Photos from the Vault

Epic 1975 rooftop concert in SLO was practice for Super Bowl halftime show

San Luis Obispo music lovers turned out by the hundreds to hear the sounds of Tim Wiesberg, David Riordan and the Frisco Kids for a day of sun, food, fun and music at Warehouse Sound Co. in May 1975.
San Luis Obispo music lovers turned out by the hundreds to hear the sounds of Tim Wiesberg, David Riordan and the Frisco Kids for a day of sun, food, fun and music at Warehouse Sound Co. in May 1975. Telegram-Tribune

With a little power and the right amplification, a concert can be held anywhere.

In May 1975, young San Luis Obispo businessmen Tom Spaulding and Cliff Branch proved that when they held a party on their company’s rooftop and parking lot to test a $55,000 sound system to be used in the 1976 Super Bowl halftime show. They also figured they could promote their company, Warehouse Sound Co.

As Branch recalled in his autobiography “American Made,” their mail-order stereo business grew to a national presence with annual sales exceeding $10 million. It advertised in Playboy, National Lampoon and Rolling Stone.

1978 Cliff branch
Cliff Branch, shown in 1978, founded Warehouse Sound Co. in San Luis Obispo with Tom Spaulding. They later sold the business to focus on a new business, California Cooperage, making redwood hot tubs. File photo

That was in the era before Pacific Stereo, Best Buy, Fry’s and other big-box stores, when buying a stereo often involved a trip to the city. Music playing systems had evolved away from mom and dad’s big wood furniture pieces to components that could be custom-assembled from as small as the needle cartridge on a record player to amplifiers, speakers, receivers, tape players and other accessories.

Branch had a brilliant grasp of marketing and, long before Amazon, bridged the gap between consumer demand and manufacturers.

To sell the stereo systems, Warehouse Sound created a catalog. But it needed dramatic photos to show that the business was real. So the owners staged the concert, without a permit, at their company home in the old brick warehouse on Osos Street near the San Luis Obispo train station. Investor John King had suggested they locate the business there, a move that saved the building from being condemned and demolished.

As Branch noted in his book: “I was later called down to the police station since we did not have a permit — but everyone had a good time and no one fell off the roof.”

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