*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.
Almost everyone has some sort of entertainment that appeals to their tastes. Some like sports and others like music, books, theatre, and so on. In Evansville, there are a plethora of entertainment opportunities to explore and discover! Those chances allow us to see what we like and dislike. In the end, Evansville has been a hub for various kinds of entertainment: from the music world to the square circle of wrestling!
John Denver stated, “Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.” Evansville native, Larry Aiken, seemed to believe that and followed that passion into the music industry. Aiken was a well-known radio and television personality in Evansville. He also was a businessman and created his own entertainment and promotion business. A large majority of his collection relates to the entertainment industry here in Evansville.
In 1957, Aiken received a personal telegram from “the King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley. Due to time constraints, Elvis was not able to be on Aiken’s program and apologizes; however, Elvis wishes on him the best with his career.
Evansville has had a wide variety of singers come and perform: they come and go but their music remains with their fans. In 1978, Harry Chapin came to Mesker Music Theatre, better known as the Mesker Amphitheatre. Chapin is best known for only number #1 hit, Cat’s the in Cradle. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance; however, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011.
In 1979, Styx came to Evansville during The Grand Decathlon Tour. Some of their well-known songs are Come Sail Away, Mr. Roboto, and Babe. Formed in 1972 and they broke up in 1984; however, they reformed in 1989 but broke up again in 1992. Once again, they reformed in 1995 and have together since. Styx become the first band to have four consecutive albums to go Multi-Platinum, selling at least two million units each.
Another popular music destination in Evansville was Roberts Stadium. Located on the East Side of Evansville, Roberts Stadium opened in 1956 and closed in 2011 after the opening of the Ford Center. It served as the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Finals from 1957 to 1976; however, it would return in 2002. Roberts Stadium served as a concert destination for many artists and bands to come to Evansville. Some performers that came were Neil Diamond, the Carpenters, and the Guess Who.
Neil Diamond’s well-known hit is Sweet Caroline. Diamond won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture in 1974 for Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
The Carpenters were composed of brother and sister duo, Karen and Richard Carpenter. They began in 1969 and hit major success in the music industry. They won 3 Grammy Awards: 2 for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1971 and 1972, 1 for Best New Artist in 1971. The Carpenters have 2 songs in the Grammy Hall of Fame: We’ve Only Just Begin in 1998 and (They Long to Be) Close to You in 2000. The Carpenters would end in 1983, after the death of Karen due to heart failure from anorexia.
The Guess Who came together in 1962 until they broke up in 1975. They would come back together permanently in 1977. Their best known songs are American Woman and These Eyes. Though they have garnered success, their biggest accomplishment was in 2002: they received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.
Many singers and bands have come and go through Evansville; however, there were wrestling and theatre events held here. Starting in 1989, the USWA, or the United States Wrestling Association, started hosting shows in Evansville at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum. Future WWE wrestlers started in USWA and gained major success in the WWE: like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Undertaker (as the Punisher), Jerry “The King” Lawler, Psycho Sid (as Sid Vicious), and many more.