Nick Scalera

Nick Scalera dates his fascination with history to the day the Bicentennial "Freedom Train" rolled into his hometown of Rochester, NY. Since then, he’s followed a multitude of professional and personal tracks that have ultimately led back to telling stories about the past. Before coming to WETA, Nick produced Web sites, interactive elements, online games and video projects for Discovery Channel, TLC, Science Channel, Military Channel and The Henry Ford, the nation's second largest history museum. He has also worked as a museum archivist and an exhibit developer, producing immersive historical experiences such as an early-20th Century silent movie theater and a 1980s teen bedroom. Scalera has Masters Degrees in History (University of Connecticut) and Information and Library Studies (University of Michigan).

Posts by Nick Scalera

The Beatles hold a press conference in the Washington Senators' locker room at D.C. Stadium, August 15 1966. (Source: Bettmann/Getty Images)

The Beatles' Final D.C. Concert

Although their first appearance in Washington D.C. was certainly more historic, the Beatles' last visit was nothing if not eventful, and verged on the downright bizarre. In stark contrast to that triumphant first U.S. concert at Washington Coliseum in February 1964, by August 1966 the Beatles were mired in controversy, struggling to sell out concerts, and creating music too complex to be replicated on stage.

Prince performing at Gallaudet University on November 29, 1984 (Photo: Courtesy of the Gallaudet University Archives)

Prince's Free Concert at Gallaudet

Fans all over the world are mourning the sudden death of Prince Rogers Nelson on April 21, 2016, the singular musical genius who masterfully blended rock, R&B, jazz, funk and pop. But did you know that Washington, D.C. played host to one of his most unique and inspiring performances? At the very pinnacle of his fame during the massively popular "Purple Rain" tour in 1984, Prince stopped to play a free concert for 1,900 students at Gallaudet University — the world-renowned school for the deaf — and 600 special needs students from D.C.-area schools. 

On April 30, 1970, President Nixon announced the attack on Cambodia in a televised address to the nation. (Photo: Jack E.Kightlinger/NARA)

Nixon’s Weirdest Day

On April 20, 1970 President Nixon addressed the nation outlining his plan for the withdrawal of 150,000 troops from Vietnam. Ten days later however, the anti-war movement was stunned by his announcement of a major new escalation in the fighting — the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. Campuses across the country exploded in dissent, culminating in the killing of four students at Kent State University by National Guard troops on May 4.

In the tense days following Kent State, impromptu rallies erupted all over the Washington region, and a major demonstration was planned for May 9 on the National Mall. Law enforcement entities went on hair trigger alert, mobilizing all available resources including the entire D.C. police force and 5,000 locally-stationed troops.

It was in this combustible atmosphere that an idea germinated in Richard Nixon’s muddled mind in the wee hours of May 9, 1970. It would prove to be one of the most bizarre incidents of his presidency, and that’s saying a lot.

Portrait of Lead Belly, National Press Club, Washington, D.C., between 1938 and 1948 (Photo: William P. Gottlieb, Library of Congress)

Impressions of Washington: Lead Belly's "Bourgeois Blues"

Huddie William Ledbetter (January 20, 1888 – December 6, 1949), better known as Lead Belly, was a legendary folk and blues musician known for his virtuosity on the twelve-string guitar, powerful vocals and the huge catalog of folk standards he introduced. Inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, artists from Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin to Nirvana and the White Stripes have covered his songs and recognized his musical influence.

Somewhat less remembered, even locally, is Lead Belly's "Bourgeois Blues," a song written about his first visit to Washington, D.C. in 1937 — an incisive indictment of the city's racial segregation conveyed in 3 minutes of rippling 12-string blues.

Did Led Zeppelin play at the Wheaton Youth Center on January 20, 1969? (Photo: Jeff Krulik)

Did Led Zeppelin Play Here?

Led Zeppelin's first live show in the DC area may have been at the Wheaton Youth Center — a nondescript gymnasium in a Maryland suburb on January 20, 1969, in front of 50 confused teens. But there are no photos, articles or a paper trail of any sort to prove it.

Surely this must be an urban legend. Or is it?

Local filmmaker Jeff Krulik has spent 5 years trying to find out if this concert ever really happened. The result of this investigation is his new film, Led Zeppelin Played Here. We caught up with Jeff after a recent screening to ask about this intriguing project.

Woody Guthrie, 1943 (Library of Congress)

How Washington Saved Folk Music

Sure, it seems a bit counter-intuitive. How could the favorite subject of protest music also be its greatest protector? Well, believe it. If it wasn't for Alan Lomax and the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress there might not be a Woody Guthrie — and thus by extension — a Bob Dylan or a Bruce Springsteen, and well … you get the rest. In March 1940, Lomax arranged for Guthrie to travel to Washington, D.C. to record traditional ballads and his original songs at the Department of the Interior recording lab. What emerged from three days of sessions is one of the purest documents of Americana ever released.

The Who and Led Zeppelin Concert Poster, Merriweather Post Pavilion, May 25, 1969, Tina Silverman, artist

Merriweather Post's Legendary Double Bill

The Who vs. Led Zeppelin 

It's one of the eternal questions argued by classic rock aficionados — which of these virtuoso power trios could rock the hardest? Perhaps the only people qualified to make that call were those lucky enough to be at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md. on the night of Sunday, May 25, 1969, when Led Zeppelin opened for The Who in one of the most epic double bills in rock history. It was a pairing of hall of fame live acts that would never be seen again on the same stage.