DOUG, LED ZEPPELIN AND SERENDIPITY ON JANUARY 15, 1969

ONE FATEFUL NIGHT in the late ’60s, Doug – who was then a freshman at the University of Iowa – quite accidentally stumbled upon a bit of rock ‘n roll history in the making!

For a detailed recounting of Doug’s experience the night of January 15, 1969, see the article at the bottom of this page. (His story also appears on the official Led Zeppelin website: click here)

Below are excerpts from the 1969-70 University of Iowa yearbook of Led Zeppelin’s appearance in the ballroom at the Iowa Memorial Union on that cold and wintry night.

The caption “No big names scheduled for concerts” indicates the editor’s ironic unawareness (understandably) of the significance of this seemingly minor, musical event!

MY MEMORIES OF THE 1969 LED ZEPPELIN CONCERT IN IOWA CITY

DOUG KOEMPEL  (The Memory Brothers Newsletter – January 12, 2022)

In January of 1969, I was a freshman at the University of Iowa. For several weeks, there had been fliers posted in the Iowa Memorial Union touting this new band that would soon be appearing in the IMU ballroom.

I remember the posters stated something to the effect of: “Led Zeppelin will be the next Cream . . . they will be the next Jimi Hendrix.” And also on these fliers were little blurbs telling a bit about each of the band members. I guess about the most-notable credentials contained in these promos were that John Paul Jones (the bassist) had done some work with Donovan and that Jimmy Page (lead guitarist) had been a member of the Yardbirds. Other than that, there didn’t seem to be too much info that was that compelling regarding this unknown group.

I had been taking a music appreciation course, and part of the class requirements were that I had to attend a certain number of concerts during the semester. So on the night of January 15, 1969, I trudged over to Macbride Hall (or was it Schaeffer Hall?) to attend a string-quartet concert. When I got there, there was a sign posted at the building’s entrance stating: “String quartet concert cancelled due to ice.”

So, I did an about-face and headed back to Hillcrest (my dorm) but decided to take a detour through the Iowa Memorial Union. I’d entered the east door and noticed a bunch of people sitting in the ballroom. There was a marquee positioned in front of the ballroom’s entrance that indicated a $1 cover (I’d seen somewhere else on the Led Zeppelin site that the cover was $2, but I definitely remember $1. They’d probably slashed the cover charge due to the terrible weather that night.) And I remember a fairly small crowd which I’d estimated at about 100 people (although years later, I have noticed that someone on the Led Zeppelin website estimate the turnout at 200.) I remember a large wine bottle being passed around into which people were dropping change – kind of a “passing the hat.” I have always assumed that was to supplement the band – maybe it went to Mother Blues (the opening act.)

I remember some guy – a campus activist by the name of David Sundance – starting a commotion. He began yelling “Free music for the free people! Free music for the free people.” And I do remember security hauling him away before the concert started. (For the full story on the David Sundance incident, see the Daily Iowan story by Arlene Fauln, reprinted below.)

Area band “Mother Blues” opened the show; and to be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot about their set. I was in a band at the time (The Rubber Band), and I’m sure I was taking mental notes and making comparisons as most musicians do when listening to their local competition.

When Led Zeppelin took the stage, it was without fanfare; and I remember there being an issue with their equipment – it had not shown up due to the inclement weather, so I believe they used Mother Blues’ equipment. I do remember the “visual.” These guys (Led Zeppelin) were not hardy, Midwest lads – they were small and lithe and wore very “mod” attire. Even by ‘60s standards at the U of I, these guys had a very different look!

It probably wasn’t more than 10 or 15 minutes into their set that everyone was completely mesmerized. I remember looking to my left and right wishing I were sitting next to someone I knew as I wanted to shout, “Man, these guys are unbelievable!!” I remember particularly Bonham holding up and twirling a drum stick while playing this absurd groove and thinking “I’ve never heard anything this incredible!!”

By the end of the concert, the audience was all standing and essentially numbed by what we’d all just witnessed. I remember a few days later, our instructor in rhetoric class played their recently-released, debut album (Led Zeppelin); and we spent the entire period discussing it. Little did we realize the historical impact that this band and its debut album would have upon music and pop culture.

An almost comical and certainly ironic aside is the mention of Led Zeppelin’s U of I concert in the University of Iowa yearbook for 1969-70. (See those pages posted above.)

Anyway, that’s my recollection of one of the most-memorable experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve told this story dozens of times over the years to musician friends and to Zeppelin fans. And with the 53rd anniversary of this event right around the corner, I figured this week’s newsletter would be a perfect opportunity to once again share my Led Zeppelin experience.

‘Free Music’ Devotees Now Facing the Music

ARLENE FAULN (Daily Iowan – Friday, January 17, 1969)

Rain an ice did not stop Led Zeppelin from performing in the Union Main Lounge. And the admission fee for the concert did not stop two University Students from walking in without a ticket.

Dave Grant Sundance, G, Iowa City and his wife Barbara, A4, walked by an usher at the Central Party Committee (CPC) concert Wednesday night when he asked for their tickets.

According to Raymond Kril, a Union Board adviser, the Sundances sat down in the reserved section of the Union Main Lounge and various Union officials asked them to buy a ticket or leave, but they refused to do either.

“When the officials talked to me, I really couldn’t hear much because of the music,” Sundance told The Daily Iowan Thursday. “It didn’t make any difference to me what they said anyway.”

Sundance said that he favored “free music for free people.” He said he didn’t think people should have to pay to hear a concert of any type.

Two Campus Security officers asked the Sundances to leave, and they again refused. Then, during intermission, two Iowa City policemen came in and arrested the couple for disorderly conduct, Krill said.

According to police, the couple refused to come along, and the two officers attempted to remove Sundance by force. Several rows of chairs were knocked out of place when the police tried to handcuff him, according to a nearby observer.

Sundance said the police used chemical Mace on him and then handcuffed him and his wife.

During the struggle and as he was being led out, Sunday repeatedly shouted, “Free music for free people,” according to observers.

Sundance and his wife were charged with disorderly conduct and resisting an officer. They were released on $230 bond each.

The lead singer of the Led Zeppelin group collected $45 from the concert audience to use as bond money for “the guy who got busted.” The remainder of the money was collected from friends of the Sundances.

Sundance said Thursday that he didn’t have money to buy a ticket and that he thought he could just walk in with one.

“There were plenty of empty seats, and there was no reason to kick me out,” he said.

“The whole concept of money is wrong.” he added. “Everything that makes a person happy should be free.”