In 50 years, Chicago’s Jam Productions has performed over 39,000 shows. To mark his 50th anniversary, co-founder Jerry Mickelson picked out some of the most notable. :
July 8, 1978, Soldier Field
“For Jam, it was a monumental moment because it was our first time working with the Stones, and they were the biggest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world,” Mickelson said. “And for them to trust us to succeed was a great medal of honor.”
The band’s manager also had a special request.
“I had to arrange for a Chicago Fire Department fire truck to take the Stones manager and his friends from a downtown hotel to Soldier Field,” Mickelson explains. “That’s what he wanted. A grand entrance. Not for the fans but for the band and everyone behind the scenes. He was that kind of guy. So I worked with the fire and police departments and made that happen.
“We are in a business where we do not sell shoes. You are dealing with personalities. You just rode with it. What are you supposed to do?
September 18, 1997, the double door
Nearly 20 years later, the Stones performed a surprise performance at the small venue in Wicker Park to an audience of less than 500 people.
Jam has a history of not only booking mega groups into large venues like Soldier Field, but also into smaller, more intimate spaces. For the most part, this smaller space was the Uptown Theater, where artists such as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, the Grateful Dead and Genesis performed.
August 1, 2001, Hutchinson Field, Grant Park
“This show at Hutchinson Field could be as transcendent as it gets,” Mickelson says. “The night was legendary among the fans.”
It drew 25,000 people and was the first time a band had been allowed to play at Hutchinson Field by the lake. It showed the viability of space and paved the way for events such as Lollapalooza, according to Mickelson.
On that clear night, fans stood on the softball fields to listen to the music with Lake Michigan and downtown skyscrapers as a backdrop.
April 20, 1975, Riviera Theater
“It was the first contemporary exhibition on the Côte d’Azur. Before that, there were only movies,” says Mickelson, who replicated the feat months later at the nearby Uptown Theater.
The list of buildings introduced by Jam in music also includes the former Rosemont Horizon (now Allstate Arena), the UIC Pavilion, and the United Center.
“These are all what I call opening shows,” says Mickelson, “early shows that paved the way.”
July 15, 1984, Prairie Capital Convention Center, Springfield
“Singer Steven Tyler fell from the front of the stage. He was unharmed, but when he crawled back onto the stage, the band members dropped their instruments and, in fact, in front of everyone , beat him. They were fed up with him. They were pissed that he was so confused at the start of a show. I think it wasn’t the first time they had problems with Steven who was messed up on stage. We had to cancel it just after a few songs. Luckily we were able to reschedule the show to another date.
July 10, 1976, Comiskey Park
Jeff Beck opened for Aerosmith that night.
“We produced the first show at Comiskey since the Beatles, and a fire broke out on the roof during Jeff Beck’s set, and thick smoke began to fill the air. We shut down the show and a DJ named Mitch Michaels of The Loop took the stage to keep the audience calm.
“The Chicago Fire Department told Bill Veeck, owner of the White Sox at the time, that he had to evacuate the park. And Veeck said, ‘I’m not going to evacuate. More people will be hurt if we do that. Go do your job and put out the fire.”
Warned that he would be arrested, Mickelson says Veeck said, “Just put out the fire.”
“I was there during the trade,” Mickelson says. “It was amazing. And everyone stayed put, and they put out the fire, and we started the show again after the delay.
July 11, 1995, Soldier Field
“It was almost like a religious experience,” Mickelson says. “It was just a great night. The band was in great shape and people were going crazy.
Lead singer Eddie Vedder, a Cubs fan with Chicago roots, destroyed his guitar onstage during the nearly three-hour set.
“It was the first time they had stepped in and sold a stadium.”
July 21, 1990, World Music Theatre, Tinley Park
This Saturday night, some Deadheads stuck in traffic abandoned their cars on Interstate 80, rumbling through traffic until tow trucks could clear things out.
“So many people showed up without tickets, and they just left their car on I-80 and shut it down,” Mickelson says. “It was a mess. And they all came and tried to get in on the show, which they didn’t. The next night we had more than enough traffic control and help from the police.
“Later, we realized the world was too small for them, so we moved them to Soldier Field.”
Jerry Garcia played his last show with the Grateful Dead at Soldier Field in the summer of 1995. He died weeks later.
“There’s a peaceful, beautiful, warm vibe with 70,000 people having a great time at a Dead show,” Mickelson says.