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Rock and Roll, Punk, and Elvis

Rock and Roll Concerts in Southern Maine
By Ford Reiche

In a small state like Maine, rock and roll concerts are a big deal. Often front page news. In the early days of rock and roll, southern Maine got way more than its share of major performers. Bill Haley and the Comets, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Four Seasons, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, The Supremes, Bruce Springsteen and hundreds more. And this was before the Cumberland County Civic Center.

When these touring rock and roll musicians were making stops in places like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New York, Washington and Boston, what was it about Maine that attracted them to play in Old Orchard Beach, Portland or Lewiston? The Maine Turnpike.

The turnpike first opened in 1947 from Kittery to Portland, and extended through Lewiston in 1955. When that happened, all of a sudden 250,000 Mainers were within an hour’s drive of one another, and this included seven colleges: Nasson (closed), St. Frances College (UNE), University of Maine Portland and Gorham (USM), Westbrook Junior (UNE), Bates, and Bowdoin.

ROCK AND ROLL CONCERTS OF SOUTHERN MAINEClick to read more of Ford Reiche's story

Concert promoters could suddenly pack 3,000 to 6,000 young people into the venues in Old Orchard Beach, Portland and Lewiston-movie theaters, armories, basketball courts and hockey arenas. Potential audiences of that size put southern Maine on the rock and roll map for concert promoters. What other events in Maine during the 1950s, 60s and early 70s were routinely putting thousands of people in one place for anything other than these rock and roll concerts?

The national acts that played in southern Maine had a very local impact. Local promoters who organized events were moonlighting from a “day job”, paper tickets were sold for a few bucks ($2.50 for Jimi Hendrix) at the local record stores, deejays from the hometown radio stations (WLOB, WLAM, WIDE) introduced the big performers on stage, local high school garage bands would often serve as opening acts.

It was a special moment in time nationally and locally. The huge baby boomer demographic served up social, political and cultural change in unprecedented scales. Rock and roll was part of that scene, and it had an impact on Maine, which is worth memorializing.

The opening of the Cumberland County Civic Center in 1977 effectively shut down the local venues, and it coincided with other big changes in the rock concert world: national concert promoters, electronic ticket sales, and even the music was changing.

Cumberland County Civic Center

Civic Center model, ca. 1970
Civic Center model, ca. 1970
Maine Historical Society

The Cumberland County Civic Center opened in Portland on March 3, 1977, with the rock band ZZ Top as the first concert. Other shows in 1977 included Shaun Cassidy, Boston, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Yes, Harry Chapin, and Gordon Lightfoot.

The Civic Center holds 6,206 permanent seats and up to 9,500 people for concerts. The arena, as of 2024, is named the Cross Insurance Arena.


Elvis Presley concert tickets, 1977
Elvis Presley concert tickets, 1977
Maine Historical Society

Elvis Presley, called the King of Rock and Roll, was one of the most popular entertainers in American history. He played his first and only Maine show at the Augusta Civic Center on May 24, 1977.

The Cumberland County Civic Center booked Elvis to play two nights at the brand new stadium on August 17-18, 1977. The Civic Center cancelled the concerts when Elvis died in Memphis on August 16, at forty-two years old. Concert promoters offered refunds, but many fans kept their unused tickets as mementos.

Jessi Mallory, Elvis Tribute Artist

At four years old, my mother gave me my very first Elvis record, Elvis’ Golden Records. I was captivated by the man on the cover. He had black hair, wore eye shadow, and a bit of eyeliner. I remember thinking that I wanted to look like him one day.

As I grew up, my love for Elvis grew. I read every book, watched every concert, every video, and listened to every song. I'd spend countless days and nights studying his mannerisms, wit, voice, and influence.

One Halloween I sprayed my hair black and dressed as Elvis, winning a costume contest. People suggested I try my hand at being an Elvis impersonator. It wasn't a long shot for me, I grew up singing along with Elvis, and our voices were similar.

The first time I performed as Elvis was at a variety show in Portland. I began looking into other impersonators and realized that serious ones referred to themselves as ETAs, or Elvis Tribute Artists. I refined replicas of Elvis' wardrobe from the 1950s-1970s, dyed my hair black, and took my show on the road.

It's been a ten-year journey and one that I enjoy immensely. Mainers attending my shows often tell me their stories about how they had tickets to see Elvis for his concert in Portland in 1977. I feel so sad for these people, who found out he passed away on the day he was scheduled to arrive in Portland.


Punk is more than a musical genre, it’s a do-it-yourself, anti-establishment philosophy that extends into art, fashion, and life.

One of Maine’s earliest punk bands, The Same Band of Brunswick, held a mirror to society. They commented on social justice and environmental topics—but typical of punk music, they did so with satire. With John Etnier’s graphic design and doodle drawings by Mike Laskey, The Same Band produced humorous advertisements and press releases for concerts and records, with slogans like, “Like it or Not, We’re Still Playing” and “Same Band promises to be nice as Maine Festival.”

Most band members performed with stage names like Dual Space Organs (John Etnier), Swill Hovel (Mike Laskey), Bartholomew Rex Gross (Bart Gross), Wild Barbed Needle (Joe Wainer), Crimp Eastland (Mike Guimond), Lucky Bangstick (Ozzy Gross), and Bolt Upright (Chris Michaud).

The $ame Band
The $ame BandClick to learn more about the $ame Band

The Same Band
By Mike Laskey

The Same Band formed in 1977 when John Etnier opened his Brunswick recording studio, Planet Of The Tapes. The studio provided a space for John and his friends, including me, Joe Wainer, Bart Gross, Ozzie Gross, and Mike Guimond to play music together, and opened opportunities for John to hone his skills as a recording engineer.

Punk and New Wave music were trending at that time and we were very taken by the attitude and rawness of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Generation X. We started writing and recording songs with themes ranging from environmental concerns (Disposable World, Radiation) to baby boomer angst (Mad as Hell, End of the World), Mideast war protests (The Desert is a Bitch), and science fiction fantasy (Seaquimp, Okto). Our love of 1960s jazz music led to several improvisational instrumental tunes such as Alley-Pre-A-Toric, I Tried to Stop but Erupted, and Land of Cotton.

As the possibility of playing in front of audiences emerged, we had numerous discussions about the band name. The consensus was that we wanted something to reflect how different the music was from anything we’d played before. There was something appealing about the tongue in cheek contradiction of calling the band, The Same Band, that stuck.

The Ramones ticket stub, The Loft, 1978
The Ramones ticket stub, The Loft, 1978
Courtesy of Mike Laskey, an individual partner

Our live performances included numerous wardrobe changes, stage props such as costumed mannequins, elaborate backdrops made of Modigliani posters, Radiation Hazard signs, American flags, Bonanza restaurant advertising banners, and all manner of ephemeral clutter.

The Same Band played a dozen or so live gigs, most notably opening for the Ramones at the Loft in Portland in 1978, and an appearance at the Maine Festival. The band recorded ten hours of material over a three-year period and finally spun itself out of existence in late 1980.

"Radiation" record, Brunswick, 1978
Maine Historical Society

Radiation was one of the earliest punk records released in Maine. Playing punk-jazz fusion music, John Etnier’s 1977 press release noted the Maine Sunday Telegram hailed The Same Band as, “The leading proponents of the punk rock-jazz fusion sound, using adjectives such as ‘overwhelming’ and ‘super talent.’”