Big Name Entertainment: The Exhibit, 1960s-1980s

Alumni and community regularly contact archives regarding the many big-name groups that performed at Tech in the past. Some inquire for nostalgia purposes but others inquire because of a concert’s historical significance. We assisted patrons as far as England and Australia with our big-name entertainment archives. As a result of this interest, we thought an exhibit featuring some of this big-name entertainment at the Varsity Theater would be a great idea.

Mailgram confirming Elvis performance courtesy of Ron Rami.

We worried the exhibit may only feature photographs of famous people on stages; however, I found that Tennessee Tech not only had big-name entertainment, it also had great stories surrounding these events, some that we have yet to unearth.

The exhibit features photographs of famous people on stages; however, it also includes some great stories and historical documents that add depth to the pictures. For instance, did you know Elvis’s last scheduled concert was at Tech? Or that a major record label signed Garth Brooks after playing Tech? More importantly, how did Tennessee Tech book these big-name acts??? Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, Jefferson Starship, and The Temptations to name a few. The exhibit answers these questions and more.   

We wanted a traditional exhibit opening. We even prepared a big-name entertainment playlist which you can listen to here (*Spotify required):

Former Tennessee Tech student Dottie West returns for a performance.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this is not happening. So how can you view the exhibit? There are two ways: in person with social distancing and a mask at the Varsity Theatre or online at: . We are living in strange times, but we are also excited to try a new online exhibit software. We hope that it makes the exhibit accessible to more people.

We would like to thank alumni including Phil Wheeler, former University Program Committee Director Ron Rami, and many others for telling me their stories. Individuals helped add a more personal touch.

If you have a story about seeing a band at Tennessee Tech that we did not include and you would like for us to add it to the exhibit, you can submit it to make certain that your email includes a permission for us to publish and store your story for the exhibit and future researchers to use.

About University Archives

Archives and Special Collections resides in Angelo and Jennette Volpe Library on the first floor. The collection includes materials of legal, fiscal and historical significance to Tennessee Tech University and documents the history of the Upper Cumberland Region. The collection includes over 2,500 cubic feet of manuscripts, photographs, and archives from Tennessee Tech as well as surrounding people, businesses, and organizations of the Upper Cumberland. The collection contains books on the history and culture of the Upper Cumberland Region of Tennessee.
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3 Responses to Big Name Entertainment: The Exhibit, 1960s-1980s

  1. Tom Peters '71 says:

    A memorable moment occurred in the late 60’s with the Allman Brothers Band. After booking their act with two others, they had hit the big time. The old gym filled with fans from everywhere; several buses and varied transportation means blanketed the campus.
    They were the second act and played over two hours; enough time for a baby birth in one of the bathrooms so the story goes. Finally, they apologized and said the next group had to play. It wasn’t going to get any better; many of us left after their set. Great night.

    • That sounds like an awesome night and we appreciate your story! I did not find any Allman Brothers ephemera and was unaware they played until alumni filled me in! I will have to look harder.

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