rock music

Chuck Berry performing on the television program "The Midnight Special," November, 1973. (Source: via Wikimedia Commons)

When Chuck Berry Had the Boss As His Opening Act

Rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry, who passed away at age 90 on March 18, 2017, performed in the Washington area numerous times during his career, including a July 1979 performance at the White House for President Jimmy Carter. But one of his most memorable local shows came a few years earlier, on April 28, 1973, when he played a show at the University of Maryland with fellow rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis, and an opening act who would go on to become one of the biggest superstars in rock — Bruce Springsteen. 

1973: The Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Mega-Concert

Back in the summer of 1973, long before bumper stickers iconic skeleton-and-roses logo were a familiar sight on camper vans, the Grateful Dead teamed up with another legendary rock band, the Allman Brothers, to play a pair of concerts at RFK Stadium that were the first multi-day rock extravaganza in the District's history. The shows drew 80,000 people to witness a rare pairing of southern blues-rock and San Francisco psychedelia. As Rolling Stone reviewer Gordon Fletcher noted: "Every rock & roller on the East Coast worth his or her faded jeans...showed up." It was a show that paved the way for scores of other big stadium concerts and events such as the HFStivals of the 1990s and early 2000s.

David Bowie's First Visit to America Started in D.C. Area

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 1971: A pre-glam David Bowie jams at a party thrown by publicist and future nightclub impresario and DJ Rodney Bingenheimer at lawyer Paul Figen's house in January 1971, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Rock superstar David Bowie, who died at age 69 on January 10, 2016, sold 140 million albums in a career that spanned more than four decades and earned fame as perhaps the genre's most flamboyantly inventive performer.

But back on Jan. 27, 1971, when he arrived on a flight from London at Dulles International Airport, Bowie was still a largely unknown 24-year-old singer-songwriter, hoping somehow to break through. His album The Man Who Sold the World, had been released in England three months before and sold disappointingly. But his label, Mercury Records, hoped that he would make a bigger splash if he went to the U.S. and had a chance to meet rock journalists and radio disc jockeys. So Bowie, despite his fear of flying, had gotten on the jet and endured a flight across the Atlantic for the first time.

But instead of flying to New York or Los Angeles, the twin capitals of the American music industry, Bowie's first stop on American soil was in the D.C. area. 

Beatlemania Begins in DC

Paul McCartney and John Lennon are ushered through the crowd at Union Station on February 11, 1964. (Photo credit: Mike Mitchell)

It's hard to imagine that anyone would think the Beatles might not be a big enough concert draw. But when Harry G. Lynn, owner of the old Washington Coliseum at 3rd and M streets NE, was approached by local radio station WWDC in late 1963 about the possibility of booking the then-nascent British pop music sensations for their debut U.S. concert on Feb. 11, 1964,  he wasn't convinced that he would be able to sell the 8,000-plus tickets that it would take to fill his arena. That's why Lynn reportedly insisted upon hedging his bet by booking several other acts — the Caravelles, Tommy Roe and the Chiffons.