Editor’s note: This is a follow-up story to Sunday’s feature on the history of the Aerodrome, Schenectady’s short-lived nightclub that was open from 1968-70.
For many in the greater Capital Region, hearing the name Aerodrome brings back memories of Led Zeppelin, B.B. King and Chicago, who all played at the legendary, yet short-lived Schenectady venue.
For Fred Baye, the memories could fill a book. Or two.
“That place was like . . . [the] East Coast Fillmore. People in Schenectady . . . that are younger know about that place and they really wish they were around to see all those bands,” Baye said.
Baye said he worked as the assistant manager of the Aerodrome and did everything from working with the bands to marketing shows.
“I booked all the bands there, in fact, I’m the one that threw Robert Plant his birthday party,” Baye said.
According to Baye, The Jeff Beck Group was touring with Led Zeppelin, so when the former came to perform at the Aerodrome in July 1969, the band members from Zeppelin were there as well. Baye asked Plant about coming back to the venue to perform on August 20 and Plant told him that it was his 21st birthday.
When the day rolled around, Baye made sure to get a cake and plenty of booze, but by the end of the night, “ . . . it was like a skating rink full of booze on the floor and the cake was all over the ceiling. It was just wild,” Baye said.
In the early 1990s, Baye said he bumped into Plant in Philadelphia and asked the artist if he remembered performing in Schenectady. It turned out he did, even though more than two decades had passed.
While Baye felt that the Led Zeppelin show was the best, some of his other favorites include performances by B.B. King, Chicago (then the Chicago Transit Authority) and The Velvet Underground.
“I became really close friends with Lou Reed,” Baye said. “Lou Reed is considered today to be the grandfather of punk and also the grandfather of singing about sex, drugs and rock and roll.
“I mean, in 1965 when The Beatles were singing ‘Mr. Moonlight,’ . . . songs like that, that were love songs, Lou Reed was singing a song called ‘Heroin.’ He was singing about lesbianism and transvestites, life in the city. . . Lou Reed changed music.”
Beyond Baye, many Gazette readers recently wrote in with their own memories after a Gazette article about the Aerodrome’s history, which ran on Sunday, Jan. 31.
“I was there every Sunday in all my hippie clothes and beads. Such an awesome place to be,” wrote Kathleen Fijalkowski on Facebook.
“Such a huge part of my teenage years. Janis Joplin was my favorite. I fell in love with Jeff Beck at the Aerodrome So many good memories of so many good performers. I miss those days,” wrote Deborah Hebert.
Others commented about the memorabilia they still had from that era.
“Lots of great memories and amazing groups that I never would have gotten to see if it wasn’t for the Aerodrome, much [less] being able to be close enough to touch them,” wrote James Eccles, “I still have my pink ticket for the Janis show I bought at Pee Wee Harris’ shop on Pearl Street . . . I missed the Number 5 bus that went up there from Albany that ran every hour or two. It was raining and I was mad so I went home, figuring I would catch her next time.”
One reader wrote about performing at the venue.
“The band I was in at the time, Bits n Pieces, opened for the Lemon Pipers and The Ohio Players and one or two others. Great memories during a wonderful era at a great club,” Vincent Riggi wrote. “One thing I remember as a drummer was when I counted down our first song and the massive strobe light show came on, I was blinded temporarily but quickly recovered before I fell off my drum kit and embarrassed myself.”