After five decades in the rearview, we've collected some great stuff over the years: countless stories, endless bins of photos, and piles and piles of festival planning documents. For year's it's been filed away and stored for safekeeping in what we call the "Summerfest Vault," but where's the fun in that? We've recently cracked open the Vault and it's time to share the secrets with all of you each Thursday - perfect for those Throwback Thursdays.
This week, let’s rewind back to 1978. The Main Stage headliners in 1978 included Dolly Parton, Helen Reddy, Chuck Berry, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and more. But, with only days before the festival was about to start, the deal with Chuck Berry, who was scheduled to headline fell through, leaving an opening at the Main Stage. Rumors flew about who a replacement, as the team scrambled behind the scenes to find an available artist. Enter Bob Babisch, early in his booking career. He was calling agents, managers, and musical contacts trying to find a replacement, but it wasn’t looking good, and the clock was ticking.
It was July 4th, a national holiday, and there was still no replacement for the next day’s Main Stage headliner. Suddenly, Bob had an idea after remembering the success of the Grand Slam Jam held at Milwaukee County Stadium, just days earlier. That show featured Ted Nugent, Heart, Cheap Trick, and an ambitious five-piece band from San Francisco, Journey. Bob reached out to Herbie Herbert, the manager of Journey to see if they'd be available to return to Milwaukee the next day. You can imagine Herbie’s response as he explained that it would simply not be possible. The band was opening for The Rolling Stones at Rich Stadium in New York that night (July 4th). There was no way the trucks, gear, production, etc. would be able to make it back to Milwaukee in time for a July 5th show. But Bob wouldn’t take no for an answer. After several hours of negotiations, he made the up-and-coming band an offer that they could not refuse. Herbie responded, "We'll be there."
Journey, led by Neal Schon (guitar), Steve Perry (vocals), Aynsley Dunbar (drums), and Greg Rolie (keyboard) made it on time to headline the Main Stage, trucks, and all. The show was emceed by Wolfman Jack and drew "a few thousand hardcore Journey fans in addition to curious fest-goers." (Source)
While we don't have the actual setlist from the show available, we put together a playlist that features the only albums that Journey had available through 1978 including "Journey" (1975), "Look Into the Future" (1976), "Next" (1977) and "Infinity" (1978). Listen to the deep cuts: