Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 30, 1980

Interviews with Zella Richardson, Shauna Campbell and Dianne Maes conducted January 2010.

Zella Richardson stood outside the University of Southern Colorado’s Massari Gymnasium, surrounded by hundreds of people. The threat of being trampled couldn’t keep the 17-year old East High School junior from attending the biggest rock concert to ever come to Pueblo, Colorado in recent memory—Van Halen.

“I did extra babysitting jobs so I could get tickets," she said. "It was my first concert—ever. I was very excited”

The band's itinerary for the first few dates of the World Invasion Concert Tour, or what was dubbed by the band as the Party 'til You Die Tour, included mainly smaller cities, such as Great Falls, Eugene, and Spokane - a chance to work the bugs out before hitting the larger arenas. The Pueblo show, which doesn't even appear on the official concert tour list, would be the last small market stop in support of Women and Children First - the follow-up to their successful sophomore effort Van Halen II - released just four days before the Pueblo show. When tickets went on sale, they sold out in just a few hours.

"At the time, there was this record store in the Pueblo mall, and I remember having to go there on a Saturday morning, and there was this crazy line," said Dianne Maes. "I didn't know if we were going to get tickets." The 16-year old Central High School freshman (Dianne Alonzo) made plans to go with several friends. "My parents were strict but my dad went to a lot of concerts in his day, and so they always let us go."

"I was a huge Van Halen fan," said Shauna Clarke. The Rye High School graduate attended the show with her fiancé Sam Biondolillo, and friends Danny and Charlie Garrett, along with their girlfriends. "I was shocked that they would be coming to Pueblo."

Ticket holders started arriving at sunrise the day of the show for an opportunity to get close to the stage, once the doors opened. By noon several hundred people crammed in front of the entrance.

"I was there with my friends Bobbi Richards, Marty Vallejos and Marnie Berrian,” Richardson said. “We got there at 11:30 for a 7:00 p.m. concert. There were people smashed up against the doors - but it wasn't reserved seats, and we really wanted good seats."

Just four months earlier, on Dec. 3, 1979, 11 fans of The Who were trampled to death as they waited outside Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum for first-come, first-sit general admission seats.

“When the doors opened, everybody started running,” Richardson said. “It was kind of scary because I weighed like 98 pounds soaking wet, and I was about five feet tall.” She found a seat in the bleacher section, on the left hand side, about 30 feet from the stage.

Shauna Clarke and her party found a spot in the back of the gym. "All I could see was the light show, but I could hear the music, and people screaming and going nuts."

Dianne Alonzo and her friends found seats five rows from the stage - dead center. "We had folding chairs but we stood the whole time," she said. "David Lee Roth threw one of his bandanas in the audience, and my friend Gary Lucero caught one and one of Gary’s friends caught one of Alex Van Halen's drum sticks."

(March 31, 1980 - courtesy of the Pueblo Chieftain. Click to enlarge)

Of course, as history would go on to record, the concert would not be remembered for the band's setlist.

At the start of the 1980 tour, Van Halen added specific demands in its performance contract, in an effort to make sure the promoters actually read the document. On previous tours concert organizers only skimmed the contract and in turn, provided inadequate accommodations for the group's massive staging needs - putting stage crews in danger.

In the case of the Pueblo show the band decided to add "no brown M&Ms" to their contract, as a means of checking whether the venue was properly honoring the whole of the document. If they found the candies it would be assumed that there were legitimate technical and safety concerns.

When the band got to the dressing room they found brown M&Ms.

The night of the Pueblo show, the band's heavy stage sunk on top of the brand new Massari Gym floor, causing about $80,000 worth of damage. Upset by the apparent lack of regard for the rider, the band trashed its dressing room.

(April 1, 1980 - courtesy of the Pueblo Chieftain. Click to enlarge)

(Author's note: After originally agreeing to be interviewed for this story, one of the members of the University of Southern Colorado student-run Concert Crew, the group responsible for helping to arrange the set-up of the Van Halen show, declined to talk about that night.)

In 2008 the Web site The Smoking Gun obtained the original Pueblo contract.
In 2007 Blender Magazine published its 100 Days That Changed Music issue. Coming in at number 65 was the March 30, 1980 Van Halen show in Pueblo, Colorado:

March 30, 1980 - Van Halen find brown M&Ms backstage
After a show at the University of Southern Colorado, in direct contravention of the clause in the band’s contract, to be precise. They trash the dressing room, immortalizing the benchmark for all absurd backstage demands.

Zella Richardson is now the event coordinator for the Pueblo Better Business Bureau.

Shauna Campbell and her husband Chuck ran Pueblo's Sports Garden Events Complex. She is recently retired.

Dianne Maes works as a lab tech at a chemical manufacturing facility.

COMING NEXT POST: The vocal talents of Cañon City High School (1974).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eddie Eldon

Interview with Eddie Y. Eldon conducted December 2009

(NOTE - August 4, 2010: At the request of Mr. Eldon all pictures of his 45s, as well as the audio samples have been removed)

Before Eddie Yaklich had even graduated high school, he was a star. Growing up in Avondale, 15 miles east of Pueblo, he turned pro on the national rodeo circuit before he had gotten his diploma, in 1954.

After getting drafted and serving in the U.S. Army, he went back to the rodeo in 1961, where he continued to excel in bull riding, bronc riding, and bareback. Touring on the national circuit his sport took him west, where his photogenic "made for Hollywood" cowboy looks landed him a job as a TV and movie stuntman.

Under the advice of Willie Nelson’s manager Al Picinni, he also changed his name. “Al said I really needed to do it, if I was going to be a success,” he said. “I had this nickname back in Colorado, 'El Donnie,' and so I decided to shorten it, and make my last name an initial."

And so was born Eddie Y. Eldon.

“I did stunt work in Tucson, where they were shooting westerns,” he said. “I would get $15 a day and a ham sandwich.”

Eldon was soon in demand. He worked as a stunt double for Clint Eastwood on Rawhide, as well as other western-themed shows. He also did stunt work on numerous movies, including Disney’s Run Appaloosa Run.

While living in California he met Rose and Joe Maphis, who were part of the successful country music TV show Town Hall Party, which broadcast throughout the west coast in the 1960s.

At the urging of Joe Maphis, Eldon decided to try his hand at singing – something he had only previously done while working aboard his dad’s tractor in Avondale.

During his California recording career Eldon, who was also a prolific songwriter, released several self-made records on both the 3J and World Label Music labels, from 1978-1982. He would go on to tour with Bozo Darnell and Wynn Stewart.

In a unique way of distributing the discs, he would pilot his own Cherokee 235 to radio stations around the country. “Whenever I would see a radio tower, I would land the plane, get out, and drop off the record – I really didn’t have any money to get these on the charts.”

He moved back to Avondale in 1983, where he built a studio, formed his own publishing company, and continues to record.

COMING NEXT POST: The San Luis Valley Rhythms of John Overton.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tiger Records

Interview with Ed Rutherford conducted December 2009.

(Photo courtesy of Jim and Pam Sisson)

In the mid 1960s, if you wanted to have a nice dinner, enjoy a cocktail, and listen to live music in La Junta, Colorado, there was just one place in town—the Country Club.

For Ed Rutherford the Country Club was literally a second home. The hot spot, located just down the street from the house where he grew up, was owned and operated by his parents, W.G. “Ole” and Frankie Rutherford.

Jim Stone, Hank Snow and Ole Rutherford
(picture courtesy of Ed Rutherford)

“My fondest memories of my dad and the Country Club was the music, and dancing with some of the regulars, and my dad getting on the band stand and singing “Long Tall Texan” but his version was “Short Fat Texan.”

In 1966, Ole Rutherford decided to get into the record business. Gleaning the talent pool of the more popular performers at the Country Club, he decided to make a local country duo, Jim and Lyn Stonecipher (spelled Stonecypher on a few occasions), his first official release on the new Tiger record label - named after the La Junta High School mascot.

Jim and Lyn

“Jim and Lyn shortened their last name to Stone, and they had a band called the Blue Marks,” said Rutherford. “Art Hollar played the steel guitar, Danny Tracy played the lead guitar, Terry Stone played the drums, while Jim played bass. Terry was Jim and Lyn's son and Danny was Lyn's son by a previous marriage.”

The first two records on the new label ("I Wish I Never" / "So-Called Friends" - Tiger 101, and "Little Patch of Blue" / "Boy and Girl in Love" - Tiger 102) were recorded in Denver. The songs feature happy married couple duets, which were a staple of their live shows at the Country Club.

Listen to "Boy and Girl in Love."

“I remember going with my dad to radio stations and visiting with disc jockeys to play the records,” said Ed Rutherford.

By 1967, Jim and Lyn decided to sign with a national management firm, J.B. Artist Promotions, and release a third single, which was recorded in Nashville. However, the couple's release of "Heartbreak Ship" and the flip "Tears are Falling," had more of a love lost feel than their previous love eternal tunes.

Listen to "Tears are Falling."

Shortly after the release of the third single, the couple would divorce. Lyn would go on to remarry and move out of the area.

Before the record label folded in 1968 Ole signed another local performer, and audience favorite at the Country Club, Mac McClanahan and the Rhythm Busters. While his rock-tinged "That Nonsense Stuff" and the slower b-side "No Sweeter Love" (Tiger 104) received local radio play upon its release, it would be rediscovered some 30 years later, as part of the modern day rockabilly resurgence. "That Nonsense Stuff" would go on to be considered a “pertinent” rockabilly record on Terry Gordon’s extensive Rockin' Country Style Web site, and appear on at least three rockabilly compilations.

Ole Rutherford died in 1972. Frankie Rutherford continued to run the Country Club, but sold it off in 1976.

The Country Club (date unknown - photo courtesy of Jim and Pam Sisson)

The property is now home to a popular Mexican food restaurant, Mexico City Café.

COMING NEXT POST: March 30, 1980.