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Yesterday in La Crosse

Kenny was still that “First Edition” guy, 44 years ago

Brad Williams

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After the “First Edition” band from the 1960’s broke up, singer Kenny Rogers launched a solo career, hitting the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975 with the song “Love Lifted Me.” Rogers was an opening act in May of 1976 when he appeared at the Sawyer Auditorium in La Crosse, on the same bill as headliners Captain and Tennille, who were rising pop stars about to get their own network TV show. The manager of the Sawyer was disappointed because despite their hits, Captain and Tennille only played to half-a-house in La Crosse on a Friday night. Kenny Rogers would start having big hits like “Lucille” a year later, and would come back to La Crosse many more times in his career.

President Gerald Ford made his own appearance at the Sawyer in March of ’76, leading up to the Wisconsin primary, just four days after a speech there by his Republican rival, Ronald Reagan. The president’s rally was being promoted as a “press conference,” where members of the audience could ask questions of Ford at microphones throughout the hall.

For people in La Crosse who didn’t go to see President Ford that night, they could stay home and watch a TV version of “Pinocchio,” with Sandy Duncan as the wooden boy and Danny Kaye as Gepetto. Channel 8 also aired an Easter Seals telethon, with local segments hosted by comedian Ronnie Eastman.

Montgomery Ward was celebrating the 10th birthday of its Courthouse Square store in La Crosse, between 3rd and 4th Streets. Specials promoted by Wards included Polaroid color film for instant cameras, an 8-digit calculator, and a playground set with a slide priced at $85. In 1976, yesterday in La Crosse.

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