Thursday, June 2, 2022

Boston Psychedelic Rock Concert Chronology, July-December 1967 (Boston II)

A poster for the Peanut Butter Conspiracy and the 90th Congress at the Boston Tea Party, July 14-15, 1967 (from the FB Boston Tea Party compilation)

Boston Psychedelic Rock Concert Chronology 1967

The history of underground psychedelic rock in the 60s in Boston was different than in any other major American city. Broadly speaking, there were two main paths for most cities. The first, and most famous path, was the San Francisco one: dissatisfied long haired youth provides an audience for local bands influenced by jazz, BB King and Revolver, congregating in underused downtown venues in a fading part of town. Before anyone knew it, particularly in the West there would be a Fillmore or an Avalon (or the Crystal in Portland, the Family Dog in Denver, Vulcan Gas in Austin or Eagles Ballroom in Seattle), and even if the venues didn't persist, the audiences did. Bands like the Grateful Dead or Canned Heat would come through town and help create a new underground economy.

The other trend was the negative version of the first one. Some local promoters would try and book some long-haired bands, but it didn't lead to much. The cops might be against it, there wasn't a promising part of town, or the promoters didn't have it together. The Dead, or Canned Heat, or Iron Butterfly might have passed through, but to the extent they played those cities, they were grudgingly absorbed into the regular Civic Auditorium-type gigs, just like Top 40 bands or country stars. The only real exception to this dichotomy was New York City, whose history has to be dissected by Borough or Neighborhood, which you will find generally fall into the two main paradigms, but distributed throughout the city itself.

Boston rock had a different history. Cambridge, Massachusetts, just across the Charles River from Boston, was one of the principal birthplaces of the “Folk Boom” of the early 1960s. Fueled by students from the many colleges in Cambridge, students who were serious about music as art rather than just entertainment flocked to places like Club 47, at 47 Mt Auburn Street. Club 47 was originally a jazz club, but on Tuesday nights they had a sort of "hoot night," and in Fall '58 a Boston University student named Joan Baez showed up. Things happened. Cambridge and Greenwich Village were the twin anchors of a rising interest in folk music that wasn't just decontextualized re-tellings of old folk songs (it is notable that Joan Baez was from Palo Alto, and that the Kingston Trio got their start there, but that's another saga). 

Boston and Cambridge was one of the first outposts for the stirrings of what would become "the counterculture." It wasn't just Joan Baez. The Jim Kweskin Jug Band introduced jug band music to America, and they would have been hugely influential even if they weren't important to Jerry Garcia's idea of how music should be performed--but they were, and he saw them in Berkeley in March, 1964. That wasn't all. Two Harvard Assistant Professors had shared experiments on something called "LSD-25" with students as early as 1962, and while Tim Leary wasn't Owsley, Cambridge and Boston weren't naive a few years later, unlike pretty much everywhere else.

When the Beatles and the British Invasion came in, New England jumped in with both feet, from Boston to Nantucket and in every suburb. Nearer the Charles River, however, the response was sophisticated, if no less enthusiastic. The Charles River Valley Boys, for example, played bluegrass versions of Beatles songs, a sort of second order joke that wouldn't have flown in a lot of towns. So on one hand, downtown Boston and Cambridge were absolutely ready for the rock explosion that would follow, as "folk-rock" followed the Beatles (via The Byrds, The Lovin' Spoonful and others) and the local bands who formed in their wake. Yet on the other hand, Boston's predisposition to the oncoming music revolution had some unexpected consequences.

In downtown Boston, there were plenty of venues, serving the student and faculty populations of all the colleges and universities. Sure, many of them mostly had theater and symphony productions, but they had no restrictions on having folk acts or other kind of music on off nights. Local Boston promoters had been booking "long-haired" folk acts since the early 60s, so booking black blues bands from Chicago or somewhat longer-haired musicians with pop hits was no problem. What that meant, paradoxically, was that the hot touring acts who played the West Coast ballrooms for hippie promoters--Butterfield Blues Band or Jefferson Airplane--were playing for better capitalized promoters in Boston as part of the regular entertainment scene. There were well-paying weekend gigs at college gyms, and Sunday nights when the Symphonies weren't using their halls. 

So the "psychedelic" underground in Boston was really underground, not at all part of the record companies mainstream. All those bands were playing Boston, at colleges or other events, and Boston college students and local hippies were fully tuned in, but there was no Fillmore (or Chicago's Electric Ballroom, or Eagles like Seattle) that was one-stop shopping for the local hipsters. The Boston venues had entirely different arcs. Those arcs had begun with the Boston Tea Party in January, 1967.
53 Berkeley Street in Boston, as it appeared in the 21st century. There is now a 7-11 on the ground floor.


Boston Tea Party, 1967
The Boston Tea Party, at 53 Berkeley Street, had opened on January 20, 1967. Ray Riepen and David Hahn were the founding partners, supposedly opening with a capitalization of a mere $850, and dependent on a lot of volunteer labor. The site had previously been a synagogue, and then a coffee shop called The Moondial. Riepen had come to Harvard Law School from Kansas City for a Masters Program in Fall '66. The club was opened as an underground concert venue, like the Fillmore. The legal capacity of the Boston Tea Party was 550, and only increased to 720 in 1968 when they had added another fire escape. Whether exceeded or not, that made it half the size of the Fillmore. Thus no matter what, the Tea Party wasn't going to compete directly with the local promoters booking shows at colleges, arenas and concert halls. 

The Boston Tea Party of 1967-68 is most remembered--on the web, at least--for being the home-away-from-home for the Velvet Underground. Scholarship on the Velvets is epic, and the pinnacle of it is Richie Unterburger's chronology White Light, White Heat. Without VU scholars, we would know surprisingly little about the Boston Tea Party. While VU were famous for the adage that "not many people bought their record, but everyone who did formed a band," it's important to remember that  Boston Tea Party was an underground hipster joint, and not many people in Boston had heard the Velvet Underground. If more people had heard them, however, the band wouldn't have been any more popular. They weren't that kind of band.

A Boston Tea Party Facebook Group (Do You Remember The Boston Tea Party 1967-70) has produced a remarkable compilation of posters, flyers and other ephemera from the beginning to the end of the venue (it can be downloaded at the Facebook page). It's an amazing snapshot into the past, and highly recommended. This post will take the Tea Party saga and wrap it into the larger story of the emerging Boston rock scene in the late 60s.


Boston Psychedelic Rock Status Report, July-December 1967

In the summer of 1967, there was a thriving rock concert industry in Boston, particularly near the Charles River and the major Universities. In contrast to other big cities, however, the most prominent concerts were at the college auditoriums and gyms. By 1967 standards, there was a large, sophisticated audience who that knew and liked folk, blues and jazz music along with the new psychedelic rock and roll.

At the same time, the little Boston Tea Party was thriving as an underground club. The Tea Party had built a solid core of bands that could play the club repeatedly: the Hallucinations, the Beacon Street Union, the Bagatelle, Lothar and The Hand People and others. Boston rock fans could decide to check out the psychedelic underground or bands that were popular on the radio. The hit bands played the colleges, and there was underground music at the Tea Party, and it was all pretty much in one area. Most cities had one or the other, but Boston seemed to have it all the pieces for something big to happen.

In my previous post, I reviewed Boston rock concerts in the first half of 1967, including the founding of the Boston Tea Party. In the second half of 1967, this trend would only continue. A competing underground club would open, but the Tea Party would continue to thrive, and all the colleges kept booking shows. This post will look at Boston rock concerts from July through December 1967.

Boston Rock Chronology, July-December 1967 (Boston Rock II)
The booming Boston Metro rock market was built around college students. The major colleges and universities in Boston, Cambridge and nearby suburbs provided a ready-made market for live rock music, and a market that did not require permission from their parents. The extensive transportation network of a big city also ensured that access to concerts was far less of a problem than it was in some places.

In the Summer, however, many of the college students were out of town. As a result, there were few promotions at local symphony halls and college gyms, featuring popular touring acts. The Boston Tea Party remained open, however, and it did not have to compete with the bigger halls. Richie Unterberger, in his exceptional Velvet Underground chronology White Light/White Heat, noted that some fans say that many people went to the Tea Party regardless of who was playing. Since the capacity of the Tea Party was only around 500, so it was an intimate place. In any case, if you liked live rock music, there wasn't much competition, either.

July 7-8, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA The Ragamuffins/Street Choir (Friday-Saturday)
The Ragamuffins and the Street Choir were presumably local or regional bands. I know nothing about either of them.


July 14-15, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA Peanut Butter Conspiracy/90th Congress
(Friday-Saturday)
The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, from Los Angeles, are now mainly remembered for their dated name, but they were a popular group at the time. They would release two albums in 1967, and had a hit of sorts with “It’s a Happening Thing.” The band was promoted along the lines of the Jefferson Airplane, with folk-rock harmonies, female lead singer Barbara Robison and a dumb, clever name. Their Columbia debut album The Peanut Butter Conspiracy Is Spreading had been released in March. While the name of the band has not aged well, in fact they weren't bad.

The 90th Congress (besides being the US Legislative Body for 1967-68) was a band from Manchester, NH. They released one single in 1967  on Right Records, "The Sun Also Rises."

The Newport Folk Festival, in Newport, RI, was held on the weekend of July 14-15. While Folk Music had peaked, the Festival itself was a huge destination. Much of the potential live rock audience, even in Boston, would have been 75 miles southwards, in Newport.

337 Washington Street, Brighton (in Brighton Center), site of the Crosstown Bus in 1967, as it appeared around 2011.

July 14-15, 1967 Crosstown Bus, Brighton, MA: Lothar and The Hand People/New York Rock and Roll Ensemble/Mandrake Memorial/Pink Oyster (Friday-Saturday)
The Crosstown Bus was at 337 Washington Street in the Brighton neighborhood. The Crosstown Bus was the first underground rock club that was a direct competitor to the Boston Tea Party. Brighton had once been a town on its own, but in 1820 it had agreed to be annexed to the city of Boston. The club was on the third floor of the commercial Warren Hall building in Brighton Center, and probably wasn't any larger than the 500-capacity Tea Party. Warren Hall had been built in 1879. Apparently, in the photo above, the Crosstown Bus was on the left side of the building on the third floor, and possibly not even the whole floor.

I have found one eyewitness description of the club's brief history, about seeing the Doors. Steve Morse of Boston Magazine said “I slapped high-fives with crazed rock poet Jim Morrison of The Doors as he zigzagged through a crowd at The Crosstown Bus in Brighton, where hippie girls danced in go-go cages and tinfoil adorned the walls for a psychedelic ambiance.” The mention of the "cages" suggests it was modeled on West Hollywood's Whiskey-A-Go-Go. Legendary as it was, however, the Whisky depended on a certain Sunset Strip ambiance that did not translate well to other cities. So the Crosstown Bus may have been an anachronism as soon as it was founded.

As for the opening weekend acts, the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble were conservatory-trained musicians who determined that there was more money in being in a rock group than a symphony. Keyboardist Michael Kamen would become a successful movie soundtrack composer some decades later. The group featured parts for oboe and cello, rare in a rock group. The Ensemble would release their first (of five) album on ATCO Records in 1968.

Mandrake Memorial were from Philadelphia, and were more or less the ‘house band’ at Philadelphia’s first psychedelic venue, The Trauma. The group would release the first of their three albums on Poppy Records (an MGM subsidiary) in 1968. At this time, the underground rock market was so nascent that popular local bands from other cities could play in another, since underground buzz was the only currency available (this pre-internet phenomenon would surface in the punk era a decade later). 

Pink Oyster is unknown to me.

July 21-22, 1967 Crosstown Bus, Brighton, MA: Lothar and The Hand People (Friday-Saturday)
Lothar and The Hand People had been founded in Denver in 1965, but had migrated to New York sometime in 1966.  Lothar was ostensibly the name of the Theremin that the band used, a sort of primitive synthesizer. Lothar and The Hand People would release some albums on Capitol starting in 1968. Thanks to "Lothar," the band was one of the first rock bands to tour and record with any kind of synthesizer. Lothar And The Hand People had already headlined four weekends at the Boston Tea Party (from March 17-18 '67 through June 30-July 1), so clearly the band had built some kind of local following.


July 21-22, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Free Spirits/The Shakers
(Friday-Saturday)
The Free Spirits, formed in 1966, had been one of the first true "jazz-rock" hybrids in New York. They had two guitarists, including the great Larry Coryell, drummer Bob Moses and saxophonist Jim Pepper (guitarist Chip Baker and bassist Chris Hills completed the band). The Free Spirits released a very interesting-but-not-actually-good debut album on ABC Records, Out Of Sight And Sound, in February 1967, produced by no less than Blue Note's Rudy Van Gelder.

By July, Larry Coryell had already moved on to the groundbreaking Gary Burton Quartet, where Bob Moses would soon join him, so I don't really know who was in this lineup of the Free Spirits.

The Shakers had played the Boston Tea Party a few weeks earlier (June 30-July 1), but are otherwise unknown to me. 

July 22, 1967 Back Bay Theater, Boston, MA: The Fugs (Saturday)
The Fugs were an underground folk group from Greenwich Village, formed by poets Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg in 1964. By 1966, they had released their first album on the tiny ESP-Disk label. It was full of subversive songs like "Kill For Peace." By 1967, The Fugs singers were supported by other (better) musicians. Apparently the band played a week at the Back Bay Theater, but I only know of this date because there was a tape (thanks @Bourgwick for finding this).

The Back Bay Theater was another aging venue available for rent by rock promoters, near all the colleges and public transport. The Back Bay, at 205 Massachusetts Avenue, opened on March 12, 1922 as a Loew’s State Theatre. Designed as a Vaudeville auditorium, it showed movies on opening night, and was primarily a movie theatre for most of its life. In 1963 the venue changed its name to the Back Bay Theatre (it was briefly called Donnelly Theatre). It seated about 3500 and primarily presented opera and performers like Judy Garland. The building was torn down around June, 1968.

July 28-29, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA:  The Paupers/Bagatelle (Friday-Saturday)
The Paupers were Toronto's leading psychedelic export. The group had been popular in Toronto since 1965, but by early '67 they had been signed to Verve Records and were managed by the high-powered Albert Grossman, who was also Bob Dylan's manager. Grossman had gotten the Paupers to open for Jefferson Airplane when they had played the Cafe Au-Go-Go in Greenwich Village in February of 1967. The Paupers great performances got attention because they were opening for the red-hot Airplane.

The Paupers were a quartet, featuring lead singer and rhythm guitarist Adam Mitchell, lead guitarist Chuck Beal, bassist Denny Gerrard and drummer Skip Prokop. Prokop and Mitchell were the main songwriters, and Gerrard's bass playing stood out. In mid-67, the Paupers had some underground status, but they only had released a few singles. Their debut album Magic People would not come out until November 1967, but the Paupers never lived up to their early underground buzz. Legend has it, however, that they were a tight, well-rehearsed group, which wasn't always the case with underground psychedelic bands in 1967. They probably sounded great at the Tea Party. Diane White of the Globe reviewed The Paupers (on Wednesday August 2, referring to the Saturday, July 29 show) and suggested that with Grossman's backing, they would be the Next Big Thing.

The Bagatelle featured Willie Alexander (formerly of The Lost). They would release an album  in 1968 (11 PM Saturday, ABC Records)

August 4-5, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Peanut Butter Conspiracy/Bagatelle (Friday-Saturday)
The Peanut Butter Conspiracy returned to the Tea Party a few weeks after their debut (July 14-15, above). On one hand, this speaks well of the band's performance a few weeks earlier. It's also important to recognize, however, that there weren't many psychedelic bands touring around in the East Coast summer, and there weren't many places to play, either, so a repeat booking made sense for both the Conspiracy and the Tea Party.


August 4-5, 1967 Crosstown Boss, Brighton, MA: Lothar and The Hand People/The Street Choir (Friday-Saturday)

August 10-11, 1967 Crosstown Bus, Brighton, MA: The Doors/Ragamuffins  (Thursday-Friday: two shows each night)
The Doors played the Crosstown Bus on a Thursday and a Friday. At the time, the Doors were still an "underground" band. The band's debut album had been released in January of 1967. "Light My Fire" was released as a single in April, and it would spend three weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts as this show happened (it was #1 from July 29 through August 12). So The Doors played Crosstown Bus at the exact moment when they were crossing over--appropriately--from underground to mainstream pop success. There were double shows each night, a unique event in the brief history of the venue. The Doors were probably booked in April, and the Bus found themselves with a very high profile booking by the time the shows actually happened.

On Saturday, August 12, the Doors were booked at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, which had a series of Saturday night concerts in the Summer called The Forest Hills Music Festival. The Doors were booked to open for Simon And Garfunkel. By the time the show happened, of course, the Doors could have headlined their own night. 


August 11-12, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Velvet Underground/The Freeborne
(Friday-Saturday)
In a perfect microcosm of the rock market in Boston, on the exact weekend that the Doors would break on through to the other side on the Crosstown Bus, the Velvet Underground were playing another weekend at the Boston Tea Party.

The Velvet Underground, by any standard, were an important, influential band. MGM/Verve had released the band's famous debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico in March, 1967, even though the album had been finished by the end of 1966. Due to a lawsuit over an unauthorized cover photo, the album was withdrawn and delayed until around June '67, undermining what little commercial momentum the band might have had. The Velvets got no radio play, but at least by Summer curious fans could buy the album. In 1982, Brian Eno famously said that while the album sold only 30,000 copies in its early years, "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band."

The Velvet Underground, despite their now-legendary status, were not really a popular group anywhere except Boston. Steve Nelson, later the house manager of The Tea Party booked the VU many times, and at one point became manager of the group. It's important to note, however, that if more people had heard the Velvets back in the 60s, almost none of them would have liked the band. The band was brilliant, but not the sort of brilliance that makes best-sellers. The group's counterintuitive insistence in allowing no R&B influences made the group sound strange, which was intentional, and the perfect setting for Lou Reed's dark tales.

Despite the paucity of record sales, the Velvet Underground has been one of the most researched bands ever (Richie Unterberger's White Light, White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-By-Day is most highly recommended). Much of our admittedly limited information about the Boston Tea Party comes from the Velvet Underground saga. 

In order to compete with the Doors at the Crosstown Bus, the Tea Party made sure that Andy Warhol was present, and announced that he would be filming. There is a preserved, unseen 33-minute color film called The Velvet Underground in Boston that may be from these shows (Unterberger explains the mystery in some detail). By August 1967, the Velvets were a quartet, as singer Nico had left the band. Since she had been sort of stapled onto the band in the first place, it didn't really harm the group's fundamental appeal.

Freeborne would release their only album Peak Impressions in 1968, on Monitor Records.

August 18-19, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Hallucinations/Ultimate Spinach (Friday-Saturday)
The Hallucinations had been one of the first bands to play the Boston Tea Party in early 1967. Singer Peter Wolf and drummer Stephen Jo Bladd would join up with the J. Geils Band later the next year and go on to fame and fortune, but for now they were another band trying to make it pay.

Ultimate Spinach was a newly-formed Boston psychedelic band, led by keyboard player/songwriter Ian Bruce-Douglas. Douglas was the main lead singer, too, with support from singer Barbara Hudson. Ultimate Spinach was apparently pretty good in person, and their debut album was released in January 1968 and critical reception has held up fairly well.

Unfortunately for the Spinach, however, MGM producer Alan Lorber decided to take a lesson from San Francisco, and decided that the "next big scene" was in Boston. Maybe he could have been right. But since he signed a number of Boston underground bands, and MGM made a huge fuss about "The Bosstown Sound," hippies nationwide were suspicious of the hype. Ultimate Spinach (along with Beacon Street Union and Orpheus) were written off as record company put-ups, and "The Bosstown Sound" bombed. Ultimate Spinach was far better known as a record company hype than for any music they made. The debacle of The Bosstown Sound haunted the record industry well into the 90s.


August 25-26, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Country Joe And The Fish
(Friday-Saturday)
By late August, college students would have started returning to Boston. Country Joe and The Fish, one of San Francisco's biggest musical exports, had released their striking first album on Vanguard in May. Electric Music For The Mind and Body, unlike some psychedelic debuts, was a fully-realized album, and Country Joe and The Fish were a fine live band. At this time, there were very few underground venues outside of the West Coast for bands like Country Joe and The Fish. J. Klarfield reviewed them in the Boston Globe on Saturday August 26. 

We know from the Brighton-Allston Rock Music History page that Eden's Children, Beacon Street Union and the Hallucinations, among others, played the Crosstown Bus. Logic tells us it was likely the end of August or early September, as we have no other evidence. Our only clue is that the last band was The Hallucinations. Peter Wolf recalls the band hustling its equipment out the back door while the sheriff was padlocking the front doors. The Bus was not in compliance with all sorts of codes, and was locked up, never to re-open, probably at the end of August.

September 1-2, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Catharsis/The Mushroom (Friday-Saturday)
Catharsis and The Mushroom are unknown to me. Catharsis had played the Tea Party back on February 3-4. This was Labor Day weekend, and it's notable that the underground rock scene was not yet mature enough to add the "extra weekend night" for Sunday. It was still a local scene, not specifically directed at students.


September 8-9, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Canned Heat/90th Congress
(Friday-Saturday)
Canned Heat were from Los Angeles, and were another band who helped pioneer the psychedelic touring circuit. There's a tendency to take Canned Heat for granted now, but they were an important group for any number of reasons. Initially, the group featured some record collectors who wanted to keep jug band music alive by playing ancient blues tunes they were familiar with. Singer Bob "The Bear" Hite teamed up with Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson, who had many connections to the early 60s Cambridge folk scene. Wilson was a fine singer and harmonica player as well as a good guitarist. A few other Los Angeles musicians played in early configurations of the band. The name came from a 1928 Tommy Johnson song "Canned Heat Blues," about an alcoholic taken to drinking Sterno.  Mostly, the little ensemble gigged in a few Southern California record stores and folk clubs.

By 1966, the band had "gone electric." Henry Vestine, ex-Mothers of Invention, had joined on lead guitar, Frank Cook on drums, and by early 1967 Canned Heat had added Larry "The Mole" Taylor on bass. The group had a unique style, transposing a boogie-woogie style into twin guitars and a bass, and creating the rock sub-genre of "boogie" music (aka "Chooglin'") more or less single-handedly. After some early efforts, the band recorded their debut for Liberty Records in Spring '67, and their self-titled album had been released in July 1967. They also teamed up with managers Skip Taylor and John Hartmann, who were ambitious and had big schemes. Canned Heat's management had no less of a plan than to open their own Fillmore-style venue in Los Angeles, called the Kaleidoscope. Their initial forays in 1967, however,  had met with resistance. 

Canned Heat was one of the first underground bands to really get out and go around the country, playing wherever they could, bringing their inimitable boogie to any place that would have them. Right after the Boston Tea Party show, Canned Heat would play two weeks (September 12-24) at the Cafe Au-Go-Go in Greenwich Village. At this time, Canned Heat's line-up would have been

Bob Hite-vocals
Henry Vestine-lead guitar
Alan Wilson-guitar, harmonica, vocals
Larry Taylor-bass
Frank Cook-drums

 >September 8, 1967  Crosstown Bus, Brighton, MA: Cream-canceled
The Crosstown Bus booked another underground sensation for the weekend of September 8 and following, namely Cream. Cream had just played a breakthrough engagement at the Fillmore, and the word was out about them. At the time the Bus had booked the show, likely back in June, probably no one had heard of Cream and the bandwould have received few booking offers. Thus the tiny Crosstown Bus could have garnered the booking. By September, however, Cream were a big deal. Unfortunately, the Crosstown Bus had closed.

A photo of Cream at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston, September 1967. Photo by the girlfriend of the guitarist (Ken Melville) in the opening act

September 10-16, 1967  Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston, MA: Cream (Sunday-Saturday)
"Underground" rock music was turning into a big thing, for those operators who had their ear to the ground. Cream had killed it in San Francisco, and was booked for Boston, but the Crosstown Bus had folded. Promoter George Popadopolis (sometimes spelled various ways) had run a popular folk club called The Unicorn since the early 60s. By the mid-60s, The Unicorn and other folk clubs were booking electric blues bands and the like. The "rock underground" had distinct links to folk music, in contrast to the kind of popular dance music that was often played on Top 40. So Popadopolis seemed to have heard that Cream was a success in San Francisco and had a week of open dates canceled in Boston. Papadopolis opened a new venue, just to accommodate Cream. The venue wasn't ready, but Boston was ready for Cream, and he wasn't going to wait.

The Psychedelic Supermarket was a converted parking garage, with grim acoustics to match. The official address was 590 Commonwealth Avenue, near Kenmore Square, but the actual location was in an alley backing on to Boston University. Since Papadopolis had run The Unicorn, he was a more experienced operator than the hippie-ish Tea Party team. Papadopolis apparently had been planning to convert the parking garage into a venue anyway, but he sped up his timetable to accommodate the Cream booking. The Psychedelic Supermarket had great bookings, but it's not remembered fondly by fans or patrons: the sound was lousy, the room uninviting, and Papadopolis had no reputation for generosity.

Lawrence Azrin, a former Boston disc jockey, has some biting reflections on the Psychedelic Supermarket

The Psychedelic Supermarket (located where Kix and the Nickelodeon Cinema in Kenmore Square are now) was a blatant attempt by George Popadopolis to cash in on a trend. He had run the Unicorn, a Boston folk club, for some years before deciding to expand in early 1968. Seating of 300 was in the lower tier of a garage that was completely concrete, except for the stage. Cream played a memorable gig there in February '68 [sic] not to mention Janis Joplin and the Holding Company. Stories of Popadopolis' financial finagling are a legend.. . groups would cancel contracts and leave because they would be paid less for long stands. The exposure was supposed to make up for the lesser pay!! One out of two bands would leave a gig after one set for various reasons and regular club-goers remember him raising ticket prices from $4.50 to $5.50 when he knew that a show was going to sell out.
Another Boston music fan has equally dour memories:
The club, well there wasn’t anything psychedelic about it and it had nothing in common with a supermarket. We paid probably something in the vicinity of $3 to get in. It was, in fact, the basement of an old manufacturing building, the type of building in New York that became popular for some of the first lofts in the ’60s and ’70s, which were large open areas converted into living spaces. It was a long room, all  concrete, floor and pillars, with a stage at the far end, behind which was a plaster board wall that separated the club from the dressing room.

There were probably no more than about 200 people in the club. No chairs, we sat cross-legged on the floor not more than 20 feet from the stage slightly on the left hand side of it, opposite Jack Bruce and his Marshall rig. Cream came out dressed in flowered shirts, much like the fare you would find on King’s Road at Granny Takes A Trip in London (there was one in New York a little later on the upper East side), with tight jeans and moccasin-style boots with fringe. Clapton wearing the tallest with his pants tucked in.

There was nothing like Cream, however, despite the uninviting confines of the Psychedelic Supermarket. At the Fillmore, with the unexpected obligation to play two one-hour sets, and lacking any material, Cream had simply jammed. They jammed out the blues, Coltrane-style, with their Marshall Stax amplifiers turned up high (and Ginger Baker letting it rip), and San Francisco flipped out. Suddenly the template for live rock music was different, really different, and it didn't matter if you saw Cream at the beautiful old Fillmore or a concrete parking lot in Boston. 

It's a little bit unclear how soon the Psychedelic Supermarket booked shows after Cream. There were no memorable posters, only occasional flyers, and Popadopolis didn't seem to spend much, if anything on ads. So we only have occasional sightings of Supermarket shows through 1969. Nonetheless, it seems that the venue was open regularly, possibly every weekend and often several nights a week. There are numerous references to bands having played the Psychedelic Supermarket with no corresponding listing or flyer, so we are missing a lot of events at the venue.

September 15-16, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Wildflower/The Bagatelle (Friday-Saturday)
The Wildflower were another band from San Francisco’s Fillmore scene. The band had actually been founded at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland in late 1965. Guitarist Stephen Ehret was from suburban Belmont, CA (near the SF Aiport), and had been part of the folk scene with Peter Albin, Jerry Garcia and others. Ehret went electric at the same time his friends did, which is why the Wildflower played so many of the early underground gigs at places like the Matrix and the Avalon. Noted Beat poet Michael McClure was an English instructor at CCAC, and he wrote the lyrics for a few Wildflower songs.

In 1967, after a few changes, the Wildflower had an East Coast tour, when San Francisco bands were still a novelty. In 1966, The Wildflower had released a single on Mainstream Records, a Chicago label that had also signed Big Brother. They also had four tracks on a 1967 Mainstream "sampler" album called A Pot Of Flowers. After the Eastern tour, however, the Wildflower kind of ground to a halt. The band did not fully break up until 1968, but the '67 Eastern tour was more or less their high water mark. In 2008, the re-formed Wildflower released a cd of songs they had performed in the 60s, but never recorded.

September 22-23, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: The Mushroom/The Hallucinations (Friday-Saturday)

September 21-24, 1967 Savoy Theatre, Boston, MA: Velvet Underground (Thursday-Sunday)
One of the unique features of the Boston rock concert market was that there were numerous venues available for rent, all near the college-age audience and accessible by public transport. On top of that, those venues had been available to rent for many years, so the latest iteration--long-haired rock dudes playing loud electric music--was no threat to public order. In this case, the Velvet Underground put on a "Happening"--what today might be called a Multi-Media event--for three nights at an old Vaudeville house. These sorts of things didn't happen in other cities, but they happened all the time in 1967 Boston.

Not your typical 60s Velvet Underground venue (Savoy Theater, 163 Tremont St, Boston, now the Boston Opera House at 539 Washington--as restored)

The Savoy Theater had been built in 1928 as a Vaudeville house and movie theater. Capacity was around 2600 and it had a complicated ownership history. The address was listed as 163 Tremont Street, although the current entrance is 539 Washington. In 1965, the theatre was re-named the Savoy Theater, and mostly showed movies (in the 70s, it became the Savoy I and II). After many more gyrations, the restored building became the Citizens Bank Opera House.

Velvet Underground showed there New York art-scene roots with this event. The idea was that the Velvets would play behind a light show, and then show the movie "The Happening," starring Anthony Quinn. Although the show was billed as starting on Friday, September 22, a review in that day's Globe indicates that there was a performance the night before (Thursday September 21), possibly mainly for reviewers. Richie Unterberger describes the event in detail. This sort of special event was Boston-only--other cities were not equipped for a downtown happening in an art-deco theater.

September 29-30, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA:  Children of Paradise/Beacon Street Union (Friday-Saturday)
Children Of Paradise are unknown to me.

The Beacon Street Union (per Wikipedia) was composed of four Boston University students: singer John Lincoln Wright (September 23, 1947 - December 4, 2011), guitarist/singer Paul Tartachny, bassist/singer Wayne Ulaky, keyboardist Robert Rhodes and drummer Richard Weisberg. With the exception of a few rock standards, their diverse music was composed by members of the band, primarily Wright and Ulaky.
In 1968, the band's label, MGM Records, would promote them as part of the so-called Bosstown Sound (along with the bands Ultimate Spinach and Orpheus), shepherded by the record producer Alan Lorber. 

Since the national "underground" was suspicious of any hip music promoted by "The Man," and thus the Boss-town bands would meet with little nationwide success. Their debut album, The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union, was released around April 1968. When the "Bosstown Sound" promotion bombed, the record industry was spooked for the next few decades. Whenever bands started to break out en masse from a city--such as Seattle in the early 90s--record companies would let journalists talk about such trends, rather than make a catchphrase in their ads, fearing a repeat of the Bosstown Sound debacle. The Beacon Street Union were well-established at the Tea Party, having played weekends in February, May and June.

October 6-7, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA:  Canned Heat/Ultimate Spinach (Friday-Saturday)
Canned Heat and Ultimate Spinach were both returning shortly after their initial weekends (September 8-9 and August 18-19, respectively).

October 7, 1967 Back Bay Theatre, Boston, MA: Donovan/Janis Ian/Midnight String Quartet (Saturday two shows 7 and 10pm) 

Scottish singer Donovan (b. Donovan Leitch 1946) was both a pop star and a rock star. He was hip, initially compared to Bob Dylan as a singer and writer, yet having huge psychedelic pop hits to his name. "Sunshine Superman" had reached #1 in 1966, followed by "Mellow Yellow," which made it to #2. By Fall '67, Donovan's fifth album had been released by Epic as a double-lp in April 1967, A Gift From A Flower To A Garden. His single "First There Is A Mountain" (the melody of which would become even more famous as an Allman Brothers theme) was released in August and had reached #11. So Donovan was a huge touring act. Also, it's worth noting that unlike many long-haired rock acts, this was a proverbial "date" show: you might not take a nice girl to the grungy Boston Tea Party to see some arty New York band, but girls liked Donovan, and the seats were reserved. There were two shows (7pm and 10pm), a sign that Donovan was a huge draw.

Despite the implication that Donovan was a pop lightweight, his music has held up far better over the decades than some of his contemporaries. His live band at these shows was probably the same one used on his 1968 double-album Donovan In Concert, which itself was recorded in September 1967. Donovan is a better guitar player than people realize, and he was ably supported by British jazz flautist Harold McNair and drummer Tony Carr (on the live album, the band was rounded out by pianist Loren Newkirk, bassist David Troncoso and John Carr on bongos, but I'm not sure if they were always part of his touring ensemble).  

Janis Ian (b.1951) had written the hit folk song "Society's Child" in 1965 and released it in 1966. It had gone to #14, and #1 in some cities. In 1967, however, she was seen as a one-hit wonder folk singer. Verve had released her debut album earlier in 1967. Ian's career would sputter for a few years, before she re-appeared as a mature and successful singer-songwriter in the mid-70s.

The Midnight Quartet are unknown to me. It's possible they were a string section hired to support Donovan.

The Kresge Auditorium, at 48 Massachussetts Avenue on the MIT campus, built 1955 (photo ca 2017)

October 7, 1967 Kresge Auditorium, MIT, Cambridge, MA: Ian & Sylvia (Saturday)
The Kresge Auditorium was a unique structure at 48 Massachussets Avenue, on the MIT campus. The concert hall seats 1266, and was opened in 1955. Ian & Sylvia were a popular folk duo, and while they weren't a rock act--although they would shortly become one--broadly speaking they appealed to the same college-age audience. Canadians Ian and Sylvia Tyson had scored a huge hit at home with Ian's song "Four Strong Winds" in 1964. In 1965, a San Francisco band called The We Five had a huge US hit with the Sylvia Tyson song "You Were On My Mind." Ian and Sylvia's career had been fairly successful in the mid-60s, but folk music was sounding a bit passe by '67. Their current album would have been Lovin' Sound on MGM. The next year, the Tysons would record a country-rock album in Nashville, one of the ensembles that started the migration to "country-rock."

The Tech (Tuesday Oct 10 '67) describes how a freshman MIT student saved the Ian & Sylvia concert

An article in the Tuesday edition (Oct 10 '67) of The Tech, the MIT student newspaper, described Ian & Sylvia's dissatisfaction with the sound system. The Tysons were touring with an electric bassist and lead guitarist, beginning their evolution towards country rock. The PA system at the Auditorium was for public speaking, not music. Per The Tech, eager student engineer Alvin Sellers ('70) rushed to their aid. Clearly Sellers knew every rock musician on campus, and rapidly rounded of proper gear. The theme of clever MIT students solving amplification problems on the spot came up in The Tech more than once in 1967. It also tells a more serious story, however, about how the electrification of rock music was the province of the young, similar to how computers would befuddle older people some decades later.

October 13-14, 1967  Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA:  The Luvs/The Grass Menagerie (Friday-Saturday)
The Luvs are unknown to me. The Grass Menagerie had played the Tea Party in June, but are otherwise unknown to me.

October 20-21, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Phluph/The Clouds (Friday-Saturday)
Phluph was a psychedelic band from Boston. They would release an album on MGM/Verve in 1968. It wasn't particularly well-received, but since they were on MGM, Phluph was lumped in with the Bosstown Sound debacle, and would not have been likely to get a fair hearing.

The Clouds were regulars at Boston Tea Party, but I don't know anything else about them. 

An ad for the Psychedelic Supermarket in The Tech (the MIT newspaper) from October 24, 1967

October 24-29, 1967 Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston, MA: Chuck Berry (Tuesday-Sunday)
The Psychedelic Supermarket advertised a week of Chuck Berry shows in The Tech. This booking was the first sign of the Supermarket that I have found since the Cream concerts in early September. While I think the Supermarket opened early to accomodate Cream, had they been dormant the entire time? I don't think so. But as to who else had been booked in late September and the rest of October. I can't find a trace. 

The most cryptical part of the ad is the notation "for benefit of Multiple Sclerosis."  I assure you, benefit or not, Chuck Berry got paid in cash for each show as soon as he pulled up in his Cadillac, as he always did. So why was the show a benefit? It was common for campus events to share any profits with a charity, but this wasn't on campus. 

Chuck Berry with the [Steve] Miller Band Live At The Fillmore Auditorium, released by Mercury in September '67. Recorded at Fillmore June 27-July 2 '67, Chuck backed by Miller, Curley Cooke (gtr), Jim Peterman (organ), Lonnie Turner (bs) and Tim Davis (drums)

Chuck Berry was a legend of course, and his blues guitar sounds made for a comfortable enough transition into the electric underground rock world. Berry's label, Mercury Records, was alert to that: at this time, his current album was Chuck Berry With The Miller Band Live At The Fillmore Auditorium, released in September 1967. Chuck never toured with a band, figuring--with good reason--than any and all rock bands could and should play Chuck Berry music. Thus the promoter of a Chuck Berry concert always hired a local band to back him, usually the opening act. 

At the Fillmore in June (June 27-July 2 '67), the opening act backing Chuck had been a rising local act, the Steve Miller Blues Band. Mercury figured out that the Miller Band were going places, and included their names on the album. Thus the first released recording of the Steve Miller Band was with Chuck Berry, as their own album would not be released until mid-'68. Berry is a difficult character, but his musical ability had never been in question. Ably backed by the Miller Band, on the Fillmore album Berry is alternately bluesy, swinging and rocking. Chuck Berry could have easily taken the road to being a Fillmore-era guitar hero, but that was not who he chose to be.

October 27, 1967  Jordan Hall, Boston, MA: The Barbarians/The Hallucinations/The Cloud (Friday)
Jordan Hall, at 30 Gainsborough Street, was the 1,051-seat performance hall of The New England Conservatory, and was across the street from the Symphony Hall. It was regularly rented out for folk, blues or rock concerts. According to a brief article in The Tech (Oct 20 '67), the show is billed as “The surfacing of underground music scene in our town.” 

The Barbarians, from Provincetown, RI, had been a famous New England garage band. They had a legendary hit "Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl" in 1965. They were also known as Moulty And The Barbarians, after their infamous one-handed drummer Victor "Moulty" Moulton (his other hand had a hook, really it did). By 1967, the Barbarians were about to fold up. Some members would move to San Francisco and form the group Black Pearl.

October 27, 1967  Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: The Bagatelle/Sidewinders (Friday)
October 28, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: The Hallucinations/Sidewinders
(Saturday)
The Sidewinders are unknown to me.

October 30, 1967 Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston, MA: Procol Harum (Monday)
The Psychedelic Supermarket had a one-night booking for Procol Harum, on their first American tour. This was surely an empty night on their trip, and for a UK band, however little money you made an off-night, it was more than not playing. The band was touring behind their classic debut album and single "A Whiter Shade Of Pale," with their classic lineup (Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher, Robin Trower, BJ Wilson and bassist David Knights). 

October 31-November 12, 1967 Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston, MA: Electric Flag/Blues Children/The Illuminations (Tuesday-Sunday)
Although Supermarket promoter George Papadopolis has a reputation for being a shady operator who didn't always treat his bands well (see this amazing Comment Thread--10 years long and still running--about the Supermarket, where everyone has a story about Papadopolis), he definitely had a knack for figuring out which bands were happening. Papadopolis was the first to book Jefferson Airplane in Boston, at his Unicorn folk club (in April of 1967). He had opened the Supermarket just to book Cream, and his timing was perfect. For his next major booking, he booked Mike Bloomfield's Electric Flag for two weeks.

Mike Bloomfield had been America's first sixties guitar hero with the Butterfield Blues Band. Back in 1966, they had torn up the Fillmore and everywhere else they played, inspiring a legion of guitar players when he led jams over twenty minutes on the classic "East-West." The mercurial Bloomfield had left Butter in early '67, fed up with management, and had moved to San Francisco. Their Bloomfield put together the Electric Flag, a group designed to play all kinds of American music: rock, blues, jazz, soul and even country. With seven or eight great musicians, they were versatile and experienced. The Electric Flag were underground legends before they had even released an album, which is how they came to headline two weeks at the Supermarket. Their Columbia debut album, A Long Time Comin', would not even be released until March 1968. The Flag had hardly played live, so they were an attraction solely on the buzz of Mike Bloomfield's new band.  

At this time, the Electric Flag would have been
Nick Gravenites-vocals, guitar
Mike Bloomfield-lead guitar
Peter Strazza-tenor sax
Herbie Rich-baritone sax, organ
Marcus Doubleday-trumpet
Barry Goldberg-piano, organ
Harvey Brooks-bass
Buddy Miles-drums, vocals
The Flag was notoriously inconsistent, but when they were firing on all cylinders, they really could play all kinds of American music really, really well. They must have nailed it at least one night out of a dozen. A tape survives of one these nights, supposedly a Grade Z collectors-only audience tape.

Blues Children and The Illuminations are unknown to me,

November 3-4, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: The Bagatelle/Mandrake Memorial (Friday-Saturday)

The Tech reported on the 1967 MIT Junior Prom on October 10

November 4, 1967 Back Bay Theater, Boston, MA: Lovin' Spoonful/Jerry Shane (Saturday 2-5pm). MIT Junior Prom
In the 1960s, most colleges had formal dances of some kind, just like high schools. For the bigger schools, the featured bands had recording contracts and were not just local nobodies. The geography of Boston and Cambridge, however, meant that such campus events took place right in town and had an impact on the live rock market itself. The weekend of November 3-4 had the MIT "Junior Prom," which featured a formal dance on Friday night at the Sheraton Boston Grand Ballroom, an outdoor event on Saturday morning, a Boston concert on Saturday afternoon and a dance and "beer bash" on Saturday night. The assumption was that the largely male MIT student body would invite their dates, likely from one of the nearby 'Seven Sisters" women's colleges (Wellesley, Vassar, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, etc), to the city for the weekend. 

At this time, the Lovin’ Spoonful were a hugely popular group. The Lovin' Spoonful's current single was "Six O'Clock" which would reach #12. This was just the latest in a long string of hugely popular, catchy hits starting in late 1965: "Do You Believe In Magic," (reached #9),"You Didn't Have To Be So Nice," (#10)  "Daydream," (#2) "Summer In The City" (#1), "Nashville Cats" (#8) and "Darling, Be Home Soon" (#15) still resonate today. The Spoonful were essential in making folk-rock music popular and commercially viable. The quartet was also a good live band, not true of many 60s pop artists. The Back Bay Theater was one of the larger available rock venues, but once again this was a show for MIT students to take their dates, and the Spoonful was appealing without being too disreputable. Jerry Shane was a comedian.

November 4, 1967 DuPont Gym, MIT, Cambridge, MA: Chuck Berry/Ill Wind (Saturday) MIT Junior Prom
On Saturday night, there was a rock dance in the MIT gym. The formal dance had been held the night before. The Tech carefully reported 

Chuck Berry and Ill Wind will be in DuPont at 8 for the beer blast; entrance will be through the back door of the athletic center only. No liquor may be brought, although refreshments will be available in large quantities. Dress will be informal, but no one wearing a sweatshirt will be admitted.

I assume that Berry was backed by the opening act, Ill Wind. The Ill Wind had been formed by MIT students.  Their lead guitarist, Ken Frankel, had played mandolin in a bluegrass group (The Wildwood Boys) with Jerry Garcia in summer 1963. The group would release an album called Flashes on ABC in 1968. Ken Frankel is thus one of the few musicians to have played on stage with both Jerry Garcia and Chuck Berry (Steve Miller and Loading Zone drummer George Marsh are the others I know of). 

The Tech reported that the Junior Prom was a huge success. 1100 couples bought tickets for Lovin Spoonful at the Back Bay (capacity 2600), and 1200 couples bought tickets for the Saturday night beer bash. The Junior Prom Queen was Miss Linda Kilburn of Wellesley. The Spoonful complained about the sound system, but eager MIT engineers once again saved the day, per The Tech.


November 10-11, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Sun Ra And His Myth Science Arkestra/The Hallucinations
(Friday-Saturday)
Sun Ra (born Herman "Sonny" Blount 1915-1993) is too much of a story for any blog post. Educated in Birmingham, AL, Sun Ra had a successful career as an arranger for big band leader Fletcher Henderson in Chicago in the 1940s. Ra discovered Afro-Futurism, and his music transformed as well, and he formed his own band. At times the Arkestra had over 20 members, including dancers and singers. Sun Ra and His Arkestra moved to New York City in 1961, where they lived communally and rehearsed constantly. The Arkestra is very hard to describe, but as a friend of mine told me in 1976, "imagine if the Duke Ellington Orchestra and The Grateful Dead were the same group." By 1967, regular appearances at Slug's Saloon in New York had made the Arkestra an undergound item all across the musical spectrum.

The Hallucinations were present to provide some regular order to the proceedings.

November 15-16, 1967 Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston, MA: The Yardbirds (Wednesday-Thursday)
Jimmy Page and the Yardbirds were booked for two nights, but canceled. It is unclear who was at the Supermarket between the Electric Flag (booking ended November 12) and the Mothers (starting November 24), and I don't think the club was just closed. If anyone has any clues about which bands played the Supermarket during that period (or any time), please put them in the comments.

November 17-18, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA:  Butter/Bo Grumpus/Salvation (Friday-Saturday)
Bo Grumpus was formed out of a duo called Two Guys From Boston (Eddie Mottau and Joe Hutchinson). They started performing ragtime-styled rock in Boston under the name The Bait Shop. They contacted their friend Felix Pappalardi, then in the process of producing Cream. Pappalardi moved the group to New York, where he got them a regular gig at Greenwich Village’s CafĂ© Wha. He also got the group a deal with Atco, but persuaded them to change their name to Bo Grumpus, based on a drawing by his artist wife Gail Collins. The band would released a Pappalardi-produced album on Atco in 1968. They would later change their name to Jolliver Arkansas and release another album on Bell in 1969.

Butter and Salvation are unknown to me.


November 23, 1967 Back Bay Theatre, Boston, MA: Beach Boys/Buffalo Springfield/Soul Survivors/Strawberry Alarm Clock/Pickle Brothers
Beach Boys Fifth Annual Thanksgiving Tour (Thursday)
The Beach Boys had an annual "Thanksgiving Tour," supported by other popular acts. We now think about Buffalo Springfield as the springboard for the careers of Stephen Stills and Neil Young, but at the time the industry saw them as another teenybopper act. This 9-day tour was not at all on the Fillmore model. The bill played two or three shows a day, playing brief sets. Now, it would be surprising to have a rock concert on the Thursday of Thanskgiving, but it wasn't uncommon in the 60s.

The Beach Boys were a hugely popular touring and recording act, but even they knew that rock music was passing them by. The Beach Boys had scored a #1 hit with "Good Vibrations" in October, 1966, but rock music was moving from a singles market to an album market. Brian Wilson had been working on his Smile album, as a sort of answer to the Beatles' Sgt Pepper album, but it had been stalled. Instead, the Beach Boys had released the unsatisfying Smiley Smile album in September 1967. Critical reflection on the Beach Boys in recent decades has been pretty favorable, but in late '67 the rock underground dismissed the Beach Boys as an uncool teenybopper band. 

On tour, the core Beach Boys' lineup was Mike Love, Carl Wilson (lead guitar), Al Jardine (guitar), Bruce Johnston (keyboards) and Dennis Wilson (drums), all singing their beautiful harmonies. Brian had long since left the road. For this tour, the Beach Boys also had Daryl Dragon on keyboards (later famous as "The Captain" with his partner Toni Tenille) and bassist Ron Brown. Per Keith Badman's exceptional Beach Boys' chronology, the band also recorded their performance at the Back Bay for their archives.

Buffalo Springfield, meanwhile, although they personally identified with the Fillmore scene and would have preferred to play a more underground venue, found themselves on a package tour playing brief sets. In June, the band had recently released the single "Bluebird" backed by "Mr Soul," both songs now classics. At the time, thought,  it was just  a modest hit. The band's new album Buffalo Springfield Again had just been released in October.

As a footnote, when Stephen Stills and Neil Young played Boston Gardens on June 26, 1976, Neil dedicated a song to those who saw Stills and Young at the Back Bay Theatre.

The Strawberry Alarm Clock were from Glendale, CA, and had released their hit "Incense and Peppermints in May 1967 (on Uni Records). It would reach #1 for one week. The band continued on for several years, and had occasional reunions, but never touched their initial high-water mark. As a peculiar footnote, Alarm Clock lead guitarist Ed King would join Lynyrd Skynyrd a few years later as their bass player.

The Soul Survivors were a soul trio from Philadelphia, produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. They had a big hit with "Expressway To Your Heart," released in 1967 and reaching #4 on the Billboard chart. The Pickle Brothers were a comedy duo.


November 24-25, 1967  Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA:  Ultimate Spinach/The Baul Singers & Dancers of Bengal
(Friday-Saturday)
Ultimate Spinach returned to the Boston Tea Party for yet another weekend. Clearly they were developing an audience, and they were probably signed by Alan Lorber and MGM around this time.

The Baul Singers included the two odd looking gentlemen on the cover of Bob Dylan’s 1968 John Wesley Harding album.

November 24-25, 1967 Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston, MA: Mothers of Invention (Friday-Saturday)
Today, thanks to modern scholarship by Charles Ulrich and others, we have a good picture of Frank Zappa's complex activities. In November 1967, Zappa and the Mothers had finished recording Uncle Meat, and were mostly playing that sort of material live. Yet to fans, this was all unknown. The most recent Mothers Of Invention album was Absolutely Free!, which had been released back in April of 1967, and recorded well before that--several eons in Zappalogical terms. Zappa had released his solo album Lumpy Gravy on MGM in August 67, but few people had heard it.

The Mothers lineup would have been Ray Collins (vocals), Ian Underwood (alto sax and keyboards), Don Preston (keyboards), Bunk Gardner and Motorhead (saxophones), Don Preston (keyboards), Roy Estrada (bass and vocals), Jimmy Carl Black (drums and vocals) and either Artie Tripp or Billy Mundi (drums). Much of the material played by the Mothers, possibly almost all of it, would have had nothing to do with any of the three albums he had released. Still, Zappa was Zappa, and it didn't really matter--either you were overwhelmed or you found the Mothers annoying, and Frank was OK with either result. 


December 1-2, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Kaleidoscope/Chain Reaction
(Friday-Saturday)
By December, most of the colleges (and many surrounding high schools) would have been in finals week, so there were fewer rock shows around town. The forbidding New England weather in December would not have been any inducement, either. Since the Tea Party was more of an underground joint, however, they were less dependent on college students for attendance, and had a full schedule throughout the month.

The Kaleidoscope had been founded in Los Angeles in 1966. There was pretty much nothing like them, as they all but single-handedly invented "World Music" a few decades before anyone was ready for it. Their debut album Side Trips was released on Epic in June, 1967. The band members were

David Lindley-guitar, harp guitar, violin, banjo, mandolin, vocals
Solomon Feldthouse-saz, bouzoukie, violin, more, vocals
Chester Crill-organ, piano, harmonica, violin
Chris Darrow-bass, violin
John Vidican-drums

The Kaleidoscope not only played electrified versions of diverse instruments, but they integrated musical styles from the Middle East and elsewhere into more typical rock settings. David Lindley said later that their approach immediately appealed to every musician, but audiences simply weren't ready for the diversity. The band was astonishing live, with all the members (save the drummer) casually switching instruments with aplomb. 

The Chain Reaction is unknown to me.

December 2, 1967 Back Bay Theater, Boston, MA: Jefferson Airplane (Saturday)
The Back Bay Theater, slated for tear-down in June of 1968, had become a regular site for larger rock concerts. Jefferson Airplane had appeared in April (at the Unicorn and also at MIT), but by December they were genuine rock stars. After their big hit album Surrealistic Pillow had been released in February, with hits like 'White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love," the band had followed up with After Bathing At Baxters. Even without a hit, the album would peak at #17. Jefferson Airplane were full-on rock stars when they returned to Boston in December.

Appropriately, the Back Bay Theater show was promoted by Bill Graham, who played a big part in booking the Airplane around the country. The band played two sets on Saturday night, with their own light show, in the Fillmore style. The show was reviewed in The Tech on December 5, 1967. Reviewer Steve Grant enthused "the Airplane really flew--to unprecedented heights--in two sets at Back Bay Theatre." He did add "the audience seemed a bit baffled by the lack of familiar songs, particularly in the second set. The Airplane, as a growing group of musicians, have deserted their popular straight style for something they consider better." Like it or not, Grant has captured what was happening with serious rock bands in the 60s.

    


December 8-9, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA:  Clear Light/Street Choir
(Friday-Saturday)
Clear Light had formed in Los Angeles in 1966, and had released an album on Elektra in 1967. They were an interesting band with two drummers, and were an important band in the bubbling Los Angeles hippie underground. Unfortunately, the band would break up in 1968. Drummer Dallas Taylor would go on to play with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. 

The Street Choir is unknown to me.


This flyer for the Grateful Dead at the Psychedelic Supermarket appears to be a "blank" where the venue would fill in the upcoming acts, with a picture. The Supermarket did not have interesting, collectable posters, as most of them look like this one (with a different band and date)
December 8-9, 1967 Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston, MA: Grateful Dead (Friday-Saturday)
The Grateful Dead finally debuted in Boston with a weekend at the Psychedelic Supermarket. George Papadopolis had a consistent knack for booking bands just as a buzz was surrounding them. In fact, the Dead's debut album had been a bust, realistically speaking, but the Grateful Dead were somehow underground heroes anyway, even if very few fans had ever actually heard them. 

According to Grateful Dead biographer Dennis McNally (pp. 231-235), in December '67 the band had been recording in New York at the Olmstead Studios on 48th Street, with Dave Hassinger as the engineer. Ramrod (a roadie), (drummer) Bill Kreutzmann and (soundman) Bob Matthews had driven the equipment truck cross country, and the band was in the Chelsea Hotel and then at a house in Englewood, New Jersey. Given the Dead's always precarious financial condition, it made sense that they would play a few weekend gigs while recording, because they would have needed the money.


The Grateful Dead were booked for Friday and Saturday night at the Supermarket, and also for a Saturday afternoon show at Clark University in Worcester, MA, just an hour West from Boston (in fact, the Worcester show was a debacle, so much so that Garcia publicly apologized when the band returned to Clark University in 1969). The Supermarket show was reviewed in The Tech the next week (December 12), including comments from Jerry Garcia.

December 15-16, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Richie Havens/The Bagatelle (Friday-Saturday)
Richie Havens (1941-2013) had a distinct style, somewhere between folk and jazz. He did not sing folk songs, per se, and while he was grounded comfortably in the blues he was not remotely a singer of traditional blues. He did jazzed up versions of blues songs, some of his own songs, and a few pop covers (like "Eleanor Rigby"). Havens wasn't a jazz singer, either, although he regularly played extended versions of songs in concert. His debut album, appropriately titled Mixed Bag, had been released on Verve back in July 1966. His follow-up, Something Else Again, would only come out in January 1968, a long time between albums for the era. Havens probably played with a small combo. Although he was--sort of--a folk act, he would have been at home in an underground rock club like the Tea Party.

December 22-23, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: Lothar and The Hand People/Beacon Street Union (Friday-Saturday)


December 29-30, 1967 Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA: The Hallucinations/Children of God
(Friday-Saturday)
Peter Wolf and The Hallucinations had played the Boston Tea Party in January, the second weekend the club was open. They closed out the year as well. The Tea Party did not have a New Year's Eve concert, as this rock tradition had not started yet.

The Children of God are unknown to me (I wonder if they were a re-named Children Of Paradise, who had already played the Tea Party?)

December 29-30, 1967 Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston, MA: Grateful Dead (Friday-Saturday)
The Grateful Dead appear to have returned to the Psychedelic Supermarket for the final weekend of the year, but did not play New Year's Eve in Boston or anywhere else. I say "appear to have returned" to the Supermarket, since there is no hard evidence that they played Boston or anywhere else that weekend. McNally and others allude to the band returning to San Francisco on December 31, anticipating jamming with Quicksilver at the Fillmore (they are foiled by some delicious brownies, and fall asleep). Everyone seems to assume they played the Supermarket, and the dates have appeared on lists since forever, but there is no confirmation. Until I uncovered the article in The Tech some years ago, the flyer for December 8-9 had been thought to be canceled, and rescheduled for December 29-30.

The Psychedelic Supermarket had very little in the way of flyers, nor did they advertise much. What little press coverage and advertising there was for the venue was in college papers like The Tech, and they did not publish around New Years, since school was out. So we have no ads, no review, no eyewitness accounts, and just a general assumption that the band played the Psychedelic Supermarket. But since they returned to SF on December 31, it seems likely the band played somewhere that weekend, and there weren't many venues for psychedelic rock bands with one unsuccessful album under their belt.  Hopefully the Internet can work it's magic and someone will find a reference to the Dead at the Supermarket for the last weekend of the year.

Boston Psychedelic Rock, 1967
Unlike almost every other American city, save for perhaps Greenwich Village, Boston had come into the year with a thriving concert market for rock, folk and blues music that appealed to young people. The part of Boston centered around the colleges and universities had been absorbing the folk boom, not to mention the British Invasion, for some years. The numerous schools provided plenty of hip entertainment, not just music but theater and all other performing arts. 

Still, Boston got its first truly "underground" psychedelic venue in January, 1967. The tiny Boston Tea Party was run on a shoestring, with mostly volunteer labor, yet it managed to stay open and even thrive throughout the year. The simple proof that the Tea Party thrived was that competition arose, first the Crosstown Bus and then the Psychedelic Supermarket. Bands were forming, some of them were good, and they had some places to perform. Something was happening next to the Charles River, even if no one was exactly sure what it was yet.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

April 6, 1974 Ontario Motor Speedway, Ontario, CA: Emerson Lake & Palmer/Deep Purple/Eagles (California Jam)

 

April 6, 1974 Ontario Motor Speedway, Ontario, CA: Emerson Lake & Palmer/Deep Purple/Black Sabbath/Black Oak Arkansas/Seals & Crofts/Eagles/Earth Wind & Fire/Rare Earth (Saturday) California Jam
The Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, CA, 35 miles East of Los Angeles, is largely forgotten today, as was the major rock concert held at the Speedway on April 6, 1974. Yet the "California Jam," as it was called, had great economic significance in the history of rock concerts, in that it had the highest paid attendance of any rock concert up until that time. The paid attendance record was only known to have been eclipsed one time--at the successor concert at Ontario Speedway on March 18, 1978, known as "California Jam II". The 168,000 paid attendance--out of probably 200,000 in total--at the 1974 show make it an important event, yet rock history has put it aside. This post will look at the 1974 California Jam concert at Ontario Motor Speedway in its proper context, and reflect on how it was both influential, profitable and yet repeated only a single time.


Rock Festivals and Major Rock Venues: Status Report, Early 1974
Rock Festivals were a product of the 1960s. Gina Arnold's excellent book Half A Million Strong (2018 U of Iowa Press) tracks how "free shows in the park" evolved into "giant multi-day events in some farmer's muddy field" over the course of a few years (yes, she's my sister, but you should read it). By the time of the biggest festivals of 1969 and 1970, most famously Woodstock, hundreds of thousands of people would come to some outlying area and camp out for several days, while live rock music blasted 24/7. Legendary as these events were, most fans did not attend more than one giant event, and most communities that had endured a huge rock festival did not tolerate a second one.

Live rock music got bigger every year, and various efforts were tried to find a way to have "festival" events on a large scale. Multi-act events were appealing to promoters because they inherently hedged risk in a volatile music market. Since shows had to be planned many months in advance, and it was hard to anticipate how one band might have a breakout hit, and how another may have become over the hill, or even broken up, in the few short months between booking the show and playing it. In early 1969, for example, Led Zeppelin found themselves playing tiny auditoriums, sometimes as the opening act, with their debut album roaring up the charts, while Vanilla Fudge found themselves no longer the draw they had been the year before. A rock festival, with dozens of acts over a few days, could more easily absorb the hits and misses. Promoters continued to search for a way to book multiple acts profitably.


Rock Concerts at Auto Racing Tracks

The immediate and vast popularity of rock festivals posed a very specific land-use problem. Places like Indian Reservations and farms were not really viable for major, multi-day events, since too many things could go wrong. Equally importantly, despite or because of the increasing crowds, it was all but inevitable that rock festivals would become "free concerts." Liberating as this may have seemed at the time, it ensured that the events could not make enough money to provide a safe, repeatable event for bands, patrons and host communities. The financial opportunities of rock festivals were huge, however, and since nothing says "rock and roll" like "land use," over the years there was a concerted effort in the concert industry to find spaces that could successfully and profitably host occasional, loud outdoor events with giant crowds.

One of the intriguing solutions for hosting giant rock festivals was to use facilities designed for auto racing. Race tracks were usually somewhat removed from urban areas while still being near enough to civilization to attract a crowd. Auto races themselves were noisy, and major race events tended to occur just a few times a year and last an entire weekend, just like a rock festival. Since race tracks were permanent facilities, they generally had fences, bathrooms, water, power and parking, so in many ways they would seem like ideal venues for huge rock events. Indeed, some of the major rock events of the 1969 and the 1970s were held at race tracks. 


Two of the most successful rock festivals were held at Texas Speedway and Atlanta Speedway, both organized in 1969 by promoter Alex Cooley. Both Speedways were NASCAR ovals.  The Rolling Stones' debacle at tiny Altamont Speedway might have had a very different outcome had it been held at its original site, the newly-opened Sonoma Raceway, a Road Racing course in rural Sonoma County, near the San Francisco Bay. 

I looked at some of the history and economic dynamics of Auto Racing tracks as Rock Concert sites in another post, although for purposes of scale I focused on the Grateful Dead. Generally speaking, while auto racing had been popular since the invention of the automobile, horse racing had been hugely popular in cities and county fairs throughout the United States long before cars were invented. However, after WW2, when the GIs returned and economy boomed, America moved from its rural roots to a more urban and suburban universe, and the automobile became a more important part of everyone's life. A national boom in the popularity of auto racing corresponded with a slow decline in the popularity of horse racing. 

By the early 1960s, numerous custom-built facilities served the thriving auto racing industry, with oval tracks (for NASCAR and "Indianapolis" cars in the South and Midwest), road courses (for sports cars on both coasts) and dragstrips (nationwide). These facilities were ready made for rock concerts, but there were some huge cultural divides. With a middle-class family audience for auto races, with their Dow Industrials sponsorship from major companies, racetrack promoters were neither tuned in to nor inclined towards sponsoring long-haired outlaw rock concert events flaunting nudity and drugs. 


The most important 1970s rock concert event at an auto racing track was the infamous "Summer Jam" at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Racecourse, on July 28, 1973. Officially, it was just a single day event with only three groups: the Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead and The Band. Watkins Glen was in upstate New York, 250 miles Northwest of Manhattan, and 200 miles West of Woodstock. Watkins Glen Racecourse was the site of the annual Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, and huge crowds in the 50-100,000 range convened there annually for Grand Prix weekend. It seemed like a perfect spot for a rock festival. 

Of course, although many tickets were sold, apparently as many as 150,000 (at $10 per), 600,000 or more fans actually showed up and the concert rapidly became free. The Dead played a set at soundcheck the day before (July 27), as did the other bands. In the end, the weather was good, nothing went wrong, a good time was had by all, the promoters seem to have made money and no one wanted to do it again. With that many people, something was eventually going to go wrong. Ironically, if the Dead had played Watkins Glen with less dramatic support (just the New Riders and The Sons, for example), maybe only 50,000 would have showed up, and it would have become an annual event. But any willingness to support this sort of event in the heavily populated Northeast disappeared forever at midnight as members of all three bands rocked through "Not Fade Away" and "Mountain Jam" for half a million fans as they closed the concert.

The California Jam, at Ontario Motor Speedway, would follow the next Summer, with a very different configuration. It's another forgotten fact, however, that both the Dead and the Allman Brothers were booked at Ontario Motor Speedway on May 27, 1973, just two months before Watkins Glen. The largest rock concert in American history nearly had a preview, between Los Angeles and San Bernardino.

May 27, 1973 Ontario Motor Speedway, Ontario, CA: Grateful Dead/Allman Brothers Band/Waylon Jennings/Jerry Jeff Walker (Sunday) Bill Graham Presents-Canceled
I recently discussed the history of the concert scheduled for Sunday, May 27, 1973, featuring the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers and Waylon Jennings. The concert was booked and advertised, but ultimately it was canceled with a week to go. The stated reason was that the local police wanted the show to end by nightfall, but it's more likely that ticket sales were insufficient. If Bill Graham had sold 150,000 tickets, as he had hoped, he would have found a way to assuage any concerns--if they were real at all--about performing at night, with extra lights, added security or whatever it took. I think that the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, while both popular bands, were not a destination concert for 1973 Southern California fans. Old San Francisco or Georgia hippie stuff just wasn't ringing bells in Los Angeles, and every high school student for 100 miles around wasn't going to drive to Ontario for that. So the concert was canceled.

There were some other subplots at play this weekend. May 27 '73 was the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, which was the day of the Indianapolis 500. The Ontario Motor Speedway was not going to try and draw racing fans during the biggest televised auto racing event of the year, so they would have been ripe for another event. After the grand opening of the Speedway in August 1970 (discussed in more detail below), the Speedway had under-performed. Bill Graham, meanwhile, although the King of the San Francisco concert scene, had only occasionally put on shows in LA. There was no dominant promoter in Southern California, so it was just like Graham to identify a new and willing partner and introduce himself with a huge bang. Prudence won out, however, and the '73 Dead/Allman show at Ontario was canceled. Yet the same pair, plus The Band, were the attractions at the largest rock concert in American history just 2 months later at Watkins Glen. So Graham was onto something, but he was off by 2 months and 3000 miles. It turns out, he was also right about Ontario Motor Speedway, but that would take another year.


November 24, 1973 Ontario Motor Speedway, Ontario, CA: Three Dog Night/Guess Who/Chuck Berry/Canned Heat/Blues Image/Azteca/Mag Wheel & The Lugnuts/Tower of Power (Saturday)  November Jam
Between the canceled Dead/Allmans show in May '73, and the epic California Jam in April of 1974, there was one other event, utterly forgotten. The "November Jam," on Saturday, November 24 was attended by less than 50,000. It never rains in Southern California, as we know, except when Three Dog Night was your headliner. LA Times rock critic Dennis Hunt reviewed the grim proceedings on Monday (November 26):





A Cold Concert In Ontario (Dawn To Dusk Rock)
A cold, windy drizzly day is lethal to a marathon outdoor rock concert. Hours of exposure to bad weather is no fun. Unfortunately, it was damp and chilly on Saturday at Ontario Motor Speedway. The dawn to dusk concert there was not as enjoyable or well attended as it might have been on a warm, sunny day.
Under the circumstances, the crowd was fairly large. The security guards estimated that between 10-15,000 were present when the gates opened at 6:15 am and that, by afternoon, there were between 20-25,000.

...I arrived in the afternoon and endured a long, awful set by Three Dog Night and part of the Guess Who set. Chuck Berry was scheduled to close the show, but late in the afternoon the announcer reported that he had never arrived. When the Guess Who appeared, it was dark and drizzling steadily. Most of the crowed left after the Three Dog Night. Many who stayed to see the Guess Who perform departed after the first few numbers since it was evident that the group, understandably, was not in good form. 

While this show was forgettably bad, and not much fun, it does mean that a successful rock concert was held at the Ontario Motor Speedway. Some lessons must have been learned, whatever they were, and a bigger event with major acts, at a more favorable time of year, must have seemed viable. Remember, April in Los Angeles is generally beautiful, and it really doesn't rain in LA in the Spring.  So a big Spring rock festival type event at Ontario Speedway must have seemed very plausible indeed.

In the summer of 1973, live rock was starting to flex its muscles. Major bands had been headlining basketball arenas since the late 1960s. In 1973, bands started to headline football stadiums. Led Zeppelin, perhaps the best drawing band in the country, had begun their spring '73 tour by headlining stadiums in Tampa (May 4) and Atlanta (Fulton County Stadium, May 5). At both shows, they were the only performers, and sold upwards of 40,000 tickets, setting records for the time. Zeppelin ended their '73 tour headlining for Bill Graham at Kezar Stadium on June 2, apparently selling 60,000 tickets. Rock was getting big. The only problem for promoters was finding venues that were willing, a market in place and no conflicts with other (usually sports) tenants.

The Ontario Motor Speedway was an innovative and newly constructed auto racing track that had only opened for full-time racing in Summer 1970. Ontario, CA, had been founded in 1891, named by transplanted Canadians. Ontario is 35 miles East of Los Angeles, and 23 miles South of San Bernardino. Part of San Bernardino County, it is on the Western Edge of the so-called Inland Empire. Ontario had been the site of a World War 2 Army Air Force Base, which remained an Air National Guard base (and would remain so through 1995). The airport had also been established for civilian use in 1946 as Ontario International Airport. The Airport was joined to LAX in 1967, and jet flights had begun at the airport in 1968. Although Ontario only had a population of 64,118 in the 1970 census, as a result of the airport and the airbase it was at the nexus of a substantial freeway network. I-10 and I-15 met at Ontario Airport, so all of Southern California could get there easily.

Auto racing was booming in the 1960s, and Los Angeles was under-served by facilities. Yes, there was the epic Riverside Raceway, another 25 miles East, but that made it even farther from LA proper. More importantly, Riverside was just a road racing facility--albeit a great one--and that limited the types of major events that could be held there. Ontario Motor Speedway was conceived as a full-service answer to every auto racing sector in the Los Angeles area, in a location even nearer to the city. The airport location was crucial, too, since major auto racing teams barnstormed around the country like touring rock bands, and drivers and even their race cars were always flying directly from track to track. 

Ontario Motor Speedway was custom built to provide first class facilities for all the major types of racing: an oval for NASCAR and Indianapolis cars, a road course (that included part of the oval) for road racing and a dragstrip. Besides advanced pit facilities, OMS also pioneered what we now call "clubhouses" and "luxury suites" for sponsors. It was a well thought-out endeavor. The plan was to have not only top level NASCAR and USAC (Indy Car) 500-mile races, but Formula 1 and NHRA Drag racing. The inaugural race was the (Indy Car) California 500 on September 6, 1970, with paid attendance of 178,000, a huge crowd even by auto racing standards. Jim McElreath beat out an All-Star field of drivers that included Mario Andretti, A. J. Foyt, Dan Gurney and the Unser brothers.

Mario Andretti (#5) in his Ferrari 312B coming to lap Mark Donohue (#26) in a Lola T192-Chevy F5000 car at the Questor Grand Prix at Ontario Speedway on March 28, 1971. Andretti would win the only F1 race at Ontario, followed by Jackie Stewart (Tyrell), Denis Hulme (McLaren) and Chris Amon (Matra)

After a hugely successful opening, however, Ontario Motor Speedway had a number of events in 1971 and '72 that did not live up to financial expectations. The racing was great--it was the early 70s--but after the September '70 opening, the Speedway didn't catch LA like it should. The big plan was that Ontario would host a 2nd United States Grand Prix, which hitherto had been the exclusive province of Watkins Glen in New York. As a prelude, Ontario Motor Speedway held a non-Championship Formula 1 race, the Questor Grand Prix, on March 28, 1971, won by Mario Andretti in a Ferrari 312B. The event was a financial bust, however, and Formula 1 cars never ran at Ontario again (ultimately Long Beach, CA, would get the second US, Grand Prix). Although 1971 went alright, the 1972 Ontario attendance--despite great racing--were a financial letdown. Thus by 1973, Ontario Motor Speedway would have been open to the possibility of different promotions. 

Southern California Stadiums
There were plenty of stadiums in Southern California, but none of them were particularly ripe for rock concert promoters. Dodger Stadium was under the full control of the Dodgers, and they didn't share it. Anyway, it was baseball season. The Los Angeles Coliseum was old (opened 1921) and in and "undesirable" (read: "too African-American") neighborhood. The Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, had access and parking issues. That left Anaheim Stadium, in Orange County. But it was just across the road from Disneyland, and The Mouse would not want weekend parking disrupted by hordes of young rock fans. In the end, starting around 1976, Anaheim Stadium would become the primary home of stadium rock concerts in Southern California, with the full cooperation of Disneyland, but that was a few years away.

Ontario Motor Speedway was a different matter. It had been well-conceived and well-financed, but after initial excitement attention had died down--same as it ever was for LA--it was going to need additional sources of revenue.

What did the Ontario Motor Speedway offer as a rock concert venue?
  • Its location (35 miles E of LA, 23 miles Southwest of San Bernardino) put it in close proximity to tens of thousands of potential rock fans
  • The convergence of the I-10 and I-15 freeways meant that an even larger pool of rock fans could drive to the Speedway fairly easily, from either San Diego (on I-15) or nearer the Pacific Coast (I-10). Ontario was just outside of Central LA, so the majority of potential fans could circumnavigate the often brutal traffic jams that the region was infamous for.
  • In Southern California, it's always sunny and it never rains, so weather wasn't a consideration.
  • The racing facility had parking for 50,000 cars, and apparently there were satellite lots as well. No need to worry about cars abandoned by the side of the road on some farm road (although that would turn out just the same as at Woodstock, even if it didn't initially seem so)
  • The grandstands featured 95,000 seats, with 40,000 "bleacher" seats in temporary grandstands, and a substantial crowd could fit on the infield. It was plausible to imagine 200,000 or more fans at a rock concert (178,000 had attended the inaugural California 500 race). This was double the capacity of even the enormous LA Coliseum.
  • Ontario Motor Speedway had debt to service and was looking for other sources of revenue, so they would be eager to work with any well-financed partners
  • Most importantly, the huge grandstands around the track, and hence around the whole facility, ensured that the facility was cordoned off. That meant it was plausible to ensure that only those with tickets would get into the show. At giant rock festivals, the economic issue was always gate-crashing, but that was usually in some giant, muddy field. The Speedway itself acted as fence, and entry was through controlled tunnels under the grandstands. Gary Stromberg, a publicist for Bill Graham, had commented on this the previous year (LA Times May 5 '73), saying "the Speedway has high fences and special tunnel entrances that were built specifically to deter would-be gate-crashers." So this was no afterthought.
ABC In Concert
In November 1972, ABC quietly began a revolution in late night television when it broadcast two 90-minute In Concert shows. The first one (November 24) had featured Alice Cooper, Curtis Mayfield, Bo Diddley and Seals & Crofts, while the second (December 8) had showcased the Allman Brothers (with bassist Berry Oakley's last performance), Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chuck Berry and Poco. All the acts had been filmed live at Hofstra University on November 2, 1972, rather than in a sterile TV studio.

ABC In Concert had gotten tremendous ratings, and ABC had made it a regular bi-weekly show. NBC had followed with the Midnight Special, and that in turn was followed by the syndicated Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. So for young teenagers like myself, the weekend was full of actual rock bands playing actual live rock and roll, sometimes simulcast on FM radio. It was our first opportunity to see what some of these bands looked like on stage. Not only were the shows successful in their own right, but they helped teach networks that there was a TV audience for late at night, particularly for young people. Shows like Tom Snyder's Tomorrow, Saturday Night Live and Fernwood 2Nite would soon come. 

The California Jam concert was produced by veteran promoters Sandy Feldman and Leonard Stogel. The bands were booked by Pacific Presentations, a Los Angeles-based agency with a national profile, who worked with just about every touring act in the country ABC had made the decision, however, to videotape all of the California Jam, and broadcast highlights of it in four shows between May 24 and June 21. For one thing, the TV broadcast made the band's appearances even more high profile. I do not know the financial terms of the broadcast, but ABC helped underwrite Cal Jam in some way, adding to the financial stability of the event.

California Jam: The Bands
The California Jam show was only a single day of performances, but it was scheduled to go for about twelve hours. There were eight performers. All of the bands were popular, but none of them were a singular attraction that was going to provided the bulk of the drawing power. It's important to remember that the rock audience was still pretty young at the time. Someone who had first heard the Beatles in 1964 at, say, age 11, would only have been 22 by 1974. Much of the audience would have been even younger than that. People in High School or College tend to travel in packs. The goal for the Cal Jam booking was to provide something for a wide spectrum of young white Southern California rock fans. That meant that for a carful of teenagers, everyone had something they were looking forward to.

Brain Salad Surgery, ELP's 5th album (first on Manticore/Atlantic) released in January 1974

Emerson, Lake and Palmer
were the headliners, booked to close the show after nightfall. They had just released their fifth album Brain Salad Surgery, in January. After the trio's previous album, Trilogy (on Island) had reached #5, ELP (as they were known) had signed with Atlantic. Atlantic had given them their own "Imprint" label, Manticore Records. Brain Salad Surgery would reach #11. ELP were dramatic live performers, playing surprisingly difficult music in an energetic way. Back in 1970, they had had a modest hit single with "Lucky Man," but they were an album band, famous for Keith Emerson's prodigious keyboard skills and Carl Palmer's powerhouse drumming.

ELP had formed out of the ashes of Emerson's 60s trio, The Nice. The Nice were progressive rock pioneers, featuring Emerson's formidable organ and piano skills, augmented by odd time signatures and orchestral accompaniment. Along with the difficult stuff, The Nice would do highly musical covers of Bob Dylan songs and the like. They were very popular in England. The Nice had ground to a halt by the end of 1969, and Emerson and Greg Lake teamed up, finding Palmer in early 1970. Almost from their inception, the band's merger of classically-themed pieces and loud rock virtuosity made them a huge concert attraction. ELP was the first really successful Progressive rock band, and they were a huge concert draw. ELP showed that rowdy young men could get just as excited about a 20-minute rock adaptation of a classical theme as they would for a blues boogie. 

Deep Purple's Burn, released February 1974. The first album by Deep Purple Mk. III

Deep Purple
had been around since the 1960s, but had only skyrocketed to popularity with the live album Made In Japan. Made In Japan had been released in April 1973, even though it had been recorded prior to the release of the studio album Who Do We Think We Are?, which had been released in January of 1973. Thanks to the live album, EMI released the two-year old "Smoke On The Water" (from 1972's Machine Head) as a single in May, 1973. It would reach #2 and became Deep Purple's signature song. Deep Purple straddled the line between hard rock and somewhat more serious music. EMI had given Deep Purple their own imprint, Purple Records, just as Atco had done with ELP.

Machine Head ('72), "Smoke On The Water," Made In Japan and Who Do We Think We Are? were all produced by the "classic" Deep Purple lineup (now known colloquially as Deep Purple Mk 2), which had been together since late 1969:

Ian Gillan-vocals
Ritchie Blackmore-lead guitar
Jon Lord-organ, keyboards
Roger Glover-bass
Ian Paice-drums 

By the time of Cal Jam, however, Gillan and Glover had left Deep Purple. They had been replaced by lead singer David Coverdale and bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes (ex-Trapeze). The new lineup (known informally as Mk 3) had just released Burn in February '74. Burn was a big success, and would reach #9 on the Billboard album charts.

The members of ELP and Deep Purple had been slogging around the English rock scene in the '60s, playing in a variety of good and bad bands, some known and some obscure. Now here they were, after nearly a decade, at the top of the bill at a giant venue in Southern California, with their new albums racing up the charts.


The Eagles
had just released On The Border, their third album for Asylum Records in March 1974. The album would ultimately reach #17 on the Billboard charts and sell two million copies (double platinum). The record would have three huge, memorable singles: "Already Gone" (released April 19 '74), "James Dean" and "Best Of My Love." The Eagles were already really big, but they were going to get much, much bigger. The Eagles rocked a little bit, but they were much mellower than ELP or Deep Purple. When you realize that the booking concept of Cal Jam was to bring carloads of teenagers, you can see how while ELP or Purple appealed to many young men, the Eagles and Seals & Crofts were going to be more interesting to their girlfriends. 

The Eagles had recently expanded to a quintet, with guitarist Don Felder joining the band. While the Eagles were on tour (it had started on March 26) Felder's wife was having a baby. The Eagles were not going to cancel a high profile concert, planned for TV broadcast, but they weren't apparently comfortable playing in front of a huge crowd in quartet format. Thus they drafted Glenn Frey's former housemate, one Jackson Browne, to be a "guest member" for California Jam. Browne played piano and guitar, and sang along on "Take It Easy" and some other numbers.


Black Sabbath
of course had no radio hits, nor much in the way of FM airplay. Nonetheless they were hugely popular. In December, 1973, they had released their fifth album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Released on Warner Brothers in the US (Vertigo in the UK), it would reach #11 on Billboard. Black Sabbath's lineup was still the original, classic lineup with Tony Iommi on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass, Bill Ward on drums and of course Ozzy Osbourne on lead vocals. 

Black Oak Arkansas, a Southern boogie quintet that really was from Black Oak, AK, had just released their fifth album on Atco, High On The Hog. The album would be the high water mark for the band, reaching #52 on Billboard. The album included the single "Jim Dandy," which itself went to #55. Black Oak Arkansas were amongst the initial wave of Southern rockers, even though they sounded quite a bit different than the somewhat jazz-and-R&B influenced Allman Brothers. Black Oak Arkansas' twin guitar attack was pretty much straight boogie. It's actually harder to play high-speed shuffles than it appears, so the band may have been better than they were given credit for, but they did not have the reputation for musical virtousity like the Allmans and their peers. Black Oak was another band that were popular with rowdy young men, like Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.

Dash Seals and Jim Crofts were both long-time professional musicians from Texas. Both of them had been in The Champs, albeit touring some time after "Tequila" had been a smash hit in 1958. Both of them had also backed Glenn Campbell in Van Nuys nightclub, back in the early 60s, when Campbell was an established session musician but not yet a recording star. After various ins and outs, they ended up as a singer/songwriter duo signed to TA Records. Seals and Crofts self-titled debut came out in 1969, and their follow-up Down Home would come out in September 1970. They would not see big success until after they signed with Warner Brothers in 1971. By '72, they had huge hits with "Hummingbird" and "Summer Breeze," and the Summer Breeze album from September was equally giant. "Diamond Girl," from April 1973, was equally huge. The album would reach #4, and the title single would release #6.

Seals & Crofts' newest album was Unborn Child. It had been released in February 1974. Warner Brothers had warned the duo that the subject of abortion in the title track was not going to be commercially popular, and they were correct. The album would only reach #18 on Billboard, with no hit singles, and the duo's popularity crested after this album. On stage, the pair were usually backed by a small combo. Once again, it's clear that Seals & Crofts filled out the bill to provide some contrast to the many loud, hard-rocking acts on the show. While the pair sometimes performed just as a duo, at Cal Jam they were supported by a full band, with drums, bass and percussion.


Earth, Wind & Fire
are soul legends to this day, and rightly so. Yet it may seem strange that they appeared at one of the biggest rock festival events of all time, seventh on the bill below loud, long-haired bands like ELP, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. There are two main point to reflect upon.

Firstly, while Earth, Wind & Fire was already extremely popular, their sound in 1974 was pretty different than when they would become absolutely huge a few years later. Founder Maurice White had been a jazz and studio drummer in the 1960s, playing with the Ramsey Lewis Trio, among others. When he founded Earth, Wind & Fire, while there was a healthy serving of soul and dance music, there was a lot of jazz and funk, too, with a nice overlay of African sounds ("World Music" wasn't a thing yet). EWF was a large ensemble, and they played a wide variety of music in concert, with a lot of soloing. Their current album was Open Our Eyes, their fifth album and third on Columbia. It went to #1 on the Soul charts and #15 on the Billboard pop charts. They often performed on tour with white rock bands. As a teenager, I would have compared them to War, if somewhat more uptempo. I saw them (in October 1973) opening for Rod Stewart & The Faces, so this rock festival appearance was within their regular universe.

Secondly, it's important to remember that the goal of the Cal Jam booking was to make sure that every carload of friends from a High School had a band that they liked. Even if long-haired boys were the primary market, hopping into their parents' station wagons to catch Purple or Ozzy, lots of other tastes were accounted for. The Eagles were catchy, Seals & Crofts were thoughtful, and Earth, Wind & Fire was funky. Plenty of white teenagers liked EWF, or any popular soul band, so their booking wasn't some attempt to attract an African-American crowd. The idea was that if your girlfriend thought ELP was pretentious and boring--as, I assure you, many a 1974 girlfriend did--they could look forward to funking out with EWF instead. 

Rare Earth had the odd distinction of being the first all-white band to have a hit on Motown Records. Rare Earth were a self-contained band from Detroit, who had been signed to Motown's fledgling rock label, also called Rare Earth (after the band). Rare Earth were great singers, and in 1969 they had a huge, memorable hit with "Get Ready," which would reach #4. In 1970, they would have another big hit with "Celebrate" which reached #7.

By 1974, Rare Earth had released six albums. There most recent album had been Ma, released on Motown back in April 1973. Produced by Norman Whitfield, it was apparently pretty good, but it didn't sell. So by the time of Cal Jam, everybody would have recognized Rare Earth and their big hits, but they wouldn't have been a big attraction. Similar to Earth, Wind & Fire, however, they would have been generally popular without being identical to some of the other bands on the bill.

Since the entire event would be broadcast later on ABC-TV, it's not surprising that a popular former LA DJ with a national profile was hired to be the MC. It is startling to realize, at this distant remove, that the DJ was Don Imus. Imus had practically invented the "Shock Jock" genre in Southern California, and by 1974 was the morning Drive Time dj on WABC 660 AM in New York City.

Come The Day
Remember the goal. Have an all-day rock festival with somewhat broad appeal, in order to draw 15-25 year olds from all over Southern California. More importantly, the goal was to ensure that admission was controlled, so that each member of the hopefully vast crowd would have to have paid for a ticket to get in, and that the event was orderly and under control. Ontario Motor Speedway was all but custom designed to meet each of these goals.

It almost worked.

Before we address the concert itself, we have to address the Achilles Heel of every major rock festival, which is ticket sales, parking and crowd control prior to the concert, particularly the day before. Ontario Motor Speedway may as well have been ideal, but it was still madness. The best description of the run-up to the show comes from the Facebook Cal Jam Fansite. It has lots of great posts and links, and if you've read this far I highly recommend clicking on it (you can access most of it without FB membership). For the purposes of this blog post, I have excerpted some highlights from the FB page Admin. I have left some entertaining details out, since I am focused on parking and crowd control. The description is from Allen Pamplin, then a 15-year old High School student in Northridge, CA.

Read it and smile, or weep--they don't allow this anymore, nor probably should they. You should probably put on "Burn" (the live version) and crank it up high while you read (emphasis mine):

Hello, my name is allen pamplin,
The California Jam - on April 6th, 1974, was a large concert event held at the Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario California. It was my first professional rock and roll concert I had ever been to. I was 15 years old at this time, in ninth grade going to Nobel Junior High in Northridge California. Prior to the concert, I didn't know anything about the event, or even knew I was going until 3:00 pm Friday April 5th, 1974. That's about 19 hours before the concert started. I don't remember why I didn't know anything about the concert. I found out later that all my friends knew about the event before it took place...

I don't remember much about the drive. We drove to Ontario from San Fernando Valley in separate vehicles. My brother Karey and I drove in a Ford Country Squire, and Bill and Dave in a Van. I'm amazed we managed to stay together during the drive. We arrived at the speedway parking-lot (west end) at about 11:00 pm. I don't remember it being that difficult to park, plenty of body traffic here and there at the time. Later I understand it was impossible to park in either speedway lots because of inadequate parking-personnel. But at 11:00 pm you could still get a parking spot, even though there were thousands of cars and bodies already there. I would estimate about a quarter of the entire audience was there in the speedway parking-lots the night before. I wouldn't say we were exactly an audience at that point. We appeared to be more like a mob of lost travelers that migrated to this remote party in the middle of nowhere.

The parking-lot was indeed a scene to behold, people everywhere. I've been to a lot of the San Fernando Valley parties in those days, but nothing quite compared to this. I'm in the West end parking-lot, and everything I'm seeing here is also going on at the East end of the speedway just one mile down the road on the opposite side of the speedway. Essentially, each lot is about 175 acres of dirt-grass field with a potential of about 25,000 cars. I started to walk around the parking lot and check the place out. It was a little overwhelming walking between poorly lit rows of cars, along with people in the thousands. It looked more like field-party with drugs everywhere. You could buy drugs from almost anyone there, and use it right out in the open. I can see drug exchanges going on all over the parking-lot with people partying out of cars, trucks and in backs of vans. Some vehicles had "drugs for sale" signs posted on their vehicles. Wow, just imagine the biggest street party that you have ever been to in the 70's, and multiply that by 1000. No kidding, at least a thousand.

When I reached the first bon fire... and I'm not talking about some small campfire. When I say bon fire, I mean BON FIRE. I mean this particular bon fire had at least a couple of trees in it. I became more relaxed when I joined the first circle of fifty or so people around the fire waiting for the speedway to open. Seemed like a bunch of friendly mellow people, excited and wanting to have a good time...
The gates opened around 1:00 am, and everyone started migrating toward the entrance. Hell, who knew were that was? It was dark and all you did was be a cow and follow the person in front of you; and god only knows what state-of-mind they're in. Somehow we were in a tunnel and into the infield of the speedway. There was no line, a guy looked at my ticket, tore it, and in I go, into this well-lit big open infield.

From far away I could see the rainbow on the stage [the stage was bracketed by a neon-lighted rainbow]. That was the first thing I remember focusing on as I walked across the vast open field. I was amazed, in a dream-like state in all that space. My brother kept saying, "Come on, we got to catch up with those guys!"...

We finally caught up with them behind the mixing tower that is slightly left of the stage. Now the decision from here is to go right or left of the tower. We went left, and around in front of the mixing tower, and up next to the fence at the press enclosure. The fence had brown canvas tied to it that obscured some of the view near the stage. We stood and looked around and said, "Yeah, this looks good", and sat down. It's now about 2:30 am with the stage in front, the camera crane to the right, and the mixing tower behind us with a shitload of people all around relaxing, partying and waiting for the show to begin. This is where I held my ground for the entire concert, twenty-one hours before my next piss break. 

Ace San Bernardino reporter David Allen looked back on the Cal Jam festival in a 2014 article in the Daily Sun, with the benefit of hindsight (his whole article is worth reading), but he highlighted some of the practical difficulties with such a giant crowd.

Parking was nightmarish for many. The 42,000-car lot filled up and traffic backed up for 13 miles at times on both the 10 and 60 freeways.

The CHP closed the off-ramps nearest the speedway and directed motorists to surface streets. Frustrated fans began parking in surrounding vineyards and vacant land. Some abandoned their cars three- and four-deep along the 10 Freeway’s shoulders and walked as far as four miles, according to contemporary accounts.

Afterward, many returned to their vehicles to find they’d been either ticketed or towed. Bummer.

Even from a vantage point 40 feet above the stage, the sea of humanity stretched as far as the eye could see,” David Shaw wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “With temperatures hovering near 85, bikinis, shorts and bare chests were plentiful, and the scene at times looked more like a Sunday afternoon at the beach than a rock festival.”

Bands stayed at a Holiday Inn whose marquee sign read “Welcome Western States Police Officers Assn.” to scare off fans. Band members were transported to the concert by helicopter.

Two stages were mounted on a temporary railroad track. When one stage was in use, the other was being prepped for the next band, ensuring no downtime between acts. The setup was so efficient, the first act went on 15 minutes early.

Deep Purple on stage at Cal Jam, Ontario Motor Speedway, April 6, 1974 as the sun sets behind the rainbow stage. David Coverdale-vocals, with (l-r) Jon Lord, Glenn Hughes, Ian Paice and Ritchie Blackmore.

Live On Stage

Since highlights from every set were broadcast on ABC In Concert over the next few months, we have an excellent idea of what each band sounded like (see the In Concert episode list below). Still, the California Jam was different than almost every rock festival that came before it. For one thing, the show actually ran according to schedule, probably thanks to the double stage and the railroad tracks. All the lessons learned from previous mega-shows had been assimilated, and bands got on and off the stage in timely fashion. The weather co-operated, with a perfect 85 degree day and only mild smog.

There was an unexpected subplot to the timely show. Deep Purple, one of the principal attractions, had it in their contract that they would appear at twilight, just as the sun was going down. Purple was up next-to-last, with Emerson, Lake & Palmer set to close the show. Deep Purple was nominally scheduled for something like 5:00pm, with the assumption that the show would be running behind anyway. When the show actually ran on time, Deep Purple refused to come on stage since it was not twilight. They had a signed contract, after all. Still, with 200,000 or more fans waiting in the hot sun, it wasn't a great moment for a delay. At other festivals, there might have been trouble, but not in Ontario. No major trouble ensued--fortunately--and Deep Purple kicked it off when the sun went down (on the ABC In Concert segment, you can hear Purple asking "where's the sunset?" only to see that it's behind them).

Deep Purple's delay, however. meant that ELP went on late as well, and the show ran somewhat later than had been originally intended. Fellow organists Jon Lord and Keith Emerson, old pals from tiny clubs on the English R&B circuit in the mid-60s, found their bands at odds over a contractual disagreement at a gigantic racetrack with more people than had seen either band at every concert in the 60s combined. 

How Many People Were There, And How Many Paid?
According to Circus Magazine, there was a paid attendance of 168,000, at $10.00. I assume this information came from Pollstar, or another industry magazine. This would make California Jam the rock concert with the largest paid attendance in history up until this time, as Watkins Glen apparently only had 150,000. Casual press accounts suggest that over 200,00 were attended, while ABC In Concert said that 300,000 were there. Obviously, no one knows. Many people must have gotten it without a ticket, but was it 25,000 extra or 100,000? Review the crowd shots and decide for yourself. I have no idea how many people came late or left early. Allen Pamplin (from the FB fansite) was there from 2:30am until nearly midnight, as many must have been, but it probably wasn't everyone.

Still, the gate was at least $1.68 million, serious money for 1974. ABC In Concert was directly or indirectly providing financial support for the show, whether up front or after the fact. ABC would have either helped with production costs in return for airing the show, or else paid a fee once the episodes were aired. Either way, money would have gone to the promoters. No one died. There wasn't a riot. It was a sunny day. By and large, many of the fans had the time of their lives. Why not do it again, and soon?

 

August 3, 1974 Ontario Motor Speedway, Ontario, CA: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young/Beach Boys/Joe Walsh/Jesse Colin Young/The Band  Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplik in Association with Bill Graham Presents  "Summer Jam West" (Saturday) canceled
There were two big stadium-level acts touring in the Summer of '74. One was the Allman Brothers, and the other was the reunited Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Both of them were booked to headline different racetrack shows in August, but only one of the shows actually happened. 

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had stopped recording and performing in the middle of 1970, at the height of their popularity. They spent the next few years releasing individual solo albums with a fair amount of success, and making surprise guest appearances at each other's concerts. Ultimately, all four of the principals played a sloppy but well-received acoustic set at a Stephen Stills' Manassas concert in San Francisco (October 4, 1973 at Winterland), and the path seemed clear for a much-anticipated reunion. Nothing came easy for them, and no album was completed at the time. Nonetheless, CSNY did get together for a national tour, a massive one, headlining huge outdoor facilities, mostly football stadiums. In Southern California, however, they were booked at Ontario Motor Speedway. CSNY could probably draw an infinite number of ticket buyers, and Ontario seemed a plausible venue. 

The show was promoted by Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplik in Association with Bill Graham Presents. Bill Graham was organizing the entire CSNY tour. Finkel and Koplik were based in New England, and had promoted the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen where 600,000 had come to see the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead and The Band. Graham had provided a sound system at the Glen, so although the promoters were fundamentally rivals this event was big enough to share the booking. A lot of money was at risk for such a huge event, a huge outlay that could lead to a huge win, so its not surprising that the risk and opportunity was shared. 

Graham, Finkel and Koplik were all invading the territory of other Southern California promoters. Since Ontario Motor Speedway had rarely been used as a concert venue--only two concerts had actually been produced there--no other promoter had any exclusive contract to it. This had clearly been the strategy Graham had been planning on when he had attempted to book the Allmans and the Dead in May '73, but ticket sales (most likely) thwarted him. Here was trying again with an even bigger act, and the same team that had pulled off the Dead and the Allmans at the Glen. 

Supporting CSNY was The Band, who had just completed their own legendary tour with Bob Dylan earlier in the year, along with the Beach Boys, Joe Walsh and Jesse Colin Young. Although Walsh could rock a little bit, at this time he was seen as more of a mellow Colorado dude than the hard-charging leader of the ear-splitting James Gang. The entire booking was directed towards a mellower crowd, very far from the audience of rowdy boys who had wanted to rock out to ELP, Deep Purple and Sabbath. 

Thanks to ace reporter David Allen of the San Bernardino Sun, we know that Richard Nunez of Pomona, CA not only has his ticket to CSNY at Ontario Motor Speedway for August 3, 1974, he's got the receipt

The all-day Saturday event wasn't just a rumor, as tickets actually went on sale. The cost was $12.50 per, a 25% raise over the Cal Jam charge. San Bernardino Sun reporter David Allen even found someone who still has a ticket (note the mere 75-cent service charge--good times!). But the show was canceled. CSNY played a number of stadium dates around the country, but they did not play the Los Angeles area. My suspicion--unprovable--is that the somewhat mellower, older crowd (older as in "mid-20s") had heard about the madhouse at Cal Jam and thought "that's not for me." The corollary to this assertion was "my girlfriend would never put up with it." This was no small thing. Just about every rock fan in Southern California must have known someone who attended Cal Jam, and there didn't seem to be a desire to repeat it. So "Summer Jam West" never happened.


August 10 1974 Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC: Allman Brothers Band/Emerson, Lake & Palmer/B/Eagles/Foghat/Marshal Tucker Band/Ozark Mountain Daredevils/Grinderswith/PFM (Saturday) "August Jam" Kaleidoscope Productions Wolfman Jack MC (Eagles cxld)
There was a sequel of sorts to Cal Jam, however. The Charlotte Motor Speedway held its only rock concert on August 10, 1974. The Allman Brothers headlined, ELP was there, and the Eagles were booked, although they canceled in the end. In Charlotte, or even in the Greater Southeast, fans would have seen Cal Jam on ABC In Concert, but most kids wouldn't have known anyone who went. In any case, with the Allmans and ELP, the crowd was much more aimed at rowdy long-haired boys, rather than the mellower fans of CSNY and The Beach Boys booked for Ontario. The August Jam happened, and something like 200,000 fans showed up. Many of them paid. Charlotte Motor Speedway is still open, and still thriving but has never held a rock concert again.


A crowd shot from the grandstands at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the August Jam (August 10, 1974)
The Charlotte Motor Speedway had opened in 1962, and had been fairly successful from a racing perspective, despite many financial difficulties. The Speedway was in a suburb (Concord, NC) about 25 miles East of downtown Charlotte. The biggest annual event was the NASCAR World 600, which had drawn 90,000 fans the year before. The August Jam drew at least twice that, with attendance of at least 200,000. The fence got rushed by rock fans, however, and probably half of the fans got in for free.

The Charlotte Observer (Monday August 12, 1974) focused on the debris-strewn infield of the Charlotte Motor Speedway after the Saturday (August 10) August Jam concert headlined by the Allman Brothers

The August Jam had all the typical problems of rock festivals in some farmer's fields: huge traffic jams, lack of crowd control, too many gatechrashers. The coverage in the Charlotte Observer treated it like the aftermath of a natural disaster, like a hurricane. There have been no more rock concerts at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Now, part of that was a change of track ownership in January 1976 (Bruton Smith regained control and put Humpy Wheeler in charge, for those who know their NASCAR), and there was a renewed interest in racing. Still, there was no appetite for any kind of big outdoor rock event. The Allman Brothers Band were in their prime of popularity, and a huge draw in the Southeast, and it seems to have created an event that was too big to risk repeating. In that respect, it was the NASCAR replay of Watkins Glen.

Anaheim Stadium, ca. 1973

Anaheim Stadium, 2000 Gene Autry Way, Anaheim, CA

Anaheim Stadium, home of the California Angels, had been built in 1967. It was essentially across the street from Disneyland. At first, they had resisted concerts, not least because the rock market wasn't big enough to fill a stadium. The Disney Company, in any case, would not have wanted a horde of teenagers causing a traffic jam that created a Disneyland access problem. By 1975, this had changed. Stadium concerts were common throughout the country, and Southern California wasn't going to be left behind. Anaheim Stadium was a city-owned facility, so they weren't going to pass up significant paydays that huge rock concerts would generate.

Initially, Anaheim Stadium held some concerts with less hard rocking bookings--the Beach Boys and Chicago on May 23, 1975, and The Eagles, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt on September 28, 1975. By 1976, Anaheim Stadium was booking The Who (March 21), Yes and Peter Frampton (July 6, 1976) and then a slew of hard rock headliners for the balance of the summer (ZZ Top, the Winter brothers, and so on). With Anaheim Stadium as a willing home for stadium tours, there wasn't an incentive to make a stab at having a rock concert at Ontario Speedway again, however big it had been.


March 18, 1978 Ontario Motor Speedway, Ontario, CA:  Aerosmith/Foreigner/Heart/Dave Mason/Ted Nugent/Santana/Bob Welch/Jean-Michel Jarre/Rubicon/Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush (Saturday) California Jam II Wolf & Rissmiller Presents
Nonetheless, there's no way the venue that held the highest paid attendance rock concert ever could not have an encore. On March 18, 1978, Ontario Motor Speedway hosted "California Jam II." Guess what? Cal Jam 2 had even bigger paid attendance than the first Cal Jam. I don't think it was coincidental that it was a full four years between Ontario Motor Speedway events. After 1974, the freshman in every high school and college would still have been in school the next few years, telling everyone how cool Cal Jam had been, and how they had gotten sunburned and lost the car and couldn't see the bands, and all the other things that happened at every rock festival ever. By 1978, however, those underclassmen had moved on, and so the lure of Cal Jam II would have had fewer seniors (in college or High School) offering cautionary tales. 

Cal Jam 2 was promoted by perhaps the largest Southern California concert promoter at the time, Wolf & Rismiller Presents. Jim Rismiller and Stephen Wolf had been promotional partners since the 60s, eventually selling their company to Filmways, although they continued to run it. Sadly, Stephen Wolf had been killed in a home burglary in 1977, but Rissmiller kept the business thriving for many years, keeping his old friend's name on the company.

The show appeared to have a similar funding structure to Cal Jam, in that it was backed by TV and Record Company money. The entire concert was filmed for an ABC Television special, and Columbia Records released a double-lp of Cal Jam 2 highlights. Almost all of the acts were on Columbia. The only two that were not on Columbia--Foreigner and Bob Welch--were not on the double album. The three smaller acts who were not on the poster (Jean-Michel Jarre, Rubicon and Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush) were all Columbia acts, and they all had tracks on the double-lp. 

Stevie Nicks joined Bob Welch on stage at Cal Jam 2 (Ontario Motor Speedway March 18, 1978)

The two non-Columbia acts were critical to the concert. Foreigner (on Atlantic) had released their debut album the previous year, and had scored with two massive singles "Feels Like The First Time" (which would reach #4 on Billboard) and then "Cold As Ice" (which was released in July '77). Guitarist Bob Welch had left Fleetwood Mac in 1974, right before Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined to make the band huge. Yet his September 1977 Capitol album French Kiss included Buckingham, Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood and went double platinum (helped by his remake of his old Mac tune "Sentimental Lady"). At Cal Jam 2, Welch was joined on stage by Stevie Nicks, so he bought a lot of star power to the event. 

Cal Jam 2 went off reasonably well. Supposedly there were as many as 300,000 in attendance. How many paid? I have read different numbers. At least, it seems there were more paid than at the first one. Since tickets were $12.50 in advance ($17.00 at the door), the total gate would have been massive. If 200,000 tickets had been sold, than the gate was $2.5million, and that's not counting revenue from the TV special. Could there have been a Cal Jam 3? Maybe. But only if there was an Ontario Motor Speedway.

Ontario Motor Speedway, Ontario, CA: August 1970-December 1980
The Ontario Motor Speedway had been imaginatively conceived, a custom-designed motor sports facility decades ahead of its time. The racing was great throughout the 1970s. Los Angeles is Los Angeles, however, and the track never drew the crowds it had expected. In the later 1970s, auto racing's popularity had flattened somewhat, and that didn't help either. Ontario's appeal had been that it was so near to greater Los Angeles, but that it was also its downfall. The track was losing money, or perhaps barely breaking even. LA was expanding, however, so the land underneath the racetrack was more valuable than the facility itself:

By 1980, the Ontario Motor Speedway bonds were selling at approximately $0.30 on the dollar. Generally unknown and unrealized by the bond-holding public, the 800 acres (3.2 km2) of land originally purchased at an average price of $7,500 per acre, had now risen to a value of $150,000 per acre. Chevron Land Company, a division of Chevron Corporation recognized the opportunity to acquire the bonds and effectively foreclosed on the real estate. For approximately $10 million, Chevron acquired land which had a commercial real estate development value of $120 million, without regard to the historic significance or future potential of the speedway. 

After just a decade, Ontario Motor Speedway closed in December, 1980. The racing was still great--at the final California 500 Indy Car race (August 31 '80), after 200 laps and 500 miles of racing, Bobby Unser (in a Penske PC9) only beat out Johnny Rutherford (Chapparal 2K) by just 8 seconds. In the final Los Angeles Times 500 at the Speedway (Nov 15 '80), Benny Parsons had just edged out Neil Bonnet, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and Dale Earnhardt, all of whom were on the same lap. The great racing didn't matter--Ontario Motor Speedway was sold to developers and the track was closed. It was a sad moment in Southern California motor sport history, but the rock concert potential of the Speedway disappeared as well.

Belgian LeMans legend Jacky Icyx (4) in an F1 Ferrari 312B coming up to lap AJ Foyt (10) in an F5000 McLaren M10B-Chevy, during the Ontario Motor Speedway Questor Gramd Prix on March 28, 1971. This was Foyt's only participation in an F1 race, even though he drove an F5000 car.

Aftermath
Riverside Raceway, the great road course that had preceded Ontario, was also sold to developers and closed in 1988. Yet, in 1995, ground had been broken for a new speedway in Fontana built on the OMS model. The California Speedway--today Auto Club Speedway--opened for racing in 1997. The track is just a few miles from the site of the Ontario Motor Speedway. Although owned and operated by NASCAR, Auto Club Speedway has been a hugely successful track, with all kinds of racing. No rock concerts, though. 

David Allen (of the Press-Bulletin, above) described the status of California Jam and Ontario Motor Speedway in the memories of Inland Empire rock fans, as it was recalled in 2014:

Ontario now has Citizens Business Bank Arena, a concert and sports venue on a portion of the old speedway property. Two walls of the concourse are devoted to California Jam photos and text, including a 2002 article by yours truly [David Allen] blown up to cover a wall.

“My husband hitched a ride here for California Jam,” said Sue Oxarart, the arena’s marketing director. “The crowd was so large, he got up, went to the restroom, came back and never could find his friends. This was before cellphones. So you’d just find a new spot and make new friends.”

Two of the eight acts from the 1974 festival, the Eagles and Earth, Wind and Fire, have performed at the arena, as has Foreigner, one of the 1978 bands. All three made reference to the festival either onstage or backstage, Oxarart said.

A warm, sunny Spring day in Southern California. Twelve hours of music. 168,000-plus paid. The stuff dreams are made of.

Appendix 1: Where Was Ontario Motor Speedway?
The speedway was bordered on the north by 4th Avenue (then referred to as San Bernardino Avenue), on the south by Interstate 10, the west by Haven Avenue, and the east by Milliken Avenue, which still has the eastward curve needed to make room for turn 1 and turn 2 of the racetrack.   Milliken Avenue is one of (maybe the only) street with curves like this in the entire city. 
Contrary to those news reports about the Ontario Mills Mall being built inside the old racetrack, this is not the case.  Ontario Mills Mall lies across the street, due-east of what was the racetrack, on the east side of Milliken Avenue.  When the Speedway was still in existence, the future home of Ontario Mills Mall was either empty fields, or parking areas, depending on the year. 
Even though virtually nothing remains of the race track, other than some of the raised-berms that made turn number 3 at the corner of 4th and Haven Avenues, The City Of Ontario has retained some of the history and heritage of the racetrack by building Ontario Motor Speedway Park a few blocks west of the racetrack site and by using auto racing inspired street names in and around the old speedway.  Let’s give Ontario some credit for these street names! (Jaguar Way, Corvette Dr, etc)    

The telltale remnants of turn 3 can be viewed here.

Appendix 2: California Jam on ABC In Concert
Show 37: May 10, 1974 [California Jam part 1]
Emerson Lake and Palmer - Pictures at an Exhibition
Deep Purple - Space Truckin'
Eagles - Take it Easy
Seals and Crofts-Summer Breeze
Rare Earth - I Just Want to Celebrate
Black Oak Arkansas - Hot 'n' Nasty
Earth Wind and Fire - Come On Children
Black Sabbath - Children Of The Grave

Show 38: May 24, 1974 [California Jam part 2]

Deep Purple - Smoke On the Water, Burn, Might Just Take Your Life, Mistreated
Black Sabbath - War Pigs, Sabra Cadabra
Rare Earth - Hey Big Brother
Show 39: June 7, 1974 [California Jam part 3]
Emerson Lake and Palmer - Karn Evil 9 Impressions 1 and 3, Lucky Man, Still You Turn Me On, Take a Pebble
Black Oak Arkansas - Hot 'n' Nasty, Dixie, Mutants of the Monster
Show 40: June 21, 1974 [California Jam part 4]
Seals and Crofts - Hummingbird, We May Never Pass This Way Again, Diamond Girl
Eagles - Witchy Woman, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Already Gone, On the Border
Earth Wind and Fire - Power, Keep Your Head to the Sky 

Deep Purple's set was officially released in 1996 as California Jamming. The ELP set was released on cd in 2012. 

Columbia released a double-lp of California Jam 2 later in 1978. Foreigner and Bob Welch (nor Stevie Nicks) were not on the record, since they weren't Columbia acts.


NASCAR Grid ready for the green flag at Ontario Motor Speedway, probably at the 1971 race (won by AJ Foyt for the Wood Brothers)