It was good to see the news last week in the Index-Journal and on social media, as Greenwood's own The Jake Bartley Band served as the opening act for Hank Williams Jr. in an outdoor concert at Heritage Park Amphitheatre in Simpsonville. It was a big stage with plenty of exposure for this talented band. I had already been thinking about opening acts when the story broke, so please know that TJBB is not at all whom I am referencing in this column. From all reports, they performed very well and made their fans proud.
For those of us who enjoy attending live music shows, the opening act is sometimes like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates -- you just never know what you're going to get. Opening acts are selected to help pump up the crowd -- to get the audience ready for the main event. Sometimes the opening act is paired nicely to match the format or music genre of the headlining band while other times we are left wondering how two bands got on the same ticket.
This led me on a quest to find the strangest, most unlikely concert combinations throughout the history of modern music. I tried to eliminate the possibility of paired performers at large multi-artist concert festivals. That doesn't really count. The idea here is that you have paid good money for your concert ticket to go see the headline artist you love. You drive to the venue, get through the gate, find your seat, the lights go down, and an opening artist is introduced. What is the most unlikely combination of opener and headliner?
July 8, 1967: The Jimi Hendrix Experience opens for The Monkees. This, my friends, is a strange concert combination. The juxtaposition of Hendrix playing fresh tracks off his "Are You Experienced" album, released in May 1967, as a warm-up for "I'm a Believer" and "Stepping Stone" must have been somewhat startling for audience members. This only lasted for six shows.
Oct. 11, 1981: Prince opens for the Rolling Stones. This was on the "Tattoo You" tour. The Commodores had been the original opening act on this tour and audiences responded favorably to their soulful R & B groove. This wasn't the case for Prince. It also didn't help that he came out on stage wearing only a tiny garment similar to a very small Speedo. Boos from Rolling Stones fans drowned out the music and Prince left the stage in the middle of his set.
Aug. 3, 1974: This is one of my favorite concert combinations. It was a triple-billed concert in New York City's Central Park. Brewer & Shipley (famous for their one-hit wonder, "One Toke Over the Line") opened for Bruce Springsteen who then passed the concert off to headliner Anne Murray. Let that sink in for just a second. Yes, Springsteen opened for Murray. Fun Fact. Outside of charity events, this is the last time Springsteen would open for anyone else.
The Doors open for Simon and Garfunkel in 1967 at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York. Paul Simon had reportedly heard and liked "Light My Fire" and asked The Doors to open the show.
Eagles opened for the legendary prog-rock group Yes in 1972. Eyewitness reports said Glenn Frey, Don Henley and company played an encore that no one was clapping for at consecutive shows. Sometimes an encore is just an extra song.
-- KISS and Rush open for Billy Preston at a show in Houston in 1973.
-- Hall and Oates open for Muddy Waters in 1978.
-- The Ramones open for Toto at a show in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1979.
Paul 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.