Huey Lewis shares touching story about OKC music fans being dicks to Stevie Ray Vaughan

The 1980s were a pretty dark time in Oklahoma City history. In fact, I think the only positive thing to happen to our city during that entire decade was Huey Lewis and The News name dropping us – and about half of all other American cities – in his 1984 classic “Heart of Rock and Roll.”

You know how it goes…

“Tulsa, Austin, Oklahoma City… Seattle, San Francisco, too.”

As a result of that act of charity, Huey Lewis had the red carpet rolled out for him when he performed at Zoo Amphitheater on a Saturday night in May of 1984. In fact, OKC fans were so pumped and excited to see the legendary frontman that they disrespected his opening act – the late, great and legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Check out this Facebook post that Huey shared earlier this week:

For giggles, I decided to search through The Oklahoman’s archives to see if they had any write-up about the show, and they actually did! Check out this concert review written by Gene Triplett. He actually notes the poor treatment Steve Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble received from the crowd:

Huey showed exquisite musical taste in choosing guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan as his opening act.

“Hot dog!” said Huey of his guest performer. “We’re gonna’ play about 10 dates together. We asked for Stevie specifically. I’m a big fan of his. He’s my favorite cat right now.”

Unfortunately, the majority of the crowd didn’t share Lewis’ enthusiasm for the young rock-bluesman from Texas…

His scrambling, incredibly articulate riffs and solos recalled all the gifted blues-rock heroes of a bygone era (Hendrix, Michael Bloomfield, the heydays of Johnny Winter and Eric Clapton), but few people seemed to care and he wasn’t called back for an encore.

Much of the crowd seemed more concerned with the long lines at the beer taps. And those lines were lengthy indeed, since a new rule bans ice chests or plastic containers of booze brought from home. It seemed the concessionaires failed to anticipate the increased demand for alcohol, and the thirstier members of the audience were forced to do a lot of waiting.

Say what you want about Oklahoma City’s music culture. It’s not the greatest and is many notches below the scene in places like Tulsa and Austin, but we sure are good at being dicks to musicians! I think we booed the Smashing Pumpkins off the stage when they opened for Guns N Roses in the 1990s, and who can forget the very-deserved treatment we gave Staind frontman Aaron Lewis just last year. Concert goers were braving long beer lines during that one, too.

Anyway, if you were at the concert, I guess share your memories in the comments.

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42 Responses

  1. Oklahoma is an interesting place. While many don’t understand sports, it is worshiped, but only when they win. OU football the hottest ticket in town when winning. During the Howard Schnellenberger era, the way to sell season tickets is to throw in parking with the tickets.

    Want to hurt the attendance at a college football game in Oklahoma? 11 AM kickoff, as it is difficult to get up early enough to party and get drunk prior to the game. How to sell the 11AM kickoff to the “fans”? Tell them it will be on national TV, on a real network like ESPN or ABC as opposed to Fox Sports Oklahoma.

    Sports, and entertainment is about the fan in Oklahoma, not about the performer. The “fan” goes to the event for the experience, the booze, the food, or the benefit from being seen and talking about the event afterwards.

    A real fan of a performer or the sport remembers a particular play, or a how something was performed as opposed to how it was in the studio. What many in Oklahoma remember is how drunk they were or where they ate before or after the event.

    But hey, it is their money for the ticket, we know it is all about them, and money is king, so performers will continue to come to Oklahoma as long as the money is right. You don’t need to idolize sports or other performers, just respect them, you know like you should your mechanic, the waitstaff at your favorite restaurant or bar.

    Oh, my bad those people’s job is to make you happy and that is why they are paid, no reason to respect them any more than your Oklahoma boss should respect your talents. That problem is the root of many of Oklahoma’s problems, respect of others.

    1. Pretty much nailed it, my man.

    2. I saw SRV in the civic Center in 1990, a few months before he died. He was fantastic .

  2. Aw, man, I saw Stevie at the zoo when he was the headliner. The date was only a few months before he died, and he was newly sober, as I remember hearing, but the crowd was incredibly enthusiastic. I remember him playing Stevie Wonder’s hit “superstition”, and deftly, in the middle of it, flipping the guitar behind his back for the rest of the song, strutting around, being Stevie.

    1. He was sober for 4 years before he passed.

      1. He sure was! I love your title name. I had the honor of knowing Stevie from the ages of 15 to 18. Being Native American and African-American, I came from a family of Blues musicians and they had disrespected him because he wasn’t black! I learned at an early age ,soul and music has no color ! In my opinion Stevie Ray is the best. The pictures we took together I had put on shirts and I still wear those shirts today!

  3. Sorry but I have never heard of either one of them. Too old I guess, but enjoy your posts.

    1. Dang! How old are you? Both were big 30-35 years ago.

      1. Would you believe 80? I go back to Carl Perkins, the Everly Bros and Elvis before he went weird.

        1. Not too late. Check out Stevie Ray.

  4. That one was kind of on Huey. he should have known fans of his trite blandishments wouldn’t appreciate real music.

    1. yea – seems like an odd pairing.
      one is a musician and and artist the other is a hack.

    2. wrong, great show, great pairing

      1. YES INDEED!!! 😇

  5. Wow! That’s embarrassing, not to appreciate something as great as Stevie Ray Vaughn, live.

    Edgar is probably right. A Venn diagram of Huey Lewis fans and Stevie Ray fans probably wouldn’t have much overlap.

    1. Should be Vaughan. That name always trips me up.

    2. lots of overlap. the bands played together for the last encore.

      1. I was 7 years old when my mom took me and my 2 sisters to this concert. I smelled a weird smel and said “Mom, whats that smell?”. She said, “someone is smoking pot”. My 7 yr old brain/imagination saw people smoking a cooking pot or something similar! LOL!!! Today, I still listen to Mr. SRV but not Huey Lewis and the News. But they were fun when I was 7!

  6. I do remember when their was a riot when Journey announced they were not going to play. Early 80s, can’t remember the year. I remember a DJ at KATT got on the air and told the crowd what an embarrassment they all were. I also remember when Aldo Nova was booed off the stage when he was backing the Cars in 1980. The Cars were pissed and only played about 15 minutes and Ric Ocasek threw his guitar down and walked off stage.

    1. It couldn’t have been Aldo Nova who was booed off the stage at a concert in 1980 as his first album wasn’t released until 1982. He opened for Cheap Trick at the Lloyd Noble Center on that tour and went over quite well. His next visit to OKC was with Blue Oyster Cult in 1983. The Motels opened for The Cars at the Myriad on October 10, 1980.

      1. It was the guy who sang. “Hot child in the City”. I was thinking Aldo Nova, but It was a guy named Nick Gilder who was booed off the stage.
        Me wrong.

  7. I saw The Kinks at Lloyd Noble about the same time. Hardly anyone in the audience and they were basically catatonic. Ray Davies was beside himself with how little interaction he was getting from the audience. They played one set then left. It was embarrassing.

    1. What in the hell happened to Lloyd Noble? There were all kinds of great bands there in the 70s. Dylan, Clapton, Little Feat, The Dead. Also good viewing. Seats are good there.

      I moved back to Okla in the 90s and no bands there. You’d think they’d have some good music in a college town.

      Now I hear the building is too big for basketball and they want another arena. WTF is wrong with OU? They deny fracking earthquakes and global warming there. Is there a real school there? At least there’s football.

  8. I’ve read a lot of band biographies and this seems to be a pretty typical experience for relatively unknown opening acts, especially when they are opening for a mega-famous act.

    My first real concert was The Black Crowes in 1991. They were touring “Shake Your Money Maker” and partially thanks to “She Talks to Angels”, they were huge at the time. The opening act, and who I was really there to see, was a mostly unknown band called “Jellyfish”, who played power pop that was reminiscent of Queen, 10cc and Cheap Trick. Totally different from the music of the Black Crowes. I was very impressed that the crowd response to Jellyfish was very good, especially from a crowd there to hear some good Southern blues style rock.

    1. Black Crowes with Jellyfish? Was that at the State Fair Arena in 1990 or 1991? That was my first ever concert. Nearly was trampled along with 50 other people. Good times.

  9. We Okies may have issues regarding a lot of things but being criticized by Huey Lewis doesn’t mean crap as far as I’m concerned.

    1. I don’t believe it’s as much of an ‘Oklahoma specific’ issue as what the
      original post and many of the comments would have you think.
      It’s the same all over, in that musicians are forced to get commercial with
      their music and play what the crowd wants to hear if they expect to
      survive in the field and especially those starting out.

      Once you develop a name for yourself (if it ever happens at all) then you’re
      more free to put the creative juices to work and play what you want to play.
      It’s sort of a toss up between being an actual creative artist and being a mere
      entertainer, so much so that many musicians can’t handle that
      reality of failed aspirations and attempt to escape it through drinking or drugs.

      But on the other hand, you can often encounter people who seem to worship
      musicians whether they’re actually very good or not….heheheh
      So that does offer a bit of consolation when trying to deal with the rude ones.

    2. Exactly!!

  10. I saw tenacious D at what was then bricktown live on their first national tour. The opener was some thrash metal no name band. Seemed right for the D fans, but nope. They got booed off the stage. Jack Black at some point made a gaff later in the show about how that wasn’t very nice.

  11. I just moved from San Antonio to Hampton VA, my wife hadn’t moved yet. Huey and Stevie were playing at the Norfolk Scope. Got a ticket, the place was packed. I tried to see Stevie in my time in Texas and saw him open for the Moodys at Lloyd Noble. Anyway, just a great show. Huey was at the top of his game, fantastic singer, great band. At the end Stevie jammed the encore with Hueys band. Just great! Wife is still pissed to have missed it.

    Saw Stevie one last time at the Boathouse in Norfolk and Huey a few years at the Zoo opening for Chicago.

  12. When I was in the military, me and some buddies went to see Van Halen in Jacksonville Florida, Alice in Chains was opening for them, none of us had heard of them. I wouldn’t say the crowd was hostile, but they got a very tepid response, polite clapping, and everyone kind of just still chatting with each other through their set. I can’t say me and my friends were any different. Fast forward a few years, and I got significant cool points from a girlfriend at the time because I had seen Alice in Chains in concert. I didn’t mention they were opening for Van Halen.

  13. I was there. Crowd was kind of dead but I didn’t remember it that way. Rudest fans I recall was when Belinda Carlisle opened for someone at the Zoo. Might have been Robert Palmer. All the 120 lb. 6′ 3″dudes with hair down to their waste heckled her. It was embarrassing. Played into all the low life stereotypes of the era. I think she did Head Over Heels and left. Two opening acts well received were Golden Earring for Santana and Peter Frampton for Ten Years After. This was about a year before Frampton Comes Alive was released. Bought the album the week it came out.

    1. That Santana show was at the 98er ballpark. Golden Earring lost power at the end of the set and walked off. I saw 10 Years at the Arena but that was a different show than you mentioned.

    2. To clarify, I saw Ten Years After twice at the Fairgrounds Arena. First had Robin Trower and King Crimson as openers.

  14. The Springsteen show a few years ago was not a sellout, which is incredibly rare for him. Crowd was very tepid and you could sense that the band wasn’t real into the vibe. I was fortunate to be in the group that got to be in the front section, and I was the only one from OKC in that section.

    I have to partially blame a lot of this on the very lame quality of OKC rock radio. Seems like OKC radio was an unfortunate pioneer of very limited playlists. I grew up in another large city that had much better AOR stations. It always felt like Oklahomans only embraced the biggest and most played music acts. I love Oklahoma and its people, but the rock stations here have always been subpar.

    1. I think you bring up a valid and important point,
      in that a city’s radio station(s) can have a powerful
      impact on the music tastes and how well a particular
      musician may be received.

      Speaking from experience, most young people don’t
      have much money to indulge in recorded music and so
      consequently they rely on the radio for their tunes.

      Another thing I’ve noticed through the years is how several
      of my once favorite stations eventually got more commercial
      as they became more popular and gradually became less
      desirable as far as the amount of commercials and the quality
      and variety of the music.
      It also applies to many products you buy, as what used be good
      reliable brands turn into junk because they get bought out by
      companies which thrive on the brand’s name and want to reap
      the biggest rewards to their shareholders.
      Gets to where a person doesn’t even know what the hell to buy.

    2. i was at that “River” tour and was also disappointed in the crowd. Leaving the house lights on didnt help but just showed how it was only half full. They tried and put on a good show, just wasnt what i expected after waiting years to see them.

    3. You’re right about Springsteen at the Peake. Only the second time he has been in OK.Just felt he was better than this town deserves.The first was at Lloyd Noble in 78. My first Springsteen show and the fist of at least 20 more. Last one was in NY on Broadway. Nothing else is even close. TRAMPS LIKE US!!!

  15. What a shame Huey Lewis and the News was never more than a glorified bar band SRV had 100x more talent

  16. I was at this SRV/Huey Lewis show, it was on my birthday. They had a 3rd local act called Blue Tuesday as an early opener, and the sound was horrible for them. SRV came out and smoked it! I don’t remember anyone booing him at all. Ain’t care, I had a great time, saw SRV about 5 more times in OKC after that. One of the best Blues guitarists I’ve seen in my life.

  17. My favorite OKC concert “crowd hate” moment occurred with Alice in Chains opened for Ozzy at the State Fairgrounds race track in August of 1992. Layne Staley had a broken leg and had a couch on the stage so he could sit down when he wasn’t singing. Of course, the Ozzy fans were brutal, throwing debris and chanting “OZZY! OZZY!” during AiC’s set. It got so bad near the end that Staley threatened the crowd by saying if the crowd didn’t start showing more appreciation that they would “play Sweet Home Alabama over and over and never leave the stage.” Needless to say, they got through one or two more songs and then left, middle fingers waving to the crowd.

    Another instance was when The Plasmatics opened for KISS at Lloyd Noble in March of 1983. Let’s just say that the KISS Army wasn’t very enthralled with Wendy O. Williams and friends’ antics…chainsawing a guitar, sledgehammering a television, or Wendy O’s cherry picker that lifted her above the crowd as she claimed to curse the audience with an ancient incantation while dodging ping pong balls fired at her from someone in the third row stage right (there’s a story about Wendy O and ping pong balls, but we won’t go there).

    And of course, there is the infamous terrorizing of Mountain Smoke, Vince Gill’s band that had the misfortune of opening for KISS at the Civic Center back in March of 1976. He even mentioned the incident on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno back in the day. Brutal.

  18. From what I remember, the Smashing Pumpkins being booed off stage was because they were dedicating songs to “Satan” and “the Devil”. I don’t think the crowd appreciated their dedications. Then once they left, we all sat around listening to music as ladies in the crowd were encouraged to bare their breasts for the next 2 hours while the cameras showed them on the big screens in the arena, before GNR took the stage.

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