Remembering the Day ZZ Top Played Battle Creek’s Kellogg Auditorium
ZZ Top’s bassist and vocalist Dusty Hill passed away this week at the age of 72. The band was certainly one of the longest original-member bands in history. Hill died in his sleep at his home in Houston, Texas.
Hill, along with drummer Frank Beard and vocalist and guitarist Billy Gibbons played together since 1970. Their 1973 album “Tres Hombres” with the hit “La Grange” got the band noticed, but they weren’t exactly a household word by the time they visited Battle Creek’s W.K. Kellogg Auditorium.
It was April 24th, 1974. They played “The Brewery” in Lansing two days before, headed to Battle Creek, and later flew out to Detroit.
Linda Childers worked at the commercial airline at Kellogg Regional Airport and says she’ll never forget checking in the motley crew. “They didn’t have the long beards then, and there were a lot more than the three of them in the entourage,” remembers Childers. “There were probably 7 or 8 in all, and I remember stamping all their tickets.”
Childers said she had never heard of ZZ Top at the time, but has been a huge fan ever since. “I didn’t know who they were, but the young guys working at the airport sure did. My then-husband went to the concert at Kellogg Auditorium and said it was the loudest thing he ever heard.”
W.K. Kellogg Auditorium had some memorable concerts in the mid-1970s. Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes played a St. Patrick’s day concert there in 1974, and a month later, on May 19th, Blue Oyster Cult played Battle Creek. Aerosmith with Kansas played a date at Kellogg Auditorium on September 10th. In 1973, REO Speedwagon and the Guess Who played the auditorium, but records on the Concert Database show no rock concerts there before 1973 or after 1974. We’ll bet there are a lot of people in Battle Creek who remember those concerts.
Why didn't rock concerts continue at W.K. Kellogg Auditorium after 1974? One reason is the opening of a new venue in October of that year. Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo , with a seating capacity of about 5,000, became the new home of rock concerts.
ZZ Top returned to Battle Creek for a 2015 concert at FireKeepers Casino Hotel.
Childers said she worked at Hub Airlines, which was later renamed Skystream and she remembers the new owner had his planes painted pink. She remembers a few other famous people flying into the airport in those days. “We had Captain Kangaroo, Euell Gibbons, Sam Levinson, just to name a few.”
The ticket stub is selling for $99 on eBay.