On 3 June 1979, AC/DC was invited to appear at the Mississippi River Jam II festival in Davenport, Iowa, on a bill with Heart, Nazareth, UFO and Seattle’s TKO, whose debut album Let It Roll had been released on Infinity Records.
‘The headliners were Heart and Nazareth,’ remembers BRAD SINSEL, lead singer of TKO. ‘The promoter [the late Bruce Kapp] thought it’d be funny to open the show with what he called “the alphabet bands”, the other three acts being us, UFO and AC/DC. His logic at the time was that bands with letters for names was some fad, to which he was openly poking fun at.
‘They segregated said alphabet bands from what was at the time rock royalty and all their pageantry. Nazareth’s bass player [Pete Agnew] in his silk shirt, flared slacks, heeled shoes and golf cap, sipping chardonnay, or Heart, with their gowns and costumes, were a big contrast to UFO, AC/DC and TKO. The top headliners were given a hospitality tent fit for Louis XIV, very aristocratic. The rest of us were given a roped-off area with barely the basics.
‘Being resourceful, I slipped into the A-list tent and helped myself to the luxury. I noticed that Bon had made it into the tent as well, however we stood out like sore thumbs. Within three minutes we were confronted by some goon asking us what we were doing there and barked, “You can’t be in here with those wrist bands. You have your designated hospitality tent – leave now!” We both gave him a nod, shook our heads and before we returned to the ghetto, Bon shook his head and mumbled an expletive as we retreated.’
‘The top headliners were given a hospitality tent fit for Louis XIV, very aristocratic. The rest of us were given a roped-off area with barely the basics.'
– Brad Sinsel
TKO opened the festival and Sinsel thought they ‘held our own’ but when AC/DC got onstage, ‘I remembered thinking, “This is a game changer.” The audience went crazy. The band was fierce, unpretentious and unrelenting. They quickly owned the day and after their performance the event didn’t really recover. It was one of those rare days in rock you get to see everything change.’
An interesting side note for AC/DC trivia buffs: TKO producer Rick Keefer died in 2014.
‘He owned Sea West Studios [in Pahoa] on Oahu,’ says Sinsel. ‘Cliff Williams was trying a solo project for a while and used Rick’s studio.’ Williams played and did backing tracks on ‘I Want My Heavy Metal’ off Adam Bomb’s album Fatal Attraction (1985). Bomb, whose real name is Adam Brenner, was TKO’s guitarist from 1980–82.
BON: THE LAST HIGHWAY: THE UNTOLD STORY OF BON SCOTT AND AC/DC'S BACK IN BLACK is available to preorder now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and hundreds of other retailers. TKO's debut album LET IT ROLL has been rereleased by Rock Candy Records (to find it: click 'T' in the shop link).
Jesse Fink is the author of Bon: The Last Highway: The Untold Story of Bon Scott and AC/DC's Back In Black and The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC. For more information about Bon, click HERE or click the book covers below to be directed to editions in your preferred territory and language.