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University of Iowa Memorial Union - January 15, 1969

  • Songs performed during this period include: Train Kept a Rollin', I Can't Quit You Baby, Dazed and Confused, As Long As I Have You, Killing Floor, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, You Shook Me, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown, Pat's Delight (drum solo).
srapallo's picture
on September 20, 2007 - 2:24pm
Rate this show: 
Average: 4.6 (47 votes)
January 15, 1969
Iowa City
IA
United States
us
Setlist: 

Songs performed during this period include: Train Kept a Rollin', I Can't Quit You Baby, Dazed and Confused, As Long As I Have You, Killing Floor, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, You Shook Me, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown, Pat's Delight (drum solo).

Note: 

Support Act: Mother Blues.

June Harris (NME, Jan. 1969) – I called Jimmy out in Iowa this week, prior to his first university date in that state. The group had been completely hemmed in by snow and ice, making the 100-mile drive from the closest airport a dangerous trek across treacherous roads. “Yeah, really, it’s been incredible,” he said. “We’re all so knocked out. All the kids keep telling us they’ve heard the album and how quickly can they get it and all that. And we haven’t even done half the tour yet!”


Press Review: Dusk to Dawn - Concert at a Glance: The Led Zeppelin

For what must have been two numbers into the Led Zeppelin’s show at the Union, it looked like the Mother Blues might just steal the evening show. For an hour the Blues had almost made us forget there was a main attraction. But the Zeppelin, overcoming a shaky start and inadequate equipment, quickly caught fire.

The CPC concert on the most unlikely of nights, Wednesday, was Iowa’s first mass exposure to the subterranean  sound, a mixed of acid and raga rock and blues. Accordingly, curiosity brought several hundreds to see what it was all about. When it was all over, no one appeared to be disappointed as the Zeppelin was accorded a standing ovation and did an encore.

The group wasn’t as exciting as its individual members, three of whom must be considered standards in their profession. Jimmy Page, a former member of the Yardbirds, is group leader, although the way he slinked around the stage hunched paralytically over his guitar he didn’t look the part. But leader or not, he is one incredible talent. He is to the electric guitar what Adres Segovia is to the classical guitar or Chet Atkins to the folk guitar.

He could make his instrument speak words if he wanted to, and did. He could play guitar with one hand tied behind his back, and did virtually that too, picking with the same finger he formed the chords with.

John Bonham, drums, is said to have created a sensation with his solos when he accompanied Tim Rose on and England tour last year. Wednesday night he turned the trick again as he captivated the audience with what must have been 15 minutes of percussional gymnastics.

Robert Plant is the Janis Joplin of the group, a blues belter par excellence who is in indefatigable despite a voice constantly strained to its limitations.

These three have the makings of idols, although perhaps not as the Zeppelin. They seem to lack identity as a group, although that is not to say they are uncompelling. But with time and material they could command quite as much attention as some of the established groups do. (by William L. Seavey, Jan. 1969)

Notes: 

Support Act: Mother Blues.

Press Review: Dusk to Dawn - Concert at a Glance: The Led Zeppelin

For what must have been two numbers into the Led Zeppelin’s show at the Union, it looked like the Mother Blues might just steal the evening show. For an hour the Blues had almost made us forget there was a main attraction. But the Zeppelin, overcoming a shaky start and inadequate equipment, quickly caught fire.

The CPC concert on the most unlikely of nights, Wednesday, was Iowa’s first mass exposure to the subterranean  sound, a mixed of acid and raga rock and blues. Accordingly, curiosity brought several hundreds to see what it was all about. When it was all over, no one appeared to be disappointed as the Zeppelin was accorded a standing ovation and did an encore.

The group wasn’t as exciting as its individual members, three of whom must be considered standards in their profession. Jimmy Page, a former member of the Yardbirds, is group leader, although the way he slinked around the stage hunched paralytically over his guitar he didn’t look the part. But leader or not, he is one incredible talent. He is to the electric guitar what Adres Segovia is to the classical guitar or Chet Atkins to the folk guitar.

He could make his instrument speak words if he wanted to, and did. He could play guitar with one hand tied behind his back, and did virtually that too, picking with the same finger he formed the chords with.

John Bonham, drums, is said to have created a sensation with his solos when he accompanied Tim Rose on and England tour last year. Wednesday night he turned the trick again as he captivated the audience with what must have been 15 minutes of percussional gymnastics.

Robert Plant is the Janis Joplin of the group, a blues belter par excellence who is in indefatigable despite a voice constantly strained to its limitations.

These three have the makings of idols, although perhaps not as the Zeppelin. They seem to lack identity as a group, although that is not to say they are uncompelling. But with time and material they could command quite as much attention as some of the established groups do. (by William L. Seavey, Jan. 1969)


June Harris (NME, Jan. 1969) – I called Jimmy out in Iowa this week, prior to his first university date in that state. The group had been completely hemmed in by snow and ice, making the 100-mile drive from the closest airport a dangerous trek across treacherous roads. “Yeah, really, it’s been incredible,” he said. “We’re all so knocked out. All the kids keep telling us they’ve heard the album and how quickly can they get it and all that. And we haven’t even done half the tour yet!”


When the University of Iowa hosted Led Zeppelin

The University of Iowa’s Central Party Committee was in charge of organizing the January concert at the Iowa Memorial Union’s Main Lounge, and their hard work already had some unforeseen hiccups — the crappy weather was just the start. They had to book a replacement band for jazz sensation Count Basie, and they decided to roll the dice with a group of four guys on their first American tour. The show must go on. And so Iowa was introduced to Led Zeppelin.

“I sort of knew them, but we really were just happy to be out on a school night! That was the real thrill of the evening,” reflected Tim Taylor of Iowa City, who was a senior at City High at the time. “Really bad weather is the next thing that comes to mind. I was still in my clothes I wore to school: penny loafers, slacks, collared shirt and my hair at maximum length.”

Taylor laughed. In those days, the schools had a dress code and didn’t tolerate long hair on the boys.

“My parents let me go with my friend, Ty, and we were dropped off in an old Jeep that had chains on the wheels. It was awful standing in line waiting to get into the IMU.”

Though Led Zeppelin was still far from their legendary status, the concert organizers had them as the headliners anyway.

“We knew the opening band, Mother Blues, and I was looking forward to seeing them,” Taylor said. “There was only a few hundred of us at most in the IMU. I remember the bad sound system they had at first, but they got it fixed.” Still, he reiterated, “I was just so happy from being out on a school night.” He was obviously living the dream; he had no idea what was about to hit the stage after Mother Blues.

“Led Zeppelin! Just — people were going nuts!” Taylor’s memory of the Brits’ performance was once again fresh in his mind, 50 years later. “The ovation they got: Not very many of us there, but it was loud.”

The replacement band was doing their job making sure they were as entertaining as the previously advertised headliner. Bryan Dietz, a freshman at the University of Iowa, had a similar experience with his first taste of the future rock gods.

“My friend and I walked through horrible weather to the IMU from Rienow Hall. We kinda-sorta knew [Led Zeppelin] because I was really [a] big fan of the Yardbirds.”
“I was stunned,” Dietz recounts of experiencing Led Zeppelin in concert. “They were amazingly talented instrumentally. Robert Plant’s vocal were great, but what impacted me the most was their raw talent with Jimmy [Page]’s guitar and [John] Bonham on drums. His drum solos — I mean, wow.”

It didn’t take long for Iowa City concert attendees to realize they made the right decision to brave the elements and absorb themselves in what was going to possibly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, all for the $2 price of a ticket.

“I was very close to the stage, and I knew they were going to be phenomenal,” Dietz said. “They brought a lot of fun with them. Especially from only 50 feet away!” Dietz was a few human bodies from the stage in a quintessential U.S. college town, with all the bass, high pitches, unmatched vocals and sweat that come with that.

“‘Dazed and Confused’ is my favorite song of theirs, and I remember them playing it,” Dietz said. “I wasn’t aware that they were on their first American tour, but I found out that the U of I was their first campus show in the States. Seriously, watching John Bonham and Jimmy Page was the most amazing part of the show.” (Jan. 2019 / littlevillagemag.com/wayback-tours-when-the-university-of-iowa-hosted-led-zeppelin/

 

Setlists: 

Songs performed during this period include: Train Kept a Rollin', I Can't Quit You Baby, Dazed and Confused, As Long As I Have You, Killing Floor, White Summer / Black Mountainside, Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, You Shook Me, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown, Pat's Delight (drum solo).

Comments

Joseph Israel's picture

I remember this concert like it was yesterday. A friend and I had gone up to visit my brother who was a soph U of I and we were also checking out our future school. We were both seniors in high school that year. We couldn't get home because of the terrible ice storm and walked down to Union to see what was going on, when we heard aband playing so we went into the balroom area and watched for awhile. Fortunately long enough to see a second band start to get ready to play so we decided to stay. Needless to say I became a huge Led Zeppelin fan that night and continued from then until now and can say both of my daughters are too. It was the only chance I gever had to see the band live and as for the crowd, I think 200 is probably about right. I've told this story to a lot of people over the years and I'm not sure how many believe me but I had a great enough time not to care. Oh and there were also rumors that the band would return to Iowa City for a make up date because co few peolple saw them that night but I don't think they ever did.

Tony Steidler-Dennison's picture

Local legend has it that the January 15, 1969 show at the University of Iowa Memorial Union was opened by local favorites Mother Blues Band. Iowa City had been in the midst of a severe ice storm throughout the day. The thick coating of ice on the hills leading to the Memorial Union prevented the load-in of Led Zeppelin's gear, nearly causing the cancellation of the show. The show did go on, however, before an audience of approximately 200, with the use of Mother Blues' equipment.

ray kril's picture

I was the producer of this concert. Some things not mentioned are that there was a terrible snow storm that day. The Zeppelin arrived late while the warm up band was playing due to travel hassles.."But the Zeppelin, overcoming a shaky start and inadequate equipment..." All their equipment had not arrived - as I remember they walked in with Guitars , no drums, no amps. They borrowed the equipment from Mother Blues Band.
Even with all that they performed fantastically- a concert I will never forget- I think it was their third in USA...Ray Kril - concert manager U of Iowa 1968-1972

Bryan Roy's picture

Is it possible that Dennis McMurrin of Mothers Blues band recorded this concert do you think. It has been rumored that he has but no such tape has surfaced. Dennis still lives in the area and plays as a regional musician but I don't know how to get him to verify or produce the tape.

Patrick Hazell's picture

Dennis McMurrin was never a member of Mother Blues. I am the founder of the band and was the leader of various versions of it into the 2000s. To my knowledge there was never a recording made of our concert with Led Zepplin. If one ever surfaces, I should would like to know about it.

Patrick Hazell

319-653-4370

 

Doug Koempel's picture

Hello friends,

 

In January of 1969 I was a freshman at the U of I. For several weeks prior to this concert, there had been fliers posted in the Iowa Memorial Union touting this new band that would soon be appearing in the ballroom. I remember the posters stated something to the effect of: Led Zeppelin will be the next Cream and/or Jimi Hendrix. And also on these fliers in the margins were little blurbs telling a bit about each of the band members. I guess about the most-notable credentials contained in these promos were that John Paul Jones had done some work with Donovan and that Jimmy Page had been a member of the Yardbirds. Other than that, there didn't seem to be too much info that was that compelling regarding this unknown group.

 

I had been taking a music appreciation course, and part of the class requirements were that I had to attend a certain number of concerts during the semester. So on the night of January 15, 1969, I trudged over to Macbride Hall (or was it Schaeffer Hall?) to attend a string-quartet concert. When I got there, there was a sign posted at the building's entrance stating: "String quartet concert cancelled due to ice."

 

So I did an about-face and headed back to Hillcrest (my dorm) but decided to take a detour through the Memorial Union. I'd entered the east door and noticed a bunch of people sitting in the ballroom. There was a marquee positioned in front of the ballroom's entrance that indicated a $1 cover (I'd seen somewhere else on this site that the cover was $2, but I definitely remember $1.) And I remember a fairly small crowd which I'd estimated at about 100 people (although I did see someone on this site estimated it at 200.) I remember a large wine bottle being passed around into which people were dropping change - kind of a "passing the hat." I have always assumed that was to supplement the band - maybe it went to Mother Blues. Then I remember some guy - a campus activist - starting a commotion. He began yelling "Free music for the free people! Free music for the free people." And I do remember security hauling him away before the concert started.

 

Area band "Mother Blues" opened the show; and to be honest, I don't remember a whole lot about their set. I was in a band at the time (The Rubber Band), and I'm sure I was taking mental notes and making comparisons as most musicians do when listening to their local competition.

 

When Led Zeppelin took the stage, it was without fanfare; and I remember there being an issue with their equipment - it had not shown up, so I believe they used Mother Blues' equipment. I do remember the "visual." These guys were not hardy, Midwest lads - they were small and lithe and wore very "mod" attire. Even by ‘60s standards at the U of I, these guys had a very different look!

 

It probably wasn't more than 10 or 15 minutes into their set that everyone was completely mesmerized. I remember looking to my left and right wishing I were sitting next to someone I knew as I wanted to shout, “Man, these guys are unbelievable!!” I remember particularly Bonham holding up and twirling a drum stick while playing this absurd groove and thinking "I've never heard anything this incredible!!"

 

By the end of the concert, the audience was all standing and essentially numbed by what we'd all just witnessed. I remember a few days later, our instructor in Rhetoric class played their recently-released, debut album (Led Zeppelin); and we spent the entire period discussing it. Little did we realize the historical impact that this band and its debut album would have upon music and pop culture.

 

An almost comical and certainly ironic aside is the mention of Led Zeppelin's U of I concert in the University of Iowa yearbook for 1969-70. Here I've posted those pages: click.

 

Anyway, that's my recollection of one of the most-memorable experiences I've ever had. I've told this story dozens of times over the years to musician friends and to Zeppelin fans. So when I came across this site, I figured this would be the perfect place to chronicle my small part in this historic, musical event.

 

Best,

 

Doug Koempel / Jan 2, 2015

 

 

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