【AL】 Elvis, Zeppelin, Rolling Stones and other icons once rocked where Alabama plays basketball today – Alabama News

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The University of Alabama National Alumni Association recently tweeted photos from the school’s Corolla yearbook of Johnny Cash performing on campus at Memorial Coliseum in 1969, jogging our memories of Memorial Coliseum (now Coleman), a place that drew the best musicians alive during their most popular periods.

Given Memorial Coliseum was the only 15,000-seat venue between Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis and Florida, virtually every major touring act other than The Beatles played Tuscaloosa. To give you an idea: The Who, Jethro Tull, Yes, The Eagles, Stevie Wonder, Allman Brothers Band, The Band, The Grateful Dead, Linda Ronstadt, Eric Clapton, Earth, Wind & Fire — just to name a few.

The list of amazing artists who rolled through town after the Coliseum opened in 1968 is vast, but the following 10 shows will make your head spin. For those who actually attended, enjoy our envy and this walk down memory lane. (Note: You can find photos from several UA shows at Memorial Coliseum and other campus venues in their Digital Libraries archive online)

RELATED: Tuscaloosa Concert Retrospective: Memorial Coliseum

Jimi Hendrix, May 7, 1969

The “North American Tour” saw Hendrix stop at Memorial where he gnawed on his guitar strings and shredded through hits for lovers of essential albums like “Are You Experienced” and “Electric Ladyland.” Hendrix died at 27 little more than a year later. Alabama graduate and Red Mountain Entertainment president Gary Weinberger was partially responsible for bringing it to Tuscaloosa as a volunteer and eventual president of the University Programs Council, a student organization dedicated to entertaining the campus. For him, this Hendrix show changed a lot about the city’s music scene. “We always had the opportunity to come see dance bands,” he told AL.com. “Then in 1969, Jimi Hendrix came to Tuscaloosa at the Memorial Coliseum. I was in high school. It was a big deal for everybody that went there.” Read more.

Elvis Presley, Nov. 14, 1971; June 3, 1975; and Aug. 30, 1976

The King graced the Coliseum a handful of times during the ‘70s, his final show about a year before he passed away. You can hear audio of the 1975 show on YouTube, with Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” setting the tone for Presley’s entrance as they blazed through a string of hits starting with Ma Rainey’s “See See Rider Blues” and including “Love Me Tender,” “All Shook Up,” “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Kim Price’s review published the next day in The Tuscaloosa News said more than 15,000 “screaming, clapping and cheering” fans witnessed Elvis, who also performed in Huntsville and Mobile that tour. “Several times, panties and brassieres were thrown at the stage for Elvis to pick up…which he did replying about one set ‘somebody just lost everything.’”

The Rolling Stones, June 28, 1972 (with Stevie Wonder)

The “American Tour” (aka “Stones Touring Party,” or “S.T.P.”) with Stevie Wonder stopped in Tuscaloosa. Seriously. The Stones and Stevie on the same stage, mere feet away from where Nate Oats chews out officials ahead of March Madness today. The tour supported their classic album “Exile on Main St.,” which released a few weeks earlier. The shows marked the band’s first performances in the U.S. following the infamous Altamont Free Concert in December 1969. You can hear audio of this show on YouTube. The best part: Tickets cost four bucks.

Led Zeppelin, May 10, 1973

Zeppelin’s official website keeps extensive record of their live shows, including set lists, press reviews and other details documenting their run as one of the all-time great touring acts. The Tuscaloosa show did not disappoint, blessing the building with all-timers like “Rock and Roll,” “Black Dog,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Whole Lotta Love” and, yes, “Stairway to Heaven.” If I could have gone to one show before my time, this is it.

Elton John, Nov. 14, 1972; Sept. 28, 1974 (with Kiki Dee); July 18, 1976

Pick one of three Elton gigs inside the Coliseum when he was white-hot during the early-to-mid-1970s. The ‘76 show coincided with the “Louder Than Concorde Tour” and featured roughly the same set list each date including hits like “Rocket Man,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Your Song” and “Pinball Wizard.”

Neil Young ticket stub

A ticket stub from the Neil Young concert at Memorial Coliseum held Feb. 5, 1973 in Tuscaloosa. (Courtesy of Steve Flanagan)

Neil Young, Feb. 5, 1973

It only cost fans three dollars to see Neil Young & The Stray Gators live in Tuscaloosa, during the “Time Fades Away Tour.” He would play familiar favorites like “Old Man” and “Harvest” before dropping “Alabama” as the penultimate song of the evening. Young actually released a recording of the performance in 2019, on a single CD and a three-sided vinyl album with etched artwork on side four. “It’s really trippy to be down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and singing those songs from ‘Harvest’ and the songs that we were doing for ‘Time Fades Away’ before it came out,” Young told Rolling Stone. “I found this thing and it had such a great attitude to it. I just loved the whole night, so I put that together with [engineer] John Hanlon.” Young last played in Tuscaloosa in October 2012 at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, where he and Crazy Horse played (along with openers Alabama Shakes).

Lynyrd Skynyrd, March 21, 1975

The epic “Nuthin’ Fancy Tour” stopped in Tuscaloosa spring of ‘75, ripping through hits like “Saturday Night Special,” “Free Bird” and, of course, “Sweet Home Alabama.” This crowd saw the classic lineup, led by Ronnie Van Zant, who would die in a plane crash two years later, along with Steve Gaines and backup singer Cassie Gaines.

Joni Mitchell (with the L.A. Express), Feb. 1, 1976

The only time she performed in Alabama, Mitchell’s gig also included a jazz ensemble that had played on her albums “Court and Spark” and “Miles of Aisles.” Tickets cost $4.50 for UA students and $6.50 for others, according to a piece from CBS 42. Edward Journey, a college student at the time, told CBS 42 he volunteered to work the show for a chance to sit front row and potentially meet Mitchell backstage, which he did. “The audience hung on her every word,” he said. You can see some photos from the gig on Mitchell’s official website. Mitchell recently surprised the Newport Folk Festival when she joined Brandi Carlile to perform in her first public performance in nine years, after recovering from a near-fatal brain aneurysm.

Bob Dylan flyer

A flyer for the University of Alabama’s 1990 homecoming concert featuring Bob Dylan. (University of Alabama)

Bob Dylan, Oct. 26, 1990 and Oct. 31, 1997

Arguably the greatest singer/songwriter of all time, Dylan played a pair of homecoming shows at the Capstone, in 1990 and 1997, the latter on a Halloween night that mixed acoustic hits like “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” with rockers “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Love Sick” and “Like a Rolling Stone.” The 1990 show had a flyer that said, “Experience the Legend,” advertising tickets at $10 for UA students and $15 for the general public. Dylan returned to Tuscaloosa in 2013 on the “AmericanaramA” tour with Wilco and My Morning Jacket.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Oct. 6, 1995

The only show on this list I actually attended. I was 10 when my family skipped over to Coleman Coliseum for UA’s now-defunct annual homecoming show featuring Petty at the height of his ‘90s popularity, shortly after his “Wildflowers” solo album with hits like this show’s opener “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” Jazz artist Taj Mahal opened. He blew through hits like “Free Fallin’,” “You Wreck Me,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and the night’s closer “American Girl.” You can hear audio of this show on YouTube.

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