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Local Opinion: The greatest forgotten event ever in Tucson music history
Tucson opinion

Local Opinion: The greatest forgotten event ever in Tucson music history

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Lately there has been much to-do over the Beatles documentary video “Get Back,” especially in Tucson since the title song mentions our fine city. It is personal to me because I was a disc jockey on KTKT, our former top local radio station, and helped introduce the Beatles to this area when they hit it big in the U.S. in 1964.

With the “Get Back” story usually comes a look at Paul McCartney’s stint in this area and also a history of other greats who have performed here. Billy Joel, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Doors, Kelly Clarkson, Garth Brooks, Elvis Presley … a virtually endless list. The biggest attendance ever was for Fleetwood Mac, a show put on by my buddy Dave Slavin that drew over 55,000 at Arizona Stadium. And, we can’t forget the many times our local heroine, Linda Ronstadt, has appeared here before her adoring friends and neighbors.

Now imagine if you had a giant 2½-hour show. Appearing on stage, instead of one performer, there would be eight future members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Eight of the most popular performers at the time all on stage for one show.

Well, it really happened, right here in Tucson the night of Oct. 10, 1957, at one of the unlikeliest of places, the Catalina High School Gym. I know; I was in the crowd of 3,000 that night.

On stage were these future Hall of Famers: Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, The Crickets, LaVern Baker, Clyde McPhatter, The Drifters and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. There were also some greats appearing who did not make the Hall of Fame. Like Paul Anka who scored 11 top-10 hits in his career.

Nine legendary acts, nine incredible performances. Admission Price: $2.00. Yes, two dollars. Today it almost sounds like a typical “oldies show” at a local casino. But, we must remember that at the time, every performer was at their peak popularity with records at the top of the charts all over the world. The Beatles would later claim that they idolized and learned from Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly.

Imagine having nine of the biggest stars of today performing on stage in Tucson … and for the admission price of $19.78 (1957 price of $2.00 adjusted for inflation). If we were lucky to get one to play here, wouldn’t the admission be around $100?

It bothers me that this event continues to be unheralded. So, music historians, please don’t forget the greatest musical performance in Tucson history. The night eight future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers appeared in the CHS gym.

Ray Lindstrom is a member of The Arizona Broadcaster’s Assn. Hall of Fame. He is a lecturer/writer, now retired in Oro Valley.

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