The first California Jam was held on Saturday, April 6, 1974, at the Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, California. The concert was produced by ABC Entertainment, Sandy Feldman and Leonard Stogel. The temperature was in the high ’80s. Tickets were $10 in advance or $15 at the gate. The crowd was an estimated 200,000. The concert ran for 13-1/2 hours. The event featured, in order of appearance: Rare Earth, Earth Wind and Fire, the Eagles with guest Jackson Browne, Seals and Crofts, Black Oak Arkansas, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Aerial photo from helicopter of 1974 California Jam. ©Mark Sullivan

Details Leading Up To Cal Jam

Ads in Newspapers Leading up to Cal Jam

Ad from the Los Angeles Free Press, March 22, 1974

“The reason Ontario was chosen for the site is that it’s built almost like a fortress and can prove to be frustrating to the usual amount of ‘gate crashers’.”

Los Angeles Herald-Examiner ~ March 24, 1974

The Stage

Two stages were built on a set of railroad tracks so that when one band was on stage, the other stage was prepared for the next band.

Screenshot via “The Stage Analysis Series: The California Jam Festival 1974”
Photo via Getty Images/ABC Photo Archives

A view of the two stages under the striped canopies on 600 ft. of railroad tracks (top arrow).

You can also see the trailers in a semi-circle in the back of the stages that the musicians occupied before they went on stage. The trailer the Eagles were in is marked by the arrow on the bottom.

Daily Report (Ontario, California) April 7, 1974

The Rainbow on the Stage

The rainbow was created for ABC’s “In Concert” series shortly after the show debuted. California Jam was televised as part of the series, so this is why you see the “Rainbow” as a backdrop for the stage.

Photo via Getty Images/ABC Photo Archives


Poster that was available only on the day of the concert.

Tickets Were Printed

And Sold In Advance

Poster Promoting Ticket Sales

Tickets were $10 in advance and $15 at the gate.

April 6, 1974

Accommodations and Transportation for the Musicians

The Eagles stayed at the Holiday Inn in Ontario, California, along with the other musicians. A chopper was parked in the grassy area next to the rooms ready to take the musicians to the Speedway.

The Venue

Photo via Getty Images/ABC Photo Archives
Photo via Getty Images

The Crowd

A young girl danced bottomless in front of the stage and several streakers raced by. The crowd was estimated at 200,000, most of them teenagers. They were laid back with most of them getting stoned.

Some in the crowd were lucky enough to have balcony seating.

IN CONCERT – “California Jam” Concert Coverage – Airdate April 6, 1974 (Photo by ABC Photo Archives /Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images) PRODUCTION SHOT OF AUDIENCE

Don Felder’s Memories of California Jam ~ 1974

Don Felder described one day blurring into another on the On The Border tour.

“We caught the last flight back to L.A. and landed around one thirty in the morning on April 6, almost too exhausted to leave the comfort of our seats. The plan was to jump in a fleet of rental cars and drive the night to the Ontario Motor Speedway, about an hour east of the city. We were due to perform at one of the biggest gigs we’d ever played, the California Jam, in front of 300,000 people. The show was billed as ‘The Woodstock of the West Coast’.”

“I was walking through LAX…when a message came over the paging system. ‘Mr. Felder. Mr. Don Felder, please come to the information desk immediately, where there is an urgent call waiting for you….’

“Susan (Don’s wife) wasn’t due for a week or so…’Don? It’s Susan. The contractions have started and they’re getting real bad. I need you to come home. Now.’

“Without hesitating except for a quick word to the rest of the band, I grabbed my suitcase off the baggage carousel and ran to one of the waiting rental cars.”

“‘Go for it, man!’ I heard Bernie scream behind me. ‘Tell Susan good luck from us,’ yelled Randy.”

“Back at the Ontario Motor Speedway, the band waited for word. They were due to go on at two o’clock that afternoon, and Irving had arranged for a helicopter at the Santa Monica heliport a few miles away, to fly me to the gig if the baby was born in the morning. My deadline was one o’clock. …Anytime up to 12:45 would be fine.”

“One o’clock came and went, and I called Irving up. ‘You’ll have to go ahead without me,’ I told him. ‘This baby must be a Jackson Browne fan.’ Jackson, recently a father himself, had agreed to stand in and play for me.”

Heaven and Hell – My Life In The Eagles (1974-2001) by Don Felder With Wendy Holden, ©2008 ~ Excerpts pgs. 125-126

A slightly different version of events appeared in
“On The Border: The Eagles Kick Up a Sundance”
by Ellen Mandel, Circus, August 1974

“No sooner was their car unloaded than Don (Felder) was paged at the hotel… The band had discussed the possibility of something like this occurring (his wife was expecting their first child). But on the day of the California Jam? With 300,000 fans anxious to meet Don Felder? And after they’d worked so hard towards that moment? The remaining Eagles walked stunned into the Holiday Inn coffee shop, unable to rationalize what had just happened. It was almost 4 A.M. and only one other scraggly soul sat at the counter, obviously part of another band there for the jam. When he suddenly swung around the Eagles could hardly believe their eyes: It was Jackson! Instantly they were working out arrangements that would include him ‘Outlaw Man,’ ‘Midnight Flyer’ and ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’. The Eagles went on as a five-piece band after all.”

The Eagles Before the Performance

Jackson Browne and Don Henley

Bernie Leadon and Unknown Child
©Neal Preston
Leaving their trailer for their performance: L to R – Glenn Frey (partially shown with guitar), Don Henley, Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon, Richie Fernandez (Eagles’ road manager)

Heading to the stage Bernie Leadon and Randy (blue shirt) ahead of Glenn Frey (in hat) and Don Henley (right). (History Of The Eagles documentary, Directed by Alison Ellwood, 2013)

“In Concert

Randy Meisner
©Jeffrey Mayer

Jackson Browne
(Photo via Getty Images)
Bernie Leadon

L to R: Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner
Bernie Leadon
(Photo via Getty Images)

Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon
Glenn is wearing the California Jam t-shirt that was used by promoters and the ABC crew members. The performing artists also were given these t-shirts.
(Photo via Getty Images)

L to R: Randy Meisner, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon

Randy Meisner
©Julian Baum

L to R: Randy Meisner, Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon
©Julian Baum

Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and Jackson Browne
(Photo via Getty Images)

Randy Meisner
©Jeffrey Mayer

(Photo via Getty Images)

Setlist ~ California Jam ~ April 6, 1974
1. James Dean (with Jackson Browne)
2. Blackberry Blossom
3. Midnight Flyer (with Jackson Browne)
4. Already Gone
5. Take It Easy
6. Tequila Sunrise

The Eagles played longer than the above 18 plus minute Setlist. They were contracted to perform a 45 minute set. There are additional songs listed in articles that were supposedly included in the Eagles’ set.

Here are the additional songs mentioned in articles that may have been included in the Eagles’ set:
“Outlaw Man” (Circus ~ August 1974)
“Witchy Woman” (Daily Review ~ Decatur, Illinois ~ November 29, 1974)
“Peaceful Easy Feeling” (Circus ~ August 1974 and Daily Review ~ Decatur, Illinois ~ November 29, 1974)
“Early Bird” (San Diego Door ~ April 24, 1974)

“Some restless persons began to crash the fence around the stage. The MC said, “We can’t go any further until you step back from the fences.” And the crowd complied, especially when the Eagles walked on to the stage. As of April 1974, California Jam was the largest money grossing single-day concert in music history.”

USC Daily Trojan ~ April 22, 1974

The video below includes all the songs from the above Setlist except ‘Tequila Sunrise’

Televised Concert

Televised in four “In Concert” episodes on May 10, May 24, June 7, and June 21, 1974
The Robesonian (Lumberton, NC) ~ May 5, 1974
Televised in its entirety on May 10, 1974
The Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) ~ May 10, 1974

After “Cal Jam” ~ 1974

“Robert Hilburn, then the Times’ pop music critic, agreed that ELP had the day’s most dynamic set and the Eagles the most effective.”

“The festival did spawn a sequel, California Jam II, also at the speedway, on March 18, 1978. More than 300,000 people heard Aerosmith, Foreigner, Heart, Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush, Dave Mason, Ted Nugent, Rubicon, Santana and Bob Welch, with guests Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. Highlights were released on a double-LP.”

Excerpts from Daily Bulletin, by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin ~ April 4, 2014

Further Reading

Independent (Long Beach, California), by Steve Fox ~ April 7, 1974 ~ Part 1
Independent (Long Beach, California), by Steve Fox ~ April 7, 1974 ~ Part 2
Daily Report (Ontario, California), April 5, 1974
Daily Report (Ontario, California), April 6, 1974
Daily Report (Ontario, California), April 7, 1974
The Odessa American (Odessa, Texas), AP ~ April 7, 1974
Times Leader, The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) April 7, 1974

Fandom / Concerts Wiki

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    1. You’re welcome, Gwen! The “stage on tracks” was such an ingenious way to keep the show rolling (pardon the pun) so that the crowd could hear music non-stop. I wonder how Randy (and the Eagles) felt to be involved in such a spectacular concert.

  1. Another great article. Thank you so much Kathie for all your hard work. Could the unknown child in the photo with Bernie be Randy’s little girl? And how cute is the little one strumming along with her guitar in the video!

    1. You’re welcome, Judy! Thank “you” for your comment. It’s not Randy’s little girl. Bernie was in a romantic relationship with Patti Davis at this time. He later married his wife, Caroline, with whom he had a son, before they divorced. When I saw this video a few year’s ago, I thought it might be Jackson Browne’s son. I compared it to the photos of Jackson’s boy at the Sunshine Festival on Sept. 28, 1975 and saw that this couldn’t have been Ethan Browne. Who’s child this is remains a mystery to me!

  2. IMO, this was one of The Eagles’ best ever gigs and they were on the same bill as acts as diverse as Black Oak Arkansas, Seals and Crofts, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Black Sabbath (with Ozzy Osbourne), Earth, Wind & Fire, Rare Earth and Deep Purple.

    Jackson Browne did a very good job covering for Don Felder, contributing piano, acoustic guitar and occasional backing vocals. It was very generous of Glenn Frey or Don Henley to provide Jackson with a microphone in case he wanted to join in on backing vocals and they knew very well that he had a good voice, being a famous singer-songwriter.

    1. Thanks for your comment, David! It seems the Eagles could always count on their good friend, Jackson, to come through for them. The fraternity of musicians back in the ’70s was like no other.

  3. Kathie, thanks for this site. It brings back so many great concert memories. Saw Eagles and Doobie Brothers at Day on the Green in Oakland in 70s. I was looking at concert tickets that I have saved from 1977 to 2002 and most paid was 36.50 to see Allman Brothers in LA. We went to a lot of concerts in those days and saw some great bands. Eagles are my go to travel music. Man they are so much fun to listen to! My thanks to the Eagles for making and creating such great music!!

    1. Jessica and I appreciate that. Thank you! You must have some great memories of the concerts you saw. The Eagles are my go to music also. “As for Randy, he was a very important component. It would never have been the same band without him. His singing on the high end is unlike any other sound. He also helped define a style of songwriter-rooted bass playing, not unlike Paul McCartney. He always managed to make a nice melody under what the others were doing. And he could play light, with the tips of his fingers. The only other person I’d ever heard do that was Stephen Stills.” ~ J.D. Souther, 1997

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