The Saga of Bonnie Raitt and the Aber Day Kegger
In the Fall ’06 edition of the Montanan Rick Tobin commented that Bonnie Raitt was never at any of the Aber Day keggers. You produced a poster showing her name on the agenda, commenting that she could have canceled. I attended only one Aber Day kegger, in May 1977, held at the Lower Miller Creek rodeo grounds. Bonnie Raitt was the opening act that day. Rick doesn’t remember her performing, but then she was not as famous then as she is now. Maybe Rick didn’t arrive early enough to see her on stage. He remembers Doug Kershaw coming by helicopter, which happened right after Bonnie’s performance. At any rate, Bonnie Raitt and Doug Kershaw were just the warm-up acts that day, and we needed that, since it was a cool, blustery day. It was only when Tarwater, a country band from the Boise area, got on stage that the crowd started to warm up. They were the perfect lead-in to Mission Mountain Wood Band. When M2WB performed, the crowd, well-lubricated by “thousands of gallons of icy cold Oly,” got up and MOVED to the driving blend of country and rock that characterized Missoula’s favorite sons.
Gary W. Myers ’80, M.B.A. ’84
American Fort, Utah
Editor’s note: This was one of nearly a dozen letters, visits to my office, and phone calls regarding Rick Tobin’s letter. The response constitutes the most letters and contacts on one subject this publication has ever received. All were edited because of space limitations.
Regarding Rick Tobin’s letter: That performance is one of the few things I remember clearly about those keggers: her long red hair, her tight jeans, the way she teased us about how drunk we were. I think she had as much fun as we did, or at least that’s the impression she gave.
Scott McMillion ’80
When I read the letter claiming Bonnie Raitt did not perform at the Aber Day keggers, I had to rush to my file of important papers to confirm my memory of the 1977 concert. Enclosed is an article from the Montana Kaimin, showing Bonnie performing that year. I also saved the Kaimin from 1978, when the bands were the Live Wire Choir, Elvin Bishop, Mission Mountain Wood Band, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. ... Now I better put those Kaimin issues back with the will and kids’ birth certificates.
Shelley Leben Woloshuk ’80
West Lafayette, Indiana
Yes, Bonnie Raitt played the ’77 Aber Day kegger. I saw her there, as did about 10,000 other eyewitnesses.
Craig Reese ’78
Bonnie Raitt did perform in 1977. I can fill in a little here from my own experience. I ... worked as a stagehand at the Aber Day kegger that year ... the same year Doug Kershaw flew in by helicopter and blew all our boxes away! One of the chores of the stagehands was to flip burgers on a barbecue behind the stage for the performers, roadies, and other workers. While it was my turn to cook, Bonnie Raitt came down after her performance and asked what it would take to get one of those delicious-smelling burgers. For the next ten minutes, she and I chatted over the barbecue. I can definitely say that she was there that year. To this day, I still reflect on our short chat whenever I see her on stage ... a real down-to-earth person!
Ken Brewer ’77
I was there, and I remember it well because it was my birthday. In fact, in response to my boisterous request, she closed her set with “Angel from Montgomery.”
Jim O’Brien ’69
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Bonnie Raitt definitely played at the 1977 kegger. I remember because I was (am) not a fan but I wouldn’t miss a kegger.
Gerald Willis, M.S. ’78
Los Lunas, New Mexico
Sorry Rick, she was there. I remember because she winked at me. I was standing next to the stage about eight feet in front of Bonnie and was amazed at how truly beautiful and talented she was. Maybe Rick was in the beer line and missed her, but I doubt he would have been waiting for beer that long. Then again, it was the seventies and even though I can’t remember each and every performer at every Aber Day concert I attended, I do remember Bonnie Raitt slinging her slide with her long red hair and sexy voice that occupied my mind for quite some time that day. Jimmy Buffett also played for a very windy Aber Day sometime in the late seventies, but I’m sure he didn’t wink at me.
I can assure you that Bonnie Raitt did play at the 1977 Kegger. I was director of what was then called ASUM Program Council, and we booked the talent for the event. Bonnie was booked and did play. And by the way, she was one of the nicest persons you could ever meet. A first-class act in many ways.
Richard Schneider ’78
Why Not a Montana Mountain, for Pete’s Sake?
I have always enjoyed reading the Montanan, but I snicker when I get to the back cover and see that little girl looking at the impressive Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park in Washington state! I’ve hiked the High Divide Trail and have a virtually identical photo of that peak. That photo has been used for years in the Montanan. I would think that the Montana Family Education Savings Program could find an equally impressive photo of a good ol’ Montana mountain for its ad.
UM Chemistry Professor
Editor’s note: We brought this to the attention of the advertiser after what I believe was your first mention of this to us. We even offered to provide a photo of a Montana mountain. The firm that produces the ad is based in New Jersey and may think a Washington mountain is close enough. Perhaps they will see this and be moved to provide a more authentic ad.
Thanks for the Memories
Before tossing out the Montanan I thought I would take one last look at my old friend Doug Baty (the story on UM’s Farm to College Program). Many years ago we sold our handmade pottery in the University Center art fairs. And I paused again to look at Alexis on Monte Dolack’s kegger poster. Rudy Autio, my old ceramic instructor, has one tacked to the ceiling of his studio. While I was looking at About Alumni, my eye dropped down to the bottom of page 28 and there was a picture I had not seen in more than forty years … Leland Felix and Alberta Croonensberg. I remember Leland as a kid who got his picture in the Bitterroot annual by walking down the stairs on his hands at Missoula County High (now Hellgate). One summer we hitchhiked to Hawaii. I know that sounds impossible. It’s a long story, but we did it.
In graduate school, Leland started a gym club and a cute gal named Alberta showed up. Leland asked her to the Foresters’ Ball. They dressed up real crazy. And, wow, you have a photo from the Sentinel annual.
Douglas Grimm ’64
A Mascot Weighs In
I was excited to see, on the last page of the Fall 2006 issue, an ode to the mascot at UM. From 1990 to 1993, I was part of the mascot tradition and wore the “wolfish bear” costume that you referred to in your article. I was Otto for three full seasons and will never forget stepping onto the field during a Homecoming game. It made me very proud to be a Montanan.
I have included a photo of the costume I wore, as it seems to be the only one missing from your montage. The costume was, at the time, mildly controversial … everyone knew it looked more like a wolf than a grizzly. The inside of the head was an old football helmet and came off constantly until Steve Hackney suggested (and eventually installed) a chin strap. I came to love the costume and am proud of the small contribution I was able to make to the Grizzlies’ athletic tradition.
Benjamin Fitch ’98
I was very interested in Patia Stephens’ article in the fall edition titled “When Speech Wasn’t Free,” which describes the wartime hysteria in Montana during the First World War.
Coincidentally, I had just finished reading the autobiography of former U.S. Senator Burton K. Wheeler, a four-term Montana Senator (1922-46) titled Yankee from the West. Wheeler was U.S. District Attorney for Montana during the First World War, when the Sedition Act welcomed anti-German complaints based on rumor, hearsay, quarrels, bad jokes, etc. Wheeler writes that “literally hundreds of stories were brought to me about individuals who were alleged to be German spies. The trace of a German accent was almost enough to make one suspect in some areas. However, most of the reports were based on feuds among neighbors who seized on the spy scare to try to settle old scores.” He adds that “In the fall of 1917, so-called Liberty Committees were organized in most of the small towns … to deal directly with anyone accused of being pro-German or who refused to buy his ‘quota’ of Liberty bonds.”
District Attorney Wheeler dismissed as many of these accusations as he could, but mob action was beyond his control.
Fortunately, perhaps, my mother, a first generation German, spent the war on a desolate homestead in northeast Fergus County and actually did not get “to town” for several years. In Lewistown, however, a mob burned down the high school because the school library contained, or was alleged to contain, some German textbooks. To insure that these nefarious publications did not go into circulation, the mob threw every library book into the flames.
As Stephens writes: “It’s easy to wonder if the whole country went temporarily insane during the First World War.”
Earl Christensen '43
this article in Montanan