Sports writer Bruce Roberts worked at the Daily Utah Chronicle
as he attended the University of Utah, after graduating from the Skyline Horizon.
Roberts became Rock Editor in the Autumn of 1967
Roberts previewed and reviewed Local Rock Concerts at the dawn of their Psychedelic Sixties Heyday for his collegiate audience and in the wider community. He also worked closely with progressive young journalists like Nick Snow and the late Paul Taylor.
The following articles span September 29, 1967 to November 8, 1968.
They were scanned from microfilm archives at the Marriott Library, University of Utah during research performed by former Cosmic Aeroplane partner and founder Steve Jones.
NOTE: Larger PDF files can take time to fully open — we appreciate your patience.
A new academic year began immediately after the Summer of Love in 1967.
Staff Writer Bruce Roberts wrote about one of San Francisco’s most famous bands in advance of their first show in Utah:
Chronicle Rock Editor Bruce Roberts filed this report about a month later:
Roberts later mentioned Strawberry Alarm Clock in a whimsical article focused on a local activist the following spring:
Jefferson Airplane played their first concert in Utah one year after Someone to Love jetted them to the top of the music charts:
Advertisement from The Daily Utah Chronicle February 3, 1968
Taj Mahal’s performance that night created thousands of fans who would later watch him perform again and again. Roberts covered the show in a follow-up article:
What about that group called Spirit?
Spirit had seriously impressed the audience at the Terrace Ballroom in November of 1967 — much more so than Moby Grape or Country Joe and the Fish. Their self-named album was selling like mad throughout the Western USA when Roberts previewed their second appearance in Salt Lake:
Roberts also covered local bands who opened these multi-media extravaganzas:
Flower Power Blooms — Light Shows at the Fairgrounds Coliseum:
Nobody could know it yet, but Buffalo Springfield heralded an upcoming age of Rock Superstars. As it was, their records were enormously popular, and fans were ready for long instrumental jams in concert.
The entire north end of the Coliseum will be covered with screens rising three stories high to the dome of the structure, thus surrounding the people with lights that are guaranteed to properly affect any head in the house. Six people operating some forty feet of gear will immerse half of the Coliseum with strobe lights, liquids, films, slides, and crystal images
This was the first of a series of spectacular concerts under the dome of the Fairgrounds Coliseum, by the banks of the Jordan River on the west side of Salt Lake City.
Back at the Terrace Ballroom
The Byrds helped define the genre of Folk-Rock in 1965, which successfully competed with British Invasion music among the youth of the world. Roger/Jim McGuinn’s finger-picking on his electric 12 string Rickenbacker guitar was considered the gold standard of his day.
This pair of shows featured the now-legendary Gram Parsons in a line-up that only lasted a few months, after which Chris Hillman and Parsons formed the Flying Burrito Brothers and McGuinn formed a new road band, continuing to finger-pick, but also relying on a profoundly talented lead guitarist named Clarence White.
Head Lights and HEAVY Rock near the Jordan River
Bruce Roberts’ preview of the following Coliseum show may have concentrated on Clear Light, who supplied musicians to The Doors and later Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, but hard-hitting primal heavyweights Blue Cheer were the STARS of the evening, along with Jerry Abrams’ Head Lights which psychedelically altered the massive space:
Clear Light Explodes With The Blue Cheer — April 12, 1968
Rock Music became more and more “Heavy” over the ensuing years, and even the heaviest of Heavy groups made tour stops to full houses in Salt Lake.
More about Head Lights and the Coliseum
As Numenor Productions began their legendary series of multi-media Rock Concerts, Roberts wrote an article about light shows, the people who made them, and the venues they modified for their purposes:
Another concert at the Coliseum introduced It’s A Beautiful Day to audiences in Salt Lake. The band returned to Utah many times from their base in San Francisco, but they had a local connection as well:
Leader David LaFlamme graduated from Highland High School and had played Classical Music prior to forming his electric band, who confidently shared stages with the best in their field. Before It’s A Beautiful Day, Numenor also had blown the city’s collective mind with another outsized show featuring the well-respected Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Blues innovators Canned Heat at The Dance of the Desert Prophet. The local warm-up group Smoke Blues Band played two separate sets for the friendly crowd.
In the Autumn of 1968, Numenor’s last concert starred magnificent Quicksilver Messenger Service from San Francisco — Guitarist John Cippolina rivaled contemporary masters like Jimi Hendrix, Michael Bloomfield, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton in his ability to make his instrument ring and sing with electronic special effects.
This event was NOT held at the Coliseum though — Numenor booked the bizarre Valley Music Hall north of Salt Lake and didn’t use Jerry Abrams’ crew of lighting artists. Quicksilver asked the promoters to shut off the ever-revolving stage at the break, and the audience gladly shifted around to accommodate them, since there were lots of empty seats.
Elsewhere on the Wasatch Front
Roberts previewed and reviewed the Utah debut of influential singer Linda Ronstadt, who was only beginning her long laborious journey to international super-stardom:
Different Drum, written by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees, was a major radio hit for this band, but somehow their concert seemed to generate controversy anyway:
Progressive composer Frank Zappa, and the Mothers of Invention, eventually won an audience on the road:
Lagoon was an amusement park, even farther north than Valley Music Hall, but it had a history of presenting Rock acts and other musical events at its Patio Gardens.
Note the advertisement for a University stomp featuring local groups War of Armageddon, Smoke Blues Band, and a small combo named Fargo, local musicians who released singles and a full album under contract for RCA records.
Roberts had a few more things to say about Lagoon in the upcoming year:
Note the “Poor People’s Party” announcements in the Calling U section — the campus was getting more radicalized following the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. The ongoing mire of Viet Nam played no small part in galvanizing young people against a deadly Status Quo.
Radical Happenings In The Intermountain West
Bruce Roberts reported on the aftermath of the “Mountain Empire Happening.”
Star bands from San Francisco returned to the high desert.
Roberts wrote previews of two concerts featuring the biggest groups on the West Coast.
However, both shows were held at Lagoon:
Blue Cheer were legitimate co-stars with Big Brother and the Holding Company at the time — the latter’s breakthrough album wouldn’t hit the bins for another few months and Janis Joplin wasn’t a household name yet.
Jefferson Airplane’s album Crown of Creation was ready though, and they would play most of it at Patio Gardens in the late summer of 1968:
Rock audiences liked their music played heavier and heavier, and Jefferson Airplane obliged them, but kept their own vocals soaring over those harder-driving rhythms.
Could you get more HEAVY than the Iron Butterfly?
Not in the fall of 1968:
In the aftermath of this concert, influential disc jockey Michael G. Kavanagh moved from KCPX to KNAK. Radio was in transition from AM to FM. An era was approaching its end.
The Sixties were noted for changes:
Bruce Roberts would soon become an independent journalist at the Central_City_News and Street_ Paper , as well as a future partner in the Cosmic Aeroplane. He continued to cover the musical scene, and later previewed It’s A Beautiful Day’s third local concert in the first issue of the Central City News:
Central_City_News — June 18, 1969 (David Laflamme) — plus Santana’s first concert in Salt Lake, about two months before Woodstock.
One more musical preview out of our files from the Daily Utah Chronicle:
Note the advertisement for up-and-coming band Deep Purple at the Terrace Ballroom.
Roberts also mentions imminent shows by future stars Credence Clearwater Revival and Deep Purple near the end of the article above.
Blogmeister Michael saw Spirit’s concert, but doesn’t remember the poster below at all:
It is a full-sized poster, not a layout, and may serve as evidence that Spirit was so popular that almost nothing could dissuade concert-goers from seeing them play live.
The last time Blogmeister Michael saw Jerry Abrams’ Head Lights was May of 1969, in support of Credence Clearwater Revival at the Salt Palace Assembly Hall:
Many thanks to Charley Hafen for permission to access to his amazing online poster collection — check out the full archive HERE
We actively request your contributions of artwork, music, corrections, memorabilia, and oral histories concerning the Cosmic Aeroplane — please contact our blogmeister.
Blogmeister Michael Evans is an author and historian