Every year for the last 18 years my boyfriend Dave worked backstage helping his musician friends set up for the Stevie Ray Vaughn Tribute concert at The Pageant in University City.
This was my second year going to the show.
It’s fun being behind the scenes and watching the bands warm up and being part of all the excitement that goes with performers getting ready to put on a show.
Guy “Favazz” Favazza, a D.J. with St. Louis’ K-SHE radio station, emceed the event once again. Before the show, we talked about a few of our favorite memories of concerts past.
One memory I have in particular was Oct. 20, 1977. It was the day I met Charlie Daniels, and it also was the day of a horrific tragedy that rocked Lynyrd Skynyrd fans.
I grew up in University City not far from Clayton, where there used to be a radio station some of you might remember called KADI. I heard on that station that day that Charlie Daniels was going to pop in for a visit before his concert that night.
I jumped on my lime green 10-speed and headed up there to see if I could visit with him, as I was a huge fan.
To my surprise, I was the only fan who showed up there and the people at the station were nice enough to let this 15-year-old girl meet and talk to Mr. Daniels himself.
I was pleasantly surprised at what a nice guy Daniels was. He chatted with me for about 10 minutes and we talked about how we were both native Tennesseans and such. Then as he was driving off in a pink limousine, the driver honked and Daniels waved at me as I was riding off on my bike.
The folks at the radio station at one point had asked Daniels if he wanted a KADI T-shirt. As they offered it to him, they told him it said, “Lynyrd Skynyrd” on the back of it, to which he replied, “I don’t care. I love Lynyrd Skynyrd. They’re my boys!”
That night a friend and I went to the Charlie Daniels concert at Kiel Opera House. When my mom picked us up she told us the terrible news, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane had crashed.
The band was traveling from Greenville, S.C., to Baton Rouge, La., when their plane apparently ran out of fuel toward the end of the flight.
The pilots attempted to land on a small air strip, but the bottom of the plane clipped some trees, and the aircraft went down in a remote stand of forest.
Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray were killed instantly, while the other band members and road crew suffered terrible injuries.
Drummer Artimus Pyle and two crew members crawled from the wreckage and hiked through swampy woods until they finally flagged down a local farmer, who sent for help.
I’ve seen many concerts over the years, especially when I was a teenager, but Lynyrd Skynyrd was always dear to my heart — not just because I loved the band’s music, but because it was the first concert I had ever seen.
Favazz and I talked about some of the people who worked at K-SHE in the past. One of whom he and I both remembered was the former news director, Dick Ulett, who is no relation to K-SHE longtime D.J. John Ulett.
I babysat for Dick Ulett’s son “Beagle,” who at 2 years of age was quite a character.
The first time I met the little boy, he was sitting in his highchair. His mom introduced us and the kid looked at me straight up and down and said, “Hey, honey, you want some fried chicken?” I’ll never forget that!
Working for the Ulett family was the main reason I got to go to so many concerts. They often gave me tickets in lieu of cash if I so opted, which I almost always did.
Anyway, going back to University City was a lot of fun. I walked around the Loop while Dave was working as a roadie and reminisced about the fun my friends and I had growing up there. We used to sneak out at midnight on more than a few Friday nights and go to the Varsity to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Although there are many newer shops and eateries in the Loop, it was cool to see the old mainstays like the Tivoli Theater, Blueberry Hill and even the old High Street Boutique.
Dave and I stayed at the Moonrise Hotel next to the Pageant. The place is pricey, but really cool with its moon-themed rooms and cool amenities like a roof-top lounge with a great view of the street and a Moonrise bathrobe.
The SRV Tribute was really good as well. There weren’t as many people this year as in years past, according to Dave, but it was interesting because most of the people there were in their 50s like us. It reminded me of a class reunion of sorts. I’m sure I probably listened to music with many of the people there at concerts in days gone by.