Rock Chalk Jayhawk: KU basketball traditions fill ‘The Phog’
The death of recording artist/rock star Eddie Money on Friday at the age of 70 brings to mind one of the most memorable renditions of the national anthem sung before a basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse history.
Money, who at the time was 60, twirled in a full circle then blew a kiss to the crowd after singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the Kansas-Missouri ESPN Big Monday contest on Jan. 25, 2010.
Fans in the student section were especially fond of Money, and he visited with them before the game. They led a loud chant of “Eddie, Eddie” immediately following the anthem.
Wearing jeans and a white long-sleeved shirt, Money, whose hair was disheveled that evening, had the students in the palm of his right hand (he held the microphone in his left) by stopping late in the song to declare, “I love this country!” before singing the final words, “Home of the Brave.”
“I’m in Allen Fieldhouse. This is where Wilt Chamberlain played. I just saw Danny Manning. I had a chance to meet Gale Sayers. I’m in heaven,” Money — whose hits included “Two Tickets to Paradise,” “Take Me Home Tonight,” and “Baby Hold On” — said before the game.
“I played with the (Rolling) Stones, and I wasn’t nervous like I am now,” Money added. “The only song I get nervous about singing is ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ I sang it at a Chiefs game a couple years ago when they played the Raiders. This is the highlight of my life.
“My son goes to junior college. I wish he was here today to see how beautiful the girls are who go to school in the Midwest. I’ve been to UCLA, all over the place. The prettiest girls in the country are right here,” Money added of KU.
KU in the past has not had many “famous” artists sing the anthem. That’s why Money’s appearance came as somewhat of a surprise prior to the KU-MU game, which the Jayhawks won 84-65.
“I remember he came early for a sound check. They took him to the locker room and showed him the facilities. He loved the students, being around the students. The students loved him,” recalled Jeff Bollig, one of the two individuals to make Money’s appearance at KU a reality.
Bollig, a former associate sports information director at KU, was at a holiday party chatting with corporate travel coordinator John Craig, who worked directly with Money the past 23 years.
“He told me about Eddie being a big sports fan and said he sang in arenas. I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if he sang the national anthem at Allen Fieldhouse?’ He (Craig) said without hesitation he (Money) would do it,” Bollig stated.
Bollig checked with KU marketing officials, who quickly OK’d the idea.
Money was in Allen Fieldhouse singing within a few weeks of the conversation between Craig and Bollig.
“He paid his own way,” Bollig said of Money, a Brooklyn, New York, native, who lived in the Bay Area, then Los Angeles the past many years.
“He didn’t perform the Rock Chalk Chant or alma mater as I recall. He was a little nervous. I know everybody was very excited about his appearance.”
Craig remembers the evening well. Money’s seats were right behind ESPN announcers Bob Knight and Brent Musberger. Money made a guest appearance on the broadcast during the game.
A gracious guest, he even had a gift for KU coach Bill Self.
“He gave me a guitar,” Self told The Star. “He gave it to someone to give to me that night.”
Of course, Self was in a great mood that evening, the Jayhawks pounding Missouri by 19 points.
“The whole night was cool. He knocked it out of the park; then we watched a great game,” said Craig. He noted that Money sang the anthem more than once at Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Raiders games.
Money also performed the anthem before one Chiefs and one Royals game.
He posed for a photo with Alex Gordon and two other Royals players before the Royals-A’s contest on June 1, 2012. He also spoke with reporter Joel Goldberg that day, Money indicating he’d been to Kauffman Stadium before.
“I saw George Brett play, (Dan) Quisenberry, man, Amos (Otis),” Money said to Goldberg. “I’m a big Royals fan. I played back here back with Steve Miller. I played here another time with Fleetwood Mac in the ‘80s. ... There’s nothing like people from Kansas City. It’s a sweetheart of a place to live. This is George Brett country. This is a baseball town. Kansas City is a baseball town.”
Toby Cook, Royals’ vice president of publicity, recalled Money’s singing appearance Friday on Twitter.
“What a great artist, Eddie Money. I got to hand him the mic once when he sang the anthem at The K. And he nailed it,” Cook wrote.
His anthem rendition at a Chiefs game came in 2006. He made the most of a trip to KC, performing at the Uptown Theater the night before an Arrowhead appearance.
“It was Herm’s first year here,” Craig said of Herm Edwards. “I remember at KU, he (Money) performed a capella. The Chiefs … he had to lay down a track, a CD.
“Eddie used to say he hated it,” Craig added of singing the anthem, “because it’s one of the hardest songs to sing with different pitches and speeds. When somebody famous messes up, it’s a huge deal. When they do fine, nobody says anything.”
Craig stressed that Money was a “consummate pro. In 23 years he never missed a flight. I called him the blue-collar rock star.”