These were the top selling concerts in America 40 years ago

Foghat was basically the Coldplay of 1978.

MeTV Music Listen Now MeTV Music Listen Now

In the modern music biz, bands make their bucks on the road. A song stream brings in a fraction of a fraction of a penny. But a musician can charge serious cash for a concert ticket. Those $35 shirts help, too.

Looking back at the top concert draws of 1978, two things immediately jump out. First, tickets were cheap. Dirt cheap. Even considering inflation. The average ticket was around $7, or approximately $27 in today's dollars. Big arena acts charge five times that today. 

The second thing: Big acts played much smaller venues. The Billboard Top Boxoffice chart from March 25, 1978, tallied total attendance, and the counts at these big arena shows were, oh, 5,000–7,000 bodies. That would be considered an intimate theater gig for the biggest acts of 2018.

Beyond all those numbers, the names themselves might surprise you. Would you guess Foghat was the biggest draw of the day? Let's look back, starting with the "Slow Ride" rockers…

1. Foghat

Venue: Checkerdome, St. Louis
Attendance: 13,374
Tickets: $6–$8
Opening act: Point Blank

The English group's brand of hard blues clicked in the States. They had recently released their Live LP, and were about to drop their eighth album, Stone Blue. Fans packed into the St. Louis Blues arena to witness the riffs.


2. Gordon Lightfoot

Venue: Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis
Attendance: 9,780
Tickets: $5–$7

The gentle songsmith played two shows in one night to slide into the No. 2 slot on this list. By this point in his career, Lightfoot had released, like, eight greatest hits albums. You can bet "Early Morning Rain" was played.

3. Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Venue: Omni, Atlanta
Attendance: 8,406
Tickets: $6.50–$8.50

The prog trio was promoting its goopy album Love Beach, which was hardly beloved by devotees. Nevertheless, ELP drew in crowds. The 1979 release In Concert documented this tour, on which the band would open gigs with a take on the theme song to Peter Gunn.

4. Jerry Garcia Band

Venue: Suffolk Forum, Commack, NY
Attendance: 8,110
Tickets: $7.50–$8.50
Opening acts: New Riders / Robert Hunter

The Grateful Dead were (well, are?) always a draw, even when not entirely the Dead.

5. Parliament

Venue: VonBraun Civic Center, Huntsville, AL
Attendance: 7,738
Tickets: $6.50–$7.50
Opening acts: The Bar-Kays / Cameo

Seven bucks to witness a landing of the Mothership? Now that is a deal. Nobody put on a show quite like George Clinton and crew. The funk icons had just released Live and were in the process of promoting Motor Booty Affair.

6. Waylon Jennings

Venue: Civic Auditorium, Omaha, NE
Attendance: 6,775
Tickets: $6.50–$7.50
Opening acts: Jessi Colter / The Waylors

A year before The Duke of Hazzard made its debut with that unforgettable Waylon Jennings theme song, the outlaw country king was truckin' in tour of his latest, I've Always Been Crazy.

7. Willie Nelson + The Charlie Daniels Band

Venue: Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, UT
Attendance: 6,584
Tickets: $5.50–$7.50
Opening acts: Country Joe McDonald / Don Bowman

Waylon frequent partner in song Willie Nelson was doing well for himself, as well.

8. Journey

Venue: Hara Arena, Dayton, OH
Attendance: 6,060
Tickets: $5.50–$6.50
Opening acts: Ronnie Montrose, Van Halen

At this point, Journey was blossoming from prog weirdos to arena giants, thanks to current hits like "Wheel in the Sky." Rock fans would perhaps crave a time machine to see young guns Van Halen opening the show.

9. Blue Öyster Cult

Venue: L.C. Walker Arena, Muskegon, MI
Attendance: 5,758
Tickets: $6–$7

Blue Öyster Cult albums never quite burned up the charts, but the kooky pop-metal act remained a popular live draw, thanks to recent singles like "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and "Godzilla." The group's second live album, Some Enchanted Evening, was recorded on this tour.

10. Santana

Venue: Paramount Theatre, Portland, OR
Attendance: 5,679
Tickets: $7.50
Opening act: Eddie Money

Concertgoers got their money's worth — Eddie Money, that is. He opened for the jammy guitar god.

Save with
Enjoy even more classic shows on-air! Find where to watch MeTV in Washington, DC
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

0 Comments

Post a comment
Click here to learn about MeTV's new commenting system!
Be the first to leave a comment!
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?