During my years at Shawnee Mission South High School, I occasionally heard a story that I surely thought was a suburban legend: the Who played at my high school gymnasium?
Yes they did, on Nov. 17, 1967. As the opening act. For the Buckinghams.
Before we laugh at this rock ‘n’ roll incongruity, it’s important to remember that in the fall of 1967, the Who was just another middling British singles band. And the Buckinghams’ best year was 1967, when they had four Top 20 hits, including two in the Top 10.
In their first three years of recording, the Who had placed only one song, Happy Jack, on the U.S. Top 40. (And what the hell: My Generation, no higher than #74 in the U.S.? Boomers, explain yourselves.)
But the Who’s momentum had been building all year, mainly due to a grueling touring schedule. The band spent the summer doing one-nighters in the U.S., and I Can See for Miles, their first Top 10 hit, was released Oct. 14. The band arrived in Overland Park to kick off their third U.S. tour of the year.
Driving the Who
Paul Clark was one of the first Contemporary Christian Music artists in the 1970s and is internationally known for his ministry and music. However, in 1967, he was a junior at South and got to drive the band to and from the gig.
“I drove the Who around all weekend in my midnight blue 1964 GTO convertible,” Clark said in an email. “They stayed at the Glenwood Manor and, after the concert, I took them to the pizza place on the lower level of Metcalf South [O.P.’s major mall], next to Sears, for dinner. They asked me where the birds were. I had no idea what they were talking about and they said, ‘Girls man … chicks.'”
According to John Ritland, another South student who has a web page on the concert, the Who’s set consisted of:
- I Can’t Explain
- A Quick One While He’s Away
- Boris The Spider
- Run Run Run
- Mary Ann With The Shaky Hands
- Summertime Blues
- My Generation
John’s site has additional photos and a reprint of an article in the school newspaper that discloses that tickets for the show were $3 in advance and $5 the day of the show. The yearbook reports that this show was the first big name concert at a Shawnee Mission school district high school, and that 3,500 students attended.
The Who left Overland Park for a show the next day at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Before the tour ended on Dec. 1, they would play at two more high schools, in Southfield, Mich., and Scotch Plains, N.J.
Paul Clark: Web Site