I've been on a quest of late and it surrounds the rich history of live music in our fair city and surrounding towns. The crowd, the music, the slight ringing in your ears and rumble in your chest -- there's just something special about going to see an artist perform in your own backyard. Sure, you can make the long drive to bigger venues but what about those who have appeared on our stages, tasted our wares, and sang their songs in our atmosphere?
Who was mentioned first when I asked about famous musicians to play here? Without a doubt, Jimmy Buffet. Jimmy played Lander and there are lots of stories surrounding that show. It broke the budget. It was outdoors. People danced and sang. Legendary.
Canadian power trio Rush played Erskine some time in the late 1970s and you could get a ticket for $3. Yes, I would like more details of Rush at Erskine.
The Temptations played here in the late 1980s -- certainly one of the most famous groups to do so, unless you consider Aerosmith to be more famous. Yes, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and company played Sproles Auditorium on the Lander campus in the mid-1970s. It was loud and it was $7 to get a ticket. Sweet emotion, indeed.
Greenwood has played host to the veritable Mount Rushmore of Country and Western Music. George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Ralph Stanley and Flatt & Scruggs have all been here. Porter & Dolly played the old Barksdale Gymnasium at Lander. And Jon Holloway told me he saved up money all summer to go see The Judds and Merle Haggard at GCC. After a strong opening from Naomi and Wynona, Merle came out and played two songs only to utter those famous words, "Good night, Greenwood" before retiring back stage. No riots occurred.
On the soul front, we've had our share of legends. James Brown played a New Year's Eve show at GCC in 1995. Attendees told me that James was careful pre-midnight because it was a Sunday and he didn't want to "get too funky on the Lord's day." Shortly after midnight, he broke into "Sex Machine." Speaking of funk, we hosted George Clinton and Parliament once. Shirley Caeser and the Blind Boys of Alabama played the Brewer Auditorium. Heavy D and the Boys, Whodini, Kriss Kross, and Kool Mo Dee all played here. 2LiveCrew as well. Legendary blues guitarist Bob Margolin also played and possibly lived here for a time.
There are more. Donovan in 1976 followed by a food fight. Wide Spread Panic, Jefferson Starship, 38 Special, REO Speedwagon, Bad Company, and Huey Lewis with his "News"
What about venues? Lander College/University hosted plenty. Jackson Station must have been a sight to see. Index-Journal columnist Chris Trainor, talked about the Civic Center proudly like it was the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The American Legion, Moose Club, Brewer Auditorium, Soul2Soul, The Sunset Strip, The Filling Station, Grandpa's Gin Mill, The Greenwood County Fairgrounds, and the Ninety Six Depot were all remembered with emcees such as Wolfman Jack, Dana Gravley and Rick "The Train" Dettman.
Thankfully, Uptown Greenwood was and still is a home for local and traveling musicians as music fills the air on most weekends. The legacy of local artists such as The Swingin' Medallions and Hack Bartley have been passed down to a crop of talented, dedicated, musicians who continue to brave local venues on a regular basis. Combine that with events such as the Festival of Discovery with dozens of talented blues artists, Music on Maxwell, GPA and Live After Five and this tradition looks to continue for many years to come.
Crutcher is the broadcast specialist and XLR Radio general manager at Lander University. He serves on the national governing board for College Broadcasters Inc., the largest representation of college radio and television stations in the country. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulCrutcher.