Springfield, IL concert organizer talks about giving the city things to do in book
Len trumper maybe didn’t know much about promoting concerts as an 18-year-old freshman at Springfield Junior College in 1967.
But even then, he was responding to a familiar refrain.
“Everywhere you went people (in Springfield) were like, ‘There’s nothing to do,'” Trumper recalls. “I thought, well, I can try to do something. Do a show and hire a local band.
“I thought it was necessary.”
So Trumper picked up The Flowers, a band from Springfield, rented the downtown Knights of Columbus Hall, and pitched the event as a “summer over, back-to-school dance / concert / WHAT’S ON?” He charged $ 1 for admission, but not many people showed up.
“I lost $ 200 and that was a lot of money (for me),” Trumper said. “It was a learning experience. At that point, I learned not to do shows.”
It would take four years, and a stint with the US Army in Vietnam, before Trumper put on another show, a welcome homecoming party for his veteran friends and colleagues.
This was followed by a concert at Teamsters Hall with two regional bands, including The Light Bridgade (with Jerry “Pork” Armstrong, later with Havana Pork & Ducks).
“We ended up with 800 people, enough to make a profit,” Trumper recalled. “I thought, it’s not that bad after all.
For three decades, the now 72-year-old Trumper has kept his promise to give Springfield something to do.
Trumper brought acts like Cheap tip, the Eagles, KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, The Cars, Rush, Boston and Waylon Jennings in a multitude of locations, including the Illinois State Armory and the Nelson Recreation Center in Lincoln Park.
Fans who relived their moments together on several Facebook pages now have another outlet.
What does Len Trumper present in his new book?
A new book, “Len Trumper Presents Something Productions” (Periphery press), conscientiously recalls the procession of rock’n rollers through the region with a series of stories, photos and posters.
There are those that are often reported: the brutal behavior of Van Halen which cost the band a gig in Cincinnati one day after playing The Armory; a poignant story of what Trumper went through to bring Bob Seger to his concert at the Armory and Molly Hatchet’s “home” journey to Springfield.
Trumper was an independent developer at a time when such a thing existed. His heyday in show promotion was from 1971 to 1983, although he mainly promoted local groups in showcases in the 1990s.
It was a time, Trumper recalled, before iPhones and social media platforms, where word-of-mouth and telephone pole flyers drew in crowds.
“Back then, Springfield was a regular stop for a lot of people because of me,” said Trumper, whose day job was a warehouse foreman at American Metals Supply Co. “There were a few years where almost everything you did made money because the fans in Springfield were starving and now all of a sudden they had someone playing them music and bringing them in. groups regularly. “
Trumper often booked acts before they did the big ones. Arkansas black oak was a favorite even before “Jim Dandy” made its debut. AC / DC was an opening act for UFO in 1979 and Def Leppard was on the undercard for Ozzy Osbourne in 1981.
“KISS was another because we had no idea what KISS was going to become,” said Ric Major, who was part of a group of teenagers who worked for Trumper. “They were like a novelty act. We wanted to see the guys wearing makeup.”
Trumper’s account of Seger’s August 11, 1977 show at The Armory parallels a Shakespearean tragedy.
Seger had been booked to open the Illinois State Fair at the grandstand, but the rain prevented the equipment trucks from navigating a muddy track.
Trumper landed at The Armory, where he had performed shows, as an alternative, but the stagehands were stuck at the fairground, leaving Trumper to assemble a circle of friends at the last minute.
“Every time that day they said they wanted to cancel the show, all I could think of was I was going to lose $ 49,000 (of my own money),” Trumper said.
Meanwhile, Seger and his group were at the Detroit airport but had been informed that the show had been canceled, so they left. Trumper negotiated for the group to take a later flight out of Detroit, but when they met, Seger was not there, so no one got on the plane.
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Trumper said a friend who worked in the spotlight, Dave Brent, had a friend in Chicago who was a licensed pilot with his own Lear jet.
“We made a deal,” said Trumper, “where this guy would fly his Lear jet from Chicago to Detroit, pick up the group, take them to Springfield to do the show, bring them back to Detroit and then return to Chicago for $ 2,300. When they landed I was on the runway, gave them the money and they went to the show.
“After the show, we were talking about the Lear jet, and (Seger) said, ‘It’s the only way to travel.’”
There were a few clunkers along the way.
The Eagles / Dan Fogelberg drew less than 1,000 to the Armory, confirming Springfield’s penchant for the tastes of harder rock, Trumper said.
Then there was the debacle surrounding country star and Grammy winner Charlie Rich (“The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”).
Trumper had booked Rich for two shows at the end of 1975, but a few weeks earlier Rich appeared to be intoxicated during a presentation ceremony at a country music awards ceremony and set an envelope on fire.
Sales in Springfield have stopped, Trumper recalled.
“I lost $ 19,747 to Charlie Rich,” he said. “It was the most (on any show).”
“A fairly good race”
Trumper was industrious, Major said, building his own stage for shows at Nelson Center and other places around central Illinois.
Trumper was also famous for paying the band’s managers in $ 500 and $ 1,000 bills, a fact noted by Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos.
“We had a pretty good run,” said Major, who worked many shows with Trumper until the mid-’70s and now works as a sound technician at The Curve Inn. “Hanging around the shows, getting in on the action, meeting other kids, handing out flyers, starting conversations. He loved involving the kids in promoting parties and shows.”
Major remembered putting on the KISS show at the Armory. While the Major and crew members had lunch, a machinist pointed to someone sitting next to the Major and said he was ready to check his bass.
“I had no idea who the guy was,” Major said. “It was Gene Simmons. He finishes his meal and goes upstairs to check his bass.”
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When the Prairie Capital Convention Center (now the Springfield Bank Center) opened in 1979, Trumper admitted he was hopeful, especially about the larger seating capacity. His first show there with Molly Hatchet and Gamma (with Ronnie Montrose) resulted in mediocre and added costs on a variety of things – from ticketing fees to union machinist teams – was a harbinger of things to come.
It was also around the time, Major said, the national agencies took over the groups, booking entire tours instead of dealing with independent promoters like Trumper.
“The rock music scene kind of overtook Len as she got older and I think Len got a little tired,” Major said. “Len is what he always was. It was rock and roll that changed. Everything became so important.”
Days after promoting a KISS gig, Trumper said he met with PCCC staff to try and cut costs. According to his estimate, Trumper had accumulated just over $ 30,000 in personal losses there.
For Trumper, the writing was on the wall.
“I kept saying, I’m not going to keep doing this,” he lamented. “I was trying to raise my family and luckily I still had my job (at American Metals).”
Trumper said he still enjoys reading comments on Facebook regarding the old shows.
“I’m going to sit there,” he said, “with tears streaming down my face because people are saying how much fun they had and why can’t we do it anymore. different period. It no longer works. “
Recycled discs Co-owner Mark Kessler said every now and then posters or tickets to Trumper’s shows would appear in the store.
A few years ago, Kessler’s brother Gary bought a poster from a Show Waylon Jennings / Jessi Colter Trumper produced. Mark Kessler hung the poster in the downtown store and Jennings returned to Springfield for another show, a DJ promised he could have it autographed for Kessler’s wife, Kathy.
Kessler then asked Trumper about the show and he gave Kessler a ticket to include in the framing.
“Anyone who does this for me is a hell of a guy,” Kessler said. “Len was good at what he did.
“To this day, when I call my distributor to place an order and say, ‘OK, I need three Blue Oyster Cult (albums)’, she’ll say, ‘You know, you sell more BOCs than anyone in the country. ‘ I said, ‘That’s because my mate Len Trumper had them in the Armory once a month.’ They should have paid taxes in Springfield. “
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Trumper said he was horrified by the recent tragedy surrounding the Astroworld Music Festival in Houston on November 5. Ten people were killed and hundreds injured as the crowd took to the stage. Some people appeared to have been trampled on.
“I remember being in the Armory lobby and seeing faces against the door and thinking, ‘Oh my God, these doors are going to break,'” Trumper recalls. “Trying to open (the doors) with all the people opposing it… I was standing on top of the doors trying to get people to listen to me. That’s all I was thinking the other day when I saw these people getting (trampled) and killed. I remember being grateful that no one was hurt (here). “
To order the book, go to Whatever Len Trumper’s Production Facebook page where to go to Amazon.com. Trumper will be signing books at Penny Lane, 2901 S. MacArthur Blvd., from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday. The books will be available for purchase.
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, [email protected], twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.