Strange Days

The Doors had a busy September 1967.

Just a few weeks after “Light My Fire” blazed to #1, they toured New Jersey, Texas, Utah, New York, Ontario, Ohio, Rhode Island, Iowa and Colorado.

They appeared on “Ed Sullivan.”  They released their 3rd single, “People Are Strange.”

In between, they played Staples High School.

On September 21 — nearly 43 years ago to the day — the hottest band in America came to Westport.

According to, which seems as amazed that the group played here as today’s teenagers must be reading about it, Staples was:

a very cool place to play considering it’s a high school auditorium and the music department’s rehearsal room is used as the dressing room, which the Doors turn into a party room!

Others that will make the trip here are the Animals, Cream, the Rascals, Louis Armstrong, Phil Ochs, and Sly and the Family Stone.  It sure would of (sic) been cool to go to this high school in the sixties!

The show goes well with the Doors playing material straight off their first two albums.  This show is promoted by the school’s student council!

Mark Groth — who sent “06880” the link to the Doors history website — was a Staples student then, and he was there.  He remembers “standing backstage under the light board talking to Morrison, wearing his leather outfit and smelling a bit like a wet goat.”

I was there too — though I was only in 8th grade.  I did not get close enough to Jim Morrison to smell him, but I do recall thinking he was by far the coolest human being I had ever seen on earth.

I don’t recall being surprised that the Doors were spending a Thursday night in Westport.

But they sure set the night on fire.

More Doors/Westport trivia: The back cover of "Strange Days" -- released 4 days after their Westport show -- featured model Zazel Wilde. She had graduated from Staples a few years before.

30 responses to “Strange Days

  1. The Byrds also played Staples sometime in the early 70s…date is long forgotten.

  2. Peter Gambaccini

    There were other bands of note, too … the Yardbirds, the Left Banke, and the first of them to play Staples, the Beau Brummels.
    I think I may have been the source of a lot of that Staples info at Doors I did get a call from someone doing this kind of history of The Doors. I managed to be backstage for that concert, too, and while the opening act was playing, the keyboardist Ray Manzarek very politely answered a series of dumb questions I (and a friend) put to him. Manzarek was a few years older than the other guys in the band. I actually remember Morrison spending a lot of his time in one of the small music rehearsal rooms in the dark, with a woman going to visit him from time to time.
    None of these acts, not even Cream, ever got paid more than $2500 to come to Staples, but the performances were extraordinarily first-rate. Road crews, if they existed at all, were quite small; a lot of the bands used Staples’ own sound system. To a large extent, Woodstock put an end to these concerts by top tier bands in high school auditoriums; it became obvious just how big the rock audience was, how much money could be made, how much they could charge.

  3. The Left Banke was at Lester Lanin’s “The Nines”, am I right Peter? Also there were The Magicians, The Rich Kids, and others. The Blues McGoos played for the Class of ’67 Senior Prom (they rejected the Jefferson Airplane!) Earlier in the 60s, Ferrante & Teicher came to Staples. I can’t imagine a cooler high school to have be in!

  4. And no one trashed the auditorium when Ferrante and Teicher played?

  5. Peter Gambaccini

    It’s funny…my brother and I were just talking about seeing Ferrante and Teicher, and another Staples concert with the jazz guitarist Eddie Condon. Eddie appeared to have umm…had a few.
    The Left Banke may have also played the Nines, but I actually booked them at Staples for the Junior Prom. I do remember The Youngbloods played at the Nines.
    As Dan has pointed out here before, Steve Tyler of Aerosmith mentioned at a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame ceremony that he had been the drummer for a band that opened for the Yardbirds at Staples.
    The Phil Ochs show at Staples turned out to have special meaning for Ochs. It was the night that LBJ announced he wasn’t running for re-election. Someone beckoning from backstage gave Phil the news, and he was ecstatic. Musically, this is what he’d worked for. Of course … getting Nixon as a replacement wasn’t what he had in mind.

    • The Dude Abides

      I was there when the Beau Brummels played, spring ’66. Seriously cool. Curious, but where did the money for the fees come from??? It had to be more than ticket sales.

      • About 10 years ago, I interviewed former teenage impresario Dick Sandhaus — with Paul Gambaccini, one of the promoters of the early concerts. He said that for the Beau Brummels, they “haggled the agents” down to $1,250 from $1,500. Dick and Paul were “astute and lucky,” he said — the day of the concert, the group’s 1st song, “Laugh Laugh” was #1.

        The capacity of the Staples auditorium was then 1,200. The Staples Student Organization was the sponsor; the Board of Ed approved a $750 down payment for the band. Even assuming that was a loan — not a grant — if you figure $3 per ticket (!), that’s a tidy profit for the SSO.

  6. I thought Sly played at Longshore not Staples.

  7. Horse With No Name

    I remember concerts at Staples in 1971, 2 years after Woodstock. So Woodstock did not kill them entirely. These were the days when concerts sold albums and exposure and barely made any money for the band. It wasn’t until the mid-1970’s that people like Bill Graham and the Stones first started to look at the concert business as a major source of revenue. Even then, it can be said that was chump change compared to what Michael Cohl did starting in the late 1980’s.

  8. Was it Edgar Winter or Johnny Winter who played at some point, I thought it was so cool to go to a concert at Staples, Westport really increased their stock with the school kids of neighboring towns! As I recalled the tickets were cheap enough so that anyone who wanted to attend, could.

  9. Peter Gambaccini

    My class treasury paid Left Banke, which had already had their two big hits, $1250. The concerts in the auditorium were always virtual sellouts and made profits.

  10. One overlooked Staples concert was Sha Na Na summer of ’73. They rocked a packed and sweltering (old) Staples gym.

  11. It was Edgar Winter. I remember seeing Delaney & Bonnie at the auditorium as well. It was a long show. I recall that at 1 AM Delaney came to the stage mic and said the fire dept. was closing down the show, but that they convinced them to let the group play one more song. 25 minutes later after an amazing jam, the show was over. I also remember, as a sophomore in 1969, one of the seniors in my math class tried to convince everyone to vote for a group to come and play, but their ticket price would have been $10 instead of the usual $5. As such we never got the pleasure of having LED Zeppelin play at Staples. Now that would have been something!!

  12. Dennis Jackson

    How could we forget the quintessential and important Westport band that opened for The Beatles at Shea? The Remains!

  13. The Dude Abides

    I was there and unaware that a Westport band opened for the Beatles. My girl friend’s father was head of Reingold Beer and “comped” us some tickets in the press box for he was fearful of the crowds. The Beatles were playing on a stage at second base and you really couldn’t hear much at all. Lot of celebrity citing, including the Mamas and Papas just above the third base dugout. Fun night. Summer of ’65. Good times.

  14. The Beatles played Shea Stadium twice… 1965 Aug 15 and 1966 Aug 23. The Remains opened at the 66 show. I was born too late for all of the fun at Staples, but great to hear all of these recollections… Fun stuff!

  15. Yes, The Remains were the opening act for the second time the Beatles played at Shea–in August 1966.

  16. And let’s not forget the Player’s Tavern. Those were the days

  17. Allow me to deviate from this topic ever so slightly, didn’t Hall and Gates slated to perform at the Longshore and they were no-show? I think it was in the early 80’s? Correct me if I’m wrong.

  18. From my blog post a couple of months ago, when Staples graduate Drew McKeon toured with Hall & Oates (not “Hall and Gates”):

    In 1985 they played the most-famous non-concert ever “held” here. For the town’s 150th birthday celebration, an Inn at Longshore employee “arranged” for the pop stars to perform. Nearly 5,000 people paid $20 a ticket — but the whole thing was a scam. The duo never appeared, the employee vanished — fortunately, most Westporters were in a forgiving mood.

    • Oops, Hall & Oates. Thanks for correcting me, Woogie. Daryl Hall and Bill Gates would make a bad duo.

  19. I’m impressed, I didn’t know Staples had hosted so much Rock ‘n Roll royalty!

  20. Staples is the only HS in the nation mentioned in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! (…at least that we saw.)

  21. Dan:
    Thanks so much for this piece. I didn’t move here permanently until 1980 so missed all of these great groups. But I did see The Doors in a much smaller venue in Boston in the summer of ’66 with maybe 200 or so others.

    What I most love about this item is the photo of Zazel Wilde who graduated from Staples in ’63. She’s an old friend of (gasp!) 46 years this month. We met my first week at Bard where she was a year ahead of me, but my age. The last I saw of her was in town with her parents about 10 years ago, still gorgeous with the same long, long hair and standing around six feet tall. She also had a brother who went to Bard as well named Jeff who I can only assume went to Staples too.

    As for Player’s Tavern I arrived too late for that also, but the late and terrific Terry Smith was one of my first Westport friends and neighbors at Compo so I heard many, many stories about “The Tavern” (not to be confused with a later and very different Tavern on Main).

    • Jeff Wilde did go to Staples — as did his and Zazel’s sister Pam, who was in my class from Burr Farms on. Their parents are still in Westport!

  22. I volunteer as a Tech Theater Director at a high school. I tell my students about Staples in the late 60’s and they just stare at me. As the SSTS (Staples Stage Technical Staff) ended up being the “roadies” for many of these bands we got to meet and work with the performers. Richie Havens, going on stage while we scrounged for equipment that the Blues Project neglected to bring. Hauling amps and speakers, running cables, aiming lights, (magenta and midnight blue were favorites), Always keeping an eye out for any equipment that the bands might have brought that we could use in the future… Why oh why did we not just set up a microphone or two in the catwalk and record these gigs. Could have retired a LONG time ago.

  23. Wow, a Remains reference! I was just on the phone with Michael “Spike” Fritchman who was the drummer for the remains for a time. He had just received a book from them that came out documenting their time on the road supporting the Beatles tour. If you are listing musical royalty from Westport you should als0 add Charlie Karp to that list, given his work for Buddy Miles among others.

    I remember the Hall & Oats scam too, now that you mention it. Someone is likely still keeping their head down for that one!

  24. Also of note – Dan Hartman from the Edgar Winter Group used to live on Edge Hill Road and would record folks like Johnny Winter, Edgar, Bad Company, Rick Derringer, Muddy Waters, etc in his home studio. One day after a particularly loud drum recording the night before he was “asked” to go door to door to apologize for the noise (or so the legend goes). We lived on Wright Street at the time and would listen to them recording from the graveyard between the two roads. I don’t recall him coming to our house, but we may not have been home or may have been outside of the cirle of shame. Great story regardless!