November 20 is a very unusual anniversary in the history of rock music: it was on this day in 1973 that a guy in the crowd at a concert joined one of the biggest bands in the world.
It was 1973, and The Who were playing at San Francisco’s Cow Palace, a big arena holding some 14,000 fans.
Early on in the set drummer Keith Moon collapsed and had to be taken offstage (taking tranquilizers and brandy before a show is not a good idea), and while staff revived him and brought him back onstage, it wasn’t long before the Who’s maniacal drummer had to be taken away again for treatment at the hospital.
Instead of calling it a night, the band decided to ask for help from the crowd.
“Can anyone play the drums?” asked guitarist Pete Townsend. “Somebody good,” he added.
Amazingly, they got somebody good.
A 19 year old from Iowa, Scot Halpin, happened to be close enough to the stage that his friend shouted to concert promoter Bill Graham that there was a drummer who could help.
Security brought Halpin over to Graham, who looked the teenager in the eye and asked, “can you do it?”
Halpin said yes, and for the next 15 minutes or so, he became the drummer for The Who.
He did pretty well, especially given that he was using Keith Moon’s enormous drum kit, and that he hadn’t really played drums in a while.
Singer Roger Daltrey introduced Halpin to the crowd, who applauded as they played a few blues-based jams and took a bow.
Then the band took him backstage and thanked him with a tour jacket, which someone soon swiped.
Scot Halpin would go on to make his own music, and he was an accomplished visual artist, illustrating a number of children’s books.
I don’t know if he ever had to step in for any other illustrators at the last minute, but if so, he would’ve knocked it out of the park.
This weekend was supposed to be the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade, the sort of irreverent cousin of the Rose Parade.
Like many events this year, they’re doing this one virtually.
That’s probably for the best, because we all know weirdness is easier to find on the internet.
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