Bruce Springsteen has been a busy guy lately. "The Boss" had the recent Inauguration Weekend gig at the National Mall in Washington, and this Sunday he'll be the featured halftime show at the Super Bowl.

Jay Leno has some big changes coming this spring, as he departs as host of The Tonight Show at the end of May and starts another show this fall on weeknights at 10 p.m.

What do these two have in common? They were both up-and-coming talents who performed at the State University College at Oneonta in the 1970s and '80s.

Mary Lou Ryan, assistant director of the college's Student Union at that time, said she worked with students in selecting artists to come to SUNY Oneonta for concerts, lectures and more.

Concerts back in the 1970s and '80s were primarily held in the Chase Gymnasium, with some in the Hunt Union Ballroom. Depending on the act, seating capacity could be anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500. Ryan recalled that scheduling the gym could be challenging at times.

The college could book considerably more concerts at that time compared to recent years, "because the act prices now are so astronomical," Ryan said.

Oneonta students had an up and coming artist for a concert just after returning for the fall semester of 1974. The State Times of Sept. 13 billed Bruce Springsteen as "A Young Dylan Comes of Age." Springsteen and his E Street Band performed on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 8 p.m. If you showed a student ID, admission was $2. General admission was $3.

"We didn't fill the house, if you could believe it," Ryan said. "We had about 900 and could've fit 1,200." Ryan said the students she worked with were a very cohesive group and knew Springsteen's music, "and they couldn't have been happier."

The State Times had a picture of Springsteen in its next edition, but no review or comments of any kind about the concert. The 1975 Oneontan yearbook showed some color pictures of the concert, and billed him as "Bruce Springsteen."

A review of State Times editions through the remainder of the 1974-75 concert series had full reviews and pictures for Brewer & Shipley and Jonathan Edwards, Chick Corea, The Spinners, Dave Brubeck and Harry Chapin. A concert by Melissa Manchester had an opening act, a young comedian named Jay Leno.

Leno returned in 1988 for Homecoming/Parents weekend. Springsteen couldn't be brought back because his popularity exploded in 1975, and thus he became too costly after his hit album "Born to Run" was released.

Why not a sellout for Bruce Springsteen in 1974? At the time he played at SUCO, Springsteen had released two albums by 1973. Both received critical acclaim but no commercial success.

Oneonta had a popular coffeehouse around this same time. Before there was a Hunt Student Union, which opened in 1972, these coffeehouses were held at Old Main, at the top of Maple Street. Two particularly well-known and repeat performers were John Denver and Melissa Manchester. Both eventually were featured in full concerts in the Chase Gymnasium.

During the years Mary Lou Ryan scheduled concerts, some acts included Blood, Sweat & Tears, Sly & The Family Stone, Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, The Temptations, Chicago, The Beach Boys, Arlo Guthrie, Poco, Chuck Mangione & Quartet, The Allman Brothers Band, Billy Joel, The Kinks and America.

Ryan also booked lecturers who were relevant to the news and popular culture of the era. Astronaut John Glenn, columnist Art Buchwald, Rod Serling, Watergate figure John Dean, cartoon voice specialist Mel Blanc, Jane Fonda, comics Robert Klein and Henny Youngman, consumer activist Ralph Nader and many more rounded out the "Who's Who" of music and lectures in Oneonta in the 1970s.

This weekend: You'll get a "charge" out of a former manufacturer of 1920s Oneonta.

City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com.

Trending Video

Recommended for you