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Yesterday in La Crosse

Plenty of music stars have played in La Crosse early in their careers…or not

Brad Williams

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You might have heard about Elvis Presley performing at the old Sawyer Auditorium in May of 1956, when he was 21.  But there are lots of other stars who passed through La Crosse on their way up, or were supposed to. 
In 1939, a young classical musician from Milwaukee named Liberace took requests at a concert in La Crosse, and was asked to play “Three Little Fishies.” He did, and got himself a major career.   In April of 2007, a teenage country singer filled Valhalla at U-W-L’s Cartwright Center…an early gig for Taylor Swift. 

Freddie Mercury and Queen played the Sawyer Auditorium in March of 1975, a few months before releasing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” A week after the Queen show, Billy Joel and his band arrived in La Crosse for a concert, only to learn it was cancelled because only 100 tickets were sold. We’re told Billy played a little music anyway at the Holiday Inn.
The Tribune from June 12th, 1978 featured an ad saying Z93 welcomes Bruce Springsteen to La Crosse.  But the ad also said the Springsteen show for that night was cancelled. 
Z93 welcomed Bruce Springsteen to the Sawyer in June of 1978. But on the day of the concert, a newspaper ad said the show was cancelled. Not enough tickets sold.
Captain and Tennille had just won the Grammy for Record of the Year and were about to play the White House when they had a Sawyer concert in 1976.  They played to only half-a-house that night, even with former First Edition singer Kenny Rogers as their opening act, on the 20th anniversary of Elvis’s big night in town, yesterday in La Crosse.     

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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