Live and in poster: Lupton Library exhibit highlights Arena acts in '80s, '90s

Live and in poster: Lupton Library exhibit highlights Arena acts in '80s, '90s

June 23rd, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment


What: "They Played the Roundhouse: Concert Posters and Flyers from the 1980s and 1990s."

When: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays through September.

Where: Second floor, Special Collections, Lupton Library, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus.

Admission: Free.

Phone: 425-2186.


Diana Ross, 1983.

Metallica, 1982.

Bon Jovi, 1989.

Hank Williams, Jr., 1991

Molly Hatchet, 1991.

Between being named "Female Entertainer of the Century" by Billboard magazine in 1976 and being declared the most successful female music artist in history by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1993, Diana Ross played the UTC Arena.

Just two years after signing the most lucrative contract of any recording artist at the time -- $20 million -- she was seen in concert by Chattanoogans for $12.50 or $15 a pop in 1983.

In September, the former lead singer of the Supremes, Academy Award nominee and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member will perform at Harrah's Casino in Robinsonville, Miss., with tickets going for anywhere from $45 to $90.

For area concert fans who remember the concert heyday of what's now called McKenzie Arena, then known as the Roundhouse, an exhibit in the Lupton Library is just the ticket for nostalgia of the 1980s and 1990s.

Some three dozen posters and flyers from the venue's first 15-plus years -- including the tour stop by Ross -- are on display on the second floor of the library in its Special Collections area. The exhibit, "They Played the Roundhouse: Concert Posters and Flyers from the 1980s and 1990s," will remain up through the end of September.

"It doesn't seem like there have been as many touring groups for the past 10 or 15 years," says university archivist Steve Cox. "I've wondered if that's just the nature of today's popular groups. Plus, with Riverbend and Bonnaroo, we're just not getting as many (tours)."

The posters display the diversity of acts that came through the arena during the 1980s and 1990s. Easy listening favorites Barry Manilow, Kenny G and John Denver are included, but so are hard rockers Van Halen and Metallica and outlaw country favorite Hank Williams Jr.

Cox says his favorite in the exhibit is a blue, black and white poster of Van Halen, which played UTC Arena on Feb. 12, 1992. That was the incarnation of the band with Sammy Hagar, not David Lee Roth, he says, and tickets were $16.50-$23.50.

"That is one of the few ones hanging up I wish I'd been to see," says Cox, who moved to the city in 2001.

Another coveted one includes George Jones and Merle Haggard.

"That would been a [great] concert," he says.

Management companies produced some of the more-creative posters and flyers, but many of the more straightforward ones were produced on colored paper by the university.

What's interesting on several of the posters, according to Cox, are the opening acts.

"Some of them became bigger than the bands," he says.

Among those on the posters are Huey Lewis and the News, which opened for 38 Special, and Saga, which opened for Billy Squier, he says.

The exhibit covers only a tiny portion of the first 18 years of the $15 million arena, which opened on Oct. 8, 1982, with a sold-out concert by Kenny Rogers and the Gatlin Brothers.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to my posts online at