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What was the hot ticket in 1974? California Jam. Just ask anyone who says they were there.


It was the West Coast Woodstock without the brown acid, Altamont without the murder. Just a nice gathering after all the dust settled and music took a turn.


My wife found her ticket to California Jam. She was there.


“I’m looking at pictures of the crowd. Where were you sitting?” I asked.


“I was on a guy’s shoulders somewhere in the middle,” she said.


“A guy’s shoulders?” I asked.


“Yes, we did that at concerts and festivals in 1974 when we were eighteen,” she said.


“Was anyone else on some guy’s shoulders?” I asked.


“What’s it look like in the pictures?”


I scrolled down google images. Lots of piggy backers. No big deal, unless you forgot how it was when a bunch of kids got together and partied California Jam style.



“Looks like a lot of people. What was the guy’s name?” I asked.


“Oh yeah, you’re going to call him,” she said laughing.


“Maybe. What was his name? Did you know his name?”




“The guy’s name was Guy? How California of him. What was he, a French Californian?”


We talked a little more, then fell into a familiar refrain.


“We did things as a group in high school, not like you apparently did. We knew guys and girls and went together,” she said.


“We had teams and teammates. We went to football games and wrestling matches together. No group dates I remember,” I said.



“Then you missed one of the biggest moments in modern music. Is happened in Southern California, not Southern Oregon,” she said.


From Ultimate Classic rock:

It was one of the great rock festivals of all time. With the backing of a major television network and an eye-popping lineup, the California Jam, which took place on April 6, 1974, has, over time, built up a reputation for being one of the best and most smoothly run music festivals in rock history.

After the tragic murder of Meredith Hunter at the hands of the Hells Angels at Altamont in December 1969, many wondered if it was the beginning of end of the big music festival. A few more large-scale events were staged in the years immediately following Altamont — most notably the Atlanta International Pop Festival in July 1970 and at the Isle of Wight in the U.K. a month later — but for the most part, the multi-bill, extended rock concert was marching toward extinction.

What is considered to be once of the last of the great late-‘60s/early-‘70s rock festivals took place in Ontario, Calif., in April 1974. Produced by ABC Entertainment, the California Jam set records and precedents that are still the envy of music festival promoters today.

If one of the enviable moments in the digital age is creating set lists with active links, I’m envious.


From 1974 to 2018 covers a lot of years, but for most boomers it’s not that long ago.


Even if we’re not on the forefront of change and the generation of hope, we’ve still got what amounts to a fresh ticket.



Overall, 250,000 paying fans made the trek to the Ontario Motor Speedway for the one-day event. What’s more, all of those in attendance were able to actually hear the music being played thanks to the installation of what was then the loudest amplification system ever created put in place around the stage. The festival was so successful that a second installment was thrown in 1978.

The backing of a major corporate entity brought a myriad of changes to the accepted outdoor festival model in the hopes of actually turning a profit. The entire show was filmed and broadcast live on television and radio across the country for those who couldn’t see it for themselves in person. Deep Purple’s set would later become the first full-length concert to be sold on VHS (and was eventually issued on CD). The amenities at the venue itself made Woodstock look like a POW camp and perhaps most shocking of all, it ran on time.




“You got see the Eagles with Jackson Browne,” I said.


“We saw them all,” she said.


“I think I see you in the crowd picture,” I said.


“Sure you do. I’m on your shoulders,” she said.


“Yes, you are.”
About David Gillaspie
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