The Concerts: University of Colorado
Dan Fong photographed many shows at the University of Colorado in the early 1970s, many of which were booked by J.C. Ancell, who at the time handled all the events on campus.
On March 8, 1974, Fong snuck backstage at CU's Balch Fieldhouse to take this iconic image of folk musician Joni Mitchell as she was performing. Mitchell’s album, Court and Spark, had just been released that January, following up on the surprise hits of her 1970 and 1971 albums, Ladies of the Canyon and Blue, both of which had gone platinum. Unfortunately for Fong, there was a quiet moment just as his shutter went off, and Mitchell had him kicked off the stage - but not before he captured the great singer-songwriter with her arms wide and her hair ablaze in the stage lights.
Norlin Library Concerts
For a short time in 1971, the west steps of Norlin Library at the University of Colorado were the site of several live concerts from both local and national bands. Dan Fong captured scenes from performances there by Mountain and Zephyr that year. Incidentally, Norlin is the home of the University Libraries' Archives, where the Dan Fong collection is now housed.
This concert filled Norlin Quad, with spectators sitting on the steps of Norlin right at the feet of the musicians. Mountain was formed in 1969 in Long Island, New York, with founding members were Leslie West (vocals and guitar), Felix Pappalardi (vocals and bass), Steve Knight (keyboards), and N. D. Smart (drums). Their best-known song, "Mississippi Queen," was released in 1970 on the album Climbing!, just a year before these photos were taken.
In spring of 1970, Fong captured the Boulder-based blue-rock band Zephyr on the steps of Norlin, setting up his camera behind the musicians as they played to the crowd on the quad. (See our "Colorado Musicians" page in this exhibit for more information about the band.) Zephyr were joined during the show by a young Otis Taylor on harmonica; Taylor is now a renowned blues singer, guitarist, and banjo player who was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame on December 3, 2019.
During the 1970s, Colorado rock promoter Barry Fey produced the “Colorado Sun Day” concert series that took place at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field. Through his association with Feyline, Dan Fong shot several of these shows, including the Grateful Dead’s first show at Folsom in 1972.
On September 3, 1972, the Grateful Dead played their first show at Folsom Field, having formed seven years before in 1965. This was only the third-ever rock show at Folsom Field, and the band’s setlist included 31 songs, featuring early-Dead classics like “Casey Jones,” “Truckin’,” and “Sugar Magnolia,” and closing with “Not Fade Away.”
Along with band members Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Phil Lesh, Dan Fong took photographs at this show that also feature singer Donna Jean Godchaux (band member from 1972-1979), the Dead’s sound engineer Owsley “Bear” Stanley (1925-2011), and long-time roadie Steve Parish.
The Grateful Dead played Folsom Field again on their 15th anniversary in June 1980, and the band’s current incarnation, Dead & Company, returned to Folsom in the summers of 2016-2019.
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
Dan Fong captured this photo of Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band on stage at Folsom Field during a “Colorado Sun Day” concert on May 1, 1977. Seger, who had been performing since 1961, had formed the roots-rock Silver Bullet Band in 1974.
At the time of this show, the vocalist was just coming off the huge commercial success of his 1976 release, Night Moves, and its title track, which reached #4 on the Billboard Pop Single track. 61,500 people attended this concert, with a bill that also included Firefall, Country Joe McDonald, John Sebastian, and Fleetwood Mac - all of whom Fong also photographed, with the exception of Fleetwood Mac, who would not allow any outside photography on stage.