Part 56: Listen to the music

Part 56: Listen to the music

We're far from finished gathering memories from A-list alums (there are now 1,032 at uofi150.news-gazette.com) and sharing their stories in this space every Tuesday. Today, in part 56: With a busy stretch of concerts in C-U the next eight days — Justin Moore on Friday, Lyle Lovett on Saturday, the Foo Fighters a week from Wednesday — we present live-music memories from six UI grads who've gone on to greatness.

1. Before-they-were-famous acts at Foellinger Auditorium.

"So many great bands came through and performed in that space," says JOE CLAYTON ('83), CEO of the International Food Information Council. "U2 (top right) was a brand new band with one album out when I saw them. That's right — U2 played at the Auditorium before they came back and played Assembly Hall years later."

"The one that sticks out most in my mind is an up-and-coming band called R.E.M.," says LSU CFO DAN LAYZELL ('86). "Several friends and I camped out overnight in the Illini Union to get tickets — we were 10th in line and it sold out."

2. Simon says: Shut up, kid.

The upside of PAUL MERRION's part-time job — Assembly Hall security guard? "I worked rock concerts."

The downside? "I was wearing the dorky navy Assembly Hall blazer while my classmates were passing joints," says the now senior correspondent for White House Watch, who has a songbook full of memories from those days in the early '70s.

"I was on the floor for the Grateful Dead, which had the best sound system I ever heard. It was so mellow, even the cop next to me calmly passed a joint along — without taking a hit," he said. "I remember my supervisor — a nice, older guy named Charlie — had to check sound levels with a decibel meter during rock concerts. When Yes played, he was taking a reading down by the stage and his ears started to bleed, it was so loud.

"I was there for the sound check when Paul Simon (right) played. I was on the floor talking to a friend about what a huge fan I was, how I had learned to play all his songs on the guitar, when Simon suddenly stopped singing, pointed at me and said, 'You: Shut up.' Pretty mortifying."

3. Whichever band had been booked at The Blind Pig.

Many times, it was one that ELIZABETH ELMORE ('97) herself fronted — back in her days as the lead singer of rock bands The Reputation (right) and Sarge. Her stage these days is at The Hague, the coastal city in The Netherlands, where she's an assistant appeals counsel in the United Nations Security Council-established Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals.

"Some of my favorite bands to this day are bands I first saw playing to 150 — or 15 — people at the Pig," Elmore says. "The entire staff was great — KIM TEBUSSEK GOLLINGS taught me to do tequila shots without the lime and always say 'please' and 'thank you' to your bartender, skills that have served me well around the world."

4. Joni Mitchell: Hurting at the Hall.

Chicago philanthropist CELENE PEURYE ('74) was at the former Assembly Hall the night the '70s icon (right) "just wasn't feeling it, left the stage and came back in a different outfit and was much better. Her response to the perennial request to sing 'White Rabbit' — I'm slick, but I'm not that Slick." (Get it? Grace Slick — the Jefferson Airplane frontwoman who wrote the song).

5. Will someone please play 'White Rabbit' already?

Long before he went on to produce the NBC Nightly News, BOB EPSTEIN enjoyed a 1972 second semester to remember: Elton John (right) at the Assembly Hall on May 10 "with me in the front row," Duke Ellington at Krannert on May 5 and Jefferson Airplane at the Hall on Jan. 13.

Recalls Epstein: "They refused to play 'White Rabbit' and told the audience to (bleep) off."

What else is new at uofi150.news-gazette.com

Alumni memories of Alpha Chi Omega, La Casa, Huff Hall, the Krannert Art Museum and much more.

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