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Please Welcome to the Stage: 1970s

We asked Badger Insider readers for their favorite college concert stories; here are the musical memories we collected.

Students meeting rock 'n' roll band in 1970s.

As the saying goes, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Whether you listened on vinyl, cassette tapes, or a first-generation iPod, we all have that song that makes us feel like we’re back in our UW dorm room. But even better than jamming out with your headphones on is singing along at a concert. Did you dance along to a rockin’ UW Marching Band halftime show? Catch a then-unknown but now-iconic artist at a local dive bar? We asked Badger Insider readers for their favorite college concert stories; here are the musical memories we collected from the 1970s:

As a grad student I joined a choral group sponsored by lakeshore residence halls, and I won’t forget the fall of 1970 when I started law school! The Electric Circus gave us a concert that started with a Hard Tovk [sic] version of Grieg’s “In the Halls of the Mountain King.” That was unforgettable!
Kathleen Briggs MS’68
Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

So, Homecoming 1970 was Simon and Garfunkel in the Dane County Coliseum — where the Badgers used to play hockey, as there was no Kohl Center in those days. They came out without an opening act and started singing. A curtain had been placed above them to give the arena a more concert-like feel. People in the upper deck had trouble seeing the performers because of the curtain and started yelling to “take down the curtain.” The first time they yelled, Paul Simon ignored it, the second time they yelled, he said that he was just trying to sing his songs. People kept yelling at the end of their songs. After 30 minutes, they went off — I thought it was intermission, but the concert was over! Don't remember too many other concerts at that venue.
Jerry Silver ’70
Atlanta, Georgia

My happiest times at UW were performing in operas under the direction of Professor Karlos Moser. What a musical genius and great motivator!
Jim Hill ’70
Indianapolis, Indiana

There are a number of music/concert related stories, from the constant playing in the Memorial Union Rathskeller of Otis Redding’s Sitting on the Dock of the Bay after his death in 1967 in Lake Monona on the way to a concert at UW, Madison to watching Jethro Tull in concert in the Dane County Coliseumin the late 1960’s, early 1970’s to listening to Chicago Blues bands on the top floor of the Nitty Gritty Restaurant.
Robert Nelson ’72, MS’74
Darien, Connecticut

Since I had driven my MGA 1,800-plus miles from Tucson, Arizona, to Madison, Wisconsin, to begin my college career in the fall of 1969, Chicago seemed a mere hop, skip, and a jump away. So, when the Rolling Stones tour came to Chicago, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see them live. I saw the Rolling Stones on November 16, 1969, at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago. Chuck Berry opened for the Stones that night and ended his act with “My Ding-a-Ling,” which had the audience cheering and singing along. The Stones, of course, were fabulous as always. I still have fond memories of this trip. But, the Stones are coming to Houston (where I have lived since graduating in 1973) later this year so I can renew my memories from 50 years ago.
Rick Miller ’73
Sugar Land, Texas

The year was 1972. My favorite bar was the Stone Hearth under the viaduct on Park Street. Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” was the song everyone waited for. I can still smell the stale beer on the red shag carpet. In 1973, I saw Santana in concert at the Dane County Coliseum. Bobby Womack and Peace was the warm-up band. Santana just jammed for two hours. It was great. In 1974, I ventured to Columbus, Ohio, for Spring Break to see the Beach Boys with Steely Dan. Fueled by several Harvey Wallbangers, I sang along to every song.
David Rizzo ’74
Fitchburg, Wisconsin

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played the Dane County Coliseum on February 20, 1977, as part of their “Born to Run” tour. He was relatively unknown before that tour, so a massive curtain was used to downsize the Coliseum to about 4,500 seats. My brother and I were in grad school, and we sat in the eighth row with our girlfriends. When the Big Man, Clarence Clemons (R.I.P.), jumped down onto the lower section of the stage to play his first sax solo, the crowd was on its feet for the rest of the night. “Tramps like us ...” Thank you, Bruce.
James Neupert ’75, MBA’78
Atherton, California

Two songs that always take me back to State Street are “More Than This” and “Low Rider.”
Suzan McGaw MA’76
Rockford, Illinois

“I may be old, but I saw the best concerts.” A bumper sticker, recently noted by my UW-Madison–grad daughter Natalie ’18, sums up Madison’s music magic during the 70s. A Bonnie Raitt concert at the UW Stock Pavilion: Yes, we sat on the sawdust, grime, and dirt floor, and she stunningly sang John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” a new song for her then, touring her album Streetlights. Grass, Food and Lodging at the Rathskeller, Circus at local bars, and Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, POCO, and Steven Stills/Manassas at the Dane County Coliseum (DCC). However, the best of many great DCC concerts was Joni Mitchell with Tom Scott and the LA Express. About $3.50 for a decent ticket. Not only did Tom Scott and his stellar band open the show brilliantly, but Joni was absolutely enthralling, courting and sparking the audience with many new songs destined for greatness and her Miles for Aisles album.
P.S. Joni’s album cover, Songs of a Prairie Girl, was photographed with Picnic Point and Lake Mendota as a background, circa 1976.
P.P.S. I am lucky to have Tom Scott play on a number of songs I wrote and coproduced. Absolutely stellar performance each time.
Marv Danielski MS’78
Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Drinking beer and dancing while the bluegrass band Grass, Food, and Lodging performed on stage in the Memorial Union Rathskeller. What a fabulous Saturday night!!!
James Rinehart ’78, MS’84
Indianapolis, Indiana

In 1978 (or ’79) a group of us worked to put on an outdoor charity concert featuring Jerry Jeff Walker to benefit our favorite charity. Jerry Jeff motored up on his hog, got off, and promptly passed out. That was not a problem (he rallied). Then, the rain came down in buckets. The concert was cancelled.
So, we were sitting in a room at the Edgewater. Jerry says, “I did not ride all night to sit in a hotel room.” After some discussion, we trooped off to the Church Key. We got a table and several pitchers. Jerry lacked fondness for the evening’s band. When they took a break, Jerry walked on to the stage. As the bouncers flew from the corners toward the stage, Jerry turned on the mike and announced, “My name is Jerry Jeff Walker. I came to Madison to sing. If you all do not mind, I'd like to play for a while. May I use your guitar?” The crowd rose to their feet. The bouncers stopped. Jerry started a great performance.
Social media did not exist. But, seemingly moments later the Church Key was packed. Jerry played a bluesy version of “Mr. Bojangles.” He played other standards. The crowd sang “Up Against Wall” louder than an amplified Jerry Jeff. The Church Key seemed to shake when he riffed a rockin’ version of “L.A. Freeway.” Nothing is better than improvisational Madison.
John Romaker II ’80
Poway, California

Please Welcome to the Stage

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