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.
Details Leading Up To Cal Jam
Ads in Newspapers Leading up to Cal Jam
“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’.”
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.
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.
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.
Tickets Were Printed
And Sold In Advance
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.
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.
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
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’
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
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
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