Unlike other rock festivals such as Woodstock, the concert was not planned for release as a film or sound recording, however several portions of it were broadcast live on the ABC television network, which was also a sponsor of the show. The audio portion of the show was also broadcast in stereo on FM radio stations, an early example of simulcasting. Several performances from the show were eventually released on CD and Video, both in bootleg and authorized form.
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. At the end of the show guitarist Ritchie Blackmore threw multiple guitars out into the audience, attacked one of the network's video cameras (which had been getting between him and the audience) with a guitar, and then had his amplifiers doused with petrol and set on fire, which caused an explosion so great it blew off drummer Ian Paice's glasses. The group is said to have left the concert via helicopter to escape possible arrest from angry fire marshals and ABC executives.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer were top of the bill for the California Jam Festival. ELP's California Jam performance was broadcast nationwide in the US and is often seen as the summit of the band's career. It was at this festival that the famous footage of Emerson playing a grand piano spinning end-over-end 50 feet above ground level was taken. According to Keith Emerson's autobiography Oscar Peterson saw the ELP performance at California Jam on television and was so impressed he telephoned Count Basie to watch.
Acts that performed at the festival in order of appearance: