Friday, June 17, 2011

Santa Barbara County Bowl

Built with Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds in 1936 as part of F.D.R.'s New Deal, the County Bowl's first three and half decades saw it used primarily as a performance venue for the Santa Barbara's annual Old Spanish Days, more popularly known as Fiesta, with an occasional concert thrown in here and there. In the early seventies, promoter Sepp Donahower, one of the principals (along with Marc Chase and John Van Hamersveld) of the legendary Pinnacle Dance Concerts company, initiated its renaissance; he relates: " While running Pacific Presentations (the precurser of Avalon Attractions) and doing shows at UCSB and the Arlington Theatre in the early 70's in Santa Barbara, I stumbled on to the old County Bowl that was used once a year for Old Spanish Days Fiesta. I had became friends with Barton Clap, the manager of the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club and the head of The Old Spanish Days Fiesta Organization, who asked if I was interested in doing shows in the old County Bowl. The first time I walked into the Santa Barbara County Bowl, it was overgrown with weeds and needed its annual cleaning before the Fiesta. I immediately saw it as one magic venue. We immediately made a deal to produce the shows there and started rolling them in.......The Band, Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, and on and was now on the map and loved by all.

After Pacific morphed into Avalon and I went on hiatus, Avalon continued with it for awhile but eventually it ended up under the control of some local promoters," who eventually negotiated a deal with Nederlander.

I am still proud of opening that venue up.....It is a one great venue."

(PP) denotes Pacific Presentations promotions

(County Bowl photo courtesy of Alan Case)

??/??/1960's(?): The Kingston Trio*

??/??/1960's(?): Louis Armstrong*

??/??/1961 or 62(?)  Jimmy Rodgers, The Righteous Brothers

July/??/1963(?): Peter, Paul and Mary*

July 2, 1966: The Beach Boys, Sir Douglas Quintet, The Association

April 22, 1970: Jethro Tull

October 15, 1972: Poco, It's a Beautiful Day, Wild Rose

October ??, 1973: Beach Boys, Jesse Colin Young

August 17, 1974: Boz Scaggs, Weather Report, Batdorf & Rodney

October 13, 1974: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders

April 20, 1975: Joe Walsh, Kingfish (PP)

May 11, 1975: Jackson Browne, Phoebe Snow (PP)

May 26, 1975: Jefferson Starship (PP)

June 8, 1975: Van Morrison, Tom Scott & The L.A. Express (PP)

June 28, 1975: Seals & Crofts, Batdorf & Rodney (PP)

August 3, 1975: Average White Band, Kokomo (PP)

August 17, 1975: Jesse Colin Young, Emmylou Harris (PP)

September 3, 1975: Loggins & Messina, Fairport Convention (PP)

September 14, 1975: David Crosby & Graham Nash (PP)

October 4, 1975: Three Dog Night, Beau Brummels (PP)

October 25, 1975: Uriah Heep, Spirit

April 3, 1976: Loggins & Messina, Cecilio & Kapono (PP)

April 11, 1976: Marshall Tucker Band, Little Feat (PP)

April 24, 1976: Peter Frampton, Gary Wright, Brecker Brothers (PP)

May 16, 1976: Elvin Bishop, Tim Weisberg (PP)

May 31, 1976: Bob Marley & the Wailers, Little Anthony (PP)

June 5, 1976: Leon Russell, Firefall (PP)

June 27, 1976: The Band, Flying Burrito Brothers (PP)

July 18, 1976: Average White Band, Sons of Champlain (PP)

July 25, 1976: Dave Mason (PP)

August 8, 1976: Crosby & Nash (PP)

August 13, 1976: CTI Jazz Festival (PP)

October 5, 1976: Bruce Springsteen (PP)

May 21, 1977: Leo Kottke, Leon Redbone (PP)

May 22, 1977: Jimmy Buffett, Leo Kottke, Leon Redbone (PP)

June 4, 1977: Little Feat (PP)


  1. Dennis - I was at the Crosby/Nash show in '75. The surprise guest was Carol King

  2. good job Dennis! A couple of notes:

    (1) Are you sure about The Beach Boys show in
    1972? I don't know anyone show there by the

    (2) Jethro Tull show was on April 22, 1970

    (3) Poco, IABD, Wild Rose show was on October
    15, 1972 not on October 16, 1972

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. not sure about the Beach Boys at all - I know it was before we left Isla Vista (August 1974), and I know it was in the 70's, but it could have just as easily been 73 or 74. I'm absolutely certain that they did play there during that time frame; it was either a Saturday or Sunday (a Sunday, I think), warm and sunny, and we sat at the very top of the Bowl, view of boats sailing in the harbor, beers in hand (at that time you could actually bring coolers into the venue), listening to the Beach Boys.

    Thanks for the dates on Jethro Tull and Poco; corrections have been made

  5. wow! It's very interesting! A show by The Beach Boys that noboby "officially" known, because this show that you see in the 70s was not listed in both The Beach Boys book by Keith Badman and The Beach Boys website "Bellagio 10452". Both the book and the website have listed some shows in Santa Barbara during the 70s but at different venue so maybe one of this have the venue's wrong, I think.

  6. Ah, by the way, great to see this Loggins & Messina/Fairport Convention show on September 3, 1975, because I don't know that. I only know a show of L&M there at the County Bowl on April 3, 1976. Thanks Dennis!!

  7. >wow! It's very interesting! A show by The Beach >Boys that noboby "officially" known, because this >show that you see in the 70s was not listed in >both The Beach Boys book by Keith Badman and The >Beach Boys website "Bellagio 10452".

    I know, I've checked both of those sources (and others) and can't find any documentation, but I'm absolutely certain it happened. (You will recall that a 1973 Beach Boys date I listed for Robertson Gym was not documented in Badman's book, but did turn up on the Bellagio site)

    I'm hoping someone reading this blog may also recall the concert......

  8. >Both the book and the website have listed some >shows in Santa Barbara during the 70s but at >>venue's wrong, I think.

    I looked at those dates and don't think it's a case of mistaken venue; there's either a date completely missing, or it's a case of a mistaken memory on my part. (I do see a cancellation of a July 6, 1974 gig at the LA Coliseum; perhaps they played Santa Barbara instead?)

  9. I have photographs of the beach boys at the bowl and the date imprinted on the color slides (by Kodak) was Oct 73

    1. I was at that show and remember the girls screaming at Dennis as he came onstage and went behind the drums. Several times they screamed again, just like it was 1964, when he came down front. It was a nice show, an intermediate phase between the early comeback days of the Robertson Gym/UCSB show of the year before (when they were still doing “Student Demonstration Time” and the huge, renewed success of the UCSB stadium show.

  10. Thank you so much for that information; I was sure it wasn't a figment of my imagination!

  11. Here's some fill in info for you:
    *I saw the Beach Boys at the UCSB football stadium on 3/17/73

    County Bowl updates:
    4/21/72 - Dave Mason, Tim Weisberg, Shanti
    9/1/73 - "Ron Carter & Friends": Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Hubert Laws, Stanley Turrentine
    7/21/74 - Les McCann, Tim Weisberg
    8/17/74 - Weather Report was the headliner

  12. the actual date of the the Beach Boys, Jesse Colin Young and Honk at UCSB Harder Stadium was 3/23/75. I just finished working on photos for EMI/Capital from that show and the 10/18/73 show at the Bowl

    1. YES! That was the date and place of that BBs and JCY '75 concert. I was there but had forgotten the exact date. Thanks.

    2. Hi John (and thanks Kelly for waking me up!)

      I did the lion's share of this listing when I first retired and had lots of time on my hands; once I returned to work (part time) I had significantly less time to spend on hobbies and interest.

      John - I'm sure you sent me a scan of your list covering dates of all shows at UCSB and the Bowl once upon a time, but know all I have is your email and no list. Would it be possible for you to resend?



  13. the Beach Boys show on 3/17/73 was at Rob Gym. I recently found a paper file containing dates of all the shows at UCSB and the Bowl from 10/72 thru 6/85. If you want it contact me and I can fax or scan it for you

  14. I recently found a paper file containing dates of all the shows at UCSB and the Bowl from 10/72 thru 6/85. If you want it contact me and I can fax or scan it for you

    I absolutely would love to have a copy!

  15. Sunday, October 13, 1974: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, 1 pm.

    Jerry Garcia el-g, vocals
    Merl Saunders keyboards, ?vocals?
    John Kahn el-bass
    Paul Humphrey drums
    Martin Fierro saxophone, ?flute?

  16. Thanks!; I will add this to the listings in the next few days.

  17. In the early 60's (61-62) I saw Jimmy Rodgers and the Rightous Brothers play there. I was early teen and still the best concert experience of my life.

  18. I will add that to the listings; thanks!

  19. I was hitchhiking in Santa Barbara on 09/03/75, left from New Jersey. Heard about Loggins & Messina/ Fairport Convention. I bought ticket, got ripped off, met a couple locals, got drunk sneaking in down this hill, wound up behind the stage, got on stage, and had a few cold beers that were there. I would love to run into those guys again, whoever they were!!

  20. Little Feat & Marshall Tucker still ranks as one of my top 3 favorite shows ever. Two of my favorites in a most awesome venue.

  21. Two great bands in a wonderful venue!