The Rolling Stones’ 2015 North American tour begins later this month, but 50 years ago Monday, the band played its first college concert at what was then Georgia Southern College.
The British band played in Hanner Fieldhouse to an overflow crowd of more than 3,500 people, according to a retrospective by Jim Hilliard in the Statesboro Herald. The gym’s capacity was about 1,500.
Hilliard said organizers figured they could sell 1,800 tickets at $2.50 each, which would be enough to pay the band and have some money left over for expenses.
The Stones had played on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Sunday, May 2, and advance ticket sales were brisk the Monday and during lunch Tuesday, the day of the concert.
Hilliard said he signed the contract booking the Stones on behalf of Sigma Epsilon Chi fraternity. The contract called for the new fraternity to pay the band $3,000 for the appearance. Hilliard said he got a $1,500 loan from First Bulloch Bank to make the deal happen.
The Stones were expected to take the stage at 8:30 p.m. and play for at least an hour, but Hilliard had lined up three front bands, and “it proved to be a fatal flaw in plans for the concert,” he said in his retrospective.
The noise was deafening as the original Stones lineup -- Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts -- hit the stage nearly an hour late.
Jagger and the other band members were “openly hostile” at having to wait so long to play. There was quickly an issue with the PA system, which prompted further aggravation.
The band played a 10-song set, including its latest hit, “The Last Time,” as well as “Time is On My Side.” The show lasted about 30 minutes.
“It was clear to the audience that the Stones were not happy to be onstage, and they made no effort to do any more than play one song after another as quickly as possible,” Hilliard wrote. “The audience did not respond well to the performance and at the end of their final selection the group simply unplugged their instruments and walked off stage.”
He added, “Nearly everyone was stunned at the abrupt ending of the long awaited concert. No one was happy -- not the audience, not the Stones, not the fraternity, and especially not me.”
And although “the abbreviated performance by the Stones did give cause for some immediate disappointment, ... in the end it only mattered that the world famous band had appeared on stage at Georgia Southern and that Sigma Epsilon Chi had pulled off what could be considered the most unlikely big time entertainment event on a college campus anywhere.” This year, the Stones are scheduled to play at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on June 9.
To see Hilliard’s account, go to: http://bit.ly/1cdK7kp