Rock fans recall how they acquired classic threads
By Lauren Bishop
22 March 2004, The Cincinnati Enquirer
On March 4, we started an unscientific search for the oldest rock T-shirt in the Tristate with an Enquirer article about how celebrities and children of baby boomers are snapping up vintage rock and concert Ts from the ’70s and ’80s.
You inundated us with responses, telling us tales of your tired old T-shirts yearning to breathe free of the back of your closets. It was a close race, but soon a front-runner emerged. Here’s the story of the winning T-shirt, and some of the best of the rest.
Who: Jim Swofford, 54, Covington (the winner)
What: 1969 blue Woodstock T-shirt with the word “Woodstock” outlined in red above the festival’s famous dove and guitar logo
Purchased: On the New York State Thruway on the way to Woodstock as Swofford and a few friends were stuck in traffic. An enterprising hippie approached them selling a Volkswagen bus-ful of T-shirts for $5 each.
Rockin’ all over the world: During a hitchhiking trip across the country, the shirt was the only one Swofford owned after the rest of his clothes were stolen at a coin-operated laundry. He eventually bought a new wardrobe, but kept the shirt in regular rotation.
“It’s got holes in it, but I still wear it,” he says. “Holes are in, though.”
Who: Sam Matson, 42, North College Hill
What: A 1979 printed white Who shirt with blue three-quarter length sleeves
Purchased: At the band’s Dec. 3, 1979 concert at the Riverfront Coliseum
Music must change: Matson bought the T-shirt and watched the entire show unaware that 11 young fans had died in a stampede as they tried to get inside.
He found out from a waitress at Skyline Chili afterward, and when he got home, his mother ordered him to take the shirt off and never wear it out of the house again. She said she didn’t want him to show the friends or family of any of the victims any disrespect by wearing it, Matson says.
Although Matson was upset at the time, “Now that I’m older and a parent, I definitely understand why.”
More T-shirt tales
Who: Sheila Frankovic, 44, Glendale
What: A gray 1973 Summer Jam T-shirt, a show that featured the Allman Brothers, The Band and the Grateful Dead
Purchased: At the show in Watkins Glen, N.Y., Frankovic’s first
Not fade away: Although Frankovic doesn’t wear the shirt anymore, she’s got photographic proof from college that she once did. Now, her 18-year-old daughter asks to wear the shirt occasionally, despite Frankovic’s personal opinion of it: “It’s a really ugly T-shirt,” she says.
Who: Joe Morton, 46, Avondale
What: A purple Prince T-shirt from the artist’s Sept. 23, 1984 concert at Bogart’s
Purchased: Inside of Bogart’s after the show
Let’s go crazy: A band called Red, Hot and Blue was scheduled to perform at Bogart’s on Sept. 23, but Prince fans suspected the name was a pseudonym for the singer because mixing red and blue would produce purple – his signature color. Fans flooded Vine Street outside the club, Morton says.
“The street was just buzzing that whole night,” he says.
Unable to get in, Morton ended up listening to the concert from the back of Bogart’s, skeptical that Prince really was inside. But he and 10 other fans got their proof after the show, when the Purple One was escorted out a back exit and rushed into a waiting van. And Morton bought his shirt after running around to the front of the club.
Who: Terri Simpson, 46, Mount Lookout
What: 1974 gray Aerosmith T-shirt
Purchased: At an Aerosmith concert attended by Simpson’s brother, Mike Simpson of Blue Ash
Sweet emotion: Mike Simpson used the once-glitter-covered gray and red shirt as a scrub rag in his garage for years, Terri Simpson says. About 11 years ago, he soaked it in a bucket for a week before giving it to his sister as a Christmas gift. The tag read: “To: Terri. From: Steven Tyler.”
“It is the best Christmas present I can remember,” she says.