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Yesterday in La Crosse

Rock musicals at the auditorium, 49 years ago

Brad Williams



In October of 1971, the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium brought in touring productions of two popular rock musicals, “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Hair.”  There was public concern about “Hair,” and talk of getting the city to ban the touring actors from doing the show’s famous nude scene.  Since then, “Hair” has been performed by student actors at U-W-La Crosse about once every 10 years, most recently in 2018, and they routinely do the nude scene.  

John Denver would perform several times in La Crosse during his career.  One of his earliest concerts in town was for the UW-L homecoming in ’71.  Joining Denver in his campus show was the trio “The Friends of Distinction,” known for their single of “Grazing in the Grass.”  

WKBH Radio had just changed its call letters to WIZM, and it promoted a group of announcers who played the hits all day.  The deejays included Bob Raven, Bob Bishop, Paul Kavanaugh, Joe Stephens, Mike Cleary, and Tom Gittens, in 1971.      

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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