December 3 – A Black Night On The Shores Of The Ohio

This day in 1979 was a bad one for rock. One of the single worst events in pop music history took place at the gates of Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati. Eleven young people were killed, and 8 more badly injured in a stampede to get in to see a concert by The Who.The Brits were in the third and final leg of a nearly year-long tour for their Who Are You? album. The tour was slated to run through the northeastern States through until a little before Christmas. It was already a somewhat downbeat time for the band; they’d just recruited new drummer Kenney Jones to replace the friend and longtime drummer, Keith Moon, who’d died the year before.

While the stadium held about 45 000 for baseball, it was in a music venue format, with about 18000 tickets sold, of which a little over 14000 tickets had been sold as “general admission”, with first come, first-served seating . This could lead to enough problems in its own right, but making it much worse, a radio station had erroneously reported that ticket holders could begin getting in as early as 3PM. By the time 7PM rolled around and the crowds were still outside, agitation and anxiety levels were high when The Who began doing a soundcheck. People heard and assumed the concert had begun. The resultant crush to get in and get close to the stage had tragic results which eventually caused the practice of general admission seating to be stopped in most locations.

The Who played on, unaware of what had transpired outside and were horrified when they found out. Roger Daltrey said “there’s no words to say what I feel. I’m a parent as well…” The

The  city and the promoters were successfully sued by the families of the deceased and a number of injured fans. The event was also covered with surprising solemn gravitas by the sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati, which was in its second season and revolved around a fictitious rock radio station in that city at the time.  

Addendum — Hanspostcard correctly pointed out the concert was at Riverfront Coliseum not the Reds’ baseball Riverfront Stadium. The coliseum, now I believe called US Bank Arena, was also on the riverfront but was an indoor venue (sensible for Ohio in early winter) which only held the 18 000 tickets sold.

12 thoughts on “December 3 – A Black Night On The Shores Of The Ohio

    1. Mea culpa! That makes sense, it being Ohio and basically winter! I just assumed it was actually the Reds old stadium & wondered why the configuration was for so few tickets! But at times they throw huge curtains up at Rogers’ in Toronto to do that, have the 50k stadium host a 12000 concert …

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hanspostcard

        What a terrible night that was. I was in college at the time and remember hearing the reports that night. That put an end to that kind of seating at big concerts like that- that was a tragedy probably just waiting to happen.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. yeah, Cinci banned it for 25 years apparently (don’t know why they recinded it not long ago but they did) and most cities did likewise. A dumb idea when you have thousands of people all wanting the good seats.

        Liked by 1 person

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