Archive for Saturday, December 5, 2009

’79 Marley show lives on in local memory

Reggae legend filled KU venue with ‘gorgeous’ sound and color

Kansas University history professor Bill Tuttle was at reggae superstar Bob Marley’s concert at KU’s Hoch Auditorium in 1979. He remembers the event as a “spiritual experience.” Tuttle is pictured next to a photograph of Marley that was taken by Journal-World photographer Richard Gwin, who was also at the concert.

Kansas University history professor Bill Tuttle was at reggae superstar Bob Marley’s concert at KU’s Hoch Auditorium in 1979. He remembers the event as a “spiritual experience.” Tuttle is pictured next to a photograph of Marley that was taken by Journal-World photographer Richard Gwin, who was also at the concert.

December 5, 2009


Bill Tuttle remembers being in a rotten mood on Dec. 6, 1979.

The Kansas University history professor’s house had just been broken into. Someone took two of his cameras, lenses and his sound system.

He wasn’t too happy, either, after dealing with the reporting police officer, who Tuttle said was stern and chastised him for not locking the house.

That evening, Tuttle was finally starting to mellow out at KU’s Hoch Auditorium, where he was within a few feet of reggae superstar Bob Marley as he performed. Marley’s music famously promoted “one love” and social justice.

People danced around and were enjoying the vibe. Tuttle even says plenty of “illegal substances were being consumed” at the concert.

And then, he saw the same police officer with whom he’d had a less-than-pleasant encounter with earlier in the day — Tuttle doesn’t remember his name — leaning against the wall also enjoying himself.

“I was amazed to see this guy there who had really been so intimidating just a few hours earlier and so receptive to the music,” Tuttle said.

Marley’s performance had that effect on people, according to some who attended that concert, which was 30 years ago Sunday.

“I’ve never been to a concert like that before or since. It was really quite a spiritual experience. It was just incredible,” said Tuttle, now a KU professor emeritus of American studies.

Fortunate booking

Those who were able to attend and see Marley in person found out later how lucky Lawrence was to get him here when it did.

Marley, at 36, died from complications from cancer in May 1981 — 17 months after he played at Hoch.

Rick Sheridan, who grew up in Lawrence, almost missed his chance to see Marley.

“A couple of close friends talked me into it. At the time that was expensive. It was a whole $10,” said Sheridan, who was 22 at the time and a part-time KU student.

Hoch, which is now Budig Hall, was set up with a stage and seating on the floor, plus more seats in the balconies.

“Once Marley came out, things really loosened up,” said Sheridan, now an assistant professor of communications at Wilberforce University in Ohio.

The official concert included Bob Marley and the Wailers with I-Threes, the backup singers that included Rita Marley, Bob’s wife.

Eileen Larson, a KU student at the time, had bought six tickets with her boyfriend John Naramore, now her husband. Some of their friends were supposed to drive in from western Kansas, but they never showed up.

Larson and Naramore initially sat in their seats on the third row, but eventually the loud music hurt her ears so they moved back to balcony seats.

“He was gorgeous. The colors were gorgeous. The sounds were gorgeous,” she said.

After she moved farther away, Larson was able to enjoy it more, and everyone in the crowd seemed to be swaying and dancing to the music.

“I think so much of it was just the rhythm. It’s a real natural rhythm,” she said.

Social, political impact

The music world, including in Lawrence, undoubtedly felt Marley’s impact because reggae bands began to crop up in the area, said Sheridan, who has created a series of historical markers about events in Lawrence history.

“His legacy really lived on,” he said.

Sheridan wants to get permission over Christmas break to put a laminated marker he’s made in Budig Hall to commemorate Marley’s concert. The marker includes the set list for the night.

Tuttle said Marley’s appearance here and his music also made a lasting political impression.

During post-Vietnam and post-Watergate eras, Lawrence was in a political transition. But Marley’s message of equality and his anti-apartheid message struck home for Tuttle and others who wanted to advocate for another cause.

Tuttle said Marley’s music, among other influences, led to many protests of apartheid, including a group of KU students who later set up a “shanty town” and advocated for the KU Endowment Association to divest of its holdings in South Africa.

Aside from considering Marley an important political figure, Tuttle says he’s still blown away by the performance that night.

“I didn’t expect to be so moved,” Tuttle said.

Those who were able to see Marley perform live that night in Lawrence can still see the way the lights touched him on stage.

They remember how his hair moved. Tuttle has a photo of Marley in his home that longtime Journal-World photographer Richard Gwin took that night.

They can also feel the beats radiating through the auditorium as the crowd moved.

They can still hear his voice.

“I just never stopped listening to that music,” Larson said, “so Bob Marley lives.”


Matthew Herbert 8 years, 3 months ago

I took a class from Bill Tuttle approximately 5 years ago on America in the 1960's. It was one of the best classes I ever took while at the University of Kansas.

BigPrune 8 years, 3 months ago

The "shanty town" by the Endowment was 1985ish.

Bob there were a lot of contact highs going on that night.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

I had just moved to Lawrence, and some friends invited me to go the this concert. I was tempted, but had already made other plans, and figured I'd see him next time around.

But at least I got to see his former bandmate, Peter Tosh, also at Hoch, a few years later before he also met an untimely end.

bluerain 8 years, 3 months ago

Unfortuately, the fight for social justice and equality does not exist now as it did during that time period. Lawrence has not progress in this area, evidenced by the racial/ethnic makeup of Lawrence leaders. Posting a marker as a historical reminder is pathetic. Bill Tuttle and others should be emulating Bob Marley by advocating for social justic and equality in lawrence.

Kendall Simmons 8 years, 3 months ago

I went to the concert with 3 friends, one of whom was a huge reggae fan. Marley had a hit song out that I liked, so I went expecting to have a great time.

I have never been so bored at a concert in my life. Every song sounded exactly like every other song. Everyone else is up dancing and having a great time, while I sat in my seat bored to tears. (Even the "illegal substances" didn't help :-)

It wasn't till Marley came out for his encore...and played his hit song...that I had any fun. That hit song was sooooooo much better musically and sounded sooooo different than all the identical songs he'd been playing before that I was finally up dancing with everyone else.

Wish I had my ten bucks back.

irnmadn88 8 years, 3 months ago

At the age of 12, I along with 30,000 plus people were very fortunate to see Bob Marley and the Wailers seven months later in Germany outdoors in a soccer stadium. Now nearly 20 years on, I have pretty much the same lasting impression as in the article. From a vantage point in the stands I watched Dave Edmunds and Rockpile (including Nick Lowe) open with the stadium was not very full for their set but they certainly put on a great show. Just as soon as they were over, one could see the stadium fill up as if captured in time lapse mode, a brief period of calm permeated the crowd followed by a not so subtle haze rising from the stadium floor. There was a palpable energy building as Bob took the stage... Virtually an entire stadium full of people swaying, some even dancing in the nude as the venue erupted in excitement. An incredible impression for a preteen. Even now, recalling that day, I am in awe of the power of that set. In almost anti-climatic fashion, the evening finished with Fleetwood Mac.

Mark Sanders 8 years, 3 months ago

I was in the 11th row. It was an amazing evening I will never forget. I also was in KC and got invited to thier hotel and partied with the band. We stayed up most of the night listening to Bob talk. He had an incredible presence.

BigPrune 8 years, 3 months ago

bluerain says: "Lawrence has not progress in this area, evidenced by the racial/ethnic makeup of Lawrence leaders."

Regarding our local citizenry, 4.6% are black alone, .7% American Indian, 3.7% Asian, .1% Hawaiian, .7% some other race, and 3.1% are two or more races. That adds up to 12.9% of our population. So out of 100 citizens, how does one divy up .1% or .7% of something and make sure they get elected?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

"I have never been so bored at a concert in my life. Every song sounded exactly like every other song."

You obviously aren't a reggae fan. I'm not a fan of either opera, death metal or "young country," so if I went to a live performance of any of these genres, many if not most of the songs would sound like every other song. The same is true for all genres of music with which someone is unfamiliar.

Kendall Simmons 8 years, 3 months ago

Jealous, tumbilweed?

Yeah, I've had a great life so far.

But, no, I only said it was the most boring concert I've ever been to.

It even beat out a performance by an unknown Indian group (Ravi Shankar had to cancel as I recall) at the Newport Folk Festival. They were so dull that, when they finally finished their set, the crowd cheered and applauded loudly which, understandably but unfortunately, the group took as a sign they were they came back for an encore. And the entire crowd started groaning loudly and talking and complaining among themselves. Needless to say, almost everyone sat on their hands when the group finished their encore.

Oh, and "Last Year at Marienbad" was the most boring movie I've ever seen. I wish I had my money back for that, too.

Kendall Simmons 8 years, 3 months ago

Apparently some folks don't think that something might be a hit song because it's actually better than a performer's other material?

Over the years, many have chastised a performer for "selling out" because they have a popular success. Others have chastised the listeners for preferring one song to anything else the performer did.

Me? I just said that I found the concert dull as dirt because I thought every song on the playlist that night sounded exactly like every other song. It's fine with me if everyone else loved it. It was just my personal comment on this "historic" concert.

(Oh...and my reggae-loving friend would play reggae all the time, so I'd heard a bunch of it. I wasn't a huge fan, but I enjoyed a number of songs he played, which included more Bob Marley than just his "hit song"...which I (how pedestrian) really liked. If I'd thought it all sounded alike, I wouldn't have gone to the concert.)

hbjayhawk 8 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

WilburM 8 years, 3 months ago

And Bill Tuttle not involved with social justice today and over the past 40 years? (bluerain comments) You clearly have no idea what you are talking about, given his numerous scholarly and community contributions to understanding and enhancing social justice.

Nde 8 years, 3 months ago

That is seriously awesome, I would have paid twice the amount of a nowaday sorry concert ticket to see freaking Bob Marley!!!!! No matter what skin color you are or background you come from, he had and still has the most diverse fan crowd ever. Kuddos to you!!!!

pfunk81 8 years, 3 months ago

Here is an awesome, free recording of Bob Marley playing live on the air at The Record Plant in CA. The sound is awesome!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

What does the political situation in Jamaica 30 years ago have to do with your personal conflicts with Tuttle, pogo?

dontcallmedan 8 years, 3 months ago

Pogo, you're a nogo. I care what Professor Tuttle thinks. Who care what you think?

Mark Sanders 8 years, 3 months ago

I remember the I three's swaying back and forth singing backup. Thanks Bill. I think a plaque would be ire. Anybody got the song list?

StrangerCreek 8 years, 3 months ago

I was one of the fortunate one's to make the show and loved it. The local band PBRB opened. Bob's message of love and peace carry weight today. His personal story was one of hardship and faith. I feel sorry for the youth of today, they do not have the same faith, unity and feelings that those of us that suffered through the Vietnam era do. Peace, love and happiness. That is the message he shared with us, and we with ourselves. Not the cop killing, drug dealing, woman beating crap of Rap or Hip Hop. It's not music, it's crap, plain and simple. There's no unity, no cohesion. Just violence. Funny how almost every venue of those are violent ends. I used to feel comfortable on the streets of Lawrence after dark. But no longer.

"Shot dead on the streets of Lawrence" Yeah, that's a message...

Mark Sanders 8 years, 3 months ago

Well said Kingman, the essense was of love, faith and acceptance. I too get discouraged sometimes with the cyniscism of today but I believe in the human spirit and our connection with each other. One Love!

Mark Sanders 8 years, 3 months ago

PBRB played at the Uptown theatre that week and most of the Wailers came down and sat in with the band. It was as good as it gets. Bill, thanks for stimulating such great feelings and thoughts.

trollkiller 8 years, 3 months ago

After thirty years, I still change the channel if I hear reggae on the radio...except Hotel California, the only reggae, I care to hear. (I have to admit that anything I've heard for that many years I've about heard enough of.)

trollkiller 8 years, 3 months ago

I've heard Don Henley mention the reggae rhythm of the song on more than one occasion; one of those time was when he played Sandstone. I doubt if Don cares about your ignorance of rhythms.

Darrell Lea 8 years, 3 months ago

I too was present at this show. Bob Marley had previously canceled shows twice in Kansas City, so it was a triumph of sorts for him to simply arrive and perform.

If one reads the various biographies of Marley and gets to an index that lists all his documented concert appearances, this gig usually does not show up on those lists. I believe this was the "shakedown" or warm-up show for the "Survival" tour, which was the new album at the time. I remember the concert opening with "Rastaman Vibration", then the set primarily consisted of what was then new material. The action for the "casual" fan was the encore, which I remember being almost as long as the set. I believe about every one of Marley's "hits" were featured - "No Woman, No Cry", "Jammin'", "Exodus", "Get Up, Stand Up", and several others.

A recording of this show used to circulate among tape traders, and can probably be found out there in cyberspace.

Darrell Lea 8 years, 3 months ago

set list from 12/06/1979, including encore songs:

  1. Positive Vibration
  2. Wake Up & Live
  3. Them Belly Full
  4. I Shot The Sheriff
  5. Concrete Jungle
  6. Runnin Away > Crazy Baldhead
  7. The Heathen
  8. Ambush
  9. War > No More Trouble
  10. One Drop
  11. Exodus
  12. No Woman No Cry
  13. Lively Up Yourself
  14. Natty Dread
  15. Is This Love
  16. Jammin
  17. Get Up Stand Up

a Google search will list at least two bit-torrent sites where adventurous souls can download this recording.

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