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Rockin’ Memories

We asked readers of Torchbearer magazine to tell us their favorite campus concert memories in the second installment of our History and Tradition series—Rockin’ Out on Rocky Top. Here’s what they told us.

In 1988 I attended a concert at Alumni Gym by George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers. We sat in the old wooden fold-down seats in the balcony. I had seen them before and loved their music. They rocked the gym so hard that a metal bolt fell out of my seat. I still have two ticket stubs from that concert with the bolt driven through them.

Go Vols!

Ken Miller (’77)


I read with interest your piece, “Rockin’ out on Rocky Top” in the History & Tradition Series. I thought I would add to the record pulled from my 1966–1970 yearbooks.

“Since 1927 the Nahheeyayli governing board has been the only student organization eligible to sponsor big name entertainment on campus, consisting of one member from each fraternity and three independent male students.”

I was privileged to be a member of the board from 1965–1970 and in 1968 the president. During those years we featured the Drifters, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Mary Wells, The Vibrations, Ramsey Lewis Trio, Barbara Lewis, Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, The Lettermen, Canned Heat, The Temptations, the Supremes, Dione Warwick, The Young Rascals, and Janice Joplin and others. 

Concerts were held at Alumni Memorial Auditorium and then the new Stokely Athletic Center, and they were always sold out. Those were some wonderful days at UT.

Go Vols!

Daniel E. Durbeck


I just read the Torchbearer spring 2016 issue and loved the section on History & Tradition. I was in the audience for two of the ones depicted: Janis Joplin (1969) and Elvis (1972). Let me offer a couple of comments about being at those concerts.

The opening act for Janis was The James Cotton Blues Band. Most of us in the audience that night probably weren’t that familiar with him, although he is now a blues legend revered by many musicians; I’m happy to say that I now have some of his music. I was in the upper section that night at Stokely Athletic Center, but I brought my binoculars with me. During James Cotton’s set—by the way, they were incredible—I was enjoying the music and scanning with my binoculars. I stopped and did a double-take: down on the floor, Janis was in front of the stage dancing, along with a bunch of other students, having a great time. She obviously had an intense and troubled life, but that night on the UT campus she was happy…listening to the blues.  

As for Elvis, I’ll offer two memories. First, Stokely Athletic Center was packed. In those days, it was OK to take photos with a flash. I don’t think there was a single second during the entire show when there were not hundreds of flashes going simultaneously. It was a constant barrage and it was a strange, electrifying sensation almost like a kind of a light show. Second, the instant he ended his set, an announcer filled the auditorium with the announcement:  “ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING. ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING. I guess if they didn’t do that, people would still be waiting for an encore!

Gray Cavender (’69, HCB; ’71, LAW)


How could you not mention the Eagles? I saw them at Stokely in 1979 just before they took a 14-year break. I worked with a guy whose sister was attending UT and she got me tickets on the front row. Great concert!

Allan Newland


I regret I missed U2 in Alumni Gym (opening for J Geils Band) while I lived on campus in the early ’80s but I did get to see The Police at Stokely Athletic Center.

Danny Wilson


The Police at Stokely in the early ’80s was memorable, especially the party while camping out to buy tickets.

Joe Fareed



The Pixies… and at another show, Fishbone opened for Primus (’91 or ’92) both shows in the Alumni Gym.

Jennifer Haywood


Whitney Houston in 1988 was my first concert ever—at Stokely.

Stefanie Bowen


…I must say that the most amazing were The Shakers, The Allman Brothers, Phish, and Augustus Pablo. There was a great show like every week— ones that changed and matured my music aesthetic. So, I hope you guys are still getting revolution in music as part of your well-rounded education!

Ben Hafer


Saw J Geils with U2 as opening act 1982 at Alumni Gym.

David Roushia


Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1966 (that really dated me, didn’t it?)

Diane Kerley Long


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Barry A Marshall April 19, 2016 - 2:22 pm

Saw the Ike and Tina Turner review from the fourth row in 72 or 73, and saw Elvis from the upper deck in 72. great memories.

Alex Wright April 19, 2016 - 2:39 pm

Circa 1964, saw Peter, Paul and Mary at Stokely Athletic Center. They sang for about an hour, then Peter went solo for 30 minutes, followed by Mary for 30 minutes, then Paul for 30 minutes. Then the trio came out again for 45 minutes. What a show!!!

Wade Hutchens April 19, 2016 - 3:12 pm

Have to mention the greatest band to ever arise from the student ranks at UTK… The Hodags!
All five members of The Hodags were Brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon in the late 80’s & early 90’s. They played college campuses across the Southeast & Midwest and several campus spots like The Library during their years as undergrads.
In 2013 they played two reunion shows in Knoxville & Atlanta to commemorate their 25th anniversary and the centennial celebration for Sig Ep at UT.

Howard Hayden April 19, 2016 - 4:51 pm

B-52’s at Alumni Gym around 1981;
Police at Stokely
Bus Boys and Joan Jett at Alumni Gym around 1980

Bill Campbell April 20, 2016 - 8:39 am

I saw Chaka Khan and Rufus at Alumni Hall in the mid-70’s. The one thing that stands out to me is that the entire band came into the hall thru the same entrance as the crowd. They then proceeded to step over us sitting on the floor to get backstage. We were all dumbfounded. Chaka however must have come in thru a back entrance.

Mary Jane Yarbro Frederick April 21, 2016 - 10:29 am

Another alum’s comments about Janis Joplin dancing in front of the stage along with audience members prompts one of my favorite memories…our seats in the nose-bleed section offered a view of the right back corner of the stage. I watched as Janis approached the steps to go on,only to be stopped by one of the campus police security men. He held her by the arm and kept her from ascending the stairs. Her response was priceless: she bent over double, slapped her knee, and–I swear–I could hear her cackling laughter up in the rafters! When the guard realized his mistake, he quickly let her go on with the show. Well worth the price of otherwise worthless seats!!

Brad Oldham May 3, 2016 - 9:36 pm

A couple great shows I attended that I haven’t seen anyone else mention yet, Stevie Ray Vaughan at Alumni Gym and the Moody Blues at Stokley!

Michael Shelton November 18, 2018 - 3:27 pm

Lets really go back to 1965 (or maybe 1964)when James Brown played at the Old Alumni Gym. Performed his famous hits and the leaving the stage and continuely returning.

Jerry Mershon April 6, 2023 - 9:19 pm

Roy Ayers in 1977 in the school of music auditorium! It was awesome!!


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