By JENNIFER K. BAUER
LEWISTON — In the 1960s, the youth of Lewiston had a front seat like no other in the Northwest to the exploding rock ‘n’ roll scene.
At its center was Casey’s, a teenage dance hall in downtown Lewiston attracting bands of national fame — Roy Orbison, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Yardbirds, Moby Grape, Blue Cheer, the Surfaris, and many others. It may be hard for those who didn’t live it to believe it, but Lewiston was once a stop for groups playing at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore Auditorium.
The artifacts to prove it go on display Friday, Jan. 30 in the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Retrospective” exhibit at the Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History. On display will be posters, many hand-drawn by local artists, advertising shows like Orbison’s March 23, 1963, performance. Fillmore posters of the time, from the collection of Michael Feeney of Lewiston, show bands that visited both venues, like the Yardbirds, which drew some 2,200 people to Casey’s in 1968.
The exhibit goes even deeper. A Casey’s business card provides a feel for the social climate. Titled “Seven Steps to Casey’s,” it lists banned activities: Alcohol, profanity, smoking while dancing, the alligator dance, males dancing alone, and males dancing with other males. Only those ages 16 to 19 were granted admission.
While Casey’s played a central role in the valley music scene there was more to it than that. The influx of cutting-edge music inspired area youth to form bands. An 8-foot-tall local band family tree will show connections between these musicians, some of whom went on to do very well. This includes Paul Speer, who has produced hundreds of albums and was nominated for a Grammy for his video work. The 1970 Lewiston High School graduate will perform at Friday’s opening night reception following a panel discussion by musicians about what it was like to be a part of that scene.
“It’s kind of a reunion of sorts, a bringing back of the culture,” says Kelsey Grafton, exhibit programing coordinator at the center.
The center put out community calls for memorabilia and will continue to add items as people bring them in, Grafton says. The exhibit touches on events, places and people from the 1950s through the ‘70s. It also features significant local bands, stories about the Youth Activity Center and dance clubs such as the Bantam Hut and the Blue Hare, and the development of rock on local radio stations with radio shows like “Night Train” on KRLC.
Most of the items collected center around Casey’s. Many, like original murals that hung in the dance hall and photos of bands and crowds, come from the collection of the Patoray family, which held onto them after Michael (Pat) Patoray, Casey’s founder, died in 2000 at the age of 79.
One room at the gallery will recreate the psychedelic light show that Patoray brought home to Casey’s after a 1967 visit to San Francisco. Using five overhead light projectors, it will be interactive and children will be invited to alter the forms projected on the walls, Grafton says. Elsewhere, people will be asked to share memories on chalkboards. On one wall the neon sign for Lewiston’s last independent record store, Pepperland Music, will be illuminated once again since closing in 2008.
The exhibit runs until Feb. 21 and will include other events. Among them, Amy Canfield, associate professor of history at LCSC, will present, “If You’re Looking for Trouble, You Came to the Right Place: Elvis, Rock, and Teenage Rebellion,” at 5 p.m. Feb. 5. From noon to 3 p.m. Feb. 14 children can make instruments at a family art day, which will feature a performance by the Singing Mailman.
If You Go
What: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Retrospective”
When: Jan. 30 to Feb. 21
5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, opening reception
6:30 p.m. Panel discussion with musicians Tom Williams, Bill Blair, Marty Lukenbill, Paul Speer and others.
7:30 p.m. Concert featuring Paul Speer.
Where: Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History, 415 Main St., Lewiston
Of note: Regular gallery hours 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.