'Who' Was That Substitute Drummer?

In 1973, 19-year-old Scot Halpin filled in at a big-time rock concert when Keith Moon, the hard-living drummer for The Who, passed out. Halpin tells Scott Simon about being urged out of the audience in response to an appeal from Who frontman Pete Townsend.

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Last week we spoke with Bill Sagan about Vault Radio, which features recordings made by legendary concert promoter Bill Graham, everything from Cream to Led Zeppelin to Bruce Springsteen and Nirvana. Now, he told a story about a Who concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco where Pete Townsend called out to the audience for a drummer because The Who's own drummer, Keith Moon, had passed out.

Mr. PETE TOWNSEND (Drummer for The Who): Can anybody play the drums?

(Soundbite of cheering)

SIMON: The story goes that a kid called out of the audience, raised his hand, he was rushed on stage and played his way into rock and roll history. That kid was Scott Halpin. He's now married with child and was listening to our show last weekend. He joins us from member station WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana.

Mr. Halpin, nice to meet you.

Mr. SCOTT HALPIN (Fill-In Drummer, Who Concert): Nice to meet you.

SIMON: Your wife wrote to us after hearing our story.

Mr. HALPIN: Uh-huh.

SIMON: How do you remember it?

Mr. HALPIN: I had gotten there about 13 hours before the concert and waited in line, got a scalp ticket, and I wanted to get right up in front. And I was up in front for about three of their songs, and then it got too scary, too tight. So I went to the side of the stage to watch the rest of the show. And he did pass out once before. What happened was my friend got real excited when he saw it was going to happen again. And he started telling the security guy, you know, This guy can help out. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere comes Bill Graham.

SIMON: You're this guy, huh?

Mr. HALPIN: Yes. Yes. My friend, Mike Denise(ph), basically was pushing me forward to do this, and really interfacing with Bill Graham once he got there, nose to nose. And so he looks to me square in the eye and says, Can you do it? And I said yes, straight out.

SIMON: So you were actually kind of recruited in advance. It wasn't...

Mr. HALPIN: I was.

SIMON: Well, listen to a few moments of the immortal Scott Halpin and The Who.

(Soundbite of The Who concert)

Mr. HALPIN: What they started out with was a blues jam, which basically was Smoke Stacked Lighting that turned into Spoonful. I think it was to check me out to see if I could handle what they want.

SIMON: Mr. Halpin, it would make this story perfect if you were able to tell me that Pete Townsend, when it was over, turned to you and said, Oh man, I've never heard the skins played so beautifully, I want you to go on tour with us. Is that more or less what happened?


SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. HALPIN: They did give me a tour jacket, which someone stole.

SIMON: So, you know, I've been, I've been having, my throat's been tender a little recently and I just, I wonder, not to compare myself to Keith Moon, but are you available, sir?

Mr. HALPIN: Any time.

SIMON: Okay. WEEKEND EDITION with Scott Halpin. Thanks very much.

Mr. HALPIN: Thank you.

SIMON: Twenty-two minutes before the hour.

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