*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant at the University Archives and Special Collections.
In the music industry, some singers come at the right time that has the “it” factor and draws a particular crowd. This musician definitely had that in the 1970’s as a teen idol. In part four of Guess Who Performed in Evansville, we investigate the life of our next artist. Just like before, here are the three clues:
- Before his music career, he started as an actor, playing as Jimmy Henderson in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) and made guest appearances on the TV series, Gunsmoke.
- In his first music album, his two hits were covers, “Surfin’ U.S.A” and “Runaround Sue”.
- In recent years, he starred in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003).
His name is Leif Garrett.
Garrett was born on November 8, 1961 in Hollywood, California. His career started when he was five years old: he starred in the film, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, in 1969. After this, Garrett’s movie career skyrocketed because he would star in three Walking Tall movies and a recurring television role on The Odd Couple in the 1970’s. As his movie and television career continued, he made a transition into music when he signed with Atlantic Records for five albums in 1976. His first album, Leif Garrett, was released in 1977 when he was 15 years old: this album was covers of previous numerous hit songs such as “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Runaround Sue”. After its release, Garrett became a “teen idol”. By 1978, he left Atlantic Records and joined Scotti Brothers Records and recorded his second album, Feel the Need. This album had one successful single, I Was Made for Dancin’: it reached #10 on the Billboard Top 100. He continued to dabble in television, movies, and music; however, it wouldn’t last long before tragedy would strike.
By the late 1970’s, Garrett was in trouble using drugs. In November 1979, Leif was in a car accident, under the influence of drugs, which left his friend, Roland Winkler, paralyzed. Winkler would sue and by 1987, he received $6 million by the insurance company and $15,000 from Garrett for damages. They would reconcile and reunite in 1999 for an episode of Behind the Music. Garrett’s music, television, and movie careers would spiral out of control in the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s. He was arrested numerous times and went into rehab. He reappeared in the 2003 film, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, starring as himself. In the last fifteen years, Garrett has made numerous TV appearances (Fear Factor, World’s Dumbest, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew) and published an autobiography.
Leif Garrett performed one concert in Evansville on August 1, 1979. After reading several Evansville Courier and Evansville Press newspaper articles on his performance, fans were crazy about Garrett. He was the epitome of a teen idol because his fans (filled with pre-teen and teenage girls and some young boys) come out in hoards. The attendance for Leif’s concert at Roberts Stadium was 2,708. According to one reporter, Roberts Stadium was filled with posters, albums, t-shirts, and one banner saying, “I Love You LEIF!”. At one point in the concert, Leif told the crowd he’d never heard of Evansville until he came to perform; however, Garrett did say that he thought Evansville was one of the nicest towns he had been to (Guinn, pg. 8). Kudos, Evansville! We should be proud of that complement!
For more information, the Greg Smith collection at the University Archives and Special Collections at the David L. Rice Library at the University of Southern Indiana has over 1,500 photographs of Evansville history available online. Take a moment to explore his photographs of athletic events, local businesses, and many more. Stay tuned for our next addition of Guess Who Performed in Evansville.
Biography.com Editors (2019, July 10). Leif Garrett biography. Retrieved April 9, 2020, from https://www.biography.com/musician/leif-garrett
Borama, J. (2020, January). Whatever happened to Leif Garrett? Retrieved on April 9, 2020. https://www.tvovermind.com/whatever-happened-to-leif-garrett/
Guinn, K. (1979, August 2). Banners tell story; crowd loves Leif. The Evansville Press. https://bit.ly/2REFrLb
IMDb. (n.d.). Leif Garrett biography. Retrieved April 9, 2020, from https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0308161/bio