When Roger Hedgecock was a concert promoter

Jefferson Airplane, Ray Charles, the Doors, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Peter, Paul, and Mary

Throughout all the recent commotion about stadium rock concerts, one city politician was tangly silent: Mayor Roger Hedgecock. And that seems a bit ironic, since of all city officials, Hedgecock's background in rock and roll is the strongest.

After graduating from Saint Augustine High School here in 1964. Hedgecock enrolled in San Diego State College to study political science. During that time, eh managed a local band called Marsha and the Esquires and frequently got them bookings at dances through promoter James Pagni, who since 1961 had been San Diego's major concert prat moter. The two men's friendship grew, and when Hedgecock transferred to the University of California at Santa Barbara two years later, Pagni appointed him his campus representative there. In 1967 Hedgecock teamed up with classmate Scott Piering to book concerts on campus as the Hedgecock-Piering Company; with Pagni's help, the duo presented such acts as the Jefferson Airplane, Ray Charles, the Doors, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.

A year later Hedgecock graduated and, with partner Piering, returned to San Diego, where the two set out to challenge their former mentor. "At the time, I took it personally," recalls Pagni, "but now, what the hell — he just did it. It always happens that way in the concert business." Because of his longevity in the business, the well-connected Pagni had a virtual monopoly with more of the established groups of the day, so the Hedgecock-Piering Company decided to concentrate on the newer acid-rock bands then emerging from the Bay Area. In the early spring of 1969 the fledgling company put on their first concert at the gym at San Diego State, featuring Paul Butterfield and the Sons of Champlin.

Throughout that year and part of the next, when Hedgecock left the concert business to study law at the University of California at Hastings College of Law, the team presented more than a dozen similar concerts, all with ticket prices ranging from $2.50 to $5.50, with such acts as the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Mother Earth, Ten Years After, and the Sons of Champlin. The biggest of these, held on Mother's Day, 1969, was a massive outdoor rock fest at Balboa Stadium featuring the Grateful Dead, the Quicksilver Messenger Service, Lee Michaels, and Canned Heat. In between acts, fans could frequent various booths set up around the stadium field where the concert was held, to see displays set up by local artisans, the Free clinic, and even the Black Panthers.

And whom should the future mayor hire as security that day? Off-duty cops, perhaps, or sheriff's deputies? Not a chance. He hired the local chapter of the Hell's Angels, in return for a case of Jack Daniels whiskey.

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