The Way Back: Over the Top

In 1974, ZZ Top rocked Memorial Stadium.

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By the time the music began at 3 p.m., it was 90-plus degrees and Memorial Stadium was packed with 80,000 people. The barbeque was gone and the water was running out. Thirsty rockers plundered concession stands for whatever was left. People hacked into bathroom faucets for water. Some were taken to the hospital with sunstroke.

It was Labor Day weekend, 1974, and the scene was the First Annual Texas Size Rompin’ Stompin’ Barn Dance and Barbeque, a fundraiser for UT Student Government. Tickets for the ZZ Top-headlined Sunday concert cost eight dollars—$40 today—and barbeque plates were just $2.50.unnamed

Santana, Joe Cocker, Jimmy Page, and Bad Company cranked up the decibels. Between sets, fans built human pyramids, played Frisbee, and engaged in good old-fashioned blanket tosses. By 9:30 the sun was down, the mood was up, and a banjo rendition of the “Eyes of Texas” was blaring out over the speaker system. ZZ Top was in the house.

ZZtopCleanupThe band ripped through a set complete with four encores, and Student Government raised $20,000. However, the crowd left behind an “abominable mess,” in the words of one outraged UT VP. Parts of the turf were destroyed—despite being covered in plywood—and a burnt mattress was left behind. Regent Frank Erwin played down the damage as “minimal” and the UT chief of police said that things could have been a lot worse.

Nevertheless, the Rompin’ Stompin’ barbeque was the first and last of its kind. It was 20 years until the regents allowed another big concert at the stadium: a more laid-back, “Take it Easy” affair, featuring the Eagles.

Photos by UT-Austin/Briscoe Center.

 

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