DC5 Concert in Milwaukee 7th June 1964
Poster for the concert, note incorrect spelling of "Devine"
After a successful tour of England and a short cold tour of Sweden the Dave Clark Five found themselves on their first full tour of the U.S.A. No English group had undertaken such a tour before and the organisers were sadly unready for the size and type of crowds the group would be attracting. The Police also were over-confident and ensured all concerned that a handful of their finest could control a few teenagers! The tour was to last 17 days and there would be 16 concerts plus an Ed Sullivan show, a real whistle stop tour by any sense of the phrase. Having toured the U.K. playing in front of seated audiences the group now found themselves playing in larger open floored venues which made crowding of the stage area by the audience a problem. A few of the concerts had been cut short due to stage invasions but the 13th concert was to prove unlucky for many members of the audience and for the concert promoter.
The venue was Devine's Million Dollar Ballroom in Milwaukee an arena which could safely hold around 8,000 people. Unfortunately the promoter decided he could make a few extra dollars and sold over 11,000 tickets for the concert. Throw into the pot the fact that it was a hot June day with the concert having a high noon start and in order to "help" the ballroom's air conditioning all the windows were welded shut then things start to look a little dangerous. Add a final touch by securing the emergency exits to stop fans entering without tickets and you have a recipe for disaster.This was the scenario that the DC5 were blissfully unaware of as they entered the venue to perform to their adoring fans.
The DC5 had flown in on the Sunday morning after a sell out concert at the McCormick Place in Chicago the previous evening. The group stayed at the Schroeder Hotel where several hundred girls had roamed the hotel until Police arrived. Denied admittance to the hotel elevators a few climbed up 16 floors to the DC5's suite where they were met by Police and walked back down.The local newspaper "The Milwaukee Journal" printed an interview by Dick West with Dave Clark on the morning of the concert, which is precied below.
DW "How has the tour been going?"
DC " Marvellous, just marvellous, we haven't finished a show yet".
DW "Why, what was wrong?"
DC "Nothing was wrong, the audience liked us so much we had to stop the show".
DW "You mean they made so much noise you couldn't continue?"
DC "Oh no! I'm not talking about noise, they rushed the stage. They got out of their seats and rushed down the aisles. They were trying to get at us."
DW "What do you do when they rush the stage?"
DC "We run, it's the easiest way out!"
That brief conversation could have been heeded as a warning by the promoter and the police of the possible problems they could be facing, instead they unfortunately chose to ignore it.
As with the twelve previous concerts on the tour the pre-DC5 entertainment was made up of local groups. On this occasion they were "The Thunderbirds" and "The Ideals" from Chicago, with "The Citations" and Little Artie and the Pharaohs" from Milwaukee. The MCs for the show were two well-known DJs from the local radio station WOKY, Bob Barry and Bill Taylor. The event had been well publicised (even though the posters had "Devine" spelled incorrectly) and advance sales were reported to be around 7,000 tickets sold.
A line began to form outside the ballroom at 6am and by noon when the doors opened it was two and three deep around the block.Despite the heat the local groups played through their full sets and it was around 4pm when the DC5 took the stage. Already the heat was taking its toll on the audience and the air conditioning, as if on cue, ground to a halt. Many of the audience had passed out before the DC5 appeared and were taken unconscious backstage and then onto hospital, they never got to see the DC5 play.
As usual the DC5 entered to "Peter Gunn" and there was an immediate surge to the front of the hall. The only thing holding the near 12,000 audience back from the DC5 were thirty-five sweat soaked Milwaukee cops."Do You Love Me" started up and the surge got greater, fainting girls had nowhere to fall, the crush kept them upright. Some were passed "over heads" to the stage where they were pulled on and then carried backstage. "Money" was followed by "Glad All Over" and the situation worsened as the fans at the back of the hall pressed forward to see their heroes perform their biggest hit, unaware of the problems they were causing for those fans trapped and squashed at the front. The Policemen in charge called in the emergency services and a fleet of ambulances arrived to ferry the injured (which now totalled over 20) to the county emergency hospital. Despite pleas to desist, the crowd still pressed forward and as "Bits and Pieces" belted out the surge broke the Police line and the stage was overrun with fans. The DC5 withdrew back stage and Dave in conversation with the Fire Chief decided the show could not continue. One boy was resuscitated by Fire crews in the Ballroom (he later made a full recovery) and thirty-five fans ended up in hospital with "heat prostration and shock" according to the following days Milwaukee Journal.
The Dave Clark Five's performance had lasted just 12 minutes. Repercussions would follow but Dave would ensure that he and his group, the fans and the Police were never put in that situation again. Subsequent tours of the U.S.A. were planned meticulously and Dave would put his own people in key positions organising security and to ensure the safety of all involved.
It was a very warm afternoon and the line I was in stretched way around the block. It was massively crowded when we got in, we were about three-quarters back from the stage, towards the end of the building (near the door). It was HOT, crowded and VERY noisy, not just the musicians, but the crowd. I wish I could tell you about the other groups, the only one I remember is Little Artie. He played most weekends at a place we used to go dancing at. All I remember was sweating! Then the DC5 came on they were REALLY loud! I remember the big amps and the cheering and screaming and jumping up to see Mike. Oh yeh...I remember the surge! Being 5' 3" it's hard to forget being tossed around.Actually, though we were laughing, being a teen there was no sense of danger it was just wild, crazy fun.
The venue was well over-booked and when the police line was broken and the stage overrun, there was a lot of panic and we were ushered out of the building down some back steps. I fell down the steps and could have been trampled on but Mike picked me up and we got away.We really had to run for it it.
I remember the event well. It was a hot Sunday afternoon, temperature and humidity over 90 and the ballroom was filled with more teenagers than I believe a Fire Marshall would allow today. The DC5 were forced to stop playing because the fans overran the stage. They were packed in like sardines in a can, so tightly packed that if someone would pass out from the heat they literally couldn't hit the ground. Of course there was no air-conditioning. The people that did pass out were lifted up over the teenager's heads and passed on to the stage itself where remember fanning one teenager with my suit coat. I was a disc jockey then for WOKY (AM 920). Another WOKY disc jockey that was also with me as we brought out the DC5 was Bob Barry.
I loved the DC5...I loved the energy of their songs, and I thought they looked the part of superstars
The day before the concert there was a banner contest held by the local radio station WRIT-AM to welcome the group to Milwaukee. There's a photo of the winning banner, taken in the radio station's parking lot, on the "American Tour" LP. The show was on a Sunday afternoon, problems started as soon as the doors located in the rear of the building opened and people began to pour into the hall. I don't know how they ever managed to keep track of who had tickets as there was such a push to get in to the ballroom and everyone was trying to be up front to get a glimpse of the group. It was very hard to hear much of anything above the screams when our boys took the stage. There were unconscious fans being carried across the stage directly in front of the group. One girl, to this day I think faked fainting, she regained consciousness just as she was in front of Dave and started kicking and reaching out for him. She managed to knock over part of his drum kit. Dave wasn't very happy about this and let it be known in short order, the show ended shortly afterwards. When Dave was interviewed later by DJ Bob Barry, he was upset about what had happened that afternoon. He said he had no idea that the show was oversold. He felt that even though the group wasn't directly responsible for the problems with the show that they would be blamed. They were. This show coloured the group's reputation in Milwaukee and affected the attendance at their two following shows in the city. The shows in December '64 and December '65 had very small crowds. Great for those of us who were there, we were rewarded with wonderful shows.There is a picture from the show in the liner notes of "The History Of The Dave Clark 5" CD. I am in the photo, I don't look very happy and I really wasn't. I most likely had someone else fall at my feet. I had just gotten pushed by the crowd and separated from my friends.
We had purchased our tickets for the concert at the grocery store, which is how you bought tickets in those days. When we got to the event we had to wait in line to get in, the line was over two blocks in length. When the Limo pulled up with DC5 lots of people got out of line and rushed the limo, which helped us to get in the hall quicker. Two boys that I knew from school told me to follow them to Opera Box seats just behind and to the side of the stage, but I didn't. It was a dumb move as that turned out to be great seats with unobstructed views. The show was over sold and very crowded. I remember the DC5 did their two big hits "Glad All Over" and "Bits & Pieces" Other than that it was just a normal teen event with lots of fun for all and plenty of screaming girls... probably 4 to 5 times as many girls as guys...
Mary Muscovitz (nee Wagner)
We were all upset and angry that the promoter had packed too many people into the hall, in fact Dave was really furious about it. After that Dave made inbuilt fail-safe rules that prevented it happening again. We had our own security officer and in addition we also had our own security guards (12 guys from the Pinkerton Agency). Dave insisted on all these things for the next tour, but for Milwaukee it was too late as fans got hurt.
The June 8th Milwaukee Journal led with a large article and also showed several photographs of scenes at the concert. Dave was quoted as saying that he was unhappy about the riotous conditions and that too many tickets had been sold for the concert. "If anything goes wrong we get the blame yet it is the promoters who are getting greedy and overselling shows. Conditions in the ballroom were the most dangerous of our tour so far". Ballroom manager Bob Devine confirmed that the crowd was in excess of 11,000 however promoter Joe Liptak claimed "He didn't know how many tickets had been sold but the advance sale was only around 5,600". The Policeman in charge at the event, Sgt Bernie Tesmer said, "In 29 years on the force I've never seen anything like this. There were 27 balconies in the ballroom and they had 50 kids packed in each one!"
The Dave Clark 5 went on to do another five full successful tours of the U.S.A. without any more scenes like those at Devine's Million Dollar Ballroom. They returned to Milwaukee on subsequent tours but never played at Devine's again. Other Milwaukee DC5 concerts were at The Auditorium December 15th 1964 (2nd Tour), The Arena (Auditorium) on December 11th 1965 (4th tour) and the Milwaukee Stadium on July 6th 1966 (5th tour).
Bob Barry was the DJ who "called the world" and made headlines with long distance calls to cranky celebs who didn't enjoy 6am wake up calls. He was the first DJ in America to sign a contract for $1 million a year. Still in broadcasting, Bob is doing commercials / infomercials in Milwaukee
Bill Taylor was the first DJ in Milwaukee to play a Beatles record. He is still a top DJ with WOKY in Milwaukee.
George Devine's Million Dollar Ballroom was where the doomed "Winter Dance Party Tour" started on January 23, 1959, just 11 days before three of it's stars - Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper - were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. The venue is still open and is now divided into "The Rave", "The Rave Bar", "Rave II" and the "Eagles Ballroom".
Joe Liptak the promoter was later charged with deliberately over-selling tickets for the concert and endangering lives by doing so. He was convicted and heavily fined.
The main body of information for this article has been collected by Stephen Hauser. Thanks also go to Louise Wisinski and Joanne Ziglinski who attended the concert, Bill Taylor the concert MC and also Mike and Mary Muskovitz from Mean Mountain Music in Milwaukee who supplied the poster picture and other information to complete the article. (If you are in Milwaukee call in at the Mean Mountain Music Store and say Hi!!)
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