Gee, what a difference one-half century makes …
On Tuesday, June 9, The Rolling Stones celebrated over 50 years as a band with an indescribable evening of rock ’n’ roll at Grant Field in Atlanta as part of their “Zip Code” tour.
Countless thousands of Stones fans enjoyed Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood and Keith Richards tearing through hit after hit from the band’s storied career. Yes, the dice are still tumblin’ and the women remain “honky tonkin’ ” in today’s version of “the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world.”
Grant Field was also the site of their “Steel Wheels” tour in May 1989, which I was fortunate to attend. It never crossed my mind back then that the group would still be alive, much less rocking and rolling, in 2015.
For ardent Stones fans, however, one must go back all the way to May 4, 1965, as that was the day that the Stones played their first college concert in the States … at what was then called Georgia Southern College. Sure, it was a very memorable evening for the Stones and their fans, but for all the wrong reasons.
STATESBORO BLUES DEPT. At this point in their career, Jagger and Richards had just started to write their own material. Most of their earliest hits were composed and previously performed by others, including It’s All Over Now (Bobby Womack), Not Fade Away (Buddy Holly and the Crickets) and Irma Thomas’ blues-wailing standard Time is On My Side.
On May 2, 1965, the Stones performed for the second time on the Ed Sullivan Show in front of hundreds of screaming teens and tens of millions of viewers. The next day they flew to Atlanta and rented a car (imagine that!) for the drive to Savannah, where they stayed for two nights.
They drove to Statesboro for the show, which was sponsored by the Georgia Southern chapter of the Sigma Epsilon fraternity.
Anne Johnston, then a Statesboro resident and now a local, was 14 at the time. She and her girlfriends had persuaded their parents to shell out $2.50 each to see the band that was supposed to be the “next Beatles.” Yes, tickets were only $2.50! Parking alone now at Atlanta shows ranges from $20-$50.
OFF THE HOOK DEPT. “We went to the concert at Hanner Fieldhouse with our books as we had a mythology exam to study for the next day,” she recalled. “We studied until the doors opened around 7 p.m. and rushed to the third or fourth row from the stage.
“The place was packed, and there were three opening bands, all local. My fave was the Roemans, who brought the house down!”
The Roemans were a favorite of the college scene and that night were “all dressed in gold shiny suits with nice shirts and ties,” Johnston said. “Finally the Stones came on stage, and we were shocked. They wore jeans and were sloppily dressed. This was before girls my age were allowed to even wear pants to school, and besides, they looked stoned, drunk, or probably both,” she laughed.
NO “MIXED EMOTIONS” IN STATESBORO DEPT. Johnston was not impressed. “They only played a few songs before folks started yelling and booing. They turned their backs to the audience as the boos cascaded down before playing Little Red Rooster,” she recalled.
The booing got even louder even as the Stones played their new hit The Last Time. “Fans were ranting and chanting, ‘We want the Roemans, we want the Roemans,’ who eventually came back on stage!” Johnston recalled. “Yes, the fans in little ol’ Statesboro booed the Rolling Stones off the stage. I still can’t believe it,” she said.
Johnston saw the Stones again in 1990 in Clemson, S.C.
“It was quite an evening as there was a very large 60- to 70-foot blowup doll that inflated when they played Honky Tonk Woman,” she said. “In 1965, Jagger just stood there holding his mic, yet 25 years later he was all over the stage, very animated and energetic.”
Johnston is as surprised as many fans that the Stones have accomplished a fairy-tale career.
“Who would have thought that they would be so popular and have lasted as a group all these years?”
(I CAN’T GET NO) SATISFACTION DEPT. Two days after their Statesboro show, the Stones played in Clearwater, Fla. As legend has it, Richards had been working on a riff that became (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.
Hmmm … maybe the shock of being booed off the stage in Statesboro was the catalyst for one of the band’s most enduring hits – Satisfaction was recorded the next week and was No. 1 on the Billboard charts a month later.