If you're the type of person who keeps old concert ticket stubs, two new books will surely feed your nostalgia in different ways. In "Rock Concert: An Oral History as told by the Artists, Backstage Insiders and Fans Who Were There," music journalist and author Marc Myers presents a lively oral history of the rock concert in America, from early R&B shows to Live Aid. In "Hello, Chattanooga! A History of Famous People Who Have Visited The Tennessee Valley," veteran Chattanooga TV and radio personality David Carroll took on the herculean task of compiling a huge database of notables who've visited the area in the past century. While Carroll emphasizes his book is not solely about the many artists and bands who've appeared in the Chattanooga area, concerts — rock, soul, pop and country — dominate the big book of lists, mixed with history and memories from his long career. The national and local concert scenes are neatly bookended in the two worthy additions to your bookshelf.
When Michael Lang, co-creator and the face of Woodstock, died in January, he still was scheming to revive the Woodstock brand for another anniversary show after plans for the 50th anniversary fell apart in 2019. Previous gatherings in 1994 and 1999 ended with mixed results, the latter the subject of a recent documentary detailing the worst travesties of the millennium-closing event.
Lang loomed large in the world of concert promotions, since Woodstock set the template for all marathon music festivals to follow. But he was not the first to orchestrate gatherings connecting young people to music, as Marc Myers and his interviewees recount in "Rock Concert," an engaging oral history of concerts in the U.S.
By modern standards, the first concerts — mostly staged at nightclubs in the 1940s and '50s, hosted by DJs and featuring multiple acts — were fairly small affairs, but were met with no less enthusiasm than larger-scale shows today.
Myers charts the evolution of the concert, from early shows hosted by the man who popularized the term "rock and roll," Alan Freed, to Woodstock and Live Aid. His substantial Rolodex yields comments from performers like Joan Baez, Roger Waters and Angus Young, among many others, mixed with reminiscences from DJs, commentary by rock journalists like Cameron Crowe and the colorful promoters, engineers, stagehands and fans who were all there for the evolving phenomenon of the rock concert.
As the industry matured, the rock concert became a rite of passage, a uniting force and a hugely profitable business. While there's also a long history of debauchery on the road, Myers wisely focuses on the development and impact of the concert scene rather than sordid tales, a subject that isn't lacking in shelves full of rock memoirs.
For those who came of age in the 1960s and '70s, the behind-the-scenes accounts will surely bring back memories of shows, fill in some blanks in the rollicking, meteoric rise of the rock concert — and provide some answers on how the business has changed and why the rock concert no longer looms as large as it once did.
If "Rock Concert" examines the history of the concert experience across the United States from the 1940s to the '80s, David Carroll's "Hello, Chattanooga!" is a labor of love focused on the many bands, artists, actors, politicians, sports stars and personalities who've paid a visit to the Scenic City over the past 100 years.
Carroll spent years tracking down information about shows at the city's best-known venues — the Memorial Auditorium, the Tivoli Theatre and the UTC Arena — from John Philip Sousa and Houdini, both in 1924 at the auditorium, to Taylor Swift at the UTC Arena in 2008 and beyond. But there's much more.
If the resulting book is impressive in its research and heft — 700 pages of concert dates, capsule histories, photos and vignettes — it began on a much smaller scale as a blog on Carroll's website tracking concerts held at the UTC Arena.
But, commenters on the blog asked, why stop there?
Why not list all the shows from the auditorium and Tivoli, and what about Lake Winnepesaukah and memorable nightclubs and bars? And why limit the book to just concerts?
Carroll answered: Why not?
But if accessing records for the arena shows was relatively easy, tracking down the dates and performers from half a century ago or earlier, and long-defunct clubs, presented a much larger challenge.
Someone with less personal history and professional connections on the Chattanooga music scene might have quickly given up. Fortunately, Carroll, a veteran Chattanooga radio and TV broadcaster, was more than up to the task.
The risk, he admits, is the book isn't complete. Carroll couldn't find every famous name, date and venue, but he's done some admirable heavy-lifting and gotten very close. Even if the book is, as he writes, intended to jog memories, enlighten and entertain — and it certainly does — it also is a significant achievement: the most comprehensive resource and reference guide to Chattanooga concerts ever assembled. And for that, local music fans owe Carroll a huge debt of gratitude. One only hopes Carroll will post all this data online at some point.
Until then, Chattanoogans with a long history in the city will delight in thumbing through the lists of concerts, certain to elicit memories — and maybe settle a few arguments.
Did Elvis Presley ever play Chattanooga? Did Bruce Springsteen sell out the auditorium in his only show here in 1976? The answer on both accounts is no.
Aside from the major stages, it's also interesting to dig through shows at lesser-known theaters, clubs, churches and event centers, and Carroll travels even further afield to include nearby venues in North Georgia and East Tennessee.
Who remembers the Village People performed in Cleveland in 2014? Or that Alex Chilton performed at Michaelango's at Miller Plaza in 1989?
Some venues, like the National Guard Armory, were once a concert stronghold. You could have seen Dion there in 1962, Mother's Finest in 1972, Run DMC in 1984 and George Clinton in 1995.
Also included are shows at venues of more recent vintage, such as Track 29 and Songbirds South.
It's enough to make one wonder: What happened to Chattanooga's concert scene? The answer, in most cases, is pure economics. But there's still great shows and festivals happening in Chattanooga with history yet to be recorded.
As for Carroll's favorite concert memory?
"I'll go with Tina Turner at the UTC Arena on Nov. 9, 1985," he said. "She was 45, and in the midst of a huge comeback after about 15 years of relative obscurity.
"The stories had just begun to emerge of the domestic abuse she had suffered at the hands of her ex-husband. Watching her rise from the depths of the stage, rising high above the audience on a huge platform, belting out 'We Don't Need Another Hero' was quite a spectacle. The sellout crowd was on her side, and her energy never flagged for two solid hours. She had gone from lounges to arenas almost overnight, and it was an honor to watch this Tennessee-born superstar at the height of her powers."
Your weekly planner of Chattanooga-area events (including Circus on Ice, backyard bird count and a holdover NYE concert)