committee and three friends promoted a Four Tops show by doing a song-and-dance in the cafeteria. In blackface.
But the real Tops were terrific. So were The Who, the Airplane, the Rascals, the Animals. Eight artists who played Drew back then were later enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Nine if you count Bob Dylan, who finally played Drew on April 13, 1996. The times they had a-changed by then, but I went back, and I’m glad I did. He was even better than Chad and Jeremy.
David Hinckley C’70
Selected Concerts 1966-1984
- Chad and Jeremy (September 24)
- Judy Collins (September 30)
- Eric Burdon & The Animals (March 3)
- The Lovin’ Spoonful (May 6)
- Judy Collins (September 30)
- The Four Tops (November 3)
- The Who (March 29)
- Richie Havens (May 3)
- The Jefferson Airplane/Earth Opera (October 4)
- Iron Butterfly (November 16)
- Family/Jerry Jeff Walker (May 2)
- Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention (February 15)
- Chuck Berry/Blood Sweat and Tears/Rhinoceros (March 22)
- Canned Heat/John Mayall (October 11)
- Jethro Tull and the Flock (November 14)
- Tim Buckley (February 14)
- Mountain (April 25)
- Pete Seeger (April 11)
- Van Morrison/Livingston Taylor (October 2)
- The Byrds/The Flying Burrito Brothers (November 14)
- The Allman Brothers with Cowboy (April 2)
- Cat Stevens (April 22)
- Carly Simon (November 13)
- Sha Na Na (December 10)
- Rita Coolidge/Crazy Horse/Pearls Before Swine (March 4)
- Billy Preston (October 7)
- David Bromberg/Brewer & Shipley (October 6)
- Barry Miles (November 3)
- John Sebastian (May 6)
- Harry Chapin (October 13)
- The Deadly Nightshade (November 13)
- David Sanborn (May 8)
- Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (December 11)
- Eddie Rabbit (April 30)
- Stray Cats (October 17)
- Dave Mason, co-founder of Traffic (October18)
- R.E.M. (April 30)
As social chairman of the college in 1972–73, I remember Drew’s rock concerts with fondness. Live shows on campus by artists such as Mountain and Van Morrison, both in 1970, were invigorating, implausibly inexpensive at $5 a ticket and always a little raucous. The concerts conveyed not only the great passion of the performers but also American culture in the midst of change. And they conferred on Drew a kind of worldliness for a small college in a suburban town. Today, whenever I hear The Who belt out “Who Are You,” I always think of Drew and smile.
Frank J. Carnabuci C’73
Carly Simon, somewhat shy but confident of her talent, arrived at Drew on a chilly Saturday, Nov. 13, 1971. Her second album, “Anticipation,” had been released earlier that month (the title song, the story goes, reflects the anxiety she felt while waiting to go on her first date with Cat Stevens). That evening a smiling and reflective Carly charmed her fans on both guitar and piano. Her songs about life, love and heartache lingered with us long after her final curtain call on the Baldwin stage.
Unfortunately, the social committee, which I chaired, did not sell enough tickets to break even. Turns out we were a week too early. “Anticipation,” Carly’s next hit single, had just started to get airplay on New York radio stations. Had we booked her just a weekend or two later, Baldwin would have sold out, and our budget would have been a few thousand dollars healthier.
Next, we booked Sha Na Na, which had developed a cult following of oldies lovers after a show-stopping performance at Woodstock. Rather than confine the audience to the conventional rows of metal folding chairs on the Baldwin Gym floor, the committee agreed to put on a dance concert.
Baldwin was packed with more than 1,000 people, many outfitted in ’50s greaser attire—leather jackets and slicked-back hair or poodle skirts and bouffant hairdos. Due to a few rowdy townsfolk who had sneaked in some flasks of hooch, Madison police and fire officials decided there would be no dancing. Just before the opening number, the police ordered all the house lights turned up and announced that Sha Na Na’s performance would be terminated if everyone did not “cool off and sit down!” Not everyone complied, and sure enough, 35 minutes into the show, the lights were ordered back on and an officer announced that the concert was officially over. The crowd let loose with a series of loud and long boos.
Jeff King C’72
I remember my roommate, Greg Granquist, hiring Blood, Sweat and Tears before anybody had heard of them. By the time they came to Drew, they were a big hit. I think they were mad because they were getting so little money. Greg invented the two-show concert—a show at 7 and 10 p.m., a 45-minute set at each show. Blood, Sweat and Tears was booked with Rhinoceros, a Boston band, and Chuck Berry. David Clayton-Thomas, the lead singer, said he didn’t want to do the second show. Faced with a full house, I went over to Chuck Berry and asked if he was willing to play longer. He said, “I’m no amateur. You’ll need to pay me.” He had five other guys in his band. He said, “$5 for each of the guys and $10 dollars for me.” I said OK, and they played another 45 minutes.
Barry Fenstermacher C’69
When I was growing up in Madison in the 1960s, Jefferson Airplane came to Drew. I wasn’t allowed to attend since the university was not the place my parents wanted me to be (too many hippies). But what I didn’t miss out on was the prop they left across the street from campus. It was a real airplane they used during their concert and decided to leave as a “gift” to Drew and to Madison. It sure caught everyone’s eye: It was painted the colors of the rainbow. The founding fathers of Madison were not happy. The plane did not stay there long.
Diane Zsombik G’97
A fleeting but staggering memory of Drew and the whole rock’ n’ rollthing was a Mountain concert in the gym on a Saturday night in 1970 and an address by Strom Thurmond the following afternoon.Yikes! Now, there’s an education.
Margo Davis C’72
You need to understand what it meant to be social chairman in the ’60s. In theory, one was chair of the social committee. In practice, one was Hugo Chavez.
The first show I organized was The Who. We paid the band $4,000 for a 45-minute set. With other costs, the concert’s budget ran to $5,500. Believe it or not, the show lost money, about $1,500. The concert, however, was an artistic success. I recall the energy of the group’s performance, in particular the drummer Keith Moon, as well as their harmonies. They wore white Sgt. Pepper outfits, and I believe Pete Townshend smashed a guitar at the close. Drew was fortunate to have the group. It was like buying shares of Microsoft in 1985.
On the night of the Iron Butterfly show, one of the band members miscalculated his LSD dose and was incapable of leaving his motel room. Faced with the unpleasant prospect of refunding hundreds of tickets, I persuaded the opening act, a local teenage blues band, to drag out their set. And then play another set. And then another. Still no Butterfly band member. I huddled in the Baldwin Gym locker room while the audience stomped on bleachers, thundering their discontent. People pelted me with objects and boos when I went out to announce each delay. At last, at 11:30 p.m., the delinquent band member arrived. The group did their psychedelic thing and finished with a ripping version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” replete with smoke bombs.
In September 1968, I booked my favorite group, Jefferson Airplane. Both shows sold out. I invited my parents (Lawrence Welk fans), who were nonplussed by the strange music. My dad congratulated me afterwards with the observation that it was the first time in seven years that he heard anything in his right ear.
Greg Granquist C’71
The Boys in the Band
Plenty of Drew faculty and staff create music, from jazz to bluegrass to rhythm and blues.
Four of them indulged us with their favorite concert memories—on and off campus.
Assistant Professor of Religion
Guitarist in bands with students and with Drew faculty and staff
Last fall, on October 6, we organized a benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina and got a New Orleans band, Papa Grows Funk, to come play at The Space. That evening, the New Orleans Saints were on Monday Night Football and there was a TV adjacent to the stage. These guys are huge Saints fans, and they couldn’t keep their eyes off the game. Every time the Saints would score, they would, on a dime, go right into a couple stanzas of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and then, on a dime again, go right back into the song they were playing.
Manager, Media Services/Instructional Technology Services
Drummer in The Booglerizers, an acoustic blues and ragtime band
My most memorable concert was the first one I ever saw: June 1972, I was 10 years old, I went to Madison Square Garden to see Elvis Presley. We had nosebleed seats. The lights went down, and the music came up. (I found out later it was the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey.) The drummer, on a double bass drum, started kicking in on the drums, and then came the horns, the strings. Then out comes this one guy, in a cape, and he goes to every part of the stage. Then he heads for the mike and starts singing. It was amazing. I think he started by singing “That’s All Right, Mama.” There were no pyrotechnics, no huge screens. It was just him singing. Ten years later, I bought the eight-track of one of the shows he did at the Garden that week.
Admissions officer and Class of 1970 alumnus
Bass player in a jazz band with Drew faculty and staff
My favorite concert was one that I put on several weeks after I started at Drew in 1965. It was a jazz show, a quartet. I was the oldest, 18. The other guys were 16, and they were fantastic players. I was eager to bring these guys up and play in Great Hall. The leader of the group—a bass player—ultimately went to Juilliard, and the keyboard player was just precocious; he’s still playing professionally. We played old jazz standards, Irving Berlin, ballads and sambas. It was just a swinging quartet. I had never seen any response on campus like that until the big rock ’n’ roll bands came in.
Professor of English, Director of Humanities Program
Drummer in Allamuchy Sheik, a folk and blues group
In the fall of 1992, when I was the director of Drew’s London Semester, I took the students to the Barbican Concert Hall in London for a Mahler symphony. There was a student sitting next to me who had never been to a classical concert. Five minutes into it, she turned to me with her eyes absolutely huge and glowing and said, “It’s just wonderful.” And that was one of the greatest memories I’ve ever had at Drew. It was one of those moments that make you glad you’re a teacher.
Special thanks to David Hinckley C’70, Jeff King C’72 and Masato Okinaka in the Drew University Archives for loaning photographs and posters.
Send Us Your Concert Memories!
We know there are more tales of concerts just waiting to be told, so share your favorite music moments in the Forest here.