Lubbock’s Best Things Ever: Joe Ely’s Tornado Jam
Someone recently posted a picture of a poster from the third Tornado Jam.
The third Tornado Jam in 1982 was certainly the most memorable, even though some claim the second drew more people. The third was estimated at 25,000 people and the second at 35,000 people. I'm personally not buying either number because I was near the front at the third and I just don't remember it being that kind of packed.
The show was memorable because it had a "big name" attached to it in Joan Jett and another that made a guest appearance in Linda Ronstadt. Also on the bill were The Crickets, Leon Russell, Jay Boy Adams, The Planets, Alvin Crow, Terry Allen, and The Maines Brothers (I should also mention that Stevie Ray Vaughan played the first Tornado Jam and you can see a video of that here).
I remember it rained and it was muddy as heck. I also remember that afterward, people made a big deal about the fact that Joan Jett got carried to the stage while Linda Rondstat walked (as if there's some glory in muddy boots). I also remember somebody saying "somebody's car just went into the water!" which was, of course, Joe Ely's legendary pink Cadillac being sunk for whatever reason.
I most remember this as the first and possibly only time we worked with the local country station to promote the show (I didn't like that one bit, but I was still kind of a newbie at the station at that point).
Apparently, the city called an end to the Tornado Jam after the crowds supposedly trampled the native buffalo grass (seriously). I'm guessing there was more to it than that on both sides (you'd think a farmer or a businessman or someone would offer up a site).
There was an effort to relaunch the Tornado Jam brand in the Colesium in 1985 but it didn't quite have the same magic.
Despite me lowballing the crowd estimates, it did seem like one of those events that everyone was at, and for that reason, it was one of Lubbock's Best Things Ever.