The History of Rock Chalk Revue

In 1949, Roy Wonder, a business student at the University of Kansas, decided the University needed a campus-wide variety show.

Wonder envisioned a show similar to Kansas State University’s Y-Orpheum and was quoted in The University Daily Kansan as saying, “The idea of a campus-wide variety show is well established at many schools. We hope this show will be the first of many.”

KU students did not embrace Wonder’s idea until a letter written by Ross Miller, the producer of K-State’s show, appeared in The University Daily Kansan criticizing Wonder for stealing K- State’s idea.

The letter ignited yet another rivalry between the two schools, triggering an increase in interest and support for the show. However, unbeknownst to the students, the letter was actually a scheme devised by Wonder and Miller as friends in order to generate student support.

A contest was held to create a name for the show, offering ten dollars for the winning entry. Kathleen Larson was awarded the prize for her entry, “Rock Chalk Revue.”

The first show was held in Hoch Auditorium with an audience of almost 500 people. Tickets sold for fifty cents each and the proceeds were donated to the YMCA and the YWCA.

The show was a success and has now become a great tradition at KU. Over the years a few changes have been made to improve Rock Chalk Revue.

1959 - the first year that allowed co-ed groups to perform together on stage.

1964 - the Rock Chalk Revue’s first overall theme was announced as “Lacerated Legends”. Selecting an overall theme has since become standard procedure and is chosen by the Rock Chalk Revue Advisory Board.

1983 - the United Way of Douglas County became the official beneficiary of Rock Chalk Revue.

1988 – the song “One Bright Moment” was introduced into the tradition of the grand finale.

2012 - Rock Chalk Revue's total contributions reached the $1,000,000 mark.

2015 - the song "I Got You" replaced "One Bright Moment" as the grand finale song. 

On June 15, 1991, Hoch Auditorium was struck by lightening and gutted by fire. Constructed in 1927, Hoch was one of the oldest buildings on campus and the original site of KU basketball games. This tragedy left KU without large performance or classroom space and Rock Chalk Revue without a home. The 1992 show appropriately named “Changing Places” was moved to the Lawrence High School auditorium. The Revue went to a six-show run over two weekends in order to bring in a comparable donation. The show was set up like a TV telethon raising money to put a sprinkler system in Hoch. It featured a lounge lizard emcee named Johnny “Boom Boom” Diamond, a sequined tote board to count the pledges from concerned callers, and a slideshow of old pictures from shows in Hoch Auditorium. In spite of obstacles, the donation to the United Way was a record breaking $43,000. In 1994, the show was moved to the newly built Lied Center where it is currently performed.

KU’s Rock Chalk Revue tradition is one of the largest student-run philanthropies in the United States. The 2009 performance of Rock Chalk Revue was a milestone for the philanthropy, raising a record breaking $60,000. Rock Chalk Revue's 2012 performance followed with an astonishing $64,000 breaking yet another record. In 2016, the contribution was $60,000.