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

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.”


Worshippers flock to reopened Prophet’s Mosque for Friday prayers

Updated 06 June 2020

Worshippers flock to reopened Prophet’s Mosque for Friday prayers

MADINAH: Hundreds of thousands of worshippers attended the first Friday prayers to be held at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah since the gatherings were suspended to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

The green light for the resumption of the prayer meetings came as part of a plan to gradually reopen the Kingdom’s mosques while ensuring worshippers and visitors adhered to preventive measures.

A ban on access to the Rawdah remained in place and only groups of worshippers numbering up to a maximum of 40 percent of the mosque’s capacity were being allowed entry.

Precautionary measures also included the allocation of specific doors for the entry of worshippers, the installation of thermal cameras, removal of all carpets so that prayers could be performed on the marble, sanitization of the mosque’s floors and courtyards, periodic opening of domes and canopies to ventilate the mosque, and the removal of Zamzam water containers.

The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah will be closed after evening prayers and reopened one hour before dawn prayers. Parking lots will operate at 50 percent capacity and a media awareness campaign has been launched to highlight safety procedures at the holy site.

Medical teams have also been stationed at the main entrances to the mosque in cooperation with the Ministry of Health.

Elsewhere in the Kingdom, worshippers also flocked to perform Friday prayers at mosques amid strict health measures.

On May 31, Saudi authorities reopened all mosques for prayers, except in Makkah, as part of the Kingdom’s plan for a gradual return to normal life.

Last week the minister of Islamic affairs, dawah and guidance said that the country’s mosques were ready to welcome back worshippers, following his field trips to check that necessary preparations had been made.

All worshippers must still maintain a distance of 2 meters between rows, wear masks to enter a mosque, and Friday sermons and prayers have been limited to a maximum of 15 minutes.