Tidbits, Outtakes, and Lessons in Big Name Entertainment Part I
On September 22, 1984, Hank Williams Jr. and Charlie Daniels Band took the stage at the Hooper Eblen Center. Despite touring together, the artists had a very different group of fans and most attendees were there to see one artist or the other. Hank Jr. opened the show…and then would not finish. Lights were turned off. Sound was cut off. What did he do? He picked up another guitar and continued.
This led to a quarrel between the two artists. Quote Charlie Daniels “It was a very unprofessional and amateurish thing for Hank to do. I have no respect for him.” The news of the quarrel at Tennessee Tech made major news outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. It was also mentioned on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (Phone call with Ron Rami, August 5, 2020; 1985 Eagle Yearbook).
Peter, Paul and Mary and the Associated Student Body
The Associated Student Body booked the Smothers Brothers, an American folk duo popular for their satire bits for homecoming in 1964. The Smothers Brothers began their performance, but to the astonishment of all, they never returned to finish after the intermission. What happened to the Smothers Brothers? They went to Judd’s Roadhouse and performed for beers because they were not happy with the student’s response to their performance.
ASB President, Phil Wheeler called their agent, Sherman Tankel, and explained that the Smothers Brothers did not meet their contract and that Tech was damaged for having confidence in any future performances. He argued that the contract did not include audience response, but it did include performance length.
After deliberation, Tankel agreed to refund Tech for the undelivered performance. Consequently, Tech was able to afford to book Peter, Paul and Mary for the following winter quarter. Phil Burgess reviewed the concert the Oracle as “fabulous.”
Garth Brooks and the Statler Brothers
On January 21, 1990, after releasing his first album in 1989, a little-known country artist named Garth Brooks opened for the Statler Brothers at Tennessee Tech’s Hooper Eblen Center. After opening for the Statler Brothers, who played Tech on numerous occasions, Brooks found Capital Record’s agent Jimmy Bowen ready to sign him because of the successful Tech performance. His performance drew a standing ovation and it is claimed this is the first time Bowens witnessed this with a lesser known artist.
The Statler Brothers were a country music and gospel group made up of brothers Don and Harold Reid, Phil Balsley, and Lew DeWitt. They were well known for their own music and inducted into the County Music Hall of Fame in 2008, but The Statler Brothers also paved the way for lesser-known artists such as Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire. Quoted in Country Music Television News, Harold Reid said "he can’t remember how much they paid Brooks when they took him on the road but that he thought it was too much for an act nobody had heard of."
Morris, Edward. "Statler Brothers’ Harold and Don Reid Delight in Upcoming Hall of Fame Induction." CMT News, April, 21, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.cmt.com/news/1585969/statler-brothers-harold-and-don-reid-delight-in-upcoming-hall-of-fame-induction/
You Better Sit Down Kids
On November 4, 1980, The Commodores played the Hooper Eblen and rocked the crowds with their hit “Brickhouse” and “Easy.” This was the last concert at Tech with festival seating, citing The Who concert disaster that resulted in the death of 11 fans in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Commodores were one of the first bands to play in the newly constructed “Hoop”. Their performance was more of a production than some of our initial acts at The Hoop such as Phoebe Snow and Kris Kristofferson. It required an immense amount of power for the lights and stage show. The Hoop was not equipped to handle it. University of Programming Director Ron Rami’s solution was borrowing generators from the Lebanon County Fair, the New Orleans Superdome, and two from the National Guard (Phone call with Ron Rami, August 5, 2020).
You Look Good in My Shirt
In October of 1975, Linda Ronstadt performed in Tennessee Tech’s Memorial Gym. A downside to hosting talent in Memorial Gym was that performers and crew used the student locker rooms. Following the Ronstadt performance, a number of basketball jerseys were missing from the lockers. Approached about the missing jerseys, Rondstadt’s people denied involvement. It was not until Rondstadt performed later on national television that the case of the missing jerseys was solved. One of Rondstadt’s band members was wearing a Tennessee Tech jersey on television confirming the University’s initial thoughts on who had the jerseys (Phone call with Ron Rami, August 5, 2020).
Up in Smoke
On November 11, 1973, Cheech and Chong was the first sellout concert at Memorial gym since 1970. The artists promoted their show by having costumed green spacemen with antennas and a UFO on campus prior to the act.
The crowd at Cheech and Chong is literally in smoke. This was due to dry ice being a very popular performance prop and that Tech's Memorial Gym was a smoking facility. Tech Concerts became nonsmoking in Fall of 1975. Lighters, such as the featured zippo, were then reserved only for encores.
By 1987, Gene Cotton had played Tennessee Tech ten times when he decided to record a live album at Tennessee Tech University in Memorial Gymnasium. Cotton was born in 1944 in Ohio and is known for playing folk/country music. He is best known for the songs "Me and the Elephant." He has lived in Leiper's Fork, Tennessee since the 1970s and advocates for area's under-privileged through numerous programs and charities.