Back Then

Photo by Nahum "Humi" Vishniavsky, '72

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, a little-known musician named Bruce Springsteen amassed a following in Richmond. Touring as Child, Steel Mill, and eventually the Bruce Springsteen Band, he performed frequently at local clubs, Monroe Park near Virginia Commonwealth University, and on the University of Richmond campus. He considered the city a second home, and the cult following here helped launch his career.

At one of those early shows, Michael Horwitz, R’72, Glenn Habel, R’72, and Courtenay Crocker III, R’73, saw Springsteen performing with Child and immediately knew they were witnessing something special.

“He was totally charismatic,” Horwitz said. “He had such stage presence, and he was able to connect with the audience on a level I had never experienced in an artist before. He knew his way around a guitar. His playing was very soulful, and he just knew how to make the guitar wail. We became fanatics immediately.”

The summer before their senior year, the trio went on a pilgrimage to the Jersey Shore. They visited the surfboard factory where Springsteen once lived and watched him perform at a local club.

That’s when they hatched a plan. They conspired to stack the student programming committee and compel the University to bring Springsteen to campus.

Bruce Springsteen, The Collegian articleBooking the show wasn’t a hard sell. Convincing their classmates to come out was a different story. The October 1971 show — featuring the Bruce Springsteen Band and two other New Jersey-based bands — was scheduled for Homecoming Weekend, right in the midst of fraternity rush season. In The Collegian, University Student Union president Rick McDaniel lamented, “A guy can’t pass up a free party with a free band and free booze to go to a concert in Keller Hall which will cost five bucks for him and his date.”

Still, Horwitz soldiered on. He campaigned with a counter argument in the following week’s edition of The Collegian.

“In this day and age when everything is rated by its success on the mass market,” he wrote, “here is an opportunity to see an exceedingly talented group that has not been spoiled by commercialization, the Bruce Springsteen Band.

“Having observed the growth of this group for two years, I strongly urge you to go see a group that you can proudly look back upon one day and say, ‘I saw them before they made it.’”

We can’t confirm the success of that Keller Hall performance. A later Collegian story referenced the “ill-fated” show. We’d love to hear your memories. Send them to us at