The Eagles played to 200,000 at the music festival, California Jam, held at the Ontario Motor Speedway outside of Los Angeles. The concert was produced by ABC and simulcast on TV and radio on May 10th, 1974. Jackson Browne filled in on several songs with the band in the absence of Don Felder, whose wife went into labor on the day of the concert.

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

California Jam from above. Photo by Mark Sullivan.
Two stages were used that were perched on 600 feet of railroad track. As one band played, the other stage was set up for the next act, then rolled onto center stage. The stages can be seen under the striped canopies. The semi-circle of trailers behind the stages were the bands’ dressing rooms.

The Eagles played a 45-minute set (only 20 minutes was televised)
(Not in order of performance)

James Dean
Blackberry Blossom
Midnight Flyer
Already Gone
Take It Easy

Tequila Sunrise
Witchy Woman
Peaceful Easy Feeling
Early Bird
Outlaw Man

Below is a clip of the Eagles’ intro from the radio simulcast on ABC’s KLOS-FM in Los Angeles:

Heading to the stage:
L-R: Glenn Frey (behind the door), Don Henley, Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon, and road manager, Richie Fernandez.

Bernie, Randy (blue shirt), Glenn and Don

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

Randy at Cal Jam.
According to Jennifer Meisner, the eagle on his shirt was hand-embroidered by a fan.
Photo ©Jeffrey Mayer

Photos by Julian Baum

Randy performing “Midnight Flyer” from On The Border, which had just been released:

The footage below includes the five songs that aired in the televised concert on May 10th, 1974:

“James Dean”
“Blackberry Blossom”
“Midnight Flyer”
“Already Gone”
“Take It Easy”

Post-show interview with Bernie Leadon (San Diego Door, May 14, 1974)
Although Bernie talks mostly about the band’s music and albums up to 1974, he did voice his frustration to interviewer Greg Leonard about the band’s mid-day performance at Cal Jam:

“Bernie had just returned from what he felt was a frustrating performance in the mid-day heat. When I met him he was nursing a glass of champagne trying to relax after the tension of playing outdoors, with no prior soundcheck, before nearly 200,000 people.”

Reviews and further reading.

Daily Report, Ontario, CA, April 7, 1974
USC Daily Trojan, April 22, 1974
Circus, August 1974 (includes review of On The Border as well as California Jam.) Love the author’s description of Randy as “impish.”
San Diego Door, April 24, 1974
“The Eagles played the most aesthetically satisfying set of the day.”

The art show was called “El Chingadero” (Elder’s nickname) and was arranged by fellow artist John Van Hamersveld. The event took place in Venice at a garage that was converted into an art studio. Elder’s artwork was later used on the cover of three Eagles albums: One Of These Nights (1975), Their Greatest Hits: 1971-1975 (1976) and The Very Best Of (2003).

This art show is often touted as the first public performance by the Eagles. This is simply false. Please see my post about the shows in Aspen and Boulder in November and December 1971. There were all advertised gigs in front of an audience. Other articles claim the band was also “unsigned.” This is also untrue. The Eagles signed with Asylum in September 1971. They had just finished recording their debut album a couple of months before the art show.

The poster for the El Chingadero, which also served as an invitation.
The poster was created by Rick Griffin, who later designed the unique lettering for the Eagles’ third album, On The Border:

In Marc Eliot’s biography To The Limit, Elder recalled that the band stood in a corner and played the same songs over and over because they were nervous and didn’t seem confident in their material. Perhaps this is true, but it seems unrealistic. A couple of weeks later, they would set out on a short tour as an opening act for Joe Cocker. So, it seems unlikely that they wouldn’t have had a setlist already worked out. Plus, they had just finished recording their first album. It’s possible that they were nervous to be playing for the first time in front of an audience of their peers.

Below: Jackson Browne watches as the Eagles perform (Randy at left). ©Henry Diltz.

Bernie Leadon, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, David Geffen, and Ned Doheny at the opening. ©Henry Diltz.

The Eagles paid homage to “El Chingadero” in the song “Visions” from One Of These Nights with the line: “Play on, El Chingadero, Play on.” The song was co-written by Don Felder and Don Henley (and sung by Felder). In his autobiography, Felder recalled the line and its meaning:

At one point in the lyrics, Don and Glenn sing, “Play on, El Chingadero, play on.” I learned later that chingadero is Spanish and loosely translates to ‘motherfucker.'”

Don Felder, Heaven and Hell: My Life In The Eagles (1974-2001)

Hear the line at 2:02:

The Eagles – “Visions” (1975)

Henry Diltz shot footage of the opening, which was shown in the documentary, History Of The Eagles. You can hear the band singing “Tryin'” as well as “Get You In The Mood,” a non-LP track, written by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne, that later appeared as the B-side to “Take It Easy.” Henley’s narration makes it seem as though this footage was filmed in Colorado in 1971, but it was actually filmed at the art show in April 1972. You can see the artwork on the walls at :26, plus Jackson Browne, who is wearing the same clothing as the photo above. More footage from the event can be seen here.

Footage from History Of The Eagles ©Alison Ellwood, Jigsaw Productions, 2013.

Read more about the opening here.

Sunshine Festival, Anaheim, CA, September 28th, 1975

Also on the bill were Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne.

Randy performed “Take It To The Limit” at this show in one of his first-ever performances of the song. On a more bittersweet note, this was the last concert to feature the original four members of the Eagles. Bernie Leadon quit the band shortly after the Anaheim show and the Eagles did not perform again for the rest of the year. When they returned to touring in January 1976, the band included Leadon’s replacement, Joe Walsh.

Below is Robert Hilburn’s review of the festival in the Los Angeles Times, September 30th, 1975. This is the first known mention of “Take It To The Limit” in a concert review (second to last paragraph). Randy also performed “Midnight Flyer.”

The first major tour date for the Eagles. The band opened for Joe Cocker. They are not mentioned in any ads or reviews for the show.
However, the band was photographed backstage after the show.

The Province, March 25, 1972

The photo below was published in the May 13th, 1972 issue of RPM, a Canadian trade publication. The caption referred to the band as “Eagle,” which is not a misprint since they were also called Eagle at their next two shows in Spokane and Portland (also opening for Joe Cocker). A few months earlier, they were billed as Eagle at Tulagi in Boulder, Colorado.

L-R: Randy, Bernie Leadon, Glenn Frey, Don Boas (with Kinney Services, the international distributor for Warner Bros, later known as WEA), Asylum Records general manager, John Hartmann, and Don Henley.

Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles
December 31, 1974

Dan Fogelberg opened. They also invited a few guests to join them.
That’s Randy with the beard in the photos from the show.

Los Angles Times, December 29, 1974
Daily Trojan (USC), January 10, 1975
December 31, 1974, Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles
Randy (left) with J.D. Souther

“When midnight arrived, the Eagles treated everybody to a bluegrass treatment of ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ released a passelfull of balloons and let loose a gorilla who threw bananas to the audience. Then they invited a few of their friends, including Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and opening act Dan Fogelberg–on stage to join them for ‘Take It Easy.'” (San Pedro News-Pilot, January 4, 1975)
Joe Walsh was also among the guests.

L-R: Randy, Joe Walsh, Dan Fogelberg, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne.
News-Pilot (San Pedro, CA) – January 4, 1975
Photo: Daryl Nace (Rivendell Gallery)

Randy performed on New Year’s Eve at least nine times over the course of his career. Here are the other appearances:

Drivin’ Dynamics, Little Moon Lake, Torrington, Wyoming, December 31, 1962
Drivin’ Dynamics, Terry’s Arena, Terrytown NE, December 31, 1964
Pogo, Shrine Hall, Los Angeles, December 31, 1968
Roberts-Meisner Band, Calvary Presbyterian Church, San Francisco, December 31, 1987
Roberts-Meisner Band, Sheraton Harbor Island, San Diego, December 31, 1988
Meisner, Swan & Rich, Lake Of The Torches Casino, Green Bay, WI, December 31, 1996
World Classic Rockers, Hilton Waikoloa Village, Hilo, Hawaii, December 31, 2003
World Classic Rockers, Hilton Waikoloa Village, Hilo, Hawaii, December 31, 2005

Kiel Opera House, St. Louis, MO
December 13, 1973

Dan Fogelberg opened.

The review below also includes an interview with Don Henley and Glenn Frey backstage. Randy and Bernie did not contribute much, but “stuck their heads in to add dry wit from time to time.”

At the show, the Eagles played a couple of numbers that would eventually end up on On The Border, including “Good Day In Hell” and “Ol’ 55” (sung by Glenn, but the author incorrectly states it was sung by Bernie). They also played “Be Good To Your Badman” (aka “Bad Man”), co-written by J.D. Souther and Glenn Frey, which did not end up on On The Border, but did become the first track on Randy’s first solo album in 1978.

Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), December 15, 1973
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 1973

“Gathering Of The Clan”
Benefit for Fred Walecki
August 8, 2000

Randy participated in the first of a two-day benefit called “Gathering Of The Clan” for Fred Walecki, owner of Westwood Music in Los Angeles, who had been diagnosed with throat cancer. Walecki’s store was well-known in the music industry as the go-to place to buy instruments and other gear. According to Randy, all of the Eagles bought their instruments from him. “He became like one of the group almost.” The benefit was organized by Glyn Johns and Bernie Leadon. At the August 8th show, Randy sang “Already Gone” and “Take It To The Limit” (listen to his set below). Accompanying Randy on both tracks were his bandmates in the World Classic Rockers, plus fellow former Eagle, Bernie Leadon.

Randy backstage at the Fred Walecki benefit

“Already Gone” and “Take It To The Limit” (the entire set with talking between songs and at the end).

Star-studded group photo at the Gathering Of The Clan. Randy is in the middle with his World Classic Rockers bandmates.