After losing almost all their gear on their flight from Japan, Van Halen was forced to play rented, borrowed and begged-for equipment in front of the biggest crowd they ever played for at the time!
On July 1st, 1978, nearly 100,000 people crammed inside the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, during the hottest day of the decade for the first real stadium rock show in the south. In 104 degree heat—over a twelve hour period—they watched Aerosmith, Van Halen, Heart, Journey, Ted Nugent, Eddie Money, Cheech and Chong, and more! It was the first stadium rock show in Texas and it’s success launched a decade of stadium rock shows all over the south.
It was the summer of 1978, when rock ‘n’ roll was reigning supreme. Rising stars Van Halen were riding high, thanks to a smash album and a trail of concerts that left rock fans completely blown away. July first was to be the biggest show of their career thus far—they were to play in front of an enormous crowd at the Cotton Bowl. Little did they know, things were about to go terribly wrong…
After flying via Pan Am from their last show in Osaka (June 27th) to Narita, the band sat on the floor of the newly-constructed Narita Airport waiting for their connecting flight. From there, they flew directly to Los Angeles, went through customs and got on a plane for Dallas. Once they hit Dallas, however, things went terribly wrong. They were devastated to discover that most of their equipment had been lost by the airline(!), including Eddie’s legendary 100-watt Marshall Super Lead. Incredibly, they were forced to use rented, borrowed and begged-for equipment for the most important show of their tour!
The event was a Who’s Who of late seventies superstars. The Bill for the July first show, in order, was Walter Egan, Van Halen, Eddie Money, Mahogany Rush, Heart, Ted Nugent, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Head East, and Aerosmith. Cheech and Chong did comedy skits between each set. The three-day festival featured many rock and country acts over that July fourth weekend, but it was the first day’s legendary lineup of rock bands, along with the record-breaking heat, that’s gone down in rock and roll history.
Over 80,000 fans paid $12.50 per ticket to cram themselves into the Cotton Bowl for a weekend-long gathering of some of the world’s top rock and roll acts. Van Halen was one of the first acts to hit the stage, just after Walter Egan.
Despite the fact that Aerosmith was headlining the show at the height of their popularity, and despite Van Halen not playing on their own equipment, many attendees say that Van Halen stole the show! Van Halen ripped through a spirited, high-voltage set, creating one of the year’s most memorable highlights. In terms of performance, this was the show that put the band over-the-top. Most of their biggest exposure that year came from large festivals like this one.
It was reportedly so hot at the Texxas Jam that the stage crew members repeatedly sprayed down the crowd with water from a fire hose. the temperature on the stadium floor had reached over 120-degrees!
Movies like The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour,” The Who’s “Tommy,” and “Monterey Pop” were being screened continually.
By promoters’ standards, the festival was a huge success. It was officially called the Texxas World Music Festival, but it went on to be nicknamed the Texxas Jam for the next ten years. There were no births, no deaths and very few injuries.
Heart guitarist, Howard Leese, recently had this to say about playing with Van Halen that day: “The first time that I met Edward, both of our bands were playing at the Texxas Jam in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas in 1978. As we walked up the stairs to the stage, someone asked me if it was all right for the Van Halen band to come up onstage to watch our set. A friend at their record label had given me a copy of the red vinyl sampler they were sending around to the radio stations, so I had heard “Eruption” already, and was blown away by it. I said, “Of course, let them up.” I said a quick hello, asked them which one was the guitar player, shook Edward’s hand, and went onstage in front of over 80,000 fans. Edward is one of the most innovative and influential guitarists of our generation. I heard today that one of his guitars is going into the Smithsonian. A fitting tribute to one of the all-time greats.” (Howard’s quote is from the hardcover photo book Eddie Van Halen, by Neil Zlozower).
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The below clip contains the entire Van Halen segment in the new documentary ‘Texxas Jam ’78:’
Texxas Jam ’78 Documentary (2012) Teaser:
Local news coverage (includes just a few seconds of VH footage):