Ohio University Music Festival 1973

Ohio University Music Festival 1973
Authored By John Nicholson

Ohio’s student population was a hotbed of political activism in the late 60s into the early 70s. Fired up by the Kent State killings in 1970 (inspiring CSNY’s ‘Ohio’) the University put on a lot of shows for touring rock bands. 

This was a two-day show held on Fri Apr 27, 1973 and Sat Apr 28, 1973 at the Convocation Center in Athens, itself very much a place of alternative living and general left-field faroutedness. The Convo Center was a new circular ‘UFO-style’ building, of which many were built in 1960s and early 70s America. It opened in December 1968 and held 13,000. In the UK, our Universities do not build places like this for sports and gigs. It just doesn’t happen, probably because they don’t have the money. Our colleges usually just have a ballroom, a stage was put up at one end and touring bands would play to a few hundred hairies, all standing. 

The line-up for the gig was Billy Preston, Blood, Sweet and Tears, Bruce Springsteen, Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show, Jo Jo Gunne, Joe Walsh, Jonathan Edwards, The Eagles.

The MC for the shows was Uncle Dirty, the alter-ego of Bob Altman. The good Uncle never made any noise in the UK but in America he was well-known on the underground rock circuit. Wiki describes him as "an American comedian and free-associating thinker more popularly known as Uncle Dirty. He wrote for Richard Pryor. Altman is also known for playing Karen's Dad in the 1990 movie Goodfellas.

Joe Walsh was fresh out of Ohio’s James Gang and was now working on the first Barnstorm record (such a brilliant album) B,S & T were morphing from jazz-rock pioneers into something less radical. The excellent Jo Jo Gunne had only just been formed by Jay Ferguson, fresh out of his stint in Spirit. The Eagles headlined after already having had a top 30 album with their debut and having just released Desperado on 17th April (did you know Desperado is their lowest charting album in the USA. It only got to #41!!)

Springsteen was touring his first album Greetings From Asbury Park. Don Henley has talked about playing this show as significant for him: 

"I'd first heard about Springsteen from Jackson (Browne), who raved about him. Then we ended up on the same bill as Bruce at a festival out in Ohio. So I sort of wandered in alone and checked out his set. He was just a warm-up act at this show. After watching him I remember thinking to myself that this was a guy that wasn't gonna be warming up the crowd for us, or for anybody, for very long".

And boy, was Don ever right!

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