1970 cover of Soul Bowl program showing Tina Turner

Soul Bowl ’70

James Brown, the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, and other luminaries performed a historic show in Tulane Stadium in 1970 — all for a good cause, raising funds for scholarships for Black students.

Above: Soul Bowl program cover image courtesy Tulane University Special Collections

Imagine this. Your favorite artists. An incredible lineup jam-packed in one night. All happening right in front of your eyes and on the 50-yard line of your college campus stadium.

This was the exact case one fall evening in Uptown New Orleans over 50 years ago. On Oct. 24, 1970, Tulane University played host to a show that could easily go down in history as one of the most star-studded collectives ever assembled.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Soul Bowl ’70.

The reality of thinking back more than 50 years ago, in the United States, can bring many to see some stark similarities between then and now. With the 1960s turning into the 1970s, the hope of the new decade was to leave any form of turbulence behind.

Tulane Football even dubbed 1970 as the “Year of the Green” for its expected team success on the gridiron.* However, no sports victory could fully distract communities from significant matters impacting all Americans. From social tensions and rising movements for change to controversies in leadership and international affairs, all institutions met these forces head on, and Tulane was no exception.

As the university was navigating these challenges, an obstacle that also stood tall for Tulane was the expiration of a Rockefeller grant in 1970. Scholarship funds of $500,000, provided by the Rockefeller Foundation, played a vital role in Tulane financially supporting and admitting students of color starting in 1964.

The increased admission of students of color along with their achievement in the classroom helped Tulane to not only become more of an academic powerhouse but also a more culturally enriched environment. Despite the success of this effort, the grant was not intended to be a long-term solution.

Funds from the grant would be fully utilized by the time students graduated in 1973, and Black Tulane students were highly concerned that more solutions for new revenue streams were not being solidified.

Isaac Hayes at Tulane Stadium Oct. 24, 1970
Isaac Hayes performs at the Soul Bowl in Tulane Stadium on October 24, 1970. (Jambalaya yearbook photo courtesy Tulane University Special collections)

Although then-Tulane President Herbert E. Longenecker promised the community that plans were in progress for more funding, various Tulanians did not wait and jumped into action.

Thus, the Committee on Expanding Educational Opportunity (CEEO) was formed in 1969, led by David R. Deener, provost and dean of the Graduate School. An initial campaign was established that raised over $15,000.

The campaign ensured that students were covered for the 1970–71 academic year and that the university would continue to admit students of color at the same rate as previous years. But the campaign also made it clear that larger sums of money through bigger mediums were needed to maintain momentum. Fortunately, through the imagination of students on the CEEO, a much bigger medium was conceived: Soul Bowl ’70.


The CEEO understood from the start that Soul Bowl ’70 would not be the ultimate, end-all solution. However, the committee believed that the concert could bring two elements to the forefront: the establishment of greater financial support and a bridge between a predominately White institution and a Black city, especially its youth. The CEEO shot for the stars in how they envisioned the show with its goal of raising $250,000 in scholarship funds.

The emphasis on soul, instead of rock, was a key factor for the CEEO as they wanted to drive home how this style of music, its influential fanfare and a genuine cause could bring an audience of 50,000-plus to Tulane Stadium. The plan was to deliver a full house grooving for six hours to a who’s who of chart-topping artists, genre-bending talent and future Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legends. The lineup featured Jr. Walker and the All Stars, Rare Earth, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Isaac Hayes and James Brown.

The lineup raised eyebrows and piqued interest from music lovers both near and far. The biggest hurdle in delivering the show was its production costs. The CEEO and Tulane University officials agreed that an underwriting of $150,000 was needed to protect stakeholders from any financial losses. Tulane stepped in and committed to provide $50,000 of underwriting if the CEEO could locate the remaining $100,000.

Finding $100,000 was a daunting task for the CEEO, and it led to the postponement of the show twice. But the CEEO and its students prevailed, securing funding and the Oct. 24 event date by partnering with various White and Black businesses, public officials and New Orleans civic leaders. The CEEO also relied on members of the Tulane community — fellow students, faculty, staff, and alumni — to ensure that funding was solidified and that the show would go on.

Excitement was undoubtedly in the air for showtime, but the day also brought setbacks —both expected and unexpected. The start of the show was delayed, leaving concertgoers baking under the sun. In addition, rumors spread that Soul Bowl would turn into a race riot, which scared away some potential attendees from Tulane Stadium.

But keeping in tune with the nature of soul music, the crowd stayed cool until the show opened an hour late with Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, followed by PG&E and Rare Earth. Although Rare Earth was experiencing great success on the charts in 1970 with their version of “Get Ready,” the band, along with PG&E, received a lukewarm reception from the predominantly Black audience in the stadium.

Concert reviews from the Oct. 30, 1970, edition of The Tulane Hullabaloo and the publication Down Beat claimed that both acts — groups consisting of Black and White members — were not well received by the audience and were only included in Soul Bowl ’70 to leverage their pop chart success into more White supporters and faces in the crowd.
Nevertheless, attention and admiration from the crowd skyrocketed with the introduction of the man once called “Black Moses.” Accompanied by a 21-piece band, consisting of members from the New Orleans Symphony, Isaac Hayes took the stage to pure adulation.

The crowd became unglued and rushed the stage. The organizers had hoped guests would stay in their bleacher seats throughout the show and urged the audience to return to their original seats and stop blocking the speakers.

The police and security initially tried to keep fans away. But the fans were too enamored with Hayes and his offerings to leave the field. Both the police and security relented and eased up restrictions. Once Hayes finished his set with a shortened version of “I Stand Accused,” the show elevated to another level of positive momentum with the arrival of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.

Tina Turner and the Ikettes in Tulane Stadium for the 1970 Soul Bowl
Tina Turner and the Ikettes electrify the audience at Soul Bowl ’70 in Tulane Stadium on Oct. 24, 1970. The show was organized by the Committee on Expanding Educational Opportunity to raise scholarships for Black students. (Photo by Michael P. Smith Courtesy Historic New Orleans Collection)

“What You See Is What You Get” was the first number of the set. The stage presence of the Revue brought a frenzy to New Orleans and delighted the crowd. Backed by Ike on guitar and the signature dancing trio, the Ikettes, Tina owned the stage with a prowess that kept the audience following every move and groove.

Ripping through classics like “What Do You Like?,” “Honky Tonk Woman” and the timeless “Proud Mary,” the crowd watched a master at work in Tina. The Turner collective had Tulane Stadium in the palm of its hand and didn ’t ease up its grip as it approached the closing number, “I Want To Take You Higher.” The Sly & the Family Stone remake kept the crowd on its feet — and anxiously awaiting the closing act, James Brown.

A major concern stood at the core of the show ’s last delay: With fans clamoring for Brown, how to safely transport Soul Brother No. 1 from the dressing room to the stage?

“Inside the car, it sounded like a shell attack in a war movie. … The boss never said a word, never displayed a hint of fear or concern.”

ALAN LEEDS, tour manager for James Brown

The wait was worth the visual that added to the legend of both Soul Bowl ’70 and the “Godfather of Soul.” After back-and-forth deliberation between Brown’s team and security, the plan was set: Utilize a car, circled by police members, to take Brown, his tour manager Alan Leeds, his promoter Bob Patton, his dancer Ann Norman, and his bodyguard and newly assigned driver James Pearson to the stage among a sea of dedicated supporters. In his book, There Was a Time: James Brown, the Chitlin’ Circuit, and Me, Leeds detailed the moment as a frighteningly rewarding experience.

Leeds wrote, “Inside the car, it sounded like a shell attack in a war movie. Pearson pointlessly shouted directions to Patton, Ann nervously clung to my arm, and James was cold silent. … The boss never said a word, never displayed a hint of fear or concern.”

All worries ceased once Brown and his entourage joined his band, The J.B.’s, on stage and proceeded to give the audience all the signature elements of the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”

The call-and-response with famed band director and on-stage hype man Bobby Byrd. The dramatic drop to the knees to convey command of the crowd. Shouts of “I want to get up and do my thang!” from the ultimate showman. Nonstop dancing while leading his own 21-piece band and balancing the machismo of “Sex Machine” with the romance of “Try Me” and never missing a beat.

James Brown performs in Tulane Stadium at the Soul Bowl '70 on October 24, 1970
James Brown, known as the Godfather of Soul and Soul Brother No. 1, was the ultimate showman, satisfying the crowd with nonstop dancing and musicianship. (Photo By Alan Leeds Courtesy Historic New Orleans Collection)

The vibrancy and passion Brown displayed in his more than hourlong performance gave no inkling that he was fresh off a show in Tallahassee, Florida, the previous night. New Orleans DJ legend, Soul Bowl ’70 talent agent, and show emcee Larry McKinley was quoted in a New York City newspaper article about the concert, “Nobody else could have closed this show but James Brown. … It’s unbelievable how these kids love him.”

After his final number, the showman thrust his clenched fist in the air — a fitting symbol of solidarity — as the audience shouted their approval in a chorus of “Right on, right on” before Brown and his entourage jumped back in the car to depart the venue.

Soul Bowl ’70 was a success. The CEEO had pulled off the unthinkable. But the labors of their reward came at a cost. Delays caused the show to end at 9 p.m., three hours later than originally intended. The show avoided becoming uncontrollable and raucous like other rock concerts of its time. However, a number of fans still endured a few cuts and scrapes due to frantic stage-rushers seeking a closer look at their favorite performers.

Numerous reports clashed over accurate attendance figures: Some claimed that up to 40,000 were at the stadium. The Nov. 6, 1970, Tulane Hullabaloo reported that only 26,000 were on hand and later declared, in the Dec. 17, 1970, edition, that revenue only amounted to $130,000, which almost equaled the amount in underwriting to produce and deliver Soul Bowl ’70.

In spite of Soul Bowl ’70 not incurring any true financial loss, the attendance was not enough to generate great profit to refurbish scholarship funds as intended. Provost Deener responded that “funds for scholarships for disadvantaged students will be realized, however, through contributions to the Committee, particularly by some of those who had agreed to act as guarantors for the event.”

Questions lingered on what more could have been accomplished to push Soul Bowl ’70 to greater heights. Could rumors of a race riot been quelled much faster? Was a larger amount of support from more White students and locals needed? Why were only a limited number of tickets donated to charity? Should Soul Bowl ’70 have included more jazz or other entertainers to walk the tightrope between rock and soul?

Sadly, Soul Bowl ’70 was a one-time affair for music lovers, Tulane and the city of New Orleans. The what-ifs are plentiful, but a few results are positively undeniable. The CEEO delivered a lineup of megastars, in pursuit of a worthwhile endeavor, and also opened the doors of the university to plenty of Black and Brown faces who maybe never thought Tulane could be their home for higher education.

Furthermore, presented in the same year as the inaugural Jazz Fest, Soul Bowl ’70, one could argue, further cemented the groundwork that can be seen in other New Orleans festival staples like BUKU and Voodoo Fest. Leeds wrote in his book that Soul Bowl ’70 “was the largest [single-day] Black musical event until Wattstax in Los Angeles a few years later.”**
To this day, very few images exist of Soul Bowl ’70. The most consistent, documented commentary about the event resides in past issues of The Tulane Hullabaloo and Tulane ’s annual yearbook, the Jambalaya.

Video footage of the show on Oct. 24, 1970, has yet to be uncovered by historians. However, the hope exists that footage will one day be brought to light so that music aficionados can relish the talents of the performers and also celebrate each and every member of the CEEO.

With unsurmountable odds against them, the CEEO boldly took on responsibility from the university ’s administration and admission offices in the name of good will, true equity, inclusivity and an even greater Tulane for the future. Their risk, efforts and bravery truly embody the soul of Tulane ’s motto: not for one’s self, but for one ’s own.

Now, that, we can dig it!

* In 1970, Tulane Football ended their campaign with an 8-4 record and defeated Colorado in the Liberty Bowl with a score of 17-3. The “Year of the Green” was a success as the team finished their season ranked 17th in the final AP poll.

** In 1969, a series of free concerts spanning over six weeks, known as the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, was held at Mount Morris Park (now known as Marcus Garvey Park) in Harlem, New York, and drew over 300,000 fans. The Harlem Cultural Festival was headlined by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, the 5th Dimension, the Staples Singers, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Sly and the Family Stone, and more. In 2021, a documentary was released on the concert — Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The documentary, produced by Tulane alumnus Robert J. Fyvolent (A&S ’84), premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in March 2022. In 1972, the city of Los Angeles hosted a single-day event called Wattstax led by Stax Records recording artists including Luther Ingram, Kim Weston, The Bar-Kays, The Staples Singers, Johnnie Taylor and Isaac Hayes. Wattstax was created to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the 1965 Watts riots and was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. When representatives of Stax Records met with managers of the Coliseum, the Memphis-born record label was met with much skepticism that it could fill the venue. On Aug. 20, 1972, 112,000 fans attended the show. It was the largest gathering of African Americans outside of a civil rights event to that date. Wattstax would not only live on as a recorded album but also a Golden Globe–nominated documentary film in 1974. In 2020, the Library of Congress tapped the concert documentary for preservation in the National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”


This story is not possible without the time and support of outstanding contributors. The author extends his deepest gratitude to the following for assistance in this feature:

• Ann Case, university archivist, Tulane University Special Collections
• Rusty Costanza, university photographer, Tulane University Office of Communications and Marketing, 
• Jillian Cuellar, director, Tulane University Special Collections
• Alan Leeds, author of There Was a Time: James Brown, the Chitlin’ Circuit, and Me
• Hillary Lowry, assistant director, Tulane University Office of Advancement 
• Christian McBride, jazz musician
• Susan McCann, digital resources coordinator, Tulane University Office of Communications and Marketing 
• Amy Morvant, creative director, Tulane University Office of Advancement
• Jennifer Navarre, senior research associate, The Historic New Orleans Collection
• Lori Schexnayder, research services library associate, Tulane University Special Collections
• The Tulane Hullabaloo
• Melissa A. Weber, curator, Hogan Archive of New Orleans Music and New Orleans Jazz, Tulane University Special Collections