J.D. Souther was also on the bill. The Eagles drew the second largest crowd ever at the festival, which was sponsored by Southern Illinois University/Edwardsville (SIUE), with 29,700 attending. The Who drew the largest in 1971 with 31,000.
The show was not without problems. Festival officials had only planned for a crowd of 12,000, but twice as many showed up. There were traffic jams, fights, and property damage.
Randy backstage before the show
There were more problems behind-the-scenes. The Eagles’ road manager “threw a tantrum” because the food provided to the group was not what they requested:
“The road manager threw a tantrum because the food furnished for the group was cold cuts, not hot fried chicken. He complained about stage security. The group itself couldn’t decide if they wanted a sound check or not.” (Alton Telegraph, July 30, 1975)
Nevertheless, backstage photos show the band’s dining area with what appears to be fried chicken remnants on the table.
They also performed a sound check. Photo by Ken Regan.
During the afternoon of the concert, Ken Regan took a series of photos of the band at the local Holiday Inn as well as backstage at the festival site:
See more photos below:
Mississippi River Festival Setlist (partial) Take It Easy Peaceful, Easy Feeling Outlaw Man Desperado James Dean Witchy Woman Already Gone Best Of My Love
The Eagles appeared at Spring Fest on the campus of Southern Illinois University/Edwardsville (SIUE). Livingston Taylor (James’ brother) opened.
The previous night, Glenn Frey had been arrested following the Eagles’ concert at Mershon Auditorium in Columbus. He was charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and public intoxication.
Glenn made no mention of the arrest in a backstage interview in Edwardsville. He talked about the difference between “superfans,” who want to get as close to the stage a possible, and music fans, who stay a few rows back because they want to hear the music.
Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon, Don Henley, and Glenn Frey were photographed in the afternoon prior to their appearance at Spring Fest. Photo by John Milazzo (Focus magazine, October 1974)
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
This was the Eagles’ second-to-last date on the first leg of their 1977 Hotel California tour (they played Cleveland the next two nights). Their next stop was Europe after a three-week break. Jimmy Buffett was the opening act.
Although their musicianship was flawless, many reviews from the Hotel California tour criticized the Eagles for just standing around like statues onstage. It was something that irked Randy, who wanted to move around and have fun. He was in a rock band, after all. The reviews for the Toronto show were no different in this regard. However, the critic for the Globe And Mail complimented Randy for bringing some much-needed humanity to the show, albeit temporarily, with his dazzling performance of “Take It To The Limit”:
“When humanity breaks through, it can often dazzle. Randy Meisner’s vocals were a case in point: he appeared throughout to be only passingly interested in the performance, but then stepped to the front for is impassioned vocal on ‘Take It To The Limit.’ Only then was it apparent that this man’s seeming disinterest actually hid some real emotion. The revelation passed as he returned to his bass.”
Paul McGrath, Globe and Mail, March 31, 1977 (see full review below)
At a reception following the show, the Eagles were presented with a platinum record for Hotel California. Below they are photographed at the gathering with representatives from WEA (the international distributor for Asylum) and Toronto radio stations, CHUM & CFTR. My only question is: Where’s Randy?
“Ex-Poco member, Randy Meisner, made his subtle and important mark on the evening by doing his “Certain Kind Of Fool” and “Tryin'”–both numbers of high energy and Poco-like vocals. Meisner’s bass playing is simple, but steady.” -Jim Gerard, Cleveland Scene, May 17, 1973
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 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.