After years of dreaming, planning and even a little begging, the University of Houston broke ground on a new on-campus football stadium this month. It's a pretty darn exciting development for the Cougars that marks the beginning of a new era of UH athletics: The program will play its first season in the bizarrely reconfigured Big East conference this year, with hopes of even bigger and better games to come.
The new construction also meant the end of Robertson Stadium, the well-worn art-deco facility that stood at the corner of Scott and Elgin for more than 60 years. Many Cougar fans ain't exactly sad to see the old girl go: Six decades of hard use had left the former stadium a bit of a dump, with restrooms, concession stands, luxury suites and other "amenities" falling embarrassingly far behind modern conceptions of what sporting palaces should look (and smell) like.
Still, the stadium's demolition last December was a loss for Houston history buffs. The venue that was once known as Public School Stadium and later Jeppesen Stadium played host to championship games featuring everyone from HISD teams to the Houston Oilers and even the Houston Dynamo, and the grassy field played a rich part in the city's sporting legacy.
Sports weren't the stadium's only draw, however. Robertson also played host to some big, righteous concerts back in the stadium-rock era, a history long forgotten by most Houstonians.
Bands too big for the Sam Houston Coliseum but not quite huge enough for the Astrodome packed out the stadium in the '70s and early '80s, with acts as eclectic as Black Sabbath and the Beach Boys gracing its stage over the years. Info on those old shows is hard to come by these days, living on primarily in the memories of graying survivors and the old scrapbooks they long ago buried somewhere in the attic or garage.
Practically the only man to turn to for evidence of these forgotten gigs nowadays is Bruce Kessler, the former Pace Concerts photographer who has archived a veritable treasure trove of old concert photos at RockinHouston.com. Classic-rock nuts can spend hours browsing through the albums found there, with more and more snaps being uploaded all the time.
When I contacted Bruce about the possibility of using some of his pics in this post, there was one concert I wanted to ask about in particular: Pink Floyd's 1977 gig at Jeppesen on their In the Flesh Tour, the dehumanizing trek that inspired much of Roger Waters's bitter outpouring on The Wall. Did he remember it at all?
Hell yeah, he did!
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"I do have specific memories of most of the shows that I shot there, especially Pink Floyd in 1977 as it was raining cats and dogs," Kessler said. "The stage was high, and it was one heck of a challenge to shoot upwards while also holding an umbrella to keep the rain off the lens! That is why I have so few pictures!"
Wet weather and the Floyd seemed to go hand in hand in Houston, with rain marring the David Gilmour-led incarnation of the band's gig at Rice Stadium in 1994, too. Bootlegs of the '77 show are evidently out there, but alas, YouTube was no help in finding one.
Many of their contemporaries enjoyed much sunnier (and no doubt hotter) weather at Jeppesen over the years, of course:
Alice Cooper played the newly christened Robertson Stadium as part of KILT-FM's Houston Rocks concert on July 13, 1980, along with Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, Riot and others. One can only imagine the pounds of drugs being consumed onstage and off at this mother!
The Allman Brothers were a massive draw back in 1974, fresh off the success of "Ramblin' Man" and "Jessica." A couple years later, it would all come apart.
The Beach Boys and Chicago embarked on a legendary joint tour in 1975 that swung through Jeppesen. Chicago was so hot at the time that the Beach Boys actually opened for them.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's epic 1974 tour, produced by Bill Graham, featured one of the largest and most powerful portable sound systems of the era. CSN&Y probably longed for the comparatively mild climes of Southern California as they sweated it out on stage at Jeppesen.
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Visit RockinHouston.com for jillions more classic concert pics from Robertson Stadium and many other Houston venues. If you've got any more musical memories from the historic stadium, don't hesitate to share them below in the comments section.