Makio '68, Getty Images, Library of Congress
A surreal night opening for Jimi Hendrix
Wayne Sheppard ’69 fronted a popular psychedelic rock band while studying visual and performing arts.
Campus was a magical place because we were protected from the harsh realities of the outside world. I had just married Hazel, my wife of 50 years. We were in school and in a local rock band, The Four O’Clock Balloon, trying to make enough money to survive and pay the rent. It was fun, exciting.
Our band stood out in Columbus. We played West Coast music. We were doing Jefferson Airplane and The Mothers of Invention, some Beatles covers, some of our own songs and some early electronic stuff. We carried our equipment in a Cadillac hearse and a Volkswagen truck that we fixed up like a covered wagon and named Chuck the Truck. It had The Four O’Clock Balloon painted on the side.
We’d wear flashy clothes, top hats, cowboy hats. I had a bandmaster’s jacket with tails and spherical buttons. Our drummer had orange, flaming hair. He’d wear white gloves, yellow tinted aviator sunglasses and silk scarves around his neck.
Our midnight concerts at the World Theater, just north of campus, were always packed. For a light show, we’d set a clear glass tray on a projector, and we’d mix transmission fluid with water on it to create very strange amoebic effects on a movie screen behind the stage. We’d also project images of hot air balloons and dirigibles. At the end of our concert, I’d pull out an accordion from behind my keyboards and create feedback with the amp — like Pete Townshend, but with an accordion.
In March of ’68, we opened for Jimi Hendrix at Vets Memorial [Auditorium]. It was like a sea of faces, 4,000 people. Our band felt really good and confident. Then we stood in the wings and watched Hendrix do his thing. He got down on his knees and played the guitar with his teeth. It was amazing.
After the show, our drummer brought Hendrix and Noel Redding to a party at his north campus house on Woodruff Avenue. Everybody was in a state of shock, just sitting there staring at Jimi. He was very cordial, friendly, soft-spoken, a gentleman. What a magical night.