Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Flint Portraits: Peter C. Cavanaugh

A WTAC live remote broadcast of the Peter C. Morning Show at Eastland Mall in 1970 draws a crowd.

Peter C. Cavanaugh, a Flint radio icon at WTAC from the sixties to the early eighties and the man who organized the Sherwood Forest concert series in Davison, is often credited with introducing Michigan and the rest of the country to the likes of The Who, Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, and The MC5. Michael Moore credits him with "saving a generation of Flint kids from the likes of Pat Boone."

If you want the full story, he has a book out that manages to capture the spirit of both Flint and rock 'n' roll. Here's an excerpt from Local DJ: A Rock "N" Roll History:

"Atwood Stadium is an old high-school athletic facility in Flint. In August, Herman's Hermits were scheduled to headline a major show. Among the opening acts were several young British musicians who had banded together in 1965, and had been introduced to U.S. airwaves over WTAC later that year with their first Decca single. It was called, "I Can't Explain." It is well known and acknowledged in Rock `n Roll history books that WTAC was the first radio station in America to ever play The WHO. By cosmic convergence, August 23, 1967, was also Keith Moon's twenty-first birthday. At least according to his testimony at the time. Subsequent investigation would later indicate that honoring an exact score of years would have been more precise, yet, conferring 'underage status' in many states, '20' might have presented certain geographic inconveniences. It matters not. Keith and the group brought a birthday cake to our WTAC studios in celebration of the momentous event and in appreciation of our earlier efforts on their behalf. We thought it was pretty wild. It was his birthday and we got the cake. 'Far out!'

"We interviewed the group and pushed the show. Ticket sales had been slow. Nobody knew who the WHO were. This was their first major tour of The States with little attention being yet paid by the trades or in "teeny-bop" magazines which now flourished seemingly everywhere. The promoter had been counting on Herman's Hermits for drawing power, but they were on a bit of a fade. "Mrs. Brown, You Have a Lovely Daughter" only sounded good under the influence of bubble-gum. I arranged to get the night off in honor of Keith's birthday. We had been promised an extraordinary treat. The promise was understated.

"Under cloudy skies, and with only several thousand in attendance, the sponsors didn't break-even. The Blues Magoos were introduced and did a nice thirty-minute set, closing with their biggest hit, 'You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet.' How prophetic. After 20 minutes of equipment changes, the WHO took charge and exploded.

"Take no prisoners. Balls to the walls. It can't get any louder. Yes, it can. He's setting fire to his guitar. Shit. He's breaking everything up. There go the amps. He's kicking-in the bass-drum. What? Everything's blowing-up! Feedback's screaming!! They left the stage completely destroyed!!! The show's over!!!! ROCK `N ROLL!!!!! The crowd reacted with proportionate appreciation. Hope I die before I get old. Backstage, every member of Herman's Hermits was ashen-faced. They had to go on after that and sing twinky little tunes about some fat king with eight wives? Fuuuuuuuck."

You can order copies of the book from Peter C.'s website, which is also a great source for photos, including all the shots featured here.

Bob Seger rocks Mt. Holly in July, 1970. And if you're wondering about the pants, I'm guessing they're some ski pants he swiped from the pro shop.


  1. i remember being in rock-a-rolla records and seeing a concert poster for the event at Atwood, many years after of course, Hermans Hermits the headliner and one of the opening acts the Who....i could not beleive but after a little discussion with some older guys and a little research i found it to be true

    also, one of the great urban legends for flint was keith moon putting a car in the swimming pool at the holiday inn on bristol road where the band stayed....who knows but it's kind of neat to keep that legend alive...who knows...literally

  2. i am prety damn sure I attended a wedding reception in the exact same room where Bob Seger is rocking out.....

  3. And someone with as little talent as Bob Seger probably played the reception.

  4. Visit Pete Flander's Musical Memories on Dort Hwy. between Longway and Court St. for a trip down memory lane.

    Flanders can be a ripoff but what options do you have...

  5. I'm betting Herman and Crew left the public eye after that show. it's rumored that Seger frequents the DamSite Inn all the time for their all you can eat fried chicken special. and he eats a lot according to local gossip.

  6. Geewhy, I have to tell you I read your site almost every day. I'm a northern Michigan girl, but my father, my long-time boyfriend, and several of my friends are from Flint, and I usually end up dragging my boyfriend over to the computer to show him the photos you post, just to hear the stories he comes up with.

    Anyway, Bustdup, the rumors are true. I was a line cook at the Dam Site Inn for nearly six years, and Seger was one of our regulars. The owners were very protective of his right to eat in peace, which always made me snicker a little - he's hardly recognizable these days. When he wasn't eating the all-you-can-eat chicken, he went for the fried chicken and broiled lobster combo. Decent tipper, though, from what I heard. I also heard he used to frequent the Legs Inn in Cross Village, although I'm not sure.

    1. Dam Site Inn Revisited. I ate at the Dam Site Inn for the first time in about 10 years recently. The prices are much higher by today's standards, and the clientele has become much more exclusive. Had we not eaten off the early bird menu, I doubt if we would have stayed due to the prices. The clientele made me feel out of place. The entrée I ordered did not even fare well next to similar items at much less toney places. I guess that's how they keep the riff raff out so they don't bother Bob Seger. My how times have changed. I'd go back for special occasions, or for the early bird specials. It's nice when the hummingbirds are there.

  7. Megan,

    Thanks for the kind words. Man, your dad, boyfriend and several friends from Flint...that's gotta translate into some hellraising when you have parties.

    Tell your Flint crew to send along memories, stories and comments whenever they feel like it.

    Thanks again.

  8. GeeWhy, we also have a hardline Judge here from Flint, so partiers be aware...There are a surprising number of Flintstoners up here, and of course the 'burbs also. In the early 80's I worked for a married couple from Flint, had a hotel/restaurant, and being from Flint was one reason They hired me.all right, somebody elses turn to comment. Sorry to be a hawg Gordon.

  9. Megan, you are correct about Bob Seger also frequenting Legs Inn. My mother in law saw him there once and he gave her a hug. Didn't know about him also also frequenting the Dam Site Inn. Another of his haunts during his Jan Dinsdale (Janey of Against The Wind fame some speculate) relationship era was the Mae Wood subdivision in Sterling Heights, where he reportedly gave impromptu backyard concerts.

    The late Flint nemesis Roger Smith, of "Roger and Me" fame, was also a regular at Dam Site Inn.

    J.P. McCarthy, who would have been 76 yesterday had he lived, used to hit Juilleret's in Harbor Springs.
    Bob and Tom first met next door at Bar Harbor.

  10. Can anyone tell me where exactly Sherwood forest and Hall were in Davison. I was curious what was still there. From what i have heard it was On Richfield Rd east of M15. Can anyone help


  11. Sadly, there's not much there at all. Nature has reclaimed most of the property, which was located at 10251 Richfield Road. The original lodge and extended addition burned to the ground quite some time ago. Extensive excavation near the entrance to the old Park has made walking the property somewhat hazardous and unrecommended. As the old "WTAC Wild Wednesday" advertisements used to say, those concerts (and place) were "a single point in time and space." Some pictures are available at WildWednesday.com.

  12. I have been to the old Sherwood Forest Site and had not problems walking it at all. Didn't see any escavation. It still has a lot of platforms and out buildings which are crumbling. It has a red gate that is fairly easy to spot if you are looking for it.

  13. Walked it a couple of years ago looking for morels, didnt have a problem. Just a few morels I think I was a little early.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.