Sixty Year Anniversary of Concert at South to Occur March 8
In the South Salem High School library, there is a concert poster that reads “The Biggest Show of Stars for ‘57” dated Mar. 8. Most would walk by it without a second glance. Others would probably look at it briefly before running off to attend to other aspects of their school day. Meanwhile, the true history of the poster remains untouched and overlooked. To bring the stories of this poster back to the light, the Clypian staff has decided to research this small token of South’s history.
Sixty years ago, a concert took place in the gymnasium at South, where school assemblies, sporting events, and pep rallies are still held to this day. However, this was not the typical high school concert. Some of the most popular musicians of the 1950’s came to the school to perform their greatest hits of the year, in a spectacle that was known as “The Biggest Show of Stars for ‘57.” The most notable of these musicians was Fats Domino, a pianist and singer who performed some of the most popular hits of the day.
“We sat on the bleachers, and I remember they could not get the piano through the gym door,” said Linda Sunderland ‘57. “They had to play the concert on an upright piano.”
A concert like this was unusual for the time period in Oregon, as Sunderland told the Clypian. Most of the artists that performed at the concert [including Fats Domino] were black. At the time, there were laws put in place that prevented the interaction between Caucasian and African-American Oregonians. Despite these factors, the concert still took place, and the artists were well received by the Saxon community.
“At the time, we only had two colored classmates in the whole school, Carol and Barbara Smith,” Sutherland said. “They were still included and involved with the rest of us.”
Life at South in the 50s was quite different from today. Each day, “noon dances” would take place in which students would gather in the commons to dance in between classes. Swing dancing was the most popular. Some of the music played included new hits of the time such as “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley [who had only just become popular in Oregon] and “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino. Sutherland remembers one song in particular that she danced to at one of her own “noon dances.”
“My boyfriend at the time and I would dance all the way to the art rooms by Leslie, listening to ‘Jim Dandy to the Rescue,’” Sutherland said.
Despite the amount of time that has passed, “The Biggest Show of Stars for ‘57” continues to impact the lives of those who attended it. Sutherland is still in contact with some of her fellow Saxon alumni who attended the concert with her, claiming they have “stayed friends” since the time of the concert.
To listen to some of the music that was popular in 1957, stay tuned for updates on this story.