Category Archives: Birthday

Sweetwater Fred Herrera

Sweetwater Fred Herrera

Sweetwater Fred Herrera
Sweetwater Fred Herrera second from right

Woodstock’s opening band

Sweetwater is often described as the opening band at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. That is true as long as the preceding performance of Richie Havens, Daniel Ben Zebulon, and Paul "Deano" Williams is excluded.

Sweetwater deserves the title considering the path their lead singer Nancy Nevins and then the rest of band endured shortly after the famed Woodstock.

Jay Walker and the Pedestrians

Sweetwater evolved out of a band called Jay Walker and the Pedestrians, a band that bassist Robert 'Bob' Barboza  had formed in Rhode Island. Barboza relocated to Los Angeles and reformed his band there.

In June 1967, Pedestrians Alex Del Zoppo (keyboards) , Albert Moore (flute), Pete Cobian (percussion), and Andy Friend (guitar) along with newcomer Nevins (vocals) left Jay Walker and started a new band. It remained unnamed for a bit, but after Moore told Nevins that some stream water he'd just quenched his thirst with wasn't bad at all, it was sweetwater, they realized they'd found a name.

Sweetwater Fred Herrera

Sweetwater Fred Herrera
Fred Herrera far left
Fred Herrera had not been in Jay Walker and the Pedestrians.  Del Zoppo new him from playing other gigs and knew him to be a good rock bassist. Rock was the direction that Sweetwater wanted to head in. Keep in mind that in 1967 the definition of rock had expanded to include the influences from all areas of music. They included idea of jazz jamming along with the feel of free wheeling rock. The odd thing about the band was that it had no guitarist. 

The band became one of the main opening groups for many other suddenly famous bands like the Doors, the Grateful Dead, and Johnny Winter. They joined those bands and many more on the festival circuit. 

TV had realized that this "new music" sold well--that is, advertisers would buy time on their shows if they featured such bands.  On June 10, 1969, Sweetwater played on the Los Angeles TV show, "New Sound." Unusual for these new shows, Sweetwater played live. Herrera recalls, "They actually recorded us video and audio live at the same time, which was never done at that time. All of the other TV shows we did in those day either took the feed directly from the album which we then lip-synched to, or recorded the band offstage beforehand. Then they would come in and 'stage' us according to the music to allow for correct camera angles. It was refreshing that they didn’t care what we did. They just turned on the camera and said, 'Go!' It was a lot different than just about everything else on TV that was going down then."

Woodstock Music and Art Fair

Bruce Blatman was Sweetwater's manager. He suggested the band add another festival to their 1969 summer itinerary: "an intimate, no-pressure music and art fair itn ehcountryside of upstate New York called Woodstock."  (see Horror stories).

Keyboardist Alex Del Zoppo was in the Air Force Reserves at the time. When facing the reality of fighting in Viet Nam, many young men of the time joined a reserved branch of the US military. Though the length of service was longer, the chance of deployment was far less. Del Zoppo told Blatman that his 2-week summer training started Sunday that weekend. Blatman said they'd be the opening act on Saturday afternoon, Del Zoppo could get to JFK Airport in plenty of time to fly to California and his base on time for Sunday.

We know that didn't quite work out as planned. The word plan that Woodstock weekend had a very loose meaning.


Sweetwater Fred Herrera

Del Zoppo got in trouble but also eventually got out of the reserves without having to serve. The point was moot since on December 8, 1969 a drunk driver t-boned the car that lead singer Nancy Nevins sat in. She was in a coma for two weeks and awoke with damaged vocal cords.

Sweetwater did not make the 1970 movie's soundtrack or the movie itself. It became a footnote, a bar bet: what Woodstock band had no guitarist?

The appetite for Woodstock has never gone away. Surprisingly to many, there are many gen-Xers who arrive in Bethel, NY at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts seeking inspiration. Some of Sweetwater's Woodstock music is now available . Though three of the original members have died, the others, including a recovered Nevins, continues to play music.

Herrera's credits include playing or producing Grupo Fuego (1993), The Exies (2000 and 2003), and Father John Misty (2015).

Sweetwater Fred Herrera, Sweetwater Fred Herrera, Sweetwater Fred Herrera, 






Sri Swami Satchidananda

Sri Swami Satchidananda

Woodstock Music and Art Fair
The discussion of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair rarely includes the presence of Sri Swami Satchidananda, but his presence helps describe the intent of Woodstock Ventures.

We know of Woodstock because of it's overwhelming size, it's original triple-album, and Oscar-winning film, but other things set it apart from the dozens of other festivals in 1969 (1969 Festivals)

Of the four organizers, Michael Lang in particular wanted the festival's atmosphere to reflect the 60s zeitgeist. The town of Wallkill had offered the Orange County Fairgrounds as an alternate venue, but Lang envisioned a countryside filled with revelers, music, and art. Not an enclosure.

When Max Yasgur presented his big grassy bowl to Lang, his dreams became real.

The Beatles

The initial influence of Indian philosophy on American youth came about, not surprisingly, through the George Harrison's use of the sitar on Rubber Soul. Later when Beatles met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and found his world view more comforting than the one they had grown up with, meditation and connectivity with the world around us gained acceptance.

Having a swami as part of the first day's schedule made perfect sense to the Fair. 

Sri Swami Satchidananda

C. K. Ramaswamy Gounder was born on December 22, 1914. From the time he was a little boy, Gounder (only later known as Swami Satchidananda) was deeply spiritual. Yet his adult life did not begin along the path of a Swami, but as a  businessman and a husband. After his wife's death, he decided to follow a spiritual path.

He traveled throughout India, meditating at holy shrines and studying with spiritual teachers. Years of study, sacrifice, and good deeds followed. In 1949, guru, Sivananda Saraswati,  ordained him and gave him the name Satchidananda Saraswati.

United States and Woodstock

Sri Swami Satchidananda

He visited New York City in 1966 and soon after moved permanently and becoming a US citizen. He continued to teach service, ecumenism, and enlightenment.

His motto was: “Truth is One, Paths are Many.” He believed that we are all one in Spirit and that throughout history great spiritual masters, such as Buddha, Moses, and Jesus, have come forward to teach the people of the world how to experience this spiritual oneness. 

His presentation at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair reflected that belief. He began with:
I am overwhelmed with joy to see the entire youth of America gathered here in the name of the fine art of music. In fact, through the music, we can work wonders. Music is a celestial sound and it is the sound that controls the whole universe, not atomic vibrations. Sound energy, sound power, is much, much greater than any other power in this world. And, one thing I would very much wish you all to remember is that with sound, we can make—and at the same time, break. Even in the war-field, to make the tender heart an animal, sound is used. Without that war band, that terrific sound, man will not become animal to kill his own brethren. So, that proves that you can break with sound, and if we care, we can make also.
Click this link to read his complete Woodstock words


On August 19, 2002, Satchidananda Saraswati died after speaking at a peace conference in south India. His funeral took place in Buckingham, Virginia on August 22.

His site does not refer to that August 19 as the day he died, but the day Swami Satchidananda took Mahasamadhi -- that he left his body. 

Site: His site



Leo Lyons

Leo Lyons

Leo Lyons

Happy birthday
November 30, 1943
I am (and most of you are) certainly aware of and love Ten Years After's "I'm Goin' Home" performance at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair (I didn't hear it as I had already gone home). And we know that it was Alvin Lee up front on guitar, but how many of us know and could name the other band members: Ric Lee on drums, Chick Churchill on keyoards, and Leo Lyons on bass.

I should. We should.

Leo Lyons

David William "Leo" Lyons was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. grew up in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire England, a mining town where most of his male relatives worked in those mines. 

An uncle and aunt had a wind up gramophone and he played all their collection.  He loved country music legend Jimmy Rogers and blues legend Leadbelly.

His first instrument was his grandfather's old banjo. He did take guitar lessons later and played with friends with his guitar's four bottom strings. He became a bassist.

When he was 16, the manager of a local band called the Atomites (it was the dawning of the nuclear age remember) asked Lyons to join the band. His first gig was a local dance hall and the experience hooked him.

Alvin Lee replaced the Atomite's guitar player and later the band changed its name to the Jaybirds. In 1961 the Jaybirds went to London seeking success. They didn't find it and most of the band members left. 

Later drummer Ric Lee joined, then Chick Churchill.  

From 1963 to 1966 Leo did it all. He played and managed the Jaybirds, worked as a session musician, toured as a sideman with pop acts, appeared in a play in London's West End, and played a residency with British jazz guitarist Denny Wright.

Ten Years After

In 1967 the Jaybirds became Ten Years After and began a residency at London's Marquee Club. Their debut album followed. 

Bill Graham heard that album and invited them to play at his venues. They were also one of the first rock groups to be part of the Newport Jazz Festival.  That experience led them to play with such luminaries as Nina Simone, Roland Kirk, and Miles Davis.
Woodstock Music and Art Fair
It is likely that Ten Years After would have had its great  success even without its performance at Woodstock and its inclusion on both the album and movie, but those inclusions supercharged that likelihood. 

The band broke up (temporarily) after their final recording,  Positive Vibrations, in 1974.

Post After

In 1975 Chrysalis Records hired Lyons as studio manager to re-equip and run Wessex Studios in London. He was later to go on and build two commercial studios of his own. He has produced dozens of records. 

Other projects include stage musicals, cartoon soundtracks, film and music videos. 

Aside from writing and producing, Leo has been guest bassist on CDs by Savoy Brown. Leslie West, Fred Koller, Danny Johnson and has toured extensively with former Buddy Guy guitarist Scott Holt.

He played with Ten Years After when that band occasionally reformed but left again in 2013 to remain full time with the band he'd helped form in  2010: Hundred Seventy Split.

Lyons now lives in Nashville, Tennessee.




click thru >>> Lyon’s site