Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

41° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Letter to the Editor: Dillo Day before there was Dillo Day

Dillo Day is the third iteration of a spring musical event at Northwestern. In 1968 and 1969, we had George, and before that we had “Gentle Thursday.”

First the story of “Gentle Thursday.” In 1967, a freshman named Kenny Byrne organized a gathering on the Meadow to play acoustic instruments and hang out. The crowd of some 100 “hippies” challenged NU culture and appeared in public. Kenny Byrne, now Maple Byrne, is the stage and guitar manager for Emmy Lou Harris.

Now to George. One night in 1968, some students were gathered in the living room of a graduate student, Peter Straus. The purpose was to plan Northwestern’s next “Be-In.” The location was to be Deering Meadow. The date was set, the music would be arranged, and the looming question was, “What shall we call it?” At this point, Peter’s cat, a Calico, walked into the room. The cat’s real name was Rover, but he called her George. Peter said while planning the event, “Let’s call it George,” and the name stuck. It occurred on a Friday at Deering Meadow.

No permission was requested, sought or secured. A tarp for the musicians was borrowed from the Athletic Department. The be-in happened. The band played. No doubt, illegal substances were consumed.

The following year, my first year at NU, George made a re-appearance on May 2. The poster read, “Not May the 2nd, George the 2nd.” Music was again supplied by a band led by John Guth and Patchwork Quilt, which, besides doing originals, covered Jefferson Airplane songs. In a recent email from John Guth, he said, “Yes, it happened. Sally Mitchell vocals, Jon Hipps keyboards, Shorty Everman trumpet and vocals, Guth guitar and vocals, Dennis Gardino on bass.” George occurred most Fridays for the remainder of the spring.

At sundown, people wandered over to Rebecca Crown Plaza to continue the party with recorded music. By the time I graduated in 1972, concerts on Deering Meadow were scheduled with the University administration and somehow I for one lost interest.

Now, many years later, Mayfest sponsors a huge party on the Lakefill with lots of bands, etc. No complaints. The origins are described as occurring at some point in the vague past when someone (?) decided to dedicate an event to the armadillo. Fair enough. George was dedicated to a cat and, more importantly, to the enjoyment of free music.

Jeff Rice (WCAS ’72), Northwestern history lecturer and Weinberg adviser

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Letter to the Editor: Dillo Day before there was Dillo Day