Plattsburgh: Once Part of a World Tour
Big name acts often performed in Plattsburgh
in the 70s and 80s.
Story and photos by Tats Kasama
Sam & Dave, The Beach Boys, John Mayall, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, Santana, The Stray Cats, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Band, The Kinks, The Ramones, The Pretenders.
What is this list of big names? They are just a handful of the famous musicians and bands who performed in the concerts at Plattsburgh State University College (PSUC) in the 1970s and 80s. In that period, the college invited such acts for concerts held three or four times a semester.
A PSUC student recalls vividly when Emerson, Lake & Palmer played in 1978. "I remember the drummer (Carl Palmer). He goes upside down, turns around, and spins," Howard Shambo said. Shambo first attended PSUC in the late 1970s and saw many concerts while on campus.
"Chrissie Hynde came, and we played volleyball."
On one occasion, he was able to meet one of the performers. "My girlfriend at the time was on a volleyball team. Chrissie Hynde [of The Pretenders] came and we played volleyball," he said.
In 1970, Joe Cocker recorded in Plattsburgh for his album and film "Mad Dogs & Englishmen," which is available on CD and DVD. The photo caption in its booklet says, "Joe Cocker leaps through a version of Lloyed Price's 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy' at Plattsburg [sic], New York concert." He had the concert in Memorial Hall, but the photo seems to show somewhere else.
Peter Frampton's concert at Memorial Hall in 1975 was also recorded for his legendary solo album, "Frampton Comes Alive!" but it is not really clear which tracks in were recorded in Plattsburgh. "Do You Feel Like We Do?" is generally said to be the one, but some say "Baby, I Love Your Way" was the one, and others say "All I Want to Be (is by your Side)" might have been, too. "State University of New York at Plattsburgh" is printed in the booklet, but songs are not attributed to locations.
Tim Hartnett, associate librarian of Feinberg Library, has been working on a project to catalogue the concerts held at PSUC. He said he wants to build a website that lists the shows with detailed information and photos so that people who attended those concerts can exchange and correct the information.
"I want to build a website that lists the shows, including photos, contracts, and maybe sound files of the concerts and backstage interviews, too."
Hartnett attended many concerts in PSUC since 1971, when he saw a Ritchie Havens concert.
In PSUC concert history, trouble sometimes occurred. The Concert Committee had booked Iggy Pop as the opening act for The Pretenders in January 1987, but Pop could not reach Plattsburgh because of bad weather conditions. The Burlington-based band The Cuts performed instead.
Billy Joel performed in Plattsburgh before he became as famous as he now is. "He came here because he was supposed to be in the backup band of Chuck Berry," Hartnett said. "But Chuck Berry never showed up, so he had to play."
How was it possible to bring such big names to Plattsburgh? There was a
Concert Committee under the Student Association at that time. It had a close relationship with an agent in Boston, and the agent focused on the Plattsburgh location, which is between two big cities � New York City and Montreal � where such musicians had concerts: They booked Plattsburgh in between those shows.
"We don't have much live music now," Hartnett said. According to him, Student Association paid about $30,000 for The Squeeze show in 1987 as a guarantee, but they couldn't gather enough audience. As a result, the college got a huge financial loss. Since that time, Plattsburgh State has not held big concerts as often.
He added the varied preference of the community as another reason that made it difficult to hold big concerts. In the 70s and 80s, many students seemed to like the same acts, but now musical taste is more diverse.
"It's part of rock history that students may not know, at the time, the importance of what they see."
Things related to those concerts are in the Special Collection of Feinberg Library, for example, Concert Committee minutes, posters of the concerts, and the college newspaper Cardinal Points.
The minutes of the Concert Committee reflect students' taste at the time, how the members chose the performers, and so on, according to Hartnett. However, not many posters are left as they should be. Many concert posters were printed for the shows, "but many students could take those for souvenirs," Hartnett said. Cardinal Points has a great deal of information. "It always advertised the concerts, and it often reviewed the concerts after they occurred," Hartnett added.
Special Collections of Feinberg Library also keeps contracts written between Student Association and many of the bands that were hired. "What was written in those contracts was very interesting, too," Hartnett said. "Not only the amount of money but also the special request performers had--certain kinds of food, certain kinds of accommodations."Some contracts show the specific requests such as the number of towels for backstage, brand and the number of beer and whiskey, catering menu, and the time when they should be prepared.
The Special Collection has back issues of Cardinal Points, contract sheets of the concerts, and so on. You may find many surprising collections, and seeing them may be a good opportunity to review Plattsburgh history. The downtown view has not really changed since 100 years ago as far as seeing photos taken at that time.
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