The funky Second Ending logo rolls across the screen, then fades to the KWSU TV studio where a young band takes the stage for a concert in February 1976. After an energetic instrumental prelude, the lead singer steps to the microphone and says, “Welcome in, everybody. This is Heart here and this is gonna be a nice evening.”
With that introduction to a packed studio audience of Washington State University students and others, Ann and Nancy Wilson and the other members of Heart launch into songs from their soon-to-be-released Dreamboat Annie, the album that brought the band international fame.
Behind camera two, right up next to the stage, Rich Cowan ’79 was filming close-ups of the musicians and their instruments for the KWSU live music program. “It was loud,” says Cowan, “but the voices were amazing. Rock and rollers don’t always have those kinds of voices.”
He and the other camera crew members had to wrap their headphones in Ace bandages to hear the director’s instructions.
Upstairs in the engineer’s booth as he ran the video and recording, Don Peters ’69 felt the bass thumping up through the floor. He had the monitors cranked to enjoy the music.
“I was really taken with Nancy’s guitar playing,” says Peters. “I was blown away. The power of Ann’s voice makes that connection with you.”
As the Wilsons, Roger Fisher, Howard Leese, and Michael Derosier played “Magic Man,” “Crazy On You,” and other future staples of rock music, freshman Steve Wilson ’78 ran cables as a grip and backed up camera three. “It was their signature sound,” he says. “They brought in all their stuff and we did a sound check in the morning. I remember they were really friendly.”
The Heart concert was memorable for the student and professional production staff, but Second Ending ran two or three concerts a month at KWSU in the 1970s. The show, created and directed by the late Mike Cotsones, aired on PBS stations around the Northwest, along with several other WSU-produced original series.
“Mike Cotsones, the director, was a real rock ’n’ roll aficionado, and I had never heard the band until he played Heart’s music for us before the show. I think as director there were a couple of times he got a little over-excited because he was so happy to have them there,” says Cowan.
For Heart, that Pullman concert in 1976, “shows us at a seminal moment in our performance development. This is a band with one foot in clubs and the other on the concert stage,” writes Ann Wilson in an email. “I remember being pretty nervous, and feeling pretty thrilled to be there.”
The Wilson sisters chose the KWSU appearance for their retrospective collection Strange Euphoria, released earlier this year with four CDs of the band’s favorite studio and live music. A DVD of the Second Ending concert rounds out the set, showcasing a band that went on to sell over 30 million records and influence numerous other musicians in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
“We are a Northwest band (a Northwest bar band actually), and anytime we can touch our roots we are proud to do so,” writes Ann Wilson about selecting the concert for the collection.
“Back in the mid-70s, music was really part of the zeitgeist of the campus. Having this band with two leaders who were women was a little outside the box,” says Cowan.
The concert was recorded in mono with few special effects, but the band “brought their own sound equipment, so what they captured was really primo,” says Peters. “Back then we didn’t have all the tools to fix things. We were pretty much flying by the seat of our pants, we got one chance at recording and hoped it better be right. Fortunately for Heart, it was.”
The student staff took the skills they gained at KWSU and on programs like Second Ending into the professional world. Cowan worked at KHQ in Spokane before starting Spokane-based production company North by Northwest, which has about 50 feature films and numerous television programs and commercials to its credit. Cowan retired as CEO of North by Northwest and is running for Congress.
Steve Wilson went to work for KING TV in Seattle, where he directed Almost Live for 15 years and now directs New Day Northwest for the station.
Don Peters kept working at KWSU, where he is now director of engineering. Counting his time as a student production engineer, he has worked with the station for about 42 years.