It’s a story so outlandish, folks who were there don’t believe it: In a 2-year period in the mid-1960s, the Doors played a concert at Staples High School.
So did Cream. The Yardbirds. Sly and the Family Stone. The Rascals. The Animals. The Beau Brummels.
Plus over the next few years, the Byrds, Rhinoceros, Buddy Miles, J. Geils, Peter Frampton and Taj Mahal. And Steve Tallerico, before he became Steve Tyler.
I saw most of those bands. I’ve written about it, on “06880.” So has Mark Smollin, a 1970 Staples grad, in his great book The Real Rock & Roll High School: True Tales of Legendary Bands That Performed in Westport CT.
Still skeptical? Now there’s even more proof: a video documentary, called “The High School That Rocked!”
It’s a labor of love from Fred Cantor, a 1971 Staples alum who missed most of those performances, but is now making up for lost time.
Rock has never died — witness all the young rock lovers born decades after Jim Morrison died — and Cantor enlisted the help of a very recent Staples grad to bring his vision to reality.
Casey Denton (Class of 2014) led a high-level Emerson College camera and sound crew, then edited the final prodcut.
The video includes research Cantor had done for Smollin’s book, and over a dozen interviews with people who were there at the concerts. (Spoiler alert: I’m one of them. Our recollections seem pretty accurate, despite the admonition that if you remember the ’60s, you weren’t there.)
Cantor focused on a 2-year period, when 6 bands now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame all took the Staples stage. He is convinced no other high school that could make such a claim.
The video also includes Staples grads from that era who made their mark in the music world. One is Paul Gambaccini, perhaps Britain’s most famous music presenter. Another is Charlie Karp, who at 16 years old was influenced by the concerts to leave Staples and join the Buddy Miles Express. A third is Emmy winner Brian Keane.
Cantor is working with the Westport Cinema Initiative, Westport Historical Society and Levitt Pavilion, to bring “The High School That Rocked!” to a wide audience here.
He’s also entering it in festivals (film, not rock). The first is Film Fest 52 at the Bethel Cinema (Wednesday, March 8, 6 pm VIP party meet and greet, 7 pm film, followed by a Q&A and reception). It will also open the SENE Film, Music & Arts Festival in Providence on April 25.
You don’t have to have seen any of the Staples concerts — or even to have been alive then — to love this film.
But if you were there, you’ll appreciate the final credits.
They say the film was produced by “Sally’s Record Dept. Productions.”