A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Elvis Presley Charlotte • February 10, 1956 Not long before earning the title “The King of Rock ’n’ Roll,” Elvis Presley was playing small venues like the Carolina Theatre in

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Elvis Presley Charlotte • February 10, 1956 Not long before earning the title “The King of Rock ’n’ Roll,” Elvis Presley was playing small venues like the Carolina Theatre in

Legendary Carolina Rock Concerts: Were You There?

Elvis Presley
Charlotte • February 10, 1956

Not long before earning the title “The King of Rock ’n’ Roll,” Elvis Presley was playing small venues like the Carolina Theatre in Charlotte. In its announcement for his debut concert in the Queen City, The Charlotte Observer labeled him as a “folk singer,” and the event poster for his four-night stand called him the most talked-about new personality in the past decade of music. Fans lined all the streets leading to the venue, and nearly a thousand had to be turned away due to demand.

The Rolling Stones
Raleigh • November 10, 1965

The Rolling Stones performed for the first time in North Carolina at Reynolds Coliseum during their Second American Tour (which was actually their fourth) as part of a lineup that also included The Vibrations and Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells. Songs that have turned into worldwide classics were still new at the time — their 15-minute slot featured “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and “Get Off of My Cloud,” both released just a few months prior.

Jimi Hendrix
Opening for The Monkees, Greensboro and Charlotte • 1967

In an effort to elevate his popularity in the U.S., Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees. The band had learned about Hendrix that same year through his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival and invited him to join them on tour. It was an unusual mix of sounds and genres, resulting in less than favorable audience reactions. Hendrix played seven shows before bowing out, but the stop in Greensboro was said to be a rare success. The rush-the-stage excitement earned the audience a classic Fender guitar slam to close out the set.

Steel spurs and cowboy hats weren’t typical of the 1970s hippie counterculture — that is, until the town of Love Valley hosted North Carolina’s own version of Woodstock. photograph by ED BUZZELL, THE LOVE VALLEY THING. CHARLOTTE, NC: HALFWAY HOUSE PUBLICATIONS, 1970. WILSON LIBRARY, UNC CHAPEL HILL

Love Valley Rock Festival
July 16-18, 1970

On the weekend of the Love Valley Rock Festival, the Western-themed town of Love Valley, population 100, saw more out-of-towners than it ever had. The Allman Brothers Band, Radar, Johnny Jenkins, and Greensboro band Kallabash were just a few of the bands in the lineup. The three-day event cost $5 to attend, and members of The Allman Brothers Band liked the area so much that they continued to hang out there for years after. Word has it that guitarist Dickey Betts built a house in the town and wrote “Blue Sky” there.

The Jackson 5
Charlotte • December 27, 1970

Michael, Marlon, Tito, Jermaine, and Jackie Jackson made the Charlotte Coliseum part of their first national tour. Earlier that year, they’d made an appearance on American Bandstand and performed the national anthem at the World Series. Now renamed Bojangles Coliseum, that same stage has been graced by many rock voices, including Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince, Heart, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan.

The Grateful Dead
Durham • April 24, 1971

Wallace Wade Stadium at Duke University hosted the Grateful Dead for their first North Carolina visit. According to memories from attendees, Jerry Garcia played pedal steel with the New Riders of the Purple Sage for two hours and guitar with the Grateful Dead for four hours on a stage set up at the 50-yard line. The day included the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Beach Boys, and Mountain. One concertgoer remembers an encounter with Garcia fondly: “I spotted Jerry standing to the side of the stage … and asked him why he was still hanging around. He said, ‘Man, I just want to hear The Beach Boys,’ and then he handed me a Heineken out of the cooler.”

In 1974, keyboardist and singer/songwriter Billy Preston was part of a festival lineup at Charlotte’s Memorial Stadium. photograph by TOM HILL/CONTRIBUTOR/WIREIMAGE

Under the Stars
Charlotte • July 13, 1974

Just a month before August Jam took place, the Under the Stars festival filled the seats of Memorial Stadium. Fans showed up to see a lineup of ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rare Earth, Leon Russell, Elvin Bishop, and Billy Preston. Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and Preston’s “Will It Go Round in Circles” were both relatively fresh on the scene, having been released within the previous year.

Prince played to 14,961 fans at the Greensboro Coliseum in 1984. photograph by RICHARD E. AARON/REDFERNS/GETTY IMAGES

Greensboro • November 15, 1984

The Greensboro Coliseum welcomed three days of back-to-back Prince during his fourth city visit on the “Prince and the Revolution” live debut tour. An article from the Greensboro News & Record recounted that “the audience all but shook the building’s foundations,” giving the band quite the North Carolina welcome. Sheila E. opened the show, and the headline set included songs ranging from further back in Prince’s discography, such as “Free,” to ones from the recently released Purple Rain. Purple and black clothing was a trend among audience members, and those up close and lucky enough just might’ve caught one of the flowers that Prince tossed from the stage.

The Boogie

This event is all sort of a mystery, really. If you know, you know, and if you don’t, you probably won’t. It all started as a small group of friends playing music on private property, and later evolved into an annual gathering. Legend has it that these concerts were invitation-only and took place somewhere in the Foothills — a select number of people were chosen and told the location on short notice, which was kept undisclosed to help keep the whole thing under wraps. After establishing rapport by attending three events in a row, guests were allowed to invite two people to join them. Music lovers danced in an open field, usually near a wooded patch with a creek or stream for camping sites, to the sounds of hippie-rock music coming from a makeshift stage. Rumor has it, it’s still going on today.

Cameron Village Subway

Under the Cameron Village Shopping Center lie the remains of a live music hot spot. Cameron Village Underground was, quite literally, Raleigh’s most underground music scene of the time. Venues included the Bear’s Den and The Pier, and there was an arcade and some stores. R.E.M. played at The Pier in the summer of 1980, and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts played in the winter of ’81. Like August Jam, The Pier has a private Facebook group dedicated to reminiscing music lovers, with more than 2,000 members.

Peachetree Celebration
Rockingham Motor Speedway • August 18, 1972

The town of Rockingham welcomed a rockin’ lineup to the local speedway. The roster included Alice Cooper, Three Dog Night, Black Oak Arkansas, Fleetwood Mac, Bloodrock, Poco, Tower of Power, and an all-female rock band called Birtha. It cost $10 to attend, rain or shine. Cooper had just released “School’s Out,” Fleetwood Mac brought their ’70s flair, and Birtha got everyone’s attention with their powerhouse set.

ZZ Top
Winston-Salem • May 29, 1976

ZZ Top took their home state around the country with their Worldwide Texas Tour in support of albums Fandango! and Tejas. The year-and-a-half stint started at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Point Blank, and Elvin Bishop as supporting acts and a corral of live animals. The band set the scene with a Lone Star State-shaped stage, native plants, a longhorn steer, black buffalo, vultures, and rattlesnakes as a part of the show experience. A group of animal caretakers was part of the 13-vehicle roadie crew, and for the humans onstage, cowboy hats were part of the uniform.

The Dean Dome
Chapel Hill

The Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill isn’t just the home of Tar Heel men’s basketball — shortly after its 1986 opening, the Dean Dome also hosted a long list of well-known names in music. An opening concert by The Monkees was followed with shows by the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, David Bowie, and Tom Petty.

This story was published on Jun 27, 2023

Cailyn Domecq

Cailyn Domecq is Our State's Newsletter and Social Media Coordinator and a freelance writer.