Elton John does a handstand on his piano at Kent in 1972. Photo by Larry Rubenstein
On October 31, 1983, The Stray Cats played at Kent State. An 8-year-old Jason Prufer couldn’t believe the band he was just watching on MTV was coming to play in his little Midwestern town. As he grew up and eventually enrolled at Kent State University, Jason followed the local music scene, taking note when bigger acts performed on campus.
“Sometime in my 20s, it occurred to me that [big acts]must have been [coming to campus] since before 1983,” Jason says. “So, I started digging through the old Kent Staters, and the further back you go, the more amazing these events get to be. The Pink Floyds and the Paul Simons and the Devos – nobody ever talks about that stuff.”
While working in the Kent State Library, the 2003 graduate spent more two years scouring archives to discover what musical icons had previously performed on campus. In May 2011, he then transformed his findings into a blog on Patch.com to bring to light a side of Kent’s history that he says is rarely discussed.
“There are a lot of people who do Kent history in this town, and there are basically two things that they write about: the old mill town and May 4,” Jason explains. “I completely understand why that stuff is important and why it is written about so much, but it’s kind of left this other stuff buried. I thought it was important to let the community know that Kent has this other history of bringing in the greatest musicians in the world.”
But Jason wanted to do more than list who came or describe the concert atmosphere. He spent time finding out who convinced these acts to perform on campus and who spent time with the stars while they were here. Jason wanted to tell stories like how Bruce Springsteen partied on North Depeyster Street after his 1974 concert at the Kent State Ballroom, and how Elton John did an iconic handstand on his piano not only at Madison Square Garden, but also when he came to Kent in 1972.
To uncover these gems, Jason spends a lot of time conducting research, gaining permission to post his findings and making sure he is writing only completely accurate stories. Readers can use the blog to learn the juicy secrets of Kent’s musical past, and Jason also hopes to inspire today’s Kent students to bring more superstars to campus.
“This is your playground, and you can do whatever you want,” Jason says. “If you want to bring a Pink Floyd to town or you want to create a Devo, you can do that. There are young, vital minds coming to this town that can bring that kind of thing to Kent. It’s all young people who are doing this, whether it’s young people 40 years ago or young people now. The opportunities are still there. The history is still going on.”blog comments powered by Disqus