The concert set a record for the largest number of paid attendance at such an event. Although more people attended the festival at Woodstock in New York, only a few had purchased tickets.
Another record established at California Jam was for the largest (most powerful) concert sound system ever assembled particularly from the demands of Deep Purple who were identified as the “loudest band in the world” by the Guinness Book of World Records. Tycobrahe Sound Company combined the touring systems of Deep Purple, Black Oak Arkansas, Black Sabbath, Earth Wind and Fire, and Rare Earth (each manufactured by Tycobrahe), plus 16-ft bass horns from Phoenix Sound and several folded bass horns from Flag Systems. Total power was 54,000 watts RMS, provided by a number of BFA-2000 amplifiers, manufactured by Tycobrahe.
The Goodyear Blimp hovering overhead was a first for a music festival. Deep Purple also arrived for the concert in their own chartered jet the Starship with their name painted on the plane’s sides, the first time time a major band arrived specifically for a music festival in their own plane.
Another first was the setting of the stage sets for each band on rails, allowing rapid changeover to the next band thus eliminating delays and allowing the rock festival to run on time, in fact ahead of time.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s touring sound system was set up about 1/2 mile from the stage and timed with a tape delay to coincide with the sound from the stage
Deep Purple headlined the California Jam Festival and would have performed last but exercised the option to start their performance at sunset if the municipal authorities forced the bands to perform earlier. A photo book by Rufus Stone Limited Editions, United Kingdom, scheduled for December 2012 release, documents Deep Purple’s California Jam appearance provides the behind the scene details of the festival creation, interviews with organizers and managers, audience memorabilia, their performance, plus letters exercising their option as headliner to select their time slot.
Deep Purple’s performance was one of the first to feature their third line-up, which included vocalist David Coverdale and vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes. Deep Purple were given the choice of when to go on stage, and chose to go on during sunset thus pushing ELP to be the last band. Figuring that as with all festivals, the show would run late anyway, they stalled when the festival was way ahead of schedule. Angry organizers tried to force the band to go on and then threatened to cancel their performance but a quick thinking announcer told the crowds that Deep Purple would be coming on. The band and made everyone wait nearly an hour until near dusk before they hit the stage. Regardless of this, the show didn’t end up running late.At the end of the show, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore threw multiple guitars, amplifier and speaker cabinets out into the audience and attacked one of the network’s video cameras (which had been getting between him and the audience) with a guitar. Later on, a mishap with a pyrotechnic effect caused one of Blackmore‘s amplifiers to explode which briefly set the stage on fire. The group had to leave the concert via helicopter to avoid a possibly ugly confrontation with furious fire marshals and ABC executives and potential arrest for the pyrotechnics. The damage to the camera was estimated to be $10,000, later settled by the managers.
Deep Purple’s California Jam performance along with some of the performances by other bands was TV and radio broadcast nationwide in the US. It was at this festival that the now forgotten footage of Keith Emerson playing a grand piano spinning end-over-end 50 feet above the ground was taken.