Yeah, The Doors Played At Staples. Cream, The Byrds And Peter Frampton Too. And…

…also the Yardbirds, Animals, Rascals, and Sly and the Family Stone.

Plus the Byrds, Rhinoceros, Buddy Miles, J. Geils,  Peter Frampton and Taj Mahal. And Steve Tallerico, before he became Steve Tyler.

For years, those of us who grew up in Westport in the 1960s and ’70s have regaled friends with tales of those concerts. They looked at us like we smoked one too many bowls.

But they really happened. And now there is proof.

Smollin book cover

Mark Smollin — a 1970 Staples grad who went on to fame as an artist and designer — was at many of those shows. He’s just produced a massive e-book filled with photos, posters and ticket stubs — plus essays and remembrances by concert-goers and professional musicians — from those amazing days.

Oh, did I mention that tickets were usually just $2 or $3?

Doors posterThe Real Rock & Roll High School: True Tales of Legendary Bands That Performed in Westport CT is a 150-page gem. It opens with an essay by Barry Tashian. Westport’s 1st home-grown rock star — his band, the Remains, opened for the Beatles — provides some context by recalling hunting down 45s at the Melody House on Main Street, listening to jazz concerts at Compo, and going to dances at the Y and Longshore.

Smollin tracked down Ellen Sandhaus, whose brother Dick signed those first legendary shows — while still in high school. (The story of how he and classmate Paul Gambaccini became 17-year-old concert promoters is in the book). Ellen contributed fantastic photos, taken with her Brownie camera.

Cream ticketSmollin used Facebook to find more information. Mary Gai joined Ellen as a writer and editor. Fred Cantor did heavy lifting in the Westport Library newspaper archives. He unearthed proof that — as students who were there have always maintained — the Blues Project, Left Banke and Blues Magoos (twice!) all played at Staples proms.

The buzz grew. People chimed in about bands they claimed played at Staples, but actually were at other local venues. So Smollin added a section on other places like the Nines Club (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Vanilla Fudge, ? and the Mysterians), and the Westport Country Playhouse (the Critters).

Smollin also gives a shout-out to non-rockers who played in Westport. That’s an impressive list too: Louis Armstrong, Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck, Sammy Davis Jr., Ferrante and Teicher, Odetta.

Ginger Baker, Cream's drummer, at Staples in 1968. (Photo copyright Jeremy Ross)

Ginger Baker, Cream’s drummer, at Staples in 1968. (Photo copyright Jeremy Ross)

Finally — because he himself played in a band (called Smoke; they still do reunions) — Smollin included a list of local groups that may not have lasted long, but were legends in their own (and many others’) minds: Triumvirate. The Wild Sect. The Saints. Strawberry Fun Band. Mandrake Root. Styx. (No, not the more famous “Come Sail Away” band.)

The Real Rock & Roll High School is a trip — down memory lane if you were there (or wished you were), into the rabbit hole of amazing musical history if you were not.

The Staples auditorium -- where so many legendary concerts took place -- as seen in the 1970 yearbook.

The Staples auditorium — where so many legendary concerts took place — as seen in the 1970 yearbook.

So if you have any interest at all in great bands and solo artists — and others like Edgar Winter, Livingston Taylor and John Lee Hooker, all of whom also played in Westport — check it out.

I know. It’s only rock ‘n’ roll. But we love it.

(Click to order The Real Rock & Roll High School.)

Bonus track: I mentioned Steve Tyler above. Here’s Aerosmith’s front man giving a hat tip to Staples, during his 1995 induction ceremony at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

15 responses to “Yeah, The Doors Played At Staples. Cream, The Byrds And Peter Frampton Too. And…

  1. I remember going to the Doors concert with Dan (Danny) Wexler and the Rascals too.

  2. We also had the Beau Brummels!!! They were very fashionable (per the name) and wore suits (!!) including the first time I ever saw bell-bottoms!!

    • Senior Prom, 1967 – Blues Magoos were the ‘name’ group, but they played three songs over and over, We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet being their one(and only?) hit…but it still created good bragging rights at college, etc – thanks Dan!

    • Cathy Smith Barnett SHS '66

      Yes, I remember the Beau Brummels! I believe they were a group out of San Francisco who had Beatle haircuts and fancy suits. After the concert, a bunch of us raced to the back of the building and saw them in their “getaway car” pulling away from the curb! I think that was one of the first concerts at Staples.

      • Yes, the Beau Brummels were the first concert. Dick Sandhaus and Paul Gambaccini lucked out. They signed them when they were unknown. When they were in concert in 1965, “Laugh Laugh” was #1.

  3. Would love to buy the book for my son, but want to make sure when it’s printed at Kinkos (or somewhere) it is laid out as book format….anyway to email Mark Smollin directly?

  4. Cathy Smith Barnett SHS '66

    I saw no mention of Don McLean of “Bye bye American Pie” fame. Saw him at a benefit concert at BJHS in the 70s.

  5. Westport’s notoriety is so huge, that my Canadian family and friends don’t believe it.

  6. Love it thanks !

    Rich Zeldes EVP/Global Business Development Women’s Marketing, Inc. 917-509-0651

  7. Steve Rogowskey

    I remember going to the Rinoserous and James Gang concerts paying $3 and having a front row seat!!!!

  8. any way to get a hard copy?

  9. Tim Dickerson

    DId anyone or does anyone know anyone who might have audio recorded/taped any of the shows at Staples? There is a famous Doors recording a few weeks later from Danbury High School made by someone in the audio department. Somebody at Staples must have done the same. There are several recordings from bands playing the Players Tavern in 78 and Longshore in 78 and 81, but so far no Staples recordings have ever surfaced. If you have any leads, I know people who can transfer old cassettes or reels. Step up before it’s too late and the music is lost forever. Thanks.

  10. N. Bruce Nelson

    I was at Staples in 1967. I happened to take my date to the same restaurant that the Left Banke went to before the Jr. Prom, and we ate together – total chance. My date was from England, and they pretended to be English, too.

    The Blues Project showed up late for their concert, and several artists filled in until they got there, including Richie Havens and Jeremy and the Satyres. I also saw the Yardbirds and the Rascals that year. Thanks for the memories!