Scott Halpin Newspaper interview

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Mon Feb 20 06:27:11 CST 2006

>From the Hoosier Times at:

Who are you? The guy who played with the Who, that's

By Mike Leonard, Hoosier Times columnist
Sunday, February 19, 2006 6:52 AM CST
BLOOMINGTON - Google the name Scot Halpin, and you can
understand some of the reasons why the Bloomington
resident remains cautious and a bit indifferent about
recounting his extraordinary little contribution to
rock 'n' roll history.

"They always get something wrong," he said of the many
accounts of the night when, at age 19, he replaced
drummer Keith Moon in legendary band, The Who. "I've
read where I played anywhere from five minutes to an
hour. I came out of the front row to join the band on
stage. That kind of thing," Halpin said last week.

"One story said I was a graduate of Monterey High
School, and I'd sort of slipped away into obscurity,
and the last anyone knew, I was a businessman."

Actually, Halpin has lived in Bloomington for roughly
a decade, makes his living as an artist and
illustrator, and occasionally gets out to play bass,
now his preferred instrument, and sometimes, drums.

He was just a kid from Muscatine, Iowa, who'd moved to
California when he hooked up with a friend to see The
Who at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on Nov. 20,
1973. He was a major Who fan at the time.

"I was living in Monterey, and I figure from the time
it took to drive into San Francisco and the time I
spent standing in line, I spent 13 hours. I really did
want to get down front," he recalled.

The show

Halpin had never heard of the opening band, Lynyrd
Skynyrd, and doesn't remember much about their set
other than a vague recollection of the endless riffing
on "Free Bird."

"It was back in the days of general admission, and you
really had to suck it up and just hold your spot (in
the audience)," Halpin recalled. "Once The Who came
on, the crush of people was so intense, I could only
handle about three songs. After that, we kind of
escaped over to the side of the stage, where there
were these big ramps, and we had a good view of the

The Who's notoriously wild drummer, Moon, passed out
more than midway through the performance, was taken
off-stage and after a brief intermission, returned to
his drum kit. Accounts of the source of Moon's
infirmity vary, but Halpin guesses that the
speculation centering on the quasi-psychedelic drug,
PCP, probably is accurate.

"You could sense it was going to happen again," Halpin
said. Sure enough, Moon collapsed again, and Halpin's
friend, Mike Danese, dragged him to the side of the
stage and pleaded with security guards to tell the
band's management that Halpin could step in.

"The security guard was probably thinking he's a
complete nut, but all of a sudden, (promoter) Bill
Graham pops up, and he sees it as a security thing.
He's sort of nose-to-nose with Mike, and Mike says,
'He can do this. He's a drummer. He knows the
material.' And Bill Graham looks at me and says, 'Can
you do it?' and I said yeah."

On stage

At that point, The Who's guitarist, Pete Townshend,
almost rhetorically asks the Cow Palace crowd if
there's a drummer in the house. Unbeknownst to him,
Halpin is already in place, sitting on Moon's stool
and getting instructions on how the drum kit is set up
by a technician.

"Then, (singer) Roger Daltry announces my name and we
go into it. Pete told me he'd give me cues, and they
had me start with (the blues standard) 'Smokestack
Lightning,' which I don't ever remember being part of
their thing," Halpin said.

He admitted he really doesn't even remember what else
he played because he was so focused on keeping time
and picking up signals from Townshend. A Web site on
Who history indicates that Halpin would have played on
the songs, "Smokestack Lightning," "Spoonful" and
"Naked Eye." An account in the San Francisco Chronicle
from 1996 says a bootleg tape shows that Halpin played
on the first two previously listed songs and the grand
finale, "My Generation."

Who members Townshend, Daltry and John Entwistle
thanked the skinny kid from the audience for stepping
to the plate but didn't hang around long after the

"They were very angry with Keith and sort of fighting
among themselves," Halpin said. "It was the opening
date on their 'Quadrophenia' tour, and they were
saying, 'Why couldn't he wait until after the show (if
he wanted to get high)?"

Daltry, who'd begun drinking Jack Daniels from the
bottle at that point, told the substitute they'd pay
him $1,000 for his efforts, and a roadie gave him a
tour jacket on the spot. "Then everyone split," Halpin
said. "My friend and I both had long drives ahead of
us, so we loaded up on all the free food that was put
out for the band, and we both headed for home."

In the meantime, someone stole the tour jacket that
Halpin had just received as a gift.

Halpin received favorable mention in the next day's
Chronicle review. He received a nice letter from the
band but no money - not that it mattered.

The legacy

The Who returned to San Francisco a couple of years
later, and Halpin did get to go backstage and meet
Moon, who was gracious but in his typical whirlwind

"He was doing this hilarious monologue and taking off
his stage clothes and putting on his street clothes in
front of everyone," Halpin said with a laugh. "He said
'Nice to meet you' to me, and then he was off."

The story of Halpin's brief stint playing with The Who
often comes up when people collect stories of rock 'n'
roll lore or Who retrospectives. Rolling Stone
magazine would later name Halpin the "Pick-up Player
of the Year." A few years ago, the cable network VH-1
flew him to New York City for an interview that is
included in a program called "The Forty Freakiest
Concert Moments in Rock History." Last week, Halpin
sat down in the WFIU-FM studios in Bloomington to tape
a segment for NPR's "Morning Edition."

"It's just one of those stories that won't go away,
but you know, it's not a story that even a lot of
people I know have heard," he said. "I mean, how do
you tell this story? Are you bragging if you do? It's
kind of weird, how it all went down. And to be honest,
it all gets kind of foggy because it all happened so
fast. I didn't have time to take it all in. All I was
thinking about was not screwing up."

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!

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