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Re: This Date In PPL History

PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 8:23 pm
by Tom
Hi Tom,

Do you have any old dates from May ? I was just looking at this old thread and was hoping you might add to it,


Re: This Date In PPL History

PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 8:32 pm
by Tom
Hi Tom,

Nice to hear from me, it's always a pleasure.

Funny you should bring that up Tom, I was just looking at that thread moments ago when you made your post !
Yes, of course I can always find something.

On May 22, 1975 PPL played before over 40,000 GI's at the first-ever army Rock Festival held at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. "and it's better with a joint than with a drink"
from Flat Tire Merle brought a thunderous ovation from our men although there were no arrests and it's believed to be the first concert in the 70's where none of the patrons lit up the gateway drug aka Mary Jane.

Stay in touch Tom,
Tom Sheridan

Re: This Date In PPL History

PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:51 pm
by Tom
Hello prairiedogs,

June 1st 1975 was certainly a memorable day for the band but given the circumstances let's just say they probably had better ones. Besides some nasty weather, things got very ugly.

The band played at The Poe Ditch Festival at Bowling Green State University. Esimates range up to 40,000 fans showed up, in what was termed their own little Woodstock.

Here is a glimpse of what took place at Bowling Green from an article in the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune that I saved in my scrapbook. What stands out to me in the article ?

I'm glad I asked me. The article states that 17 year old William Sanders ,a copy editor of the BG News, described as a clean cut kid who stood outside to hear PPL, was horrified by what he saw. Long haired types, plenty of motocycles,and some hard drug usuage. And therein lies the difference between the fans of different bands : Sanders, the typical All American, God fearing PPL fan had his day ruined by fans of The Outlaws. OK, I'm assuming they were Outlaw fans.

Here's the aticle and some pictures of the event. Oh, also, Doc Lehman is mentioned in the article. He's a member of this board , was at the show and commented in some thread in the past re: Poe Ditch.

Here's the article and some pictures of the crowd.

All In Good Time,
Tom Sheridan NY

The what festival? With who? In Bowling Green? Are you sure?
Yes. There was a rock concert in the football stadium and it was epic. Thirty-five years later, Bowling Green’s version of Woodstock is a legend believed only by those who were here to witness its rise and fall. Like platform shoes and polyester, it is yet another piece of era paraphernalia survivors of the ‘70s would prefer to forget. As President Hollis A. Moore declared the concert a “first-time/last-time experience,” the memory of the Poe Ditch Festival had already begun to fade away. Today, remnants of the university’s experiment seem to be “out of sight and out of mind.”

On May 7, 1975, the BG News reported: “The Poe Ditch Music Festival, an all-day rock concert, has been set for noon June 1 at Doyt L. Perry Field.” After two years of negotiating a show in the stadium, the University was about to rock. “The festival, sponsored by Ross Todd Productions and Cultural Boost, will feature eight acts,” the article said.
Kim Jakeway’s event had been put in motion. The Student Government Association’s coordinator of cultural affairs announced, “It has been a long time in the making. If this is successful, they (concert promoters) will be wanting to do more shows.”

By May 9, the BG News predicted attendance would be anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000. Budgeting included $25,000 to be spent on advertising from Chicago to Cleveland. On May 22, the official line-up included Johnny Winter, Golden Earring, Montrose, Pure Prairie League, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Richie Havens, Styx and the Outlaws. Gates would open at 9:30 a.m. and the all-day concert would cost $7 for students.
In their May 26 issue, the BG News warned students, “No alcoholic beverages, no drugs and no glass containers will be permitted at the concert. Persons entering the stadium will be searched at the gate.” Fred John, the concert promoter from Ross Todd Productions explained, “It’s a trial run for similar types of concerts in the future.”

Only four days before the concert, ticket sales were falling short. An editorial begged for student attendance. “If the student response is good for this concert, we will be allowed to have at least two more stadium concerts…,” the staff editorial promised.
On May 30, the BG News featured pictures of the stage being constructed and warned traffic would be the biggest problem. The Union Ticket Office counted 19,000 advance tickets sold, mostly in Dayton, Fairborn and Cincinnati. Another editorial by Terry Mowery expressed concern for the message student apathy was sending. “Sure, we may fill that stadium with 20,000 non-students but don’t expect to ever have another big name group come here. As a Cultural Boost committee member, I know for a fact that if we don’t sell 7,000 student tickets there will never be another stadium concert.”

The concert would begin two days later.

Wednesday’s issue of the BG News read like a scrapbook of The Poe Ditch Festival. It was June 3 and there was much to be discussed. “The sudden storm, which blew across the football stadium shortly after the conclusion of Montrose’s spirited rock-and-roll set ended the festival two acts early,” wrote David Fandray.
The clouds rolled in around 5 p.m. “Unfortunately, Winter’s manager decided that the stage was unsafe.” Golden Earring did not play either. One local attendee felt that their money was stolen and their day was wasted. The crowd was promised eight acts, rain or shine, and they only got six.
“The stage was pelted with beer and wine bottles as the beast voiced its displeasure,” wrote Fandray. But he concluded his article optimistically. “The fact remains, however, that the concert did go well until the storm. It was pretty poorly planned, considering the musical preferences of people who attend school here, but it made money and made a lot of Midwestern teenagers happy until it ended prematurely.”
The Daily Sentinel-Tribune reported that attendance had reached 45,000. People came from six states to take part in the cultural boost. But the majority of “Boring Green Straight University” had let their school know that they were completely disinterested.
“The only other problems were the fact that the number of university students attending the affair numbered only about one-tenth of the total crowd and that the sound system did not hold up well when carrying the high volume rock acts,” Fandray said.

“All I really remember was a sea of people,” Dan Feicht, then photo editor of the BG News, said. “It was nearly impossible to wade through the crowd, so shooting from out there was impractical.”

“The only way I was able to get any performer shots at all was that I was allowed up on stage while Styx was performing,” he said. “It was pretty cool standing in the middle of a band during a concert.”

Music wasn’t the only attraction. There were also plenty of drugs. Feicht shot pictures of “burnouts” and referred to his experience as “an awakening for a naïve kid from sleepy little Bowling Green.” He managed to keep his distance. “I’m sure if I had waded into the mass of humanity on the football field, it would have gotten pretty strange and scary pretty fast,” said Feicht.

BG News reporter Joe Wollet wrote the story that summarized that fateful Sunday. Despite the searches, attendees still managed to smuggle in their bottles. “Some sources said amphetamines, barbiturates, marijuana, LSD, PCP and other drugs were bought and sold openly in the stadium,” Wollet wrote in 1975.
“Two men allegedly broke into the Whittaker track press box and broke all the windows. A Molotov cocktail was thrown into the press box and quickly engulfed the structure in flames.”

William Saunders, the copy editor of the BG News, wrote the headline for Wollet’s front-page story. “Poe Ditch Music Festival—drugs, rain” was inspired by his brief experience inside the concert.

It was a “big commotion,” with plenty of “long-hair and motorcycles.” Saunders remembers now. He described himself as clean-cut, unprepared for the hard-core drug usage he saw. As he “drank in the scene,” he witnessed syringes, pot and people lying on the ground in a semi-comatose state. There was broken glass all over the football field and he thought to himself, “This is horrible. They’ll never be able to clean all this up.”

Saunders said he hadn’t bought a ticket, but stood outside the fence to hear Styx and Pure Prairie League. He entered the stadium after the rain and with the official announcement that the concert had been cancelled, a bottle flew over his head. It connected with a stage hand, knocking him down. He remembers thinking “We gotta get outta here. This is getting ugly.”

Cindy Smercina-Bomeli was Cindy Smercina back then. She was at the festival on assignment for the BG News and for her own enjoyment. “Just the idea of an outdoor music concert was amazing. How could I not attend?” she said recently.
“In the ‘70s, we thought Woodstock was the most wonderful thing in the world. The generation on campus and around at that time was looking for its chance to go to a Woodstock.”
Once inside, she recalls “literally, stepping over people passed out on the ground.” The Key’s spring supplement mentioned in its coverage of the event that “according to Bowling Green police, an attitude of tolerance toward any drug use was the policy at the concert because of the size of the crowd.”
Bob Bortel, the current director of student publications, was a 20-year-old sophomore in 1975. “There were probably more heat exhaustion issues in the crowd than I think actually drug overdoses,” he said. “I didn’t see any syringes or whatnot. I saw a lot of people smoking marijuana and a lot of people drinking.”
Forty-five volunteers from the group KARMA assisted those with the usual concert ailments. More than 300 people required medical attention that day, half of them for drug-related illnesses.
Doc Lehman was one of the non-student attendees. He was 17-years-old and anticipating his senior year of high school that summer. He and best friend Bill Evans left Orrville, Ohio, in a Volkswagen at 3 a.m. and headed for the Poe Ditch Music Festival.
“We got in line around 7 a.m. behind three pretty college girls, and when the ticket booth finally opened, we had our pick of spots. We chose dead center stage,” he said.
“We were packed in down on the field and I don’t remember leaving our spot all day until we left. Everyone around us was friendly and having a good time. As a young teenager, I recall appreciating the lovely young lady six feet from us who chose to stay topless all day.”
Lehman, now in his 50s, has started blogging about younger days. He summarized this experience in a post entitled “1970’s Outdoor Rock Concerts/Festivals: How Did I Survive?”
Following the cancellation, he and Evans searched for an exit. “We made our way through the crowd, headed for the parking lot and walked right past Johnny Winter who had just arrived. As we approached the car a group of fans set the press box on fire in protest, and that was the end of rock concerts there.”
The city was filled to the brim. One motel was so crowded they estimated 15 people slept in the lobby. The Key’s spring supplement for 1975 told of tourists pouring into the city on Friday. “By Saturday night tents, campers and sleeping bags covered Sterling Farm, the golf course and the area around Peregrin Pond.”
Local business owners had mixed reactions about the sudden burst of clientele. Some found the out-of-towners to be better behaved and better tippers than students. Howards Club H reported no fights or damages and enjoyed the visitors they described as a “nice crowd.”
Others were not so complimentary. One vendor, disgusted by the event, told the BG News “I couldn’t believe the things I saw and heard about.”
Coincidentally, the Gigolo Night Club, south of Pisanello’s Pizza on North Main Street, burned down the same night. Just after 11 p.m., the building produced flames that could be seen for miles. Smercina-Bomeli was in her Offenhauer dorm when someone came running through the halls yelling, “The Gigolo is on fire.”
City officials denied any connection between the concert and the loss of the popular establishment. The Daily Sentinel-Tribune reported that the Gigolo had been broken into earlier that morning. The burglars made off with “about 40 bottles of liquor and an undetermined amount of beer.”
An editorial in the BG News claimed that only 3,633 university students purchased tickets from the Union Ticket Office. Overall attendance was more than 35,000 people. The numbers seemed to suggest this wasn’t the work of the Falcons. “University students are not the primary source of blame for the trouble and disruption,” not to mention arson.
But some residents were already considering the bigger picture. “This violence will be the issue university and town officials will use to ban any further music festivals,” predicted another local editorialist eager to discuss possible repercussions.
Student Dwight Greer attended the City Council meeting Monday morning to apologize for the concert and its aftermath. Faced with damages and debt, council members proposed a ban of all future concerts within the city limits.
After renting out the stadium for $5,000 and receiving 15% of the gross profits, the BGSU Athletic Department made $40,000. But there was still the cost of clean-up and compensation for public servants that had worked overtime on a weekend. The city turned to Fred John, the concert promoter. Ross Todd Productions was billed $6,979.31, for unforeseen expenses.
Stern letters from unhappy inhabitants and alumni, addressed to the university’s president, arrived for days. Yet, in a stack of discontent there was one hand-written, full-hearted thank-you from a couple in Marion. After assuring President Moore that “You did nothing wrong and did not deserve the abuse you received,” Steven and Barb Johnston apologized on behalf of the troublemakers they defined as both immature and ignorant. Arson and overdose aside, it was still “a hell of a concert.”