WABX Free Concerts on Sundays on the WSU Campus Tartar Field
After my first enlistment expired, I moved back to Detroit and enrolled in college at the Wayne State University. After first trying to get into the medical school, I decided to major in fine art, but later realizing where the money was, switched to commercial photography. Under the GI bill, I actually made money going to school since I lived with my mom and didn’t have to pay for housing.
Wayne State University (WSU) is an American public research university and the third largest university in the state of Michigan. The WSU main campus comprises 195 acres linking more than 100 education and research buildings. All in the center of the city. In fact, it wasn’t unusual to see the Woodward Avenue street hookers being chased across our campus by the police.
This was the 1970s, a year after Woodstock, during the Vietnam war, and only three years after the street riots. Being a veteran, there was some resentment from my classmates at first, but that disappeared when they realized that I wasn’t the typical “gung ho” military guy. I participated in anti war protests, supported the Black Panther Party, and listened to “rock” music. In fact, I could probably be heard blocks away from the campus with Jethro Tull’s Aqualung blaring from the four big speakers in my 1965 red Corvair Monza convertible. I had an Afro, wore bell bottom hip hugging trousers, and the latest Carnaby Street fashions from England. I didn’t take drugs or even smoke grass, but I knew all about it. Having rolled cigarettes as a kid, I could roll a mean joint.
One thing that stood out while attending college were the “free” Sunday concerts on the WSU campus Tartar Field by WABX in the late 1960s and early 1970s featuring musicians like Chuck & Joni Mitchell, Alice Cooper, MC5, The Stooges, Savage Grace, Ted Nugent, Grand Funk Railroad, SRC, Stoney and Meatloaf, Rare Earth, Frigid Pink, and many others. There would be hundreds, maybe thousands of youngsters gathered on the grass, mostly students, but also some neighborhood folk. It wasn’t unusual for a girl to ask you over to her place for the night, or the guy sitting next to you to offer you a joint. No arguing, no fighting, no shootings. If you had transportation, you got burdened with taking people home or being invited to parties.
On one such night, I ended up in the all White neighborhood of GrosseIle, about 25 miles from Detroit and spent the night there with a friend. He told me later that his neighbors were “shocked” to see a Black person in their neighborhood.
During one Rare Earth concert, for example, a guy asked me to save his spot in the grass and left. He returned a few minutes later with two cases of wine that he simply passed out to the audience. He owned a liquor store just down the street.
Fredric Durrette served one tour in Vietnam, retired as E8 in the navy submarine service after 23 years. Major hobbies are collecting old stuff from the 20s and restoring old racing bicycles. Worked as a commercial photographer at JL Hudsons in Detroit and continue photography as a hobby. Love Sade, sixties soul, seventies rock, and all jazz. Attended Woodstock in 69!