The Class of 1970: 43 Pre-Rolleds and an Amazing Weekend of Music
Melvin was a great guy, a senior at the fraternity house when I was a sophomore. He hung out in our room — a lot — and brought great conversation and political insight, but he never brought party favors. Imagine, then, our surprise and delight when we got back to our room after classes on Thursday, October 8, 1970, to discover 43 fat pre-rolleds on the desk.
The timing couldn’t have been better. We had tickets to see Santana later that evening at the Nazareth Speedway, home of the Andrettis. Friday was special, as it was my first year on the concert committee, and we had Delaney and Bonnie and Friends and Lee Michaels coming for a show at Lehigh University. And Saturday, we had tickets to see The Guess Who at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. We were pumped up, and, thanks now to Melvin, we were also properly prepared.
We “pulled into Nazareth,” but we were definitely NOT “feelin’ about half past dead.” The stage was five feet high, and beyond the infield area were wooden stands. Almost immediately, we were leaning against the stage, dead center. Santana and band were already revved up through two songs and 15 minutes when, suddenly, the power went out. At that point, Michael Shrieve, Michael Carabello, and José “Chepito” Areas dug in and gave us a killer percussion jam for what seemed like another 15 minutes. Finally, it was announced that a fire underneath the grandstands had killed the power. End of show.
I was hanging out at Grace Hall, site of wrestling, concerts, and basketball at Lehigh (in order of their importance) before the Stabler Arena was built. Lee Michaels was the third rock musician I got to meet, and he was a dick. (The first two were Candi Givens and Tommy Bolin of Zephyr.)
I noticed a fine local guitar player from a band that played shows on fraternity hill often: Rick Vito of The Wright Brothers. We chatted for a while, and he went back to the house with me for dinner before we returned for the show. Pre-rolleds for the win!
Lee Michaels and his drummer were outstanding. As best I remember, he played the entire set on grand piano. Then Delaney and Bonnie and Friends came up and put on a super show. There was, of course, speculation: would Eric Clapton still be with them? We didn’t understand (yet) about Derek and the Dominos. For their last songs, they did invite a guitarist up: Rick Vito! His career found him with John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, and many others in addition to playing with his own band.
The Guess Who were riding high on a string of spectacular singles, beginning with “These Eyes,” “No Time,” “Laughing,” and the magnificent “Undun.” Their album American Woman had been out for about a year, and the title track and the revered medley “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature” were also all over the radio. Remember that at this time AM radio was king.
By May of 1970, disagreements and other issues led guitarist Randy Bachman, who wrote or co-wrote all of those hits with Burton Cummings, left the band and would find great success with Bachman Turner Overdrive. Cummings, Garry Peterson, and Jim Kale found two fine guitarists to replace Bachman: Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw. They completed and released their new album, Share the Land, a week before their show at Muhlenberg College.
That new album would yield several more songs destined to become hits, including “Hand Me Down World” and the title track. As best memory can recall, they played ALL of those hits and much more. They were amazing, and vocalist Burton Cummings was positively stunning. However great he sounds on record, he was better in person, and he also played flute. The group also did a great cover of Hendrix’s “Who Knows,” with Winter and Leskiw showing that the guys had chosen wisely.
All good things must come to an end. I convinced Fielding to hitchhike with me to Baltimore to see The Guess Who, performing at Loyola University. He hadn’t gone to the Muhlenberg show but was willing to check it out. Rides were few and far in between, and by the time we got there, the show was sold out, and it got cold and rained on the way back. C’est la vie.
FRIDAY 10.16.70 & SATURDAY 10.17.70
Cycling back to Derek and the Dominos, right about this time, we discovered that Eric Clapton in fact had a new band. Much of the advertising for those shows barely — if at all — mentioned that EC was in fact a member of Derek and the Dominos. They were scheduled to play at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia (the week before the Fillmore East shows that would yield In Concert). I was able to catch the early show Friday and both shows Saturday, with Toe Fat and Tin House.
October ended on a real high with Johnny Winter And at The Electric Factory, also featuring Seals and Crofts (just the duo) and Ballin’ Jack. We caught both shows that night.