Tag Archives: Robert Schoenberg

A Steppenwolf Riot

Image found on Internet

Steppenwolf circa 1969. Image found on Internet.

With a string of hit singles and an album in 1968, two of which, The Pusher, and Born To Be Wild, were to soon be featured in the soon to be released movie Easy Rider starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, the band Steppenwolf scheduled a concert in Spokane’s Memorial Coliseum for February 5, 1969 advertising the concert in the Spokane Natural’s late January edition. Tickets were available at P.M. Jacoy’s, Speedy’s Record Rack, and the Bon Marche. Seating was available in three areas of the Coliseum with ticket prices at $3, $4, and the top price of $5 if you wanted to sit in one of the front rows. The show started at 7 p.m.The two warm-up bands were Spokane’s Liverpool Five and an unheard of band from California, Three Dog Night, who had a recently released album and a new single Try A Little Tenderness  that soon reached #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. The producer for their album, Gabriel Meckler, had also worked with Steppenwolf on their album. Lights were provided by Retinal Circus.

The Natural sent staff writer Val Hughes, an inhabitant of the new bohemian Peaceful Valley, to review the concert. Hughes noted that the Liverpool Five were once a headliner in Spokane. The band had reduced their number of musicians to four and they had replaced members with a local musician, Fred Dennis, on bass and another musician she did not recognize.KJRB radio station personality Gary Taylor, the events promoter, served as MC for the concert. Hughes thought that Three Dog Night was the best band of the evening while Steppenwolf’s performance proved to be languid. Steppenwolf’s bass player was the exception, Hughes said, in that he was animated throughout the set. He was also wearing what appeared to be a dress. It was a dress. Nick St. Nicholas was Steppenwolf’s bass player. He had a reputation for being eccentric and for upstaging Steppenwolf’s vocalist John Kay. He was fired a year later from the band mostly for not bothering to tune his guitar and for that upstaging Kay thing. Hughes, impressed by St. Nicholas’ style and manner separate from the rest of the band said, “the bassist seemed to be in his own world.”

At the end of the show, Kay, wearing his signature dark sunglasses on stage, made an attempt at provoking the crowd into acting out some rock ’n’ roll rage at the authorities. He encouraged the opposite of crowd control. Kay invited anyone in the audience to come up and join him and the band onstage, which they did crowding together on the Coliseum’s voluminous stage. This did get a reaction from the police in that they pulled the plug on the bands amplifiers and the PA. They were shutting it down. Kay was the only one of the band left on stage. In some cities this may have accomplished what Kay wanted, a chair throwing, brawling, riot of epic proportions. But Kay overestimated what a Spokane crowd is capable of doing. There was no encore.Eyewitness Hughes described it as very underwhelming. “Now this being Spokane, nothing serious happened. The audience just went home, thinking bad things about cops, adults, and the establishment in general.”

That is, the sound went off, the lights came up and everyone politely filed out of the Coliseum. Many of the $3 ticket holders quietly came down from the second level seating on those circular ramps up in the front of the venue, passing through the front doors to catch rides with friends, or went home with a parent driving the station wagon back to Country Homes, or Hillyard, or to the Valley, or they caught the Manito Park bus for the South Hill.

Hughes talked to a musician’s agent after the show and he said that Steppenwolf was through in this town. Interviewing someone from Three Dog Night Hughes said they were “happy to be liked and ready to like back.” Hughes concluded that the show proved “we’re starting to evaluate not on a name, but on a performance . . . and maybe then the name bands will realize that you’ve got to do a bit more than just be there to turn on Spokane.”

Steppenwolf was, of course, not finished in Spokane. They would be back. Maybe it was the band reacting to the crowd that resulted in a shallow performance that night. Spokane’s audiences had a reputation among performers who appeared here as being a bit languid themselves. A year earlier Joe Felice opened up the Eagles Ballroom for rock ’n’ roll music and it folded after only a few weeks from lack of support by the public. At the August 1968 Summer Funfest held at the Spokane Fairgrounds, Grassroots guitarist Warren Entner was disappointed with the Spokane teens at their concert. He told the Natural that the whole atmosphere was bad. He said it wasn’t like a dance or concert he was accustomed to performing. He described the audience as “A lot of kids (who) didn’t come to groove on the music—they came to fuck around. Maybe it’s the lack of dilated pupils . . . there’s no communication, no love.”

However, to the Spokane audience’s credit maybe it was the music itself that needed adjustment. Also at the Funfest and appearing the next day was Canned Heat, a popular blues boogie band. This band, it was noted, did get the crowd up and on their feet. So in the end, maybe it’s not the audience that was the problem, it was what style of music Spokane wanted to hear, what got them jumping and singing and dancing. In the end, what Spokane wanted was to boogie down. That’s all.

“Steppenwolf.” Advertisement. Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 3. January 31 – February 13, 1969: 16.
“Nick’s ouster and the bunny ears.” GoldyMcJohn.com.
Hughes, Val. “One Dog Night.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 4. February 27, 1969: 9.
“Eagles Turns On” Spokane Natural Vol. 2, No. 20 Sept. 27 – Oct. 10 1968: 4.
“All Kinds of Heat.” article. Spokane Natural, Vol. 2, No. 16, Aug. 2-15, 1968: 7.

According to Steppenwolf keyboardist Goldy McJohn, St. Nicholas was dismissed for a number of reasons: “The führer (Kay) fired him [for] wearing dresses in Steppenwolf with that bleached blonde hair, being out of tune at gigs … lots of reasons. I liked the bunny ears, but John made such a stink about it at the Fillmore East, you’d think he was in charge. Everyone else was on acid in the audience and this great big guy got up and told Kay to let Nick tune up and everybody cheered. Stealing John Kay’s limelight has and always will be his modus operandi, in other words.”

© Copyright Robert Schoenberg 2014


1976 Gig List: Spokane Memorial Coliseum

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA photo by Robert G. Schoenberg

. . . Date . . . .  . .      Band . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    . . . . . Attendance 
February 5 Electric Light Orchestra 1,602
February 12 Kiss 7,516
April 22 Johnny Winter 5,563
April 27 Elvis Presley 7,232
April 28 Peter Frampton 1,831
June 27 Jefferson Starship na
July 25 Yes 6,383
September ? BTO 5,620
October 7 Lynyrd Skynrd 2,454
October 22 ZZ Top 6,506
October 31 Rush na
November 19 Ted Nugent 6,196
November 28 Blue Oyster Cult 6,011
December 19 Beach Boys 6,840

Top grossing event was the Elvis show selling $7.50, $10 and $12 tickets bringing in $89,360. The Jefferson Starship concert was a request to rent in the April SEACAB meeting minutes.

Source: “Coliseum 1976.” SEACAB records; Spokane Arena Office Binder: “Coliseum Concerts” typed, handwritten and word processor documents 1975 to 1994. 14 Jan., 2011.

Copyright © 2013 Robert Schoenberg

Gonzaga University COG is No More: was a great Rockn’roll venue

Photo image taken along Still Creek near Mt. Hood, Oregon, 2010.

Photo image taken along Still Creek near Mt. Hood, Oregon, 2010.

The COG, Gonzaga University’s building for student meals on campus, was also a venue for dances. Many of Spokane’s local musicians played there. The COG is no more as the University is making way for something new, and tore the building down over the past few weeks. Visiting the campus on Friday all that can be seen now is a hole in the ground where the building once stood.

Following is a list of bands and the dates they played the COG as they were advertised in the Spokane Natural. There were many, many more bands that played the venue. Most of the advertising as to who was going to play the COG was by word of mouth and the occasional flyer taped to record store windows.

. . . Date . . . .  . .      Band . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
February 28 The Loop
March 15 The Experimental Spring Rock Ensemble Admission is 97 cents, 90
cents if in costume or roller
skates, 83 cents if both
March 16 BJ Thomas & The Sonics
March 21 The Shakers
March 28 Jug Band
April 18 Springfield Rifle
Sept. 27 Shirley Lorraine
Nov. 7 Zombies
January 10 Universal Joint
March 28 Siddhartha
April 3 Tender Green
Oct. 2 Universal Joint
Nov. 1 Gene Redding & Funk

Copyright © 2013 Robert Schoenberg

1977 Gig List: Spokane Memorial Coliseum

. . . Date . . . .  . .      Band . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Attendance 
February 2 Fog Hat 8,500
April 15 Super Tramp 5,301
April 17 Willie Nelson 1,717
August 11 Kiss 8,365
August 19 Styx 6,998
August 27 Heart 8,358
September 19 Rush 5,112
December 7 Buddy Rich 882

Top grossing show, Heart with $59,834; Kiss grossed $58,912; and Fog Hat cleared out with  $55,590.

Source: Spokane Arena Office Binder: “Coliseum Concerts” typed, handwritten and word processor documents 1975 to 1994. 14 Jan., 2011.

Copyright © 2013 Robert Schoenberg

1978 Gig List: Spokane Memorial Coliseum

. . . Date . . . .  . .      Band . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    . . . . . . .  . Attendance 
February 21 America 3,000
March 13 Nazareth 8,500
April 20 Fog Hat 7,068
May 13 Ted Nugent 8,500
May 16 Tom Jones 4.087
May 18 Bill Gaither Trio 2,828
June 14 Boz Scaggs 6,270
July 27 Aerosmith 7,800
August 5 Blue Oyster Cult 7,800
August 12 Tribute to Elvis 1,675
September 10 Boston 7,800
September 28 Black Sabbath 4,529
November 8 Rush 4,200
November 17 Commodores 7,242
November 26 David Gates & Bread 3,697

Top grossing show, Ted Nugent with $63,750; then Aerosmith and Boston at $62,400 each; and Blue Oyster Cult with $59,219.

Source: Spokane Arena Office Binder: “Coliseum Concerts” typed, handwritten and word processor documents 1975 to 1994. 14 Jan., 2011.

Copyright © 2013 Robert Schoenberg

1979 Gig List: Spokane Memorial Coliseum

. . . Date . . . .  . .      Band . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    . . . . . . .  . Attendance 
March 2 Phoebe Snow  Opera House
March 9 Marshall Tucker/Firefall na
April 2 Styx 8,523
April 14 Van Halen 7,445
April 15 Super Tramp 4,714
April 20 Country Music Hall of Fame 4,232
April 25 Kenny Rodgers/Dottie West 7,218
May 6 Yes 5,419
June 1 Triumph 2,873
June 23 Eric Clapton 5,994
July 23 Ted Nugent na
July 7 Nazareth 3,939
July 13 Kansas 6,728
August 9 Blue Oyster Cult 8,517
September 9 The Cars 8,500
November 7 The Knack 2,237
November 28 Earth Wind & Fire 7,699

Top grossing show, Earth Wind & Fire with $73,140; Blue Oyster Cult grossed $69,477; and The Cars put $68,000 in the trunk before heading out.

Source: Spokane Arena Office Binder: “Coliseum Concerts” typed, handwritten and word processor documents 1975 to 1994. 14 Jan., 2011.

Copyright © 2013 Robert Schoenberg

John Currier: playing in Manito Park, and reviewing a John Mayall Concert.

John Currier – keyboard

  • Rick Mose Blues Band
  • Pearce Arrow
  • Associates: Jack Nixon, guitarist; Buzz Vinyard, guitarist; John Werr, guitarist; Ted Bellusci, (band) Southern Comfort; Larry Ellingson (Arrow) piano, harpsichord; Steve Groff (Arrow), drums; Doug Roberts (bass); Cheryl DeLorme, (vocals) and Barbara Owens, vocalist.

Spokane Be-In at Manito Park

John Currier is first mentioned by name in the pages of the Spokane Natural playing keyboards as a solo act performing at the first Spokane Natural Benefit Concert to raise money for the underground newspaper in January of 1969. The Benefit was held at the Grotto, a venue on the corner of Pacific and Browne. He was also a member of Pearce Arrow, a group playing the benefit as well.

However, Currier was involved in the Spokane music scene before this first mention by name. Currier was a member of Rick Mose Blues Band, a group that was invited to play a free concert at Manito Park, July 23, 1967, Natural editor Russ Nobbs’ called this first event the “Be-In.” This was referring to another free concert at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in January 1967, the “Human Be-In” that featured a number of San Francisco’s most popular bands.

The organizers of the Spokane Be-In rented an electrical generator to power the instruments and a sound systems. The concert was held near the duck pond and featured Rick Mose Blues Band and the Flat Earth Society.

The 1969 John Mayall Concert

In a review of the January Spokane Natural Benefit held at the Grotto by a staff writer for the underground newspaper, it was noted that Pearce Arrow played a rendition of the Rock ’n’ Roll standard, Gloria, and that the bridge of the song included a few bars from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gloria in Excelcis.

A few weeks later that year an advertisement appeared in the Spokane Natural promoting the English blues rocker the Jeff Beck Group who along with English bluesman John Mayall were booked into Spokane’s Memorial Coliseum for a concert to be held April 5, 1969. Beck cancelled, but Mayall came to “The Barn” to promote his latest album release Blues From Laural Canyon. Three other regional bands were booked to warm up the audience for Mayall. They were Spokane’s Wilson McKinley, Moses Lake’s The Bards and another Spokane group, Revised Edition.

Currier wrote the review in the Natural of the concert and expressed that he liked Mayall and his band. However, he was not very kind to the local bands who he complained were “monotonous even when they switched genres, from rock to country and western.” Currier said that the bands played too much three chord rock ’n’ roll, and tended to sound the same no matter the song. The country and western he mentioned refers to Wilson McKinley’s cover of the Louvin Brothers’ song, I Like The Christian Life. The song was recorded by the Byrds for their album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo [released Aug. 30, 1968, Columbia Records]. The reaction to Currier’s criticism arrived a week later in an unsigned letter. Nobbs backed up Currier noting his bona fides with a mention of the bands he’s played in, and that he is a student in the music department at Eastern Washington State College in Cheney. The letter-to-the-editor was highly critical of Currier’s review, and felt the Currier’s harsh criticism was uncalled for. The letter writer’s point-of-view observation of Mayall complaining backstage about the lack of audience (reportedly only 200 people came to the show in the cavernous Memorial Coliseum) indicates that the writer was someone with access to the backstage area, such as a member of one of the bands who Currier had criticized. The letter was unsigned, but Nobbs felt it was still important to publish the letter, noting that from now on, letters must be signed, but he will take out the name if asked to do so. The letter writer also points out that after performing I Like the Christian Life, the audience was seemingly stunned by the songs sentiment and calling the moment an embarrassed silence after Wilson McKinley finished it.

A second benefit for the Natural was arranged at the Grotto, to be held mid-April. Pearce Arrow was again asked to perform, and Currier was also mentioned performing solo on the keyboards at the event. It was also said that Currier lived in Peaceful Valley and was considered by the reviewer, Val Hughes, as the Valley’s “resident mad composer.” Other members of the band were Steve Groff on drums and Larry Ellingson on harpsichord, and Doug Roberts on bass.

In August of that year Nobbs, along with the Spokane Hip Independent Traders (S.H.I.T), organized a free concert at High Bridge Park, one of maybe four concerts organized in High Bridge Park that year. The music was provided by The New Southern Comfort, Tendergreen and solo performances by Buzz Vinyard, John Werr, Ted Bellusci and Currier. Southern Comfort was having some sort of problem, and they could not make it to the park. Instead, Cold Power filled in. Currier presented an Italian Operetta selection accompanied by the vocalist Barbara Owens.

“Benefit.”Advertisement. Spokane Natural. No. 3, Vol. 2. January 17, 1969: 16.

“All The Heads In The World.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 3. January 31 – February 13, 1969: 8-9.

“Be-In July 23.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 1, No. 8. August 1967

Hughs, Val. “Benefit Dance Hurt.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 9 April 25-May 8, 1969: 9.

Currier, John. “BRAVO! Mayall.” Concert Review. Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 8 April 11-April 24, 1969: 8.

“John Mayall Review Critisized [sic].” Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 9, April 25 – May 8 1969: 14.

“Free in the Park.” Advertisement. Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 17. August 15-28 1969: 8.

“In the Park.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 18. August 29-September 11, 1969: 6-7.

Nobbs, Russ. Recorded Interview. 19 Jan. 2012.

Roberts, Doug. Email to the author. 21 April 2012

Copyright © Robert G. Schoenberg 2012