Jun 27, 2019

March 20, 1971: Fieldhouse, University of Iowa, Iowa City


The Committee on University Entertainment (C.U.E.) - the group that arranges all concerts at the University of Iowa - has been charged with catering to the musical desires of the Greek population on campus.
Greg Page, A2, Steve Stroeber, A2, Reed Prior, A4, and Mike Reynolds, all from Des Moines, maintain that their attempts to "improve the concerts at U. of I. have been thwarted by C.U.E."
"It started in the fall when the four of us decided we wanted to do something about the quality of the concerts," related Page.
[ . . . ]
"We figured 'what the hell', we'd promote a concert by ourselves and try to get 'Grateful Dead' and Steve Miller, Reynolds interjected. "We had to go to a Mr. Wockenfuss (Director of Auditoria) and see about getting space in the Fieldhouse. He asked us to work with C.U.E. and we told him we didn't want to. He insisted, so we decided that Grateful Dead-Steve Miller was more important than our egos, and we got in touch with Bert Thompson, president of C.U.E."
Stroeber began, "Bert told us that all groups brought here had to be OK'd by the C.U.E. executive board. We went to a meeting at the board and it became obvious that we weren't going to get the Dead. They were all pretty naive about music, one chick wanted to know if they could get Blind Faith. God, Blind Faith hasn't been together for a year and a half. It's obvious that they don't know music."
"Yeah," said Reynolds. "Grand Funk is what happened to our Dead-Miller plans."
"You see," Prior went on, "it's a classic example of getting screwed by the system. The Greeks control C.U.E. and C.U.E. controls the concerts. As long as it's set up this way the rest of us will have to put up with Neil Diamond."
[ . . . ]
[Bert Thompson, president of C.U.E.] said that the board tries to base its decisions on a group's popularity and financial drawing power. "In short, our decisions are based on whatever we think the majority of the students want. We got Havens for those that like folk, Grand Funk for the hard rock fans, and Diamond for those that like him.
"Based on the financial success of the concerts, I'd say the board was doing a good job in picking what the student wants," he said.
[ . . . ]
Another complaint has been that an outside promoter cannot hold concerts at the university without working through C.U.E. And C.U.E. doesn't want to work with outside promoters, Thompson said.
"First of all, the Field House is the property of the athletic department and they've loaned it for concerts - a total of six times - all to C.U.E."
"Secondly, it would be cutting our own throat. A promoter comes in, promotes a concert, gets around 80 per cent of the profits and we get 20 per cent. We aren't in it to make money, but by the same token we need money to put on more concerts - at lower prices - for the students."
[ . . . ]
[The article points out that most of the C.U.E. executive board are Greeks. "But the point is that Greeks are the only people that apply for these positions." The article asks if the committee members are qualified to pick good groups.]
Does being qualified to do a specific job, such as publicity director, necessarily qualify a person to pick rock and roll performers? "Well, who else is going to pick them?" asked [Sarah Holm, chairman of the publicity committee]. "We aren't paid and it's only reasonable that we get some reward for our efforts. Getting to pick the performers is a privilege that we all earn." [ . . . ]
"When we pick a group for a big concert, we want to be sure that the group we pick will be a large-drawing act," said [Mark Stoloda, co-chairman of the promotion committee].
But Page seemed to have the last word.
"If C.U.E. is sincere when they say they want to get groups that will guarantee a large financial draw, they will be interested in this: the group we wanted them to get, The Grateful Dead, sold out at their recent St. Louis concert at six and five dollars a seat."

(by Don Pugsley, from the Daily Iowan, 12 January 1971)

* * * 

A Chat With a Booking Agent --

"Bob Bonis speaking."
"Ah, Mr. Bonis, my name is Don Pugsley. I'm a reporter for the Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa student newspaper. Are you the booking agent for the rock and roll group The Grateful Dead?"
"Among others, yes, I am."
"Oh, wow, good. Listen. I'm trying to do an article on the feasibility of the Dead doing a concert at the U. of I. You see, I'm trying to convince the people that promote concerts here that the Dead are the group they want to book. But before I can do that I have to find out if the group is available on one of the two dates that the local promoters have open. What's the word on, um, either April 17 or March 20 of this year?"
"Oddly enough, we're wide open for March 20. The Dead will be in Chicago on March 19 and Milwaukee on the 21st, so a March 20 set in Iowa City would certainly fit in with our plans."
"Oh yeah? Wow. Well ah, ooh, how much do they cost?"
"Let's see, the 20th comes under the Friday-Saturday contract stipulation, so they'll want $10,000 guaranteed against 60 to 65 per cent of the gross."
"O.K. Now, what about the possibilities of getting the Steve Miller Blues band in combination with the Dead?"
"I really don't think that would be wise, Don, because the Dead put on a three - three and a half hour show. First they come out and play acoustical instruments for an hour. Then Garcia, the lead guitarist, switches to pedal steel and they form a sub group that calls themselves the Riders of the Purple Sage. The Riders play, in their own style, an hour of country-western type music. Then the Dead come back and play electric music for one, one and a half, once in a while, two hours, depending on audience reaction. The concert is entitled 'An Evening with the Grateful Dead.'"
"Mr. Bonis, one of the problems with the local people is fear of getting a group that won't have a financial draw at the university. Could I get a quote from you regarding the way the Dead relate to a Midwestern university audience."
"Real well, real well. We approved this tour just last Friday and we've already booked at Michigan State and we're talking to the University of Minnesota, Indiana University, and the University of Illinois. As a matter of fact, the last two schools want the date you mentioned - the 20th."
"Well, it sounds really fine, Mr. Bonis, really fine. I just hope I can get the people here to act before the Dead get booked elsewhere."
"Good luck, bye now."
"Thanks, goodbye."
The Grateful Dead contract asks for $2,500 and 5 to 10 per cent less than Grand Funk Railroad. They will play almost three times as long.
Make no mistake. The Dead do not appear on stage in snappy silk outfits; they do not gyrate and sweat; they do not treat their instruments as electrified phalli. They will play tight, well-organized music.
Tuesday, Bert Thompson, president of the Committee on University Entertainment (C.U.E.), was quoted as saying that he and C.U.E. were always open for suggestions regarding possible groups. A Grateful Dead concert would be very nice.

(by Don Pugsley, from the Daily Iowan, 13 January 1971)

* * *


"We haven't decided anything for sure, but we've picked four groups for the March 20 concert, and we will try to book the group on which we get the most feedback," said Bert Thompson, president of the Committee on University Education. [ . . . ]
The groups being considered are Grateful Dead, The Who, Santana, and Ten Years After.
Thompson went on to say that any one wishing to express an opinion regarding a group should call [C.U.E.].
C.U.E. members indicated that they feel that perhaps the Grateful Dead is not as popular as some local groups maintain. It was the feeling that prompted the request for phone calls.
[ . . . ]
Thompson emphasized that as yet C.U.E. has made no choice on a group.
"We only hope that our ultimate decision will be in keeping with C.U.E.'s goal to please the largest number of students," he said.

(by Don Pugsley, from the Daily Iowan, 14 January 1971)

* * *

From the Daily Iowan, 2/23/71:

Tickets for the Grateful Dead concert to be given on March 20 will go on sale at 6 a.m. Saturday at the Union Box Office. [ . . . ] 
Reserved tickets will be $3.50 and $3 each, with general admission ticket prices at $2.50 ... There will be a limit of ten tickets per person.

* * *

Tenting in the Old Ticket Line --

An eight-man group, labeling themselves the Hot Box Federation (H.B.F.), began camping out at the Union Tuesday [2/23] to insure that they got front row seats at the upcoming March 20 Grateful Dead concert.
Tickets went on sale at 6 a.m. this morning. [2/27]
H.B.F. president, identifying himself Wednesday as Dr. Linoleum Bernoulie, explains that the organization is a group of Rock and Roll supporters.
H.B.F. members boast attendance at more than 400 concerts, ownership of an 800-pound record collection, and possession of an R'n'R concert ticket stub display that covers four walls.
"We are..." continues Bernoulie, narrowing his eyes, nodding slowly and pausing to heighten the impact of his impending statement, "Hard Core."
Bernoulie drinks from his Ripple bottle, eases back, lapses into glassy-eyed contemplation, then leans forward and in hushed tones confesses, "Actually, I've never seen the Grateful Dead in person. But, I've tried to make up for this by playing the Dead's first album, the side with Viola Lee Blues on it, every day since I bought it four years ago."
Another member of the outfit, calling himself Chicago Howard, relates that he saw the Dead in Chicago and, slowly smacking a clenched fist in an opposite palm, goes on the record stating, "The Grateful Dead is the best group in Rock and Roll. And I've seen every band that ever played."
[ . . . ] Howard quietly asserts, "But you know, CUE [the Committee for University Entertainment] is pushing things too far. What they should have done was get rid of the reserved seats, throw out the chairs, and let everyone in on the ground floor for a general admission charge. Now, that would make for a knock-out concert."
Dr. Bernoulie and Chicago Howard, joined with those like them, faced many hardships during their wait for the beginning of ticket sales. They spent their nights sleeping behind the bushes, in the snow and mud, outside the Union. Their diet consisted of burgers from the Wheel Room Cafeteria, washed down with smuggled Ripple. Their reward will be front row seats on March 20.
"And you know," says Bernoulie, playing absent-mindedly with a small glassine bag, "we think it's worth it."

(by Don Pugsley, from the Daily Iowan, 27 February 1971)

Photo caption: Willing to weather the dead of winter, these two members of a group grateful for any chance to see live rock camped, the past few days, outside the Iowa Memorial Union, waiting for Saturday morning and the opening of the box office. The concert they were waiting for is the Grateful Dead, which plays Iowa City Saturday, March 20.

* * *


Twenty uniformed, professional ushers have been hired to assist student ushers at Saturday's Grateful Dead concert. The ushers . . . have been acquired to enforce seating arrangements and to thwart any attempts by individuals to bolt for the stage.
"At the last concert," said James Wockenfuss, Director of Auditoria, "large numbers of people ran to the front of the stage. This violated both Iowa City's fire regulations and the front row patrons' ability to see." [ . . . ]
"These ushers," continued Wockenfuss, "will help enforce the fire regulations by keeping the center aisle . . . clear. If we do not do this, people who control the Fieldhouse (Recreation Board) will not let us use it for further concerts."
Wockenfuss said that the ushers "were not designed to force any confrontations with the students."
"I'm sure students realize that in a large gathering such as this, people cannot be allowed to move around indiscriminately," he reasoned.
"We are only trying to insure future concerts," added Wockenfuss.

(from the Daily Iowan, 19 March 1971) 

* * *


At first it seemed like a prison benefit. Every light in the house was on to its full capacity. Anyone standing was questioned as to the whereabouts of his or her chair. When the music started, octogenarians in zoot suits and baseball caps stood in front of the stage, arms crossed, their eyes patrolling the crowd for any indications of someone having a good time.
Somewhere midway into the first group's (The New Riders of the Purple Sage) third number, the much anticipated confrontation began. The fans bolted in, the ushers bolted out, and the patrons in the front two rows folded their chairs and passed them off the floor. After occupying the stage front, the liberators revealed large stashes of reefers (marijuana cigarettes), and proceeded to start stoking some while throwing the others on stage.
At half time, a University official made a last ditch "get tough" effort at intimidating the crowd. The crowd would not be intimidated and the university gave in, requesting only that "the chairs be stacked neatly in the back."
About this time the Dead came on stage and launched into their first song, "Trucking," making it evident through Garcia's stinging riffs that the Dead were going to get it on. In the crowd individuals were losing it big, with some people's psyches raging out of control. A semi-(he still had his shorts on) flipped out individual crawled on stage and managed to stab Bob Wier's hand with a house key before being spirited away by the bouncers. In spite of the crowd's rowdy behavior, the band seemed to be enjoying itself as it countered each new outrageous action with more Rock and Roll.
The Dead sang the better songs of the night in the second set. "Sugar Magnolia" was done so well that at its finish both Garcia and Wier were smiling uncontrollably. The best-played song, of course, was "Turn On Your Love Light." Garcia and Wier pushed the crowd higher and higher before ending with a guitar crescendo that had everyone, including their own sound people, screaming and shouting.
In the aftermath, it seems as if university officials are the most disturbed about the marijuana smoked Saturday night. The Fieldhouse had negligible damage (they had to replace the Fieldhouse floor after the Grand Funk concert), and although the final receipts aren't in, the Dead concert seems to be a financial success. The word is now that the concerts will go on, but only the more subdued acts will be booked. The kind that keep people in their seats.

(by Don Pugsley, from the Daily Iowan, 24 March 1971)

Thanks to Dave Davis.


For more from the Daily Iowan, see:


  1. This is an unusual example of beginning-to-end coverage of a Dead show in a university paper, from being booked to being played. I didn't see these issues when checking the Daily Iowan a few years ago; perhaps they hadn't been digitized yet. (And there may be still more I've missed.)

    Some of these articles read like satire, almost too good to be true. I love the clueless CUE member asking if they can get Blind Faith! Even better is Mr. Wockenfuss, Director of Auditoria, stating that "people cannot be allowed to move around indiscriminately." (So naturally a team of ushers is hired to grimly keep people in place.)

    Don Pugsley, a reporter for the student paper, played an active role in getting the Dead to play, and would later join CUE himself. A July 20 article that year noted that he'd become "head of the Promotion and Publicity Committee of CUE [replacing the people he'd complained about]. Last spring he was one of the more vocal critics of CUE and had a great deal to do with bringing the Dead to Iowa City. Going to rock-n-roll concerts is Don's hobby; he's attended over 80 of them."
    His first step was to write an article complaining about the committee's poor music selections. (A letter to the editor protested that the article was biased and unfair.) It's notable that both these student promoters and the ones at F&M College in my last post felt that the Dead "won't have a financial draw." Since the Dead were in huge demand and selling out in most places in early 1971, presumably they were living under rocks (or they were aiming for the really successful groups like Grand Funk Railroad), so Pugsley's distress is understandable.
    He then called the Dead's booking agent himself, Bob Bonis. (I don't know which agency Bonis was working for at the time, but he'd been a tour manager for the Stones & the Beatles on their US visits.) Their conversation was reported verbatim in the paper, stressing that the Dead are affordable and available and in demand. (It's even promised that the Dead "will play tight, well-organized music," which had not been what they were known for!)
    Under pressure, CUE took student requests, and despite feeling that "perhaps the Grateful Dead is not as popular as some local groups maintain," clearly the Dead won the vote.

  2. It's curious that Bonis talks about the "evening with the Dead" show as it had been in 1970, with an acoustic set, even though the Dead had long since dropped the acoustics. Maybe he didn't know about the change himself, or it was misinformation meant to dissuade promoters from hiring another opening band. (These students got the New Riders package instead of Steve Miller.)
    The Dead also had a spate of cancellations in early '71 - the March 19 show in Chicago Bonis mentions was cancelled, as well as Northern Illinois U in Dekalb (the 5/7/71 Chicago Tribune noted, "the Grateful Dead pulled a last-minute cancellation at Northern Illinois University a few weeks ago"), and a couple eastern universities as well. As for the other universities the Dead were talking to in Minnesota & Indiana, perhaps they didn't get as far as scheduling a date, or the available dates got snapped up.

    At this early date, it's rare to read about people camping outside the box office ahead of time to get tickets, but here some "hard core" rock fans show up to wait in the snow for days. "The Grateful Dead is the best group in Rock and Roll!" Chicago Howard proclaims. (I'm impressed by their collective "800-pound record collection"...those were the days.)

    The concert itself was remarkable for a crowd revolt against the guards and restrictions, as the university officials were swept away, chairs and seating tossed aside, and joints pulled out for all. (Sounds like the music was a hit too, though for the Dead it was just a basic short rock set.) Chicago Howard was right: the concert shouldn't have been seated in the first place, "throw out the chairs." Pugsley would later concur, "You just don’t have chairs at a Dead concert." The crowd was rowdy, with people flipping out and "losing it big," presumably not just on the spirit of rock & roll. (There are some more descriptions in my older post on this show.)
    Of course, the university was distressed at such behavior, and threatened for a time that no more rock shows would be allowed. The Fieldhouse would continue to rock on in future concerts, though.