By Todd Houston
Exclusive to TRRT
Doug Logan was hired in 1977 to supervise the design and construction of the Rockford MetroCentre, he also wore the title of General Manager. The building opened for business in January of 1981, kicked off by a performance from the great Diana Ross. Doug would go on to bring in the very best entertainers in the business before leaving in December of 1985. This week we went to the streets to ask people to weigh in with their memories and to ask Doug a few questions about his tenure in the big orange building.
Rick Murphy: Can you tell us about the 1983 Ozzy show and what ultimately led him be hauled away to the hospital?
Doug Logan: On March 23, 1983 we promoted an Ozzy Osbourne date in his post-Black Sabbath days. Unbeknown to me, Osbourne had been treated by a throat specialist the day before, a treatment that included an injection into the vocal cords. He was reportedly told to refrain from the consumption of alcohol, due to a prescription that conflicted with his beverages of choice. Once on stage he began to stagger and in one instance was singing the wrong lyrics to the song being played by his chums. He finally passed out in the darkness between songs.
We had the foresight of having EMTs in the hall and they got to him right away. They suspected he was having a cardiac episode and within minutes we evacuated him to a local hospital. Meanwhile, the 8,000 or so disaffected fans were throwing objects onto the stage and they were in a near frenzy. I immediately threw off my jacket and necktie and proceeded to the microphone. I was hit by a shoe, a flashlight battery and another unidentifiable object.
I began clapping my hands and rhythmically chanting “Oz-zy, Oz-zy”. I figured that if you are clapping you can’t throw anything. It worked; the bombardment stopped. After a minute or two I told them that their idol had gotten sick but that we had him under the care of the best physicians. My remarks were liberally salted with “f-bombs”. I then told the audience they had a choice. They could do what every adult in town expected them to do and trash the building and hurt one another. Those actions would diminish my ability to bring similar artists back to the community. Or, they could fool everyone and disperse in an orderly fashion and take care of one another. The choice was theirs. Nobody got hurt; there was no damage to the building.
Mike Os: I remember The Rolling Stones coming to Rockford in October of 1981. There was a petition that ultimately got them here. Can you tell us anything about that?
Doug Logan: I had a lengthy conversation with Mick Jagger prior to the Rolling Stones concert in Rockford. We discussed two topics. The first was a discussion about safety, particularly the problems with the structural integrity of concert stages. Early in the band’s career apparently they experienced a stage collapse that resulted in serious injuries. Since that time, Jagger has made it a point to personally inspect every stage at every show during sound check. He then proceeded to show me the stretching exercises devised for him by the dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharpe.
We did get the band to come to Rockford via a petition drive that we organized with Dallas Cole [real name, Jeff Rowland], Programming Manager with WZOK. I have stayed in touch with Jeff over the years and he now lives and works in Los Angeles.
Fred Wallin: Rumor has it that you always left some seats in the front for last minute show ups. Is this true?
Doug Logan: There is no such thing as a sellout. Every wise hall manager always holds a few seats for ushering difficulties and in case someone with the attraction shows up at the last minute. They are usually good seats but never in the front row.
Pamela Booth Nelson: I remember so many backward people who didn’t want the MetroCentre. These were the same people who kept Rockford down for years and years. How did you deal with the controversy surrounding the MetroCentre being built downtown instead of nearer to the interstate?
Doug Logan: I have never shied from controversy. I just saw what I was doing as a great adventure. I knew I was making a difference in people’s lives [and the lives of their kids]. I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me and thanked me for making “growing up in Rockford” tolerable.
Craig Samuelson: What acts did you want to play at the Metro, but for whatever reasons, couldn’t? Also, do you have any juicy backstage stories that won’t get anyone on trouble?
Doug Logan: The list is long: Iggy and the Stooges, Springsteen, The Eagles, Michael Jackson, Leonard Cohen, The Police, The Clash, Guns N’ Roses, Talking Heads, Television, The Smiths, Fleetwood Mac, The Who, and many others [several of which I was able to do business with after I left Rockford].
My battles with Steve Tyler [before he got clean] were epic. We had to physically restrain him on several occasions. Later in the ‘90s, after he sobered up, I told him what he put us through. He could not remember any of it.
Toby Houston: Around 1982 you guys brought in the band Blue Oyster Cult. As my mom was dropping us off at the show I remember a large church group carrying signs that read “Fear the reaper”. Did you run into a lot of this type of thing with the heavy metal shows?
Doug Logan: All the time. To a certain slice of life in Rockford I was the devil incarnate.
Ed Udet: What’s the craziest thing that you ever witnessed at a show at the MetroCentre?
Doug Logan: My answer may surprise you. At one of Lawrence Welks’s “Farewell Tours”, he put together a backup band of hip, young LA session musicians. The show was on the night of an NBA final game between the Lakers and the Celtics. The guys in the band had bet their brains out on the Lakers.
We put two TV sets on the stage so they could watch the game during the show. It was hilarious to watch them playing while following the game on TV. You could definitely tell whether the Lakers were ahead.
Phil Thendstedt: What do you miss most about Rockford in general?
Doug Logan: Really good people. One of the finest periods of my life. I learned my craft there and will always feel like it is “home” to me.