By Jim Harmon/Missoula Current

I see in the Missoula Current (via KPAX-TV) that P!NK will be performing in Missoula at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in August, with Sheryl Crow among the warm-up acts. Ticket prices, according to various websites, range between $70 and $370.

That prompted me to look back through old issues of the UM student newspaper, The Kaimin, for the various acts and ticket prices in Missoula 50 years ago: 1973. Wow! What a year!

Bill Withers, Buck Owens, Chicago, Johnny Cash, the Elvin Bishop Band, Loggins and Messina, Peter Nero, and Roberta Flack all performed in Missoula that year. But the biggest act, causing the most buzz, was the brother/sister duo, The Carpenters.

As a side benefit of leafing through old Kaimin newspapers, I stumbled upon a few other gems of Missoula history. But first, the music!

Elvin Bishop started off the year with a Feb. 2 performance at the Harry Adams Field House. Students paid $3 admission. Bishop’s career would peak over the following two years with four albums climbing to the top 100. His 1975 album, "Struttin’ My Stuff,” hit No. 18.

Next up was Peter Nero, promoted as the “Pop Pianist Extraordinaire,” at the smaller venue in the University Theater, March 9. It cost students $3.

Buck Owens and his Buckaroos (stars of the “Hee Haw” TV show) performed April 13, 1973. Bill Withers (“Lean On Me,” “Ain't No Sunshine”) followed with a show April 27.

Bill Withers - Montana Kaimin, April 26, 1973
Bill Withers - Montana Kaimin, April 26, 1973
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Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina “played to an enthusiastic audience of about 4,037 in the Harry Adams Field House” on May 1, 1973. The duo was best known for their single, “Your Mama Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll.” Tickets: $3.50 to $4.50.

The Kaimin reported, “Not as much smoking went on at this concert as at the Elvin Bishop concert last quarter. Still, smoke from various kinds of cigarettes could be seen filtering through the beams of the spotlights after the house lights were turned off.”

The Grammy award-winning “Carpenters” were booked for the Field House May 12. Nearly 7,000 people attended the event, enjoying the duo’s hits like “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Close To You.”

Carpenters concert 1973 - Montana Kaimin student newspaper
Carpenters concert 1973 - Montana Kaimin student newspaper
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A group of Missoula elementary students joined the Carpenters for their encore, “Sing a Song.”

Ticket sales were said to be “the highest of any Program Council event” in the first five months of 1973. At the usual $3.50 to $4.50 price, it’s assumed the $15,000 “guarantee” was met and exceeded.

The year closed out with performances by Chicago, aka, Chicago Transit Authority (“If You Leave Me Now,” “Saturday In The Park,” “25 or 6 to 4”), Roberta Flack ("The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," "Killing Me Softly with His Song"), and Johnny Cash (“I Walk The Line,” “Ring Of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues").

Montana Kaimin ad for Heartburn Chili Dog Feb 8, 1973
Montana Kaimin ad for Heartburn Chili Dog Feb 8, 1973
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Now, a few of those other “finds” from the 1973 Kaimin issues.

January 19, 1973 was the grand opening of a new pizza parlor in Missoula called “Little Big Men,” which billed itself as “The Pizza that won the West.” It was in a building at Brooks and Paxson.

I remember the place very well, but mostly I remember the piece-of-junk car that I was driving at the time. I had to leave it in their parking lot overnight. The car always flooded and refused to start.

Little Big Men Pizza AD Montana Kaimin - Jan 19, 1973
Little Big Men Pizza AD Montana Kaimin - Jan 19, 1973
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1973 was also the year of a noted lecture at UM on something called “Transcendental Meditation.”

Oh, let’s not forget the two showings of “Reefer Madness” at the UC Ballroom. The Kaimin ad billed it this way: “US Gov. Scare Film of the ‘30s Becomes Fantastic Comedy of the '70s.” Admission was only 75 cents.

Over at the Wilma, but only at midnight, you could see the X-Rated film titled “Office Girls,” an “international expose from Germany.” They made sure to add it was “in vivid color.”

Finally, my favorite story of all in the Kaimin publications of 1973 was their journalistic scoop at the grand opening of Missoula’s very first McDonald's franchise.

First McDonald's burger sold in Missoula Montana Kaimin, February 2, 1973
First McDonald's burger sold in Missoula Montana Kaimin, February 2, 1973
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Matt Ellison, a junior at UM, managed to work his way past “a Boy Scout, a Girl Scout, and members of the Missoula Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting committee” to buy Missoula’s very first Micky D hamburger!

The Kaimin quoted him as saying, “I did it because McDonald’s symbolizes everything America stands for, to me.”

Bravo, Matt Ellison, in making your mark in Missoula history!

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at fuzzyfossil187@gmail.com. His best-selling book, “The Sneakin’est Man That Ever Was,” a collection of 46 vignettes of Western Montana history, is available at harmonshistories.com.

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