The Who concert disaster

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The Who concert disaster
DateDecember 3, 1979 (1979-12-03)
Location Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati, U.S.
Coordinates 39°5′50.99″N84°30′17.83″W / 39.0974972°N 84.5049528°W / 39.0974972; -84.5049528 Coordinates: 39°5′50.99″N84°30′17.83″W / 39.0974972°N 84.5049528°W / 39.0974972; -84.5049528
Non-fatal injuries26

The Who concert disaster occurred on December 3, 1979 when British rock band the Who performed at Riverfront Coliseum (now known as U.S. Bank Arena) in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States, and a stampede of concert-goers outside the coliseum's entry doors resulted in the deaths of eleven people. [1] [2]

The Who English rock band

The Who are an English rock band formed in London in 1964. Their classic line-up consisted of lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist and singer Pete Townshend, bass guitarist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. They are considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, selling over 100 million records worldwide.

Cincinnati City in Ohio

Cincinnati is a major city in the U.S. state of Ohio, and is the government seat of Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located at the northern side of the confluence of the Licking and Ohio rivers, the latter of which marks the state line with Kentucky. The city drives the Cincinnati–Middletown–Wilmington combined statistical area, which had a population of 2,172,191 in the 2010 census making it Ohio's largest metropolitan area. With a population of 301,301, Cincinnati is the third-largest city in Ohio and 65th in the United States. Its metropolitan area is the fastest growing economic power in the Midwestern United States based on increase of economic output and it is the 28th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the U.S. Cincinnati is also within a day's drive of 49.70% of the United States populace.

Ohio State of the United States of America

Ohio is a Midwestern state in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Of the fifty states, it is the 34th largest by area, the seventh most populous, and the tenth most densely populated. The state's capital and largest city is Columbus.



The Who were in the midst of the United States portion of their 1979 world tour, which began in September with a total of six dates split between the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey and Madison Square Garden in New York City. The band then took some time off and would resume the tour on November 30 at the auditorium of the Detroit Masonic Temple. The Cincinnati concert was the third show played in this portion of the tour, after a concert the night before at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.

The Who Tour 1979 was The Who's first concert tour since the death of original drummer Keith Moon, supporting the Who Are You album and their film releases The Kids Are Alright and Quadrophenia.

The Capitol Theatre was an entertainment venue located at the intersection of Monroe Street and Central Avenue in Passaic, New Jersey. Built in 1926 as a vaudeville house, the Capitol later served as a movie theater and a venue for rock concerts.

Passaic, New Jersey City in New Jersey, United States

Passaic is a city in Passaic County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 69,781, maintaining its status as the 15th largest municipality in New Jersey with an increase of 1,920 residents (+2.8%) from the 2000 Census population of 67,861, which had in turn increased by 9,820 (+16.9%) from the 58,041 counted in the 1990 Census. Passaic is the tenth most densely populated municipality in the entire United States with 22,000+ people per square mile.

The concert was a sellout, with 18,348 tickets sold. [3] The majority of these, 14,770, were unassigned general admission tickets that were first-come, first-served.[ citation needed ]

A few hours before the show a sizeable crowd had already gathered outside the front of the arena. Around 7,000 people were there by 7pm. [4] Entry to the arena was through a series of individual doors all along the front of the arena, as well as a few doors at each side. The crowd focused at each of the doors. The doors were not opened at the scheduled time, causing the crowd to become increasingly agitated and impatient. During this period, the Who undertook a late soundcheck. Some members of the crowd heard this and mistakenly believed that the concert was already starting. [5] Some people in the back of the crowd began pushing toward the front, but this rush soon dissipated as the crowd realized that no entry doors had been opened and that the concert had not in fact begun yet.[ citation needed ]


A soundcheck is the preparation that takes place before a concert, speech, or similar performance, when the performer and the sound crew run through a small portion of the upcoming show on the venue's sound reinforcement system or PA system to make sure that the sound in the venue's front of house and stage monitor sound systems are producing clear sound that is at the right volume and which has the correct mix and tonal balance.


People were originally told through a radio station that GA ticket holders would be admitted at 3:00 pm and therefore a sizable crowd formed by 5:00 pm. Although all the doors were expected to be opened simultaneously, only a pair of doors at the far right of the main entrance were finally opened. As concert goers entered the stadium through these two open doors, those waiting in front of all of the other doors began pushing forward again. After a short period of waiting and then knocking on the doors and the glass next to the doors, the crowd assumed that none of the remaining doors would be opened. Then, about 7:15 pm, the real trouble began, some say there was a very late soundcheck but others have said that they played The Who's Quadrophenia movie, in lieu of an opening act. Either way, the crowd assumed that The Who were on earlier than scheduled. At that point, the entire crowd surged and pushed toward the two doors which had been opened. This caused many people to get trampled while some suffered more serious injuries. Eleven people were unable to escape the dense crowd pushing toward them and died by asphyxiation. Twenty-six other people reported injuries. [6]

The concert went on as planned, with the band members not told of the tragedy until after their performance. The following night a lengthy segment on the tragedy aired on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite examining violence at rock concerts. Guitarist Pete Townshend was interviewed by CBS News correspondent Martha Teichner comparing crowd reactions at concerts to football and boxing matches calling them "high energy events".[ citation needed ]

<i>CBS Evening News</i> Evening news programme, broadcast on CBS News

CBS Evening News is the flagship evening television news program of CBS News, the news division of the CBS television network in the United States. The “CBS Evening News” is a daily evening broadcast featuring news reports, feature stories and interviews by CBS News correspondents and reporters covering events across world. The program has been broadcast since May 3, 1948 under the original title CBS Television News, eventually adopting its current title in 1963. The program is anchored by Jeff Glor. Previous anchors have included Douglas Edwards, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Connie Chung, Bob Schieffer, Katie Couric, Scott Pelley, and Anthony Mason.

Walter Cronkite American broadcast journalist

Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was an American broadcast journalist who served as anchorman for the CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–1981). During the heyday of CBS News in the 1960s and 1970s, he was often cited as "the most trusted man in America" after being so named in an opinion poll.

Pete Townshend English rock guitarist of The Who, vocalist, songwriter and author

Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend is an English musician and songwriter best known as the lead guitarist, second vocalist, and principal songwriter for the rock band the Who. His career with the Who spans over 50 years, during which time the band grew to be one of the most important and influential rock bands of the 20th century.


In Providence, Rhode Island, mayor Vincent A. Cianci cancelled a scheduled performance of the Who at the city's Civic Center that same month. [7] This was despite the fact that the Providence venue had assigned seating. [7] Thirty-three years later, the band returned to Providence and honored tickets from the 1979 show. [7]

The families of the victims sued the band, concert promoter Electric Factory Concerts, and the city of Cincinnati. The suits were settled in 1983, awarding each of the families of the deceased approximately $150,000 ($377,300 today), and approximately $750,000 ($1,886,700 today) to be divided among the 23 injured. [8] The city of Cincinnati also imposed a ban on unassigned seating on December 27, 1979, with minor exceptions, for the next 25 years. [9] [10]

11 weeks after the concert took place, WKRP in Cincinnati aired a special episode showing some of the show's characters attending the concert, learning afterwards of the deaths, and their reaction to having helped promote it on the radio station. [11]

The eleven people who died in the stampede were:

Walter Adams Jr., aged 22 - Trotwood, OH

Peter Bowes, aged 18 - Wyoming, OH

Connie Sue Burns, aged 21- Miamisburg, OH

Jacqueline Eckerle, aged 15 - Finneytown, OH

David Heck, aged 19 - Highland Heights, KY

Teva Rae Ladd, aged 27 - Newtown, OH

Karen Morrison, aged 15 - Finneytown, OH

Stephan Preston, aged 19 - Finneytown, OH

Philip Snyder, aged 20 - Franklin, OH

Bryan Wagner, aged 17 - Fort Thomas, KY

James Warmoth, aged 21 - Franklin, OH

The incident was the subject of a book, Are The Kids All Right? The Rock Generation And Its Hidden Death Wish, [12] as well as a second-season episode of WKRP in Cincinnati called "In Concert". It also inspired scenes in the film Pink Floyd—The Wall , whose 1982 premiere was attended by the Who's Pete Townshend. [13]

In 2004, the city of Cincinnati permanently repealed its long-standing ban on unassigned seating, a move which has been criticized by some.[who?] A temporary exemption of the ban had been made for a Bruce Springsteen concert in 2002. [14] The goal of lifting the ban was to attract more big-name acts. However, the city now mandates there must be nine square feet per person at a venue, and the number of tickets sold for each event is adjusted accordingly.

Paul Wertheimer, the city's first Public Information Officer at the time of the tragedy, went on to serve on a task force on crowd control, and later founded Crowd Management Strategies in 1992, a consulting firm based in Los Angeles. [15] [16]

In 2009, thirty years after the tragedy, rock station WEBN/102.7 aired a retrospective on the event, including clips from news coverage in 1979. [17]

In 2014, Pearl Jam played in the city and acknowledged the tragedy. They dedicated a cover of the Who's "The Real Me" to those who died. [18] Pearl Jam experienced a similar tragedy in 2000, when 9 people died in a crush during their concert at Roskilde Festival. [19]

On the eve of the 35th anniversary of the tragedy, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley promised to have a historical marker on the site of the tragedy in 2015. A Committee consisting of three concert survivors, and one family member of victim Teva Ladd were pivitol in getting the memorial placed, Mike Babb, Thomas, Brown, Kasey Ladd and Rick Schwitzer, [20] The marker was dedicated at U. S. Bank Arena on December 3, 2015. [21]

The Showtime series Roadies dedicated an entire episode to the '79 event. The episode, "The City Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken", showcases the "roadies" of a fictional band completing many rituals after someone on the tour bus mentions Cincinnati.

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  10. "Cincinnati Enquirer, 8 August 2002 Bruce Springsteen Concert (editorial)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 6, 2012. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
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  13. Miles, Barry; Mabbett, Andy (1994). Pink Floyd the visual documentary. London: Omnibus. ISBN   0711941092.
  15. "Crowd Management Strategies". Archived from the original on February 15, 2003. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
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  17. "WEBN's 2009 retrospective of the event". YouTube. December 2, 2009. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  18. "Pearl Jam The Real Me Cincinnati OH Oct 1 2014". YouTube. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  19. Fricke, David (August 17, 2000). "Nine Dead At Pearl Jam Concert". Rolling Stone . Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  20. Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati Music Heritage Foundation
  21. "Cranley promises Who concert marker in 2015". The Cincinnati Enquirer . December 4, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2017.