Unzipping The History Behind The Zip Code Tour

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Rolling Stones On Ed Sullivan
Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Rolling Stones have, as you all know, played to more people around the world than any other band in history. The band’s love affair with American concertgoers began in June 1964 when they toured America for the very first time, but to begin with it was a slow burn.

Today there are people that claim to have seen the Stones on their first U.S. tour, truth is they are probably confused and it was either on their second or even third tour that they caught the band live in concert for the first time. The fact is the Stones did just 9 nine shows in 8 eight cities in June 1964, with hundreds rather than thousands turning out to see the band.

In 2015 it will be hundreds of thousands that will see Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie on their cunningly named Zip Code Tour…but why Zip Code? Well, the reissue of the band’s classic album Sticky Fingers will coincide with the tour – the one with the working zip on the cover…

It was on 1 June 1964, the day before Charlie’s 23rd birthday, that the Stones arrived in New York City. With 500 screaming fans to greet them at the airport they were met with cries of “Get your hair cut”, and “Are you the Beatles”, not from the fans of course, but from passengers and airport staff. Two of the cities they played on that very first tour are being visited again this summer on the Zip Code Tour – Minneapolis and Pittsburgh.

It will 51 years almost to the day that the Stones are back in Minnesota, not of course for the first time, but this year they are playing the Minneapolis TCF Bank Stadium, an outdoor arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis that opened in 2009 and can accommodate 50,000 people. In 1964 they played Big Reggie’s Danceland at the Excelsior Amusement Park 20 miles down the road from Minneapolis. Around 400 fans turned out to see the band, which was well under half the capacity of the ballroom. They were playing, ‘Route 66’, ‘Not Fade Away’, ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, ‘High Heel Sneakers’, ‘I’m Alright’ and ‘I Just Wanna Make Love To You’.

Last year Gary Reins from Excelsior, told a local TV station, “They were having this new band, Rolling Stones from England. Well, everybody had Beatlemania! So, OK, we will go check it out and it was really poorly attended. It was not like a big concert. It was very small and they were not even well liked.” Times have changed…

Five days later in 1964 the Stones played West View Park in Pittsburgh to an enthusiastic crowd that was nearly three times larger than the audience in Minnesota. In 2015 it will be another 50,000 plus crowd at Heinz Field, which is the home of the Pittsburgh Stealers.

In between these two dates in 1964 the Stones were in the motor City, Detroit, on 14 June where they played Olympia, a 12,000 capacity barn of a building that was where the Detroit Red Wings hockey team used to play; it was another paltry crowd of around 1,000 that turned up to see them play – there are even some that suggest it was closer to 500. In 1964 the Detroit free Press said, “Their records aren’t selling well, and DJ’s only play them occasionally. They said ‘We’ll be back, & when we come, the people will know about it’. Back they may be, with more promotion, but wait and see what the reaction is.” In 2015 we think we know what the reaction will be at a sell out of the 40,000 plus capacity Comerica Park in Downtown Detroit.

Five months after their first North American visit the band were back for a second bigger and better organised tour. This time the crowds were generally larger, but not everywhere, as their first visit to San Diego, one of the cities on the Zip Code tour, proves. On 24 May 1964 they played an evening show at the Balboa Park Bowl, an open-air venue similar to the Hollywood Bowl that was built in the 1930s. They had played the Long Beach Arena in the afternoon and drawn a crowd of 13,000. However, at Balboa Park there were only around 300 fans in a place that could accommodate over 4,000.

Ten days later in 1964 the band was at the Milwaukee Auditorium in Wisconsin and according to the Milwaukee Journal, the following day, the stones played, “To a crowd of 1,274 fans at Milwaukee Auditorium. Although Brian Jones remained in a Chicago hospital with a high fever, the rest of the band performed. Chances are, few in the audience missed his [Jones’] wailing harmonica. Screams from a thousand throats drowned out all but the most insistent electronic cacophony and the two-fisted smashes of drummer Charlie Watts. Unless someone teaches guitar chords to chimpanzees, the visual ultimate has been reached in the Rolling Stones. With shoulder length hair and high-heeled boots, they seemed more feminine than their fans. The Stones make the Beatles look like clean cut kids. You think it must be some kind of parody – but the little girls in front paid $5.50 a seat.” This year the Stones will play Milwaukee Summerfest, at the Marcus Amphitheater, which holds 25,000.

Three of the cities to be visited on the Zip Code Tour were all first played by the band back in November 1965 on what was their fourth US tour. This was the biggest tour by the band to this point in time and they played 37 venues in 38 days and played to over a quarter of a million people – it was an achievement that showed stamina of jaw-dropping proportions.

On 10 November 1965 they played Reynolds Coliseum on the campus of North Carolina State University at Raleigh, with tickets costing between $2.50 and $4. In 2015 the band return to North Carolina State University but instead of playing the 14,000 capacity basketball arena they will play the 50,000 plus Carter-Finley football stadium.

Six days later in 1965 the Stones visited Nashville for the first time and played the Municipal Auditorium, where they drew a crowd of over 2,000 in the home of Country Music. For 2015’s concert at the LP Field there will be over 55,000 in attendance.

On 21 November 1965 the Stones were in Dallas for the first time, not their first visit to Texas as that was on their first US tour when they played in San Antonio. On Sunday afternoon, 21 November they played the Will Rogers Stadium in Fort Worth, and that evening the Memorial Auditorium in Dallas. It was a 6,500 fan sell-out and in 2015 the 80,000 capacity AT & T Stadium will host the Rolling Stones.

Seven months later the stones were back in America and with three top ten singles in the intervening period demand for tickets was huge. On this their 5th North American tour they played the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium on 28 June 1966 in front of 7,000 fans; the Ralph Wilson Stadium, the venue for their 2015’s concert has a capacity of around 60,000.

The Stones will be helping Indianapolis celebrate the 4th July in 2015, almost 49 years to the day since they first played the city. Back on 9 July 1966, it was at the Indiana State Fairground’s Coliseum and a crowd of 10,000; the 2015 crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be way larger.

For three quarters of the dates that the Stones are to play in 2015 they first visited these cities in the 1960s on one of the first five tours, and we have to roll forward six years to 22 June 1972 for the first time they ever played Kansas City.

This was the band’s 7th North American tour and it was enormous, playing to three quarters of a million people and it could have been twice that, such was the demand for tickets. It was also the tour on which most American fans heard tracks from Sticky Fingers played live – of course they also heard tracks from the Stones latest release, which was Exile on Main St. In ’72 the band played ‘Brown Sugar’ that they had debuted live at Altamont, a few days after recording it at Muscle Shoals Sound; on the same tour they also performed, ‘Bitch’ on most dates as well as ‘Dead Flowers’ on one gig.

On the 1972 tour the Stones played the 8,000 capacity, Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City and like everywhere else it was a sell out on a tour that had 51 shows in 32 different venues. In 2015 Arrowhead Stadium, home to the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs is where well over 60,000 fans are expected.

The other 1970s ‘first date’ was Atlanta on 30 July 1975 on The Tour of The Americas, which was also Ronnie Wood’s first tour with the Stones. The Atlanta show was at the Omni Coliseum in front over 15,000 fans. It’s the historic, 40,000 capacity, Bobby Dodd stadium at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta will host the Stones close to 40 years later.

Technically the Stones first date in Orlando, Florida was on 24 October 1981 at the Tangerine Bowl; however, they had played The Lakeland Center, three years earlier and that is equidistant between Orlando and Tampa. In 1981 the Henry Paul Band and Van Halen opened before the Stones played to 60,000 fans on what was Bill Wyman’s 45th birthday. This year the Stones will be back at the same venue although it’s now called The Citrus Bowl…expect a similar size crowd.

It took until 1997 on the Bridges To Babylon tour for the band to play Columbus, Ohio for the first time, when they did it was at Ohio Stadium, and they will return there in 2015. They played up the road in Cleveland, Ohio on their second tour and as we already mentioned in Pittsburgh on their very first tour, so Ohio is practically a home from home. In January 1998 on the latter stages of the North American part of the Bridges to Babylon tour The Rolling Stones visited Quebec City for the first time and played at Colisee de Quebec, this summer it will be out doors at Le Festival D’Ete De Quebec on what is the last date of the Zip Code Tour.

For tickets please go here.

Sticky Fingers Played Live

After debuting ‘Brown Sugar’ at Altamont and playing it, as well as ‘You Gotta Move and ‘Dead Flowers on their tour of Europe in the autumn of 1970. For the Stones Farwell to Britain tour in March 1971 they dropped ‘You Gotta Move’ and added ‘Bitch’. By the 1972 Tour of America they were playing ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Bitch’ and on one occasion ‘Dead Flowers’. Thereafter ‘Brown Sugar’ as well all know has rarely missed a gig. But for many of the other tracks it took years and in some cases decades to be heard live for the first time. We unravel the complex history of Sticky Fingers played live…

Brown Sugar (first performed 6 December 1969)
• Altamont • European tour 1970 • UK Tour 1971 • 1972 North American Tour • 1973 Australasian Tour • 1973 European tour • 1975 Tour of the Americas • 1976 Tour of Europe & Knebworth • 1977 El Mocambo, Toronto • 1978 North American Tour • 1981 US Tour • 1982 European Tour • 1989 Steel Wheels Tour • 1990 Urban Jungle tour • 1994 Voodoo Lounge Tour • 1997/8 Bridges to Babylon tour • 1999 No Security Tour • 2002 Licks Tour • 2005 A Bigger Bang Tour • 2012 Paris Club • 2012 O2 & NY • 2013 50 & Counting, Glastonbury & Hyde Park • 2014 14 On Fire Tour

Sway (24 September 2005)
• Rehearsed for 2002 Licks Tour but not played • debuted at Nationwide Arena Columbus OH in 2005 A Bigger Bang Tour • 2013 50 & Counting

Wild Horses (4 March 1971)
• Debuted at Newcastle City Hall, UK Tour 1971 • 1975 Tour of the Americas • Knebworth 1976 • 1994 Voodoo Lounge Tour • 2002 Licks Tour • 2005 A Bigger Bang Tour • 2012 London O2 & NY • 2013 50 & Counting & Glastonbury • 2014 14 On Fire Tour

Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (4 March 1971)
• Debuted at Newcastle City Hall, UK Tour 1971 • Rehearsed for the 1972 North American Tour but not played • 1994 rehearsed for Voodoo Lounge tour but not played • 2002 Licks Tour • 2013 50 & Counting & Glastonbury

You Gotta Move (8 November 1969)
• Debuted at Los Angeles, California, Inglewood Forum, 1969 North American Tour • European tour 1970 • 1976 Tour of Europe • Rehearsed for 2002 Licks Tour

Bitch (4 March 1971)
• Debuted at Newcastle City Hall, UK Tour 1971 • 1972 North American Tour
•1973 Australasian Tour • 1973 European tour • 1989 Steel Wheels Tour • 1990 Urban Jungle tour • 1997/8 Bridges to Babylon tour • 1999 No Security Tour • 2002 Licks Tour • 2005 A Bigger Bang Tour, •2013 50 & Counting & Hyde Park • 2014 14 On Fire Tour

I Got The Blues (26 March 1971)
• Debuted at the Marquee Club, London gig filmed for TV • 1994 rehearsed for Voodoo Lounge tour but not played • 1999 No Security Tour

Sister Morphine (25 March 1997)
• Debuted in Chicago at Soldier Field on the 1997/8 Bridges to Babylon tour

Dead Flowers (30 August 1970)
• Debuted at Malmo, Sweden, on European tour 1970 • UK Tour 1971 • 1972 North American Tour (one gig) • 1973 Australasian Tour • 1976 Knebworth • 1989 Steel Wheels Tour • 1990 Urban Jungle tour, 1994 Voodoo Lounge Tour • 1997/8 Bridges to Babylon tour • 1999 No Security Tour • 2002 Licks Tour • 2005 A Bigger Bang Tour • 2012 NY • 2013 50 & Counting • 2014 14 On Fire Tour

Moonlight Mile (25 January 1999)
• Rehearsed it for 1989 Steel Wheels Tour but not played • 1994 rehearsed for Voodoo Lounge tour but not played • Debuted at Oakland Arena, California on the 1999 No Security Tour • Rehearsed for 2013 50 & Counting but not played


Format: Union Jack flagUK English


  1. jaymie smith

    April 13, 2015 at 1:28 am

    I want tickets!

  2. Mark

    April 14, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    You want tix’s. Be prepared to mortgage the house.

  3. Carl

    April 14, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I got my ticket for 112 in Pgh. Half what I paid for the Bigger Bang and 40 Licks Tours.

  4. Stephane Garand

    April 14, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    I can’t wait to see you at Quebec City… :-)))))

  5. ray pawlak

    April 14, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    who cares the cost what would you pay to see Elvis or Mozart that’s the type of band this is what would you pay to see the beatles or led zep this will be my 30th time seeing them since 1981 or since I was old enough for my mom to let me go to a concert I wouldn’t miss it for all the money in the world I want to meet MICK ive met Ronnie nice chap if your going to cry about price its not a show for you

  6. nanker

    April 14, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Wild Horses was played on the Bridges to Babylon tour as well. It is even featured on the DVD filmed during the tour (featuring Dave Matthews).


    April 15, 2015 at 12:16 am

    06-06-15 #TheRollingStones ❤️

  8. Judy

    April 15, 2015 at 12:28 am

    A high level executive I worked for, told me he skipped school to see The Stones in 1964 in Excelsior, MN….his picture ended up on the front page of the paper for all the world, including his parents, to see! He said it was worth the trouble then, and it’s worth the money now! I feel extremely lucky to get a ticket to the show…wish I had enough for one of those front row seats. Rock on guys….can’t wait to see you!

  9. Carrie

    April 15, 2015 at 3:45 am

    Never saw the Stones, never thought I would. I’ll be seeing them in Nashville come June. I’m so excited. they are my go to music all the time. To me their worth the time and money.

  10. Angie

    April 15, 2015 at 6:31 am

    Can’t wait…look out music city

  11. David Aleshire

    April 15, 2015 at 8:04 am

    The Rolling Stones didn’t play Nationwide Arena in Columbus,it was OSU basketball arena.Glad they are coming back.

  12. Elena Rogers

    April 15, 2015 at 9:09 am

    I want to go. Please guys come to Boston or Foxboro please. I can’t travel far. I miss you.

  13. Elena Rogers

    April 15, 2015 at 9:13 am

    I want to see them again. I can’t travel far. Please come to Boston or Foxboro guys please. I miss you. Come on.

  14. Elena Rogers

    April 15, 2015 at 9:18 am

    I want to see them again. I can’t travel far. Please come to Boston or Foxboro guys please. I miss you. Come on. Why isn’t my comment being psted??

  15. Tony Yamarino

    April 15, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    i got tickets I’m 56 years old and can’t wait to see them at bobby Dodd stadium

  16. Tony Yamarino

    April 15, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    i got tickets I’m 56 years old and can’t wait to see them at bobby Dodd stadium This is rock and roll.

  17. Keith Sparbanie

    April 15, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Dear Editor, please correct your typo… it’s the Pittsburgh STEELERS.

    Dear Rolling Stones, Phoenix is the 6th largest city in America and you haven’t been here in a while. Please visit The Valley of the Sun!

  18. Patti brown

    April 15, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    I am going to find a way to get the ga r fl show I can’t miss them…if they are coming this close I’m going!!

  19. Bonnie Thomas

    April 17, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Have been a fan since early 70’s, would love for you to come to Alaska or even Seattle this tour! I have never been to 1 of your concerts, I’m a radio DJ and play your music all the time! Would love to see your concert at least once!

  20. Donna

    April 20, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    Me Donna & Lori want to attend the Texas tour ..
    Help us get there please….The Baddest Stones Fans Ever…..

  21. Pauli Butler

    May 24, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    why don’t you get up here in New England! After all your are from England and the Zip Code Tour should at least include New England!

    • Pat Neal

      June 17, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Keith lives in fucking Connecticut, end the tour in Foxboro, he would be in his own bed less than 2 hrs later

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