Tech Anecdote from 1963-64 Associated Student Body President Phil Wheeler
Note: Occasionally the University Archivist hears a good story from an alumnus that she would like to share. This story is told by Phil Wheeler and re-written by Archives Assistant Jennifer Dewar.
1964 Associated Student Body Officers Bill Luttrell, Phil Wheeler, Brenda Edgemon, and Roger Easley, 1964 Eagle.
Folk music was incredibly popular in the 1960’s, and the group Peter, Paul and Mary (Blowing in the Wind and Leaving on Jet Plane), top draw in college venues, charged a prohibitive booking fee, making securing an engagement seemingly out of the realm of possibility for Tech. Moreover, any big-name entertainment campus booking brought a financial risk based upon attendance and whether the gate receipts would cover the cost of the performance.
Instead, for 1963 Homecoming, the Associated Student Body (ASB) booked the Smothers Brothers (Richard and Tom)—an American folk duo popular for their satire bits on variety shows. The booking looked successful, as gate receipts covered the expense and although Tech lost the Homecoming football game, everyone anticipated that spirits would be lifted by the Smothers Brothers’ performance.
The Smothers Brothers started their performance and all initially looked just fine… until the intermission break. To the astonishment of all, the Smothers Brothers never returned to finish their scheduled appearance. What happened to the Smother Brothers during their brief performance and abrupt departure? It turned out that they had gone to Judd’s Roadhouse and performed for beers!
Realizing the Smothers Brothers violated their contract by not performing their contracted time, the following Monday, then ASB President, Phil Wheeler, took his concern to Professor Poteet, a Business Law professor. Poteet confirmed what Wheeler thought and informed him that if the case if this went to trial, Tech would try the civil case in Putnam County, Tennessee. Armed with this understanding, Wheeler called their agent, Sherman Tankel, the next day. Wheeler explained that the Smothers Brothers did not meet their contract and that Tech was damaged for having confidence in any future performances. Tankel explained that “his boys” were not happy with the audience response they received, so they left. Wheeler responded that the contract did not include audience response, but it did include performance length.
Smothers Brothers, 1964 Eagle.
Tankel offered to make a financial contribution to a charity of Tech’s choosing to which Wheeler replied, “With due respect, it was not a charity that was harmed, but rather the paying audience from our student body.” Wheeler continued, “Sherman, ‘your boys’ left Tech without fulfilling the contract… if Tech litigated this, they could for up to treble dollars in a civil case here in Putnam County, Tennessee. After some deliberation, Tankel agreed to refund Tech for the undelivered half of the performance. Consequently, Tech was able to afford to book Peter, Paul and Mary for the following winter quarter—a concert reviewed in the February 7, Oracle by Phil Burgess as, “fabulous.”
Peter, Paul and Mary, 1964 Eagle.