Perhaps this doesn’t matter to many teens, The Who being a perennial classic rock staple that recently garnered criticism for a sub-par performance at the 2010 Super Bowl and hasn’t been known for much in the way of innovation in the years following the deaths of drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle. But it’s important for any Iowan under the impression that this state has no significant rock bands aside from Slipknot to know that their small yet great state gave birth to one would-be rock legend.
Iowan Thomas Scot Halpin, born February 3, 1954, was living in San Francisco in late 1973 when he got the opportunity to live the dream of many a rock fanatic. After manic, wild drumming legend Keith Moon passed out twice behind the kit on November 20 during a concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, The Who’s guitarist Pete Townshend invited anyone in the crowd with drumming ability to fill in for Moon, reiterating ‘someone good’ forcefully.
Then 19-year-old Halpin was with friend Mike Danese at the left end of the edge of the stage, and Danese almost immediately began hounding the security staff with the assertion that his buddy could play. It caused such a commotion that legendary promoter Bill Graham’s attention was grabbed. As Halpin himself would later recount, Graham simply stared him right in the eye and asked, “Can you do it?” Halpin, just as simply, replied “Yes”. Given a shot of brandy for his nerves, Townshend told him “I’ll lead you, I’ll cue you”, and the band launched into the loose blues jam of “Smokestack Lightning” with their temporary new drummer.
Although Halpin found the complex rhythms of his third and final song with the band, “Naked Eye”, intimidating, he gave a stellar performance for a pick-up musician. In fact, at the time, he hadn’t picked up a drumstick since leaving Iowa a year earlier! He passed away far less well-known than he should have been at the age of 54 on February 9, 2008, ironically enough in the year that marked the 30th anniversary of the death of the man he replaced for that one night.
Don’t let anyone tell you no rock somebody has ever emerged from the cornfield state.
THOMAS SCOT HALPIN: 1954-2008