Thursday, May 12, 2022

Rites of Spring at Illinois State University 1972-1977

Today (May 12th) marks the 50th anniversary of the first Rites of Spring on the campus of Illinois State University.  From 1972 to 1977 the music festival became the most anticipated day on the campus calendar.

The event was originally intended as a way for students to relax and enjoy some live music on the Quad before final exams.  The free concert was meant strictly for the ISU community however that proved difficult to enforce.  In a matter of a few years, Rites became the "festival of the Midwest" much to the dismay of university administration and Town of Normal officials.

Open drug and alcohol use on campus during the event (Normal was dry until 1973) along with minor injuries, excessive garbage and damage to the Quad were just a few of the reoccurring problems associated with the festival.  Efforts to limit the attendance by non-students mostly failed.  By the last year of the festival, the crowd totaled somewhere between 18,000 - 25,000 with a large portion coming from outside the university community.

The music of Rites varied from year to year but often included well known national acts.  Below is a list of the performers with a brief synopsis of events for each year.

Rites of Spring I : Friday May 12, 1972
  • The Guild
  • Spencer Davis
  • Soul Messengers
  • Grenshaw
  • Tayles
  • Cajun Desire
  • Grin
  • Ebony Revue
  • Probe
Attendance was between 2,000-3,000.  This would be the longest scheduled Rites festival with music set from noon until midnight with the last hour and half being open to any band "wishing to jam." The event was mostly without incident.  As one attendee told the student newspaper, "It's the greatest thing that has ever happened at ISU."

Rites of Spring II : Saturday May 19, 1973
  • Head East
  • The Guild
  • Gerry Grossman
  • ISU Statesmen
  • Ricky Spitfire
  • Ebony Rhythm Funk Campaign
  • Siegel-Schwall
The day's events lasted from noon until 10:30 pm with an estimated 7,500-10,000 people gathering on the south end of the Quad.  The concert was marred by poor sound quality however which was blamed on high winds.  Another complaint was there were too many "bar bands" and not enough big-name acts this year.  There was one drug overdose and a few broken windows on campus but no arrests despite a blatant disregard for drug and alcohol bans.  One of the organizers told the Vidette, "People were a little bit too obvious about things.  For instance, people bringing out bongs and caseloads of beer." 

Rites of Spring III : Friday May 3, 1974
  • If 
  • Adrian Smith
  • Frijid Pink
  • Mighty Joe Young
  • Country Joe McDonald
  • Richie Havens
In an attempt to limit the crowd size, organizers did not officially release the date of the festival until the day of.  Still the crowd totaled around 10,000 people.  The concert was originally scheduled from 3 to 10:30 pm but due to delays with equipment it didn't end up starting until 4 pm and lasted until midnight.  As in the previous year, security on campus was managed by student volunteers.  The ISU police did not patrol the Quad but made it clear they were prepared to make arrests if necessary once attendees left campus.  Despite all the built up, the event was fairly peaceful.  The only exception being some minor vandalism and tire-slashing of vehicles in a nearby parking lot.

Rites of Spring IV : Monday May 5, 1975
  • Poobah
  • Joe Vitale's Madmen
  • Mason Proffit
  • Golden Earring
In the months prior to the festival, dozens of ISU students were arrested in drug raids conducted by the Multi-County Narcotics Enforcement Group (MEG).  Concerned that Rites was contributing to the local drug problem, university officials decided to move the concert to Hancock Stadium where the crowd could be better controlled, especially the use of alcohol and marijuana.  The official announcement of where and when it would take place was once again withheld to the last minute however the Vidette had provided unconfirmed details several days prior.  

The official Rites ran from 1 pm to about 6:30 pm with Golden Earring ending their set early due to "inefficiencies in their soundsystem."  The entire event was emceed by comedian Jimmy Whig with the crowd fluctuating between 1,000 - 4,000 people throughout the afternoon.  The director of the event was quoted in the Vidette as saying, "You could bring your mom, your kids and your dad to this one."

Meanwhile, back on the Quad, an alternative and unsanctioned Rites known as "People's Park" was also taking place.  A crowd first started to form at the south campus park by noon.   As the crowd grew it eventually moved to the amphitheatre at the south end of the Quad.  University officials however refused to provide the group with electricity so they rented generators and proceeded to hold a concert of their own.  According to the Post-Amerikan, "Music was provided by just about anyone who decided to walk onto the stage.  Most of the people who played together hadn't played together before.  They sounded great." 

School officials made several attempts to get the crowd to disperse, repeatedly informing them that they were in violation of university regulations.  The size of the gathering however meant that police action was not an option.  By 7:30, the crowd had grown to about 3,000 people.   As darkness fell, no electricity meant no lighting on the Quad.  The crowd's solution was a bonfire which resulted in Normal firefighters arriving on the scene, spraying the fire, the stage and onlookers indiscriminately.  A brief melee ensued, bottles were thrown.  The firemen and their police escort soon retreated.  According to the Post-Amerikan the music on the Quad lasted until about one in the morning.

Rites of Spring V : Friday April 30, 1976
  • Heartsfield
  • Games
  • Thin Lizzy
  • ISU Black Arts Jazz Band aka Creative Arts Ensemble
  • The Notations
  • Mary Travers
After the mistakes of the previous year, it was decided that the event would return to the Quad for 1976 however organizers conceived of a new plan to limit attendance from outside the ISU community.
For the first time, admission to the Quad was by button only with each student receiving up to four buttons in the days leading up the festival.    In previous years ROS buttons were produced mainly as a souvenir however this year they were your ticket in.  The festivities, which ran from 3:45- 11:30 pm, were deemed a great success by organizers with few problems reported.  At peak periods, the crowd reportedly swelled to about 10,000 people although some estimates were as high as 18,000. 

Rites of Spring VI : Saturday, April 30, 1977
  • Bonnie Koloc
  • The Undisputed Truth
  • Charlie Daniels
  • REO Speedwagon
Unlike previous years, the details of the festival were announced a few weeks in advance with the lineup announced five days before the event.  Buttons were once again given to students as their only way into the event.  It was reported that 33,000 buttons were distributed.  The theme for this year's event was "Safety and Ecology."

The event was scheduled to begin at 3 pm on Saturday however people started camping out as early as Friday evening.   The crowd would grow to be the biggest of all the Rites with estimates being between 18,000-25,000 people.  With the large crowd came problems.  Due to understaffed security, l
arge groups of people without buttons were allowed on the Quad.  There were multiple arrests made off campus throughout the day with local police receiving more than 85 noise and behavior complaints.  

The biggest problem of all however was the estimated 200 cubic meters of garbage and broken glass left on the Quad.  The situation was made worse when heavy trucks used to move equipment crushed the glass and cans into the ground.  It took days for the garbage to be picked up with the Office of Enviormental Health and Safety declaring the Quad a health and safety hazard.

After the events of 1977 it was quickly decided by university officials that there could not be another Rites of Spring.  Newly-hired University President Lloyd Watkins officially cancelled the event on July 25th while most of the students were away for the summer.  Watkins, only ten days in the office, never attended a Rites and in fact knew nothing about it when he took the job.  He provided the following reasons for his decision:
  1. Rites was not, and never could be, a controllable event.
  2. The potential for serious injuries or fatalities is high.
  3. The laws of Illinois and the regulations of ISU were repeatedly disregarded.
  4. The cost of the event, direct and indirect, was very high.
  5. Damage to university grounds and buildings has been severe.
  6. The event offers no apparent contribution to the educational mission of the university.
Students of course strongly protested the decision when they returned to campus.  Particularly upset by the fact that students were not consulted, a new political party, Rites of Spring Party (ROSP), formed on campus that fall with a platform of shared governance.  The party ran a slate of 13 candidates in the Student Association elections that year but failed to win a single seat in the Assembly.

In 1978, as an alternative to Rites, the university came up with Springfest.  Rather than a day-long concert on the Quad, Springfest was a week of events that included carnival rides and free movies with local jazz and folk acts (including a young Suzy Bogguss) performing on the Quad in the afternoons.  All of the big-name concerts were moved indoors and spread across multiple evenings:  Stanley Turrentine in the Union Ballroom, the Bar-Kays in the Union Auditorium and the Grateful Dead at Horton Fieldhouse.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Mod 4 Presentation - May 11, 2022

Original band members Kathy Talkin and Nellie Hastings relive the journey of the Mod 4 at the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society.   You can now watch the whole presentation below. 

For more about the Mod 4 see our article from 2020.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

WESN Show #72

Freddie Tieken & The RockersYou Can't Sit DownStandfire[1965]Quincy
Backstreet MajorityRunning From Peopleunreleased196?Bloomington/ Champaign
PiscesA Flower For All SeasonsNumero1969Rockford
The Inside OutFireOut1968Monmouth
The Knights Of SoulDifferent StrokesDrocer1968Springfield
The RavinsI Had A FeelingSyndicate1967Gibson City
The CreepersElizabethC.R.C.1966Granite City
The VengeanceYou Cheated On MeThor1966LaSalle-Peru
The StingraysIn The Midnight HourVan1967Springfield
$1,000,000 War BabiesYou Don't Know Like I KnowDante1968Champaign-Urbana
The Iron GateGet ReadyMobie1968Rockford
Junior Jive KingsHold On I'm ComingDrocer1968Springfield
The Blue BoysI KnowFeature1966Sycamore
The Mod 4Midnight Hour[Fredlo]1967Aledo
Johnny & The ImpalasIt's Been A Long TimeDrocer1968Springfield
Night RidersI Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart AnymoreDrocer1968Springfield
Rod & The SatalitesI'm Telling You Right NowIrish1965Quincy
The CavaliersOpen The Door To Your HeartDrocer1968Springfield
The One-Eyed JacksGetting In A GrooveRoulette1969Champaign-Urbana
Mystery MeatProfilesDirector1968Carlinville

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Inside Out (Monmouth)

The Inside Out from Monmouth, Illinois: Bill Fry, Bill Huff, Rick Carrier, Percy Bennett and Gene Skinner.  

The group was still in high school when they recorded their only album, Bringin' It All Back, at the Fredlo Recording Studios in Davenport, Iowa in 1968.  

According to an article in their local newspaper the album was cut in a nine hour session and was "basically promotion" for the five-man group.

The album consisted of twelve songs, all covers.  The article adds that two of the best cuts have been made into a single.
Out, 6834 LP (matrix # 8-9118)

  • Let's Spend The Night Together
  • Come On Up
  • Everybody Needs Somebody To Love
  • Jumpin' Jack Flash
  • Hold On
  • Summertime Blues
  • Gloria
  • Good Lovin'
  • Midnight Hour
  • Fire
  • Give Me Some Lovin'
  • Pictures Of Match Stick Men

"Hold On" / "Let's Spend The Night Together" was also released as a single on Out 6835.  Both the album and the single were produced by Bob Fry (Bill's dad).

The group performed across Western Illinois for around a decade starting in the late '60s.  One advertisement (below) mentions that the group was number five in a Chicago "Battle of the Bands Contest."
In late 1975 the group released another single, this time on the Golden Voice label:
  • Please Promise Me / It's Livin' (Golden Voice, matrix# NR6474)
By this point Bill Fry appears to be the only original member still in the group.  Other members at the time of the single include Bill Hillier, Jack Stanton, Tom Summerlin and John Dowers.
The group appears to have broken up sometime in the late 1970's.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Lavender Snapshots (December 7, 1975)

Artists' Corner, WGLT 89.1 FM
December 7, 1975  9:00 PM

Lavender for My WingsRobin Tammer
MagicTerry Clark
ComposureJerry McGuire
Cold Gusty WindsJohn Cook
No Words on Her LipsRobin Tammer
Smile, She SaidJerry McGuire
Give the Rainbow to MeTerry Clark
When the Sun SetRobin Tammer
Anthony, Marc AnthonyJerry McGuire
High Across the Southern SkyJohn Cook

Writings by Walter Bock, assistant professor of art at Illinois State University, interpreted by four members of the ISU Theatre department with an interview by host Steve Larson after the reading.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Lee Rust (Bloomington / Springfield)

Between 1965 and 1969, Lee Rust released at least six singles of all original compositions on three different labels in three different states.  In an October 1965 article written in his college newspaper, Rust claimed to have already written 200 songs and made several television appearances in Illinois.  

At the time, he was considering a tour of Illinois and Indiana or possibly recording an album in Nashville.  The article adds, "Lee is very serious about recording and writing songs and spends two hours each day on it."

Rust's recordings, made mostly during his college years, range from moody frat / garage rock and haunting teenage ballads to a pair of folky duets with his new wife.  

Born and raised in Bloomington, Illinois, William Lee Rust first learned to play the guitar from local recording star Joe Dowell of "Wooden Heart" fame.  During his high school years, Rust's family moved to Springfield where he also took a few lessons from the leader of a local "teenage band," Chandler David's Rhythm Raiders.

Even though he attended college in Florida, Rust's first batch of recordings were made in Roger Francisco's basement studio in Urbana, Illinois.  In fact, Lee claimed to be the first person to make a record for RoFran.  This would have likely been sometime in the summer of 1965 when Lee was home from college.  In total, Rust released four singles on the label: 

Do You Ever Kinda Wonder? / Scramble [P-1003]

Mystery House / Come on Back   [P-1004]

Try, Try to Leave / I’m Spoken For  [P-1005]

She’s Gone Tonight / World Made of Romance  [P-1006]
No images or audio of this single are available at this time.

Sometime after the RoFran recordings, Rust recorded two songs for the In Hoc label which was based in Birmingham, Alabama.  Exact dates unknown but possibly 1967 or '68.

These Are My Days / Nobody Will Know  [NR 401]

In 1967 Rust married Cheryl Lynn Bradley of Petersburg, Illinois.  After graduating college, the two remained in Florida for a time.  There they recorded two sides for Charles Fuller Productions of Tampa as Lee & Cheryl.  Despite the fake RCA matrix # on the label which suggests an earlier date, this single was most likely recorded and released in 1968. 

Animated Cartoons / Jeniffer Lynn [FR-008]

By the summer of 1969, Lee, Cheryl and their daughter Jeniffer Lynn had moved back to the Springfield area where Rust took a job working for S.A. Barker Co., one of Springfield’s best-known women’s clothing stores.

As for his musical career, there is no evidence that Lee Rust ever recorded again.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

WESN Show #71

Paul GeremiaI'll Take You For A RideApril 30, 1971
Bryan BowersOld Joe Clark / Yankee DoodleMarch 2, 1973
Ole Belle ReedFortunesJanuary 31, 1975
The MayfieldsStory of the Guitalin / My Grandfather's ClockDecember 11, 1970
Michael CooneyGarbageApril 16, 1971
Utah PhillipsWabash Cannonball / TolonoMay 28, 1971
Bob GibsonThursday Morning In The HarborNovember 3, 1972
New Grass RevivalOrange Blossom SpecialMay 19, 1972
John PrineDonald & LydiaMarch 12, 1971
David BrombergDehliaJanuary 22, 1971
Larry JohnsonGoin' To Sit Down On The Banks Of The RiverMay 21, 1971