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
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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.”


Two Saudis among 31 foreigners killed in Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019
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Two Saudis among 31 foreigners killed in Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka

  • Mohamed Jafar and Hany Osman, cabin crew with Saudi Arabian Airlines, were in transit and staying at one of the three hotels targeted
  • Saudi Ambassador Abdulnasser Al-Harthi says officials are awaiting the results of DNA tests

COLOMBO: Two Saudis were among 31 foreigners killed in a string of Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said on Monday, a day after the devastating attacks on hotels and churches killed at least 290 people and wounded nearly 500.

The extent of the carnage began to emerge as information from government officials, relatives and media reports offered the first details of those who had died. Citizens from at least eight countries, including the United States, were killed, officials said.

Among them were Saudis Mohammed Jafar and Hany Osman. They worked as cabin crew on Saudi Arabian Airlines, and were in transit and staying at one of the three hotels that were hit.

Saudi Ambassador Abdulnasser Al-Harthi said that officials are awaiting the results of DNA tests on the two Saudi victims, and only after these are received will their names be confirmed.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the Sri Lankan government believes the vast scale of the attacks, which clearly targeted the minority Christian community and outsiders, suggested the involvement of an international terrorism network.

“We don’t think a small organization can do all that,” he said. “We are now investigating international support for them and their other links — how they produced the suicide bombers and bombs like this.”

The attacks mostly took place during church services or when hotel guests were sitting down to breakfast. In addition to the two Saudis, officials said the foreign victims included one person from Bangladesh, two from China, eight from India, one from France, one from Japan, one from The Netherlands, one from Portugal, one from Spain, two from Turkey, six from the UK, two people with US and UK dual nationalities, and two with Australian and Sri Lankan dual nationalities.

Three of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen’s four children were among the foreigners who were killed, a spokesman for the family confirmed. Povlsen is the wealthiest man in Denmark, the largest landowner in Scotland and owns the largest share of British online fashion and cosmetics retailer Asos.

Two Turkish engineers working on a project in Sri Lanka also died in the attacks, the English-language Daily Sabah newspaper reported. Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gave their names as Serhan Selcuk Narici and Yigit Ali Cavus.

Fourteen foreign nationals remain unaccounted for, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said, adding that they might be among unidentified victims at the Colombo Judicial Medical Officer’s morgue.

Seventeen foreigners injured in the attacks were still being treated at the Colombo National Hospital and a private hospital in the city, while others had been discharged after treatment.