Walking up imaginary stairs in his Annenberg office, Christopher Harper sings The Temptations’ “My Girl” a capella. Mimicking the 1960s’ music video, he is transported back to his high school days as the lead singer of his rock ‘n’ roll cover band, The Trippers.
Harper, a communications law and international journalism professor, will need his voice as he takes off to perform during a six-hour concert along the shore of West Okoboji Lake in Arnolds Park, Iowa. He will be inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association Hall of Fame on Sept. 4, 2016 in honor of his performance as the lead singer of his band from 1965 to 1968. The induction ceremony will take place at The Roof Garden of the Arnolds Park Amusement Park, where the “Super Bowl” Battle of the Bands took place—and where Harper’s band, The Trippers, won in 1967.
“It’s kind of a gas to get recognized for something that you did almost 50 years ago,” Harper said. “So it’s really cool, it’s a nice feeling.”
Harper started teaching at Temple 11 years ago after a career in journalism, working for outlets like ABC News, The Associated Press and Newsweek.
Though he had a successful career in journalism, like many college students, Harper said he didn’t know what direction to take with his career while he studied at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the early 1970s.
“I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do other than to play rock ‘n’ roll,” he said.
The Trippers covered and recorded six songs from bands like The Doors and The Byrds, in addition to some Motown songs. The band also recorded its own original song “Have You Ever?” that eventually peaked at No. 99 on Billboard’s Top 100 list.
“We lived in the middle of nowhere,” Harper said. “We lived in flyover country, and you essentially existed on the magic carpet ride of rock ‘n’ roll. It was the radio station, not the TV, that was critical to a lot of our lives.”
The group received frequent airplay from radio stations like KISD, which airs in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where Harper attended high school.
During their high school careers, Harper said that The Trippers made about $300 per night and played three nights a week.
“Plus—we got the girls,” he said.
Senior journalism major and TSG Vice President of Services Brittany Boston had Harper as a professor for Journalism and the Law last semester. She said Harper never told the class of his rock ‘n’ roll days.
“I’m shocked, but it’s definitely very believable,” Boston said. “I know he must’ve stole the show plenty of times and had a sold out audience and kept the party going.”
The Trippers opened for rock and roll legends, like Neil Diamond and The Lovin’ Spoonful. During these shows, The Trippers often played for crowds of about 5,000 people, at the same venues that names like Bob Dylan and Buddy Holly had their starts.
“It’s really cool standing in front of a bunch of people who are actually applauding, clapping and screaming at you,” Harper said.
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Video by Harrison Brink and Linh Than; Edited by Harrison Brink.