The passion for music that inspired Thomas Jefferson has always been a part of UVA, but things definitely changed with the advent of rock ’n’ roll.
Big bands and soul groups dominated the music at UVA during the early 20th century. Performers like Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles paved the way for Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.
During the late ’60s, the mix was rich with various genres and artists: The Box Tops at Mem Gym, The Lovin’ Spoonful at University Hall, The Fifth Dimension on the Lawn and—who could forget—Strawberry Alarm Clock at Mem Gym.
On the surface, Charlottesville in the ’60s and early ’70s seemed like a one-trick pony, according to Charlie Pastorfield (Col ’75) of the Skip Castro Band. “There was an active scene in town then, but it was soul music. Period,” he recalls.
Skip Castro's Pastorfield joined a revolving lineup of Charlottesville musicians, many of them students, who during the ’60s and ’70s played blues, rock, boogie woogie, swing and other genres through a variety of bands—the Charlottesville All-Stars, Hammond Eggs, the Hawaiians Band, Captain Tunes and His Noteguns.
Bands like Skip Castro and Johnny Sportcoat and The Casuals helped fuel the party fires at the University’s crackling fraternity scene.
“The fraternity scene completely dominated what happened,” recalls Girard, of Johnny Sportcoat. “That delivered an awful lot of people—it was the soundtrack of their youth.”
While fraternities essentially served as clubs that hosted band parties, the club scene developed its own, equally electric vibe. The Mineshaft, Trax, the West Virginian, Poe’s, the C&O, the Mousetrap—all provided memorable moments.
“The Mineshaft was the major meeting place for everyone,” says Missy Casscells-Hamby (Col ’82). “Without cell phones and e-mail, we were left with running into people at our habitual places. Friday and Skip Castro and/or Johnny Sportcoat [at the Mineshaft] was one of those places.”
Rusty Speidel (Col ’82) of SGGL says that when he showed up in 1978, “I was in awe of what was happening” in the local music scene. “The transition from the soul to the blues had happened by then; I think that was the big change.”
Charlottesville’s scene drew big acts from out of town—the Nighthawks, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Danny Gatton, NRBQ, Delbert McClinton, Koko Taylor and others.
“There were more places to play in this town than there were in all of D.C., and you could do better here,” says Bob Girard.