Major rock-n-roll stars you got to see before they became famous

I was just sitting here wondering if we had any German or English members who managed to see the Beatles before they hit it big, in their bar/nightclub days. Then I thought, why not open it up to all bands? If you were lucky enough to see Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black perform That’s All Right Mama around the time they recorded it, I want to know. Anything more recent too, like the Doors, or Led Zeppelin, or anything right up through today.

I can only think of one myself. I saw Randy Rhoads performing, at the Whisky-A-Go-Go, with Quiet Riot several times, right around the time he was tapped by Ozzy Osbourne. I’m actually not a huge metal fan, but they were definitely evenings to remember. Then again when a musician is that good s/he tends to transcend the category that they’re normally pigeonholed in.

So what were your “I saw so-and-so before they were famous” experiences?

Not exactly “rock & roll,” but I saw John Denver in 1970 when he was the opening act for Blood, Sweat & Tears. His biggest claim to fame at the time was having written Peter Paul & Mary’s hit “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (which he sang at the show I saw).

I saw Tom Waits in 1974 when he was the opening act for Frank Zappa & the Mothers. He played solo, with just an electric piano, and the audience was incredibly hostile–one alleged human near me kept yelling “Somebody shoot that fucker!”

I saw Live and Korn before they were famous. A teacher I knew saw the Grateful Dead, Janice Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore before they got huge.

I saw Nirvana play during the Bleach tour - their first album.

I was a Metro rat back in the day. I saw Smashing Pumpkins test the songs from Gish and one of the first variations of Hole during the Pretty On The Inside days.

I saw Deez.

I saw Dave Matthews play in late summer 91’ in a bar in Richmond VA. I can’t remember the name of the place, I was visiting a friend of mine and she said I had to come see these guys who had a violinist in their rock band. (I was a big fan of a Chicago band called Big Hat that also had a violin player)

What a show. The energy level was incredible.

I saw Erasure when they opened for Duran Duran. They were the first live rock act I ever saw, in fact. I was rather young, had never heard any of Erasure’s music before (I don’t think their songs had hit the radio yet), and was quite confused by the sight of a man dancing around in a hard-plastic outfit that gave him simulated breasts.

My friends also went to see Van Halen in 1991 (I wasn’t enough of a fan, really) and saw some miserable opening act called Alice in Chains that everyone shouted off the stage.

DMB used to play the frat parties at Washington & Lee University in the early nineties. Saw them a half dozen times. Hated 'em then, still do. I only went for the beer and the chicks :wink:

I can do better than that, I saw them before they were Nirvana. Well OK just one of them - Dave Grohl was in a D.C. band called Mission Impossible in the mid-1980s and I saw them several times. Still have their 7" which is worth a fair bit these days. One of my friends was shagging him too, so I have some interesting stories :wink:

I saw Robbie Williams ere he was famous.

Ahem…famous…from what I understand youse Americans have no idea who the heck he is. So let me just tell you that his concert two days ago was attended by about 70.000 people into the concert arena and by 20.000 people sitting in front of the stadium so they could at least listen to the concert.

But I saw him 3 years ago with about 100 people in the room. If at all. And it was great.

Cheap Trick played at one of my high school dances. This must have been about 1975-76.

I saw Bruce Springsteen just before he hit the jackpot with those dual Time and Newsweek covers in 1975. He played in a very full 2500 seat auditorium so he wasn’t exactly unknown, but he still wasn’t at stadium ranking. Wonderful, fantastic show. I was in the last row, so I could stand on the seat and cheer most of the way through. And actually see the band, unlike those later in the stadiums.

That same auditorium was the site for the very first show that Kraftwerk ever played in the U.S. They didn’t talk on stage, just had neon light boxes in front of them giving their names. Very cool effect. :cool: The teens sitting in front of us, who obviously went to every show regardless of who was playing, made fun of people named “Rolf” and “Florian.” I can’t imagine what they thought of the music, but my wife and I grooved on it.

Just as a sidenote, that same auditorium was the site for the New York Rock and Rock Ensemble playing Michael Kamen’s rock ballet with a symphony orchestra. That may have been the only performance of it, for all I know, but it was the single best piece combining rock and classical elements I’ve ever heard. It should have been released as a record, just to capture the experience for posterity to show that it could be done right.

I took some acid in college one night with some friends who then revealed they were going to a show. It was a $5 show, but I had spent my last $5 on the acid and couldn’t go, so I amused myself (not hard to do on acid!) while they went to the show. When they got back a few hours later one of them had an advanced copy of the band’s album. That was the first time I heard Nevermind, and probably Nirvana’s last $5 show.

Interesting how often these people got booed. And I know little of Zappa yet understand completely why he probably was a Waits fan and no doubt specifically asked for him to be the warmup act.

This reminds me of another such experience, when I saw Prince open for the Rolling Stones. He wasn’t exactly unknown, but he was the first in a four-band lineup that ended with the Stones. I couldn’t hear the lyrics, but apparently they’re what offended the crowd. Musically I thought he was great, playing guitar in a Hendrixesque style, but with a more R&B groove.

I saw a percursor to Pearl Jam (and Mudhoney, for that matter), called Green River at a small club in about '86… they were great.

More recently, I’ve seen Nico Case at some pretty small venues, but I guess she’s not a “major rock-n-roll star”.

I used to hang out with Widespread Panic all the time before they released Space Wrangler in 1988. Mike Hauser was a good friend of my wife in Dallas, consequently I became friends with all of them. We lost touch after I moved to San Francisco in '92, but we still hang out backstage on occasion when they play out here. I miss Mike. :sad:

I took guitar lessons from John Oates (Hall & Oates) and opened for him at a crappy little coffee house gig in the early 70s. He had an edgy bluegrass guitar thing going on back then and was very good - better IMHO than the more mainstream stuff he did with Hall & Oates.

Man, I saw Green Day for the last time right before Dookie came out. At the time, they were doing really good for a punk band: maybe 500 people in attendance. Everyone knew they had a record coming out in a couple months on a major label, and Billie Joe talked about making monumental decisions in your life, ones that could effectively change everything for your future, or possibly fuck up everything you’ve managed to do in the past. And how you gotta do what you think is right, and not worry about what everyone else thinks of you. It sounds corny, but it was a pretty “real” moment, especially since everyone knew that this was the last time you were going to get to see them in a place like that.

Back in my musician days, used to check out tons of acts, and saw a bunch of folks before they were big.

Nirvana. There were maybe 100 folks there. The drummer in my band was a graphical kind of guy and had made up these “backstage passes to hell” which looked like real backstage passes, but had a pentagram and some comical text on it. I thought it was so cool at the time I wore it everywhere, and happened to have it at the concert. I handed it to Curt Kobain and he also thought it was cool, and wore it during the concert.

Perl Jam. Saw them just after they had formed; one of their cases said “Mother Love Bone” on it. Again, maybe 100 folks. Eddie Vedder climbed up on some structure at the back of the stage.

Primus. One saturday, a friend (the drummer in story #1) said these guys rocked, and we should see them someday. We happened to know they were playing in Berkeley that evening, and on a lark 4 of us jumped in a car and drove all the way there from San Diego. Truly amazing. Talked briefly to Les Claypool, who was very cool. They played with

Minutemen. Another band I wasn’t familiar with, but they rocked as well. Six months later, they were playing at UCSD in San Diego, so I went to see them. About a half hour before the concert, I was walking around the campus and met Mike Watt who was also strolling. Talked to him a while and told him about our road trip to see them earlier. They did a rocking show, and afterwards, he jumped off the stage and came over and talked a little more to me.

Smashing Pumpkins. Again at a tiny place, maybe 50 people there. I had played there a few weeks before. Billy Corgan had long hair and looked very much like Jim Morrison, and had that same attitude. I helped the gal (I can’t remember her name) carry in her equipment. The place had a low stage, and though there weren’t many people, it was like one big mosh pit. I kept thinking for sure the crowd would accidentally overrun the stage. Very cool concert.

Living Color. Saw them early on and talked a bit to Corey Glover before hand. I’ll recount the conversation for you:
Bill: Yo Corey, wassup?
Corey: Wassup?
ok, it wasn’t much of a conversation, I’ll admit.

Eric Johnson. Well, I didn’t meet him, in fact didn’t even see him. A gal I worked with told me about this amazing guitar player I had to see. She said he was playing at this sleazy bar. And I had played at the same bar a week ago, and let me tell you it was a dive. So, I didn’t bother seeing him. Shortly thereafter, he was all the rage.

My cousin, Paul Bostaph, before he became the drummer for Slayer.

He is now with SYSTEMATIC.