Segment aired Dec. 31, 2014 as part of the “Dave’s Gone By” radio program hosted by Dave Lefkowitz.
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After the death of drummer Keith Moon, the Who decided to continue as a band, but they also had to figure out how to replace such a beloved and zany character. Since they couldn’t find one person who embodied everything Keith Moon was to the group, they decided on a split; they’d hire a great drummer with no personality, and a lovable mascot for stage shows.
Mascots came from all over to audition: tigers, aliens, pirates, cute sharks, smiley faces – hundreds of people dressed up in costumes hoping for this great touring gig. After many hours, the group made their choice. Because they were embarking on a U.S. tour of the East and Midwest, they picked a Florida manatee, a familiar sight along the eastern seaboard.
Night after night, the band played “Baba O’Reilly,” “My Generation” and “Pinball Wizard” while the manatee mascot danced and swam in a fake onstage pond. The audience loved every minute, and everything went great until the last show of the tour. The mascot was running late and had to enter the stadium through the crowds waiting at the front. When the impatient patrons heard the Who doing their sound check, people started pushing and shoving to get in. Patrons were getting crushed, asphyxiated and trampled to death – including the poor mascot.
One reporter who was on the scene cried, “This is terrible! One of the worst catastrophes in the world! Oh, The Who Manatee!”