San Francisco Holiday Rock Festival 1968

San Francisco Holiday Rock Festival 1968
Authored By John Nicholson

Held on Boxing Day 26th December 1969 in the famous Cow Palace, in Daly City, California, it was a one-day show but one which showed just how strong and popular the San Francisco/Bay Area counterculture rock scene had become in the previous 18 months, evolving from literally a handful of bands who were not signed to any labels, to a mini-industry in itself, with everyone recording albums and singles. 

This show was put on by local radio station KYA 1260. They had organised the San Francisco Pop Festival in late October at the Alameda Fairgrounds. KYA was home to Tom Donahue, an important DJ in the area who basically created the FM radio format which allowed stations to play songs longer than 3-minutes long. Basically, he launched hippie radio!

Sadly, he was to die in the mid-70s just 46 years old, but at this time, he's a real mover and shaker on the scene. He also managed Leigh Stephens from Blue Cheer, Mickey Waller and Pete Sears who would later be in Jefferson Starship and others. However, as Tom had been very critical of AM radio in Rolling Stone in 1967 saying "AM Radio Is Dead and Its Rotting Corpse Is Stinking Up the Airwaves", he may not have been still at KYA a year later. Not sure about that. But the fact they put on two shows with freaky bands suggests his influence was still present and the Cow Palace was very much his stomping ground.

The main bands who played were Canned Heat, Blue Cheer, Buffalo Springfield, Flamin' Groovies, Santana, Steppenwolf, The Electric Prunes, Spencer Davis and Three Dog Night.

The Wolf and Canned Heat were notionally the headliners, both had already had chart success, as had Blue Cheer, Buffalo Springfield (here in a much reduced incarnation, without Stills and Young) Only Santana would’ve been without a recording contract at this time, though that was soon to change in 1969 under the guidance of Bill Graham.

The poster advertises ‘introducing Tender Loving Care’ which I presume were a band though I can’t find any record of them. The Cow Palace’s capacity was 16,500 and even though it was the day after Xmas, it was sold out. Well why wouldn’t it be with a great bill like this? 

These one-day shows with up to nine or ten bands would soon become the preferred way of putting on a show, as opposed to the 3-days in the country let’s-bring-the-revolution freak-out. But this must’ve been one of the first to hit the scene. It’s not hard to see why so many would’ve wanted to go to a show like this for $4.50 is it?!

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