Scot Halpin

Thomas Scot Halpin (February 3, 1954 – February 9, 2008) was an American artist and musician best known for an incident in 1973 when, in the audience at a concert by the Who at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California, he ended up playing drums onstage after the band's drummer Keith Moon passed out mid-show. Halpin's performance won him Rolling Stone's "Pick-Up Player of the Year Award" later that year.[1]

Scot Halpin
Born(1954-02-03)3 February 1954
Muscatine, Iowa, United States
Died9 February 2008(2008-02-09) (aged 54)
Bloomington, Indiana, United States
Years active1973
Associated actsThe Who

Education and careerEdit

Halpin was born in Muscatine, Iowa, to Elizabeth and Richard Halpin, of Muscatine. He grew up in Muscatine, showing early promise as a visual artist and musician. In the early 1970s, he moved to California, where he met his wife and life-time collaborator Robin Young at City College of San Francisco in 1978. Halpin went on to earn an MA in Interdisciplinary Arts from San Francisco State University.

Halpin became composer in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts, in Sausalito, California, and played with a number of bands over the years, including: The Sponges, Funhouse, Folklore, SnakeDoctor and Plank Road. While on the West Coast, Halpin and his wife managed a new wave punk rock night club, The Roosevelt, before moving to Indiana in 1995 to pursue opportunities in the visual arts.[1]

Playing with the WhoEdit

On November 20, 1973, the Who were opening their Quadrophenia US concert tour at the Cow Palace in Daly City, a suburb just south of San Francisco. Halpin, a 19-year-old who had recently moved to the area from Muscatine, Iowa, was there with a friend, Mike Danese, using tickets they had bought from a stranger. As big fans of the band, they arrived at the show long before the doors opened to get good seats.[2]

The Who opened the show with three of their earlier hits before launching into material from Quadrophenia, playing eleven of the album's 17 songs and then continuing on to other hits. About 70 minutes into the show, drummer Keith Moon, whose fondness for drugs and alcohol was legendary, began to falter during "Won't Get Fooled Again", then suddenly slumped over his drum kit, and was helped off by roadies while the others members of the band finished the song as best they could without him. Backstage, Moon was placed in a cold shower by the roadies in an attempt to revive him. Their efforts worked. An injection of cortisone got him back onstage after approximately a 30-minute delay.[3]

Moon having returned, the show continued with "Magic Bus". The percussion of the song's opening verses consisted only of Moon hitting two wooden blocks against one another. However, at the song's conclusion, Moon passed out again, slumping onto his drums. He was carried off again — this time not to return. Guitarist Pete Townshend later said in an interview that Moon had consumed ketamine pills - a tranquilizer primarily to be given to horses, together with a large volume of brandy.[4]

The remaining three band members then played a short jam, before going into "See Me, Feel Me", without drums, with vocalist Roger Daltrey adding a tambourine for percussion. The song received a huge response - the audience aware that the band were trying their best to continue - and Pete Townshend apologized to the crowd and thanked them for putting up with a three-quarter-strength band, saying "I think it should be us applauding you". Townshend then asked the crowd, "Can anybody play the drums?" He repeated the question, adding humorously, "I mean somebody good!"[5]

At this time, Halpin and his friend were at the left edge of the stage, and his friend, Mike Danese, began noisily telling the security staff, "He can play!" In truth, Halpin was lacking practice and had not played drums in a year, but Danese made enough of a commotion that he had attracted the concert's promoter, Bill Graham.

Graham just looked at me and said, "Can you do it?" And I said, "Yes," straight out. Townshend and Daltrey look around at me and they're as surprised as I am, because Graham put me up there.[2][3]

Halpin was given a small shot of brandy for his nerves before taking his place behind his first drumset since leaving Iowa.

Then I got really focused, and Townshend said to me, "You'll be fine. I'm going to lead you. I'm going to cue you.[3]

Townshend shook Halpin's hand as he sat down. Moon's drum roadie, Mick Double, pointed out to Halpin that the hi-hat pedal was locked closed, whereas it would normally be unlocked by most drummers (this was because Moon played two bass drums in his large drumset, and preferred to play the hi-hat with his sticks). Daltrey introduced Halpin to the audience as "Scott", and went straight into the riff of "Smokestack Lightning". This was a very loose blues jam, Halpin's competent drum work fitting in well enough, and it shortly became "Spoonful". Less successful, however, was his contribution to the more complex "Naked Eye", and he struggled to provide the contrasting tempos, despite Townshend attempting to give him instructions. To his credit, Halpin did not appear at all flustered, though, and established a steady beat throughout. The show ended after "Naked Eye", and Halpin took a center-stage bow with Daltrey, Townshend, and bass guitarist John Entwistle. Afterwards, he was taken backstage, along with his friend Mike, joined the band for a drink and snacks, and was given a Who concert jacket, which Halpin said was stolen from him later that night.[3] Despite Moon's collapse, the concert lasted around the same length as most Who gigs at this time.

In later interviews, Daltrey talked about the evening, saying "Pete took Keith's passing out on stage in his stride, he kind of expected it might happen one day, but I was bloody angry with Keith for days afterwards. I thought he'd let everyone down.". Daltrey also praised Halpin's ability, claiming that the "papers missed it. He did a good job". Interviewed by Rolling Stone, Halpin admired the Who's great stamina, admitting, "I only played three numbers and I was dead."[6]

On January 27, 2009, the Who posted a link on their official website announcing a memorial blog in memory of him.[7]


From 1995 until his death, Halpin resided in Bloomington, Indiana, with his wife Robin and son, James.[2] According to local newspapers in the Bloomington area, Halpin died February 9, 2008, of an inoperable non-malignant brain tumor.[8]

In September 2017, an event to celebrate Halpin's life and work was held in Bloomington.[9]


  1. ^ a b Private Memorial. "Making Everlasting Memories, worldwide memorialization, establish a living family history". Retrieved 2013-08-14.
  2. ^ a b c Interview with National Public Radio, February 18, 2006
  3. ^ a b c d Whiting, Sam (1996-10-17). "Who's Drummer? Teen got his 15 minutes of fame". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
  4. ^ Rolling Stone, July 14, 1979
  5. ^ Audio from performance bootleg
  6. ^ Rolling Stone Magazine, January 4, 1974
  7. ^ "The Who'S Substitute Drummer, T. Scot Halpin, To Have Daily Memorial Blog". The Who. 2009-01-27. Retrieved 2013-08-14.
  8. ^ "Obituaries for Feb. 10, 2008". Retrieved 2013-08-14.
  9. ^ "Saturday event will celebrate life, works of T. Scot Halpin" - The Hoosier Times, September 6, 2017

External linksEdit