Volume I: The Concert Files
During our adventures in the Coliseum, we found hundreds of files detailing the concerts held at the arena. The actual files are not yet accessible to the public, but we have compiled highlights from each, including tickets sold, merchandise sales, and more. The end result is a Google Sheet that allows the data to be sorted in various ways. This might be the most comprehensive publicly available concert list of any arena, describing the early growth and expansion of touring Rock & Roll, R&B, and Country acts. What better venue to tell this story than the Mid-South Coliseum? Explore the Spreadsheet. (NOTE: In addition to the spreadsheet, we now have temporary access to the Commercial Appeal archives, which holds many concert reviews. Search by artist and limit to the month/year in the spreadsheet).
We thought it would be fun to bring these concerts to life by creating Spotify playlists based on the most popular concerts for each year. The early years are represented in two groups: 1964-1966 and 1967-1969. The Coliseum really hit its stride in the seventies and eighties, so they have one playlist for each year. With the opening of the Great American Pyramid in 1992, many major acts began playing in the larger venue (even with its inferior acoustics), thus marking the end of the golden age of concerts in the Mid-South Coliseum. So we have a playlist covering 1992-1999 and a final playlist for 2000 to 2006. Song selections are based on popular songs at the time of the concert. In some cases, concert reviews from the Commercial Appeal were used to make song selections. Listen now!
In late August 1977, Elvis Presley was scheduled to play what had become an annual concert at the Mid-South Coliseum. His passing on August 16, 1977, resulted in a quandary for many fans. Do they return the tickets in order to receive a refund, as had been instructed? Deep in a storage closet in the Coliseum, we found a battered box filled with correspondence from fans requesting to buy tickets prior to his death, along with letters from grieving fans requesting refunds after his passing. The letters capture the immediate feelings from conflicted fans during this time. Learn more.
The act of buying tickets has changed dramatically over the years. Many times you would walk to the box office before the concert and wait in line. If you really wanted to buy tickets prior to the concert, you could always visit the box office during business hours. But what if you couldn’t make the trip? Well, you could write a letter, but that came with its own set of problems. While examining the records found in the Coliseum, we uncovered the many challenges and successes in the ever-changing ticket-buying process. We even found some pristine, unused tickets! Visit our Tickets page for documents related to ticket-buying and to see some tickets from concerts held long ago. Learn more.
In the seventies and eighties, regional concert promoters handled all the fine details necessary to put on a good show. This industry has been consolidated to the point that the regional concert promoter is fairly extinct. Inside the Concert Files, we found letterheads from many concert promoters and other businesses. Learn more about this aspect of the business and appreciate another item lost to history: the artwork of the business letterhead. Learn more.
Some of the most visually interesting documents found in the concert files are the drawings and notes illustrating staging instructions for various performances. We’ve highlighted a few samples that show the evolution of staging instructions, from simple handwritten notes to elaborate detailed packages from architects and engineers. Learn more.