The forgotten tour: US band that rocked Saudi Arabia

The rock band Starbuck was formed in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1974 by lead vocalist and record producer Bruce Blackman. Bandmates Darryl Kutz, Johnny Walker and Bo Wagner played gigs throughout their 1978 trip to Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province.
Updated 12 January 2019
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The forgotten tour: US band that rocked Saudi Arabia

  • Photos of an American rock group’s trip to the Eastern Province in the 1970s spark nostalgia on social media

RIYADH: A series of photos of the US band Starbuck on tour in Al-Ahsa in the 1970s has been doing the rounds on Twitter. And by the looks of it, they had a rockin’ good time.

Starbuck was formed in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1974 and rose to fame with their 1976 hit “Moonlight Feels Right,” which reached No. 3 on the US Billboard Charts. 

Oil giant Aramco invited the band to perform in Saudi Arabia in 1978 to entertain the American geologists it employed. Their tour lasted two weeks, during which time they played at Aramco outposts along the Kingdom’s east coast. 

Although pictures from the tour were posted eight years ago on Facebook, they grabbed attention when they were posted to Twitter in early January by Mohammed Al-Khalifah (@desertlover79), who is well known for posting vintage photos of Saudi, particularly the Eastern Province.

Al-Khalifah came across them while searching for old photos of his home region of Al-Ahsa. In the first two days they were on Twitter, the photos had garnered over 700,000 views.

The photographs were first shared on Facebook by Davie Holifield, daughter of Starbuck’s lead guitarist Darryl Kutz. On a tribute page to the late musician, Holifield has posted more than 800 photographs chronicling her father’s life, including those of the band’s Saudi tour.

“My father was a career musician and we had so many photos we wanted to share with friends, relatives and fans of all of the bands he was in. When he died suddenly of a heart attack at age 46, we were devastated. So we started the page as a place to share his photos,” said Holifield.

The album dedicated to the Saudi Arabian tour contains almost 200 photos of the various band members, mostly taken by Kutz. And judging by their quality, he could have made it as a photojournalist if he hadn’t been a musician. 

The pictures feature the pristine beaches of Ras Tanoura, the blooming bougainvillea trees of the Aramco compound in Dhahran, and the magnificent rock formations at Jabal Qarah. The pictures also show the members of Starbuck, along with their interpreters — Mohammed and Alawi.

Kenny Crysler, Starbuck’s drummer, expressed how fondly he remembered the trip. “As you can see from the beautiful pictures that Darryl took, we really had a good time visiting and experiencing the country,” he said. “Everyone we met seemed to really appreciate our being there. It was quite an adventure being able to just walk around and visit some of the old towns.”

According to Crysler, the band mainly stayed in Dhahran, though he recalls visiting several different towns during the tour. Kutz’s photos show them taking one of Aramco’s F-27 planes during their stay, and Crysler recalls them taking planes to get around.

“I remember flying to one concert and, shortly after taking off, Darryl had a problem with his inner ear and we had to land. We left Darryl on the ground and then flew to the next concert venue. Darryl was able to make friends and somehow get a ride to the concert without speaking the language. He was amazing at making friends wherever we happened to be,” Crysler said.

As the photos continue to gain traction on Twitter, there have been numerous responses from people pleased to see the region in the spotlight.

“These are beautiful. Long live Al-Ahsa!” tweeted one user.

“Weird to think that when these pictures were taken, 70% of Saudis weren’t even born yet,” pointed out another.

Holifield hopes that the pictures will help her father’s memory — and that of the band — live on. “Maybe others who remember that trip will get to see them,” she said. “And as for my father, we miss him terribly, but we love being able to keep him alive in the memories from those days.”


Investigation into alleged mistakes in Yemen find coalition forces acted properly

Updated 2 min 20 sec ago
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Investigation into alleged mistakes in Yemen find coalition forces acted properly

JEDDAH: The Joint Incident Assessment Team in Yemen (JIAT) has investigated four allegations made by international governmental and non-governmental organizations and media about mistakes made by coalition forces while carrying out military operations inside Yemen.
JIAT spokesman Mansour Al-Mansour said that the team concluded that the procedures followed by the coalition forces were proper and safe, taking into consideration the rules of engagement, international humanitarian law and the coalition’s own rules.
Team members visited a number of cities in Yemen, including Aden, Lahj and Khor Maksar, during the investigation and spoke to witnesses, victims and their families to gather evidence and establish the facts.
In one of the incidents that was investigated, coalition warship fired on and destroyed a craft in the waters off the Yemeni port of Al-Khokha in September. Al-Mansour said that after examining documents and evidence JIAT had concluded that an alliance ship was escorting and protecting a flotilla of three Saudi merchant ships when, in an area off the port of Al-Khokha, a boat was spotted approaching the convoy at a high speed from the direction of the Yemeni coast.
The escort ship followed the accepted rules of engagement by repeatedly warning the unidentified vessel, using loudspeakers, not to come any closer. When these went unheeded, warning shots were fired but the boat continued to approach.
“On reaching an area that represented a threat to the convoy, the protection ship tackled the boat according to the rules of engagement and targeted it, resulting in an explosion on the boat,” said Al-Mansour. “The protection ship continued escorting the convoy. After the escort task was completed, the protection ship returned to the site of the targeted boat to carry out a search-and-rescue operation for the crew of the target boat but no one was found.”