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The coolest concert you never knew about: The Who played at a Kansas City high school

Courtesy photo
Shawnee Mission South

"People cannot believe that The Who was in a Kansas high school," says Vallie Hogan, a 1968 graduate of Shawnee Mission South. "They just don’t believe it."

There have been plenty of huge and even historic rock concerts in Kansas City: The Beatles at Municipal Stadium in 1964; the kick off of Michael Jackson’s Victory tour in 1984.

But how about The Who at Shawnee Mission South High School on Nov. 17, 1967?

"People cannot believe that The Who was in a Kansas high school," says Vallie Hogan, a 1968 graduate of South. "They just don’t believe it."

The band opened with "Can’t Explain" and ended with "My Generation."

"It’s a great little slice of music history," says Dan Torchia, whoblogsabout Kansas City music history and is a 1978 Shawnee Mission South graduate.

The concert at South came about in the middle of a grueling year-long North American tour by The Who. They played two other highs schools plus big arenas in Minneapolis, Atlanta and Vancouver.

“'I Can See For Miles' had just been released in October of that year and it wasn’t really a hit and it didn’t highly chart anyway," says Torchia. "They just crossed the whole country doing whatever gig they could find."

Credit Shawnee Mission South yearbook
The Buckinghams at Shawnee Mission South High School in 1967

But they also worked in the famous Monterey Pop Festival in Monterey, Calif.

"I think they worked it as hard at that concert doing a good job as they would for several thousand people," says Don Thellman, who was at the concert and graduated from Shawnee Mission North.

But here's the real kicker: The Who was the warm up band for the Buckinghams.

Dan Torchia says it was their big year.

"They had several top 10 hits. The Who were just starting out and it made total sense that they would be an opening act," he says.

"Kind of a Drag" went to number one in 1967.

The trumpet playing pop band from Chicago had two other top 10 hits that year, "Hey Baby" and "Don’t You Care."

Vallie Hogan remembers the gym a little less full for the Buckinghams.

An illustration of the set list played by The Who at Shawnee Mission South High School in 1967.

"I don’t remember much about the Buckinghams ... but I do remember The Who," she says.

Which is pretty much the way rock history shook out.

The Who would go on to write the rock opera Tommy, the Quadrophenia album and, of course, open the CBS hit show "CSI."

The Buckinghams would go onto some rather pleasant pop memories.

But that November ’67 night, at $3 a ticket, a bunch of Kansas teenagers found themselves listening to a band about to break big in America.

Don Thellman, now in commercial real estate, watched while The Who ended their show with "My Generation" ... and the signature smashing instruments.

"They didn’t spare anything. They were kicking over the amplifiers and shoving their guitars through the fronts and smashing their guitars on the floor. I would love to have a picture of the audience because I’m sure everybody’s mouths were sitting their wide open watching that," he says.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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