By Willie Moseley
Demolition recently began on Troy University’s Sartain Hall, the school’s former (frontline) gymnasium. It opened in 1962 when the institution of higher learning was known as Troy State College. Sartain would be the site of memorable basketball games for many Troy alumni, and in the gym’s earlier days, the school’s sports teams’ nickname was the Red Wave instead of the Trojans.
However, for probably even more former students, a lot of Sartain Hall memories are associated with concerts staged there.
When I attended that school—which was known as Troy State University at the time—Sartain Hall hosted numerous shows by artists in more than one musical genre. Some of the performances clicked with concert-goers, some didn’t.
Other concerts at other colleges are probably memorable to erstwhile students and alumni from those schools for similar reasons. Token examples from the same time frame in this area would have included the Who at the University of Alabama in November of 1971, and the Faces (featuring Rod Stewart) and the Free at Auburn University in April of 1972.
However, most college concert memories probably involve one’s own alma mater, and Troy State University’s shows in that era were quite diverse. The following list of selected Sartain Hall performances isn’t in any particular order.
The Allman Brothers Band: February 1971. This show was by the original sextet, a month before they recorded the immortal Live at the Fillmore East album. The Troy concert had the same song selections, for the most part. Guitarist Duane Allman would die from injuries sustained in a motorcycle wreck on October 29 of the same annum, just before the Fillmore East album was released.
(TANGENT: When the Allmans took a break at the TSU concert, a student named Barry Diamond did a stand-up comedy routine. In later years he appeared in movies such as Bachelor Party and National Lampoon’s Class Reunion.)
The Ike & Tina Turner Revue: A tour-de-force show that started out with two instrumentals from the Kings of Rhythm, then two songs by (backing vocalists) the Ikettes. Tina Turner then hit the stage, yowling “Do ya like good music!?!” (the first line of “Sweet Soul Music”). The audience went berserk and stayed in that mode for the rest of the show. As it turned out, the show was unique from a personnel standpoint, as two of the Ikettes were fighting when the concert ended, and one of them was fired.
A live album by Ike & Tina called What You Hear Is What You Get is an authentic sonic sibling to the Troy show.
Sugarloaf: Decent rock band that had charted with “Green-Eyed Lady,” but the audience wasn’t familiar with their other music and didn’t relate to their musical stylings.
Bill Deal & the Rhondels: Another reason that Sugarloaf struggled was because of this opening act, a show band with beach music and white soul leanings. They put on a dynamite performance of mostly- familiar material and were so well received that they performed again in Sartain some months later.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: Riding high due to numerous hits (including “Mr. Bojangles”), the NGDB’s bright, country rock approach easily won over the attendees.
Dennis Yost & the Classics IV and Gary Puckett & the Union Gap: Both bands were booked at the last minute to replace the Rascals, who’d canceled. Both gave decent-if-perfunctory performances. Two members of the Classics IV, Dean Daughtry, and Bill Gilmore were originally from the Wiregrass and had been members of the Candymen (“Georgia Pines”).
Kenny Rogers & the First Edition: A bit more country rock-oriented than might have been expected. They also purveyed a respectable amount of humor and schtick to work the audience. Big fun.
Stevie Wonder: Arguably the most remarkable “big name” concert in TSU history, as most of Wonder’s band, except for the drummer, guitarist, and bassist, had been stranded at an airport, so Wonder and his three associates rehearsed intensely with TSU music students backstage in a locker room and put on a show anyway. Yes, there were delays in the starts of both sets but the result was an incredible one-of-a-kind experience.
So even if some shows at Sartain Hall weren’t exactly inspiring, others were unforgettable, for valid reasons. I’m sure there are a lot of musical ghosts hovering around the remains of the venue.
OPTIONAL PUBLICITY PHOTO INCLUDED