Category Archives: Woodstock Music and Art Fair

Old Man Woodstock Reflections

Old Man Woodstock Reflections

The Irony of Woodstock

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, many find themselves reflecting about that iconic event and its impact.

Thank you to Charlie Maloney, Woodstock alum, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts volunteer, Museum docent, and a guy who "gets it" when it comes to the spirit of the 60s that Woodstock has come to epitomize. It was he, who while surfing the internet one recent night, found an article written by Robert Hilburn for the Los Angeles Times. It kept him up later than he'd planned, but it was worth the sleep loss.

1989 was the 20th anniversary of Woodstock. Like 50, 20 is also an number that summons reflection as well.

Robert Hilburn

Hilburn's point was that if Woodstock had been held in 1989 it would have been a very different event. By 1989 the commercialization of rock music had gone from the 1950s fear of rock to a late-20th century commercial takeover with branded events.

The article's first  example is Janis Joplin's bringing a bottle of Southern Comfort on stage with her in 1969. In 1989, such "product placement" would have cost the liquor-maker. For the article, famous concert promoter Bill Graham suggested that, "...Southern Comfort would pay her a million dollars for just holding that bottle...."

Hilburn wrote that Graham's viewed Woodstock, "...not principally as a great musical moment, but as the day corporate America saw the big money to be made in rock. Indeed, Woodstock itself was a grand attempt to escalate the scale of rock."

The article quotes Joe Smith, a Capital-EMI exec, "Woodstock legitimized rock 'n' roll, and it sent out the message that there was a lot of money to be made in it."

Lou Adler, one of the organizers of rock's "first" festival, the Monterey International Pop Festival, said, "If Monterey made rock 'n' roll an art form, Woodstock made it a business."

Really?

Old Man Woodstock Reflections

Woodstock Ventures didn't just lose its shirt that weekend, it lost its pants, shoes, had, and underwear. None of the four organizers, Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts, or Joel Rosenman, ever got rich from it. They did continue to get plenty of grief and a mailbox full of law suits. Within days, Ventures sold the movie and music rights to to just begin to get out of the financial hole it found itself in. It was more than a decade later before that hole was filled. Not what I would call an acceptable rate of return.

If anything, it might be more accurate to say that corporate America saw the potential for "big money" in Woodstock's muddy aftermath and its may brethren festivals that summer.

It's many brethren? Until I began training as a docent at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts' Museum, I had, as most recollect and the article implies, that Woodstock was one of the two memorable festivals that year. The other, the sad counterpoint, being Altamont and its association with Hell's Angels violence and failed security.

Where were…?

That was not the case.  My research led me to dozens of other festivals that summer. None had the huge attendance that Woodstock had, but many had the same names. In fact, the lack of Black artists and bands at Woodstock (given the number available), stands in contrast to those other festivals. For example, none of the following were at Woodstock, but appeared throughout that summer at other festivals: The Chambers Brothers, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Taj Majal, Elvin Bishop, Sun Ra, Bukka White,  Carla and Rufus Thomas, Ike and Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye,  Albert King, Albert Collins, Edwin Starr, Slim Harpo, Big Mama Thorton,  Champion Jack Dupree, John Lee Hooker, Edwin Hawkins Singers, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Charles Lloyd, BB King, Little Richard, James Cotton Blues Band, Sam and Dave, Fred McDowell, Deacon John and the Electric Soul Train,  or Junior Walker and the All Stars,

I am not suggesting that Woodstock's invited line-up was a biased or poor one. It was great (others were, too). And I am certainly not suggesting that all of those listed above should have been there, otherwise the true musical coexistence that the spirit of Woodstock implies would ring hollow. But why not any?
Old Man Woodstock Reflections

 

As a Woodstock alum, myself, it is a thrill to hear "my" festival so celebrated and given such importance, yet when Lou Adler states that, ""My feeling has always been that if it hadn't rained, we may not have heard that much about Woodstock, or at least heard about it in a different way.....More than the music, it was the story of people pulling together against all these adverse elements. That's what made it such a dramatic and universal story" I cringe a bit.

The rain did happen, but the weekend was not a wash-out by any means. Sunburned backs attest to that. 
Old Man Woodstock Reflections
That those of us who attended did return home with a sense of solidarity seems to be accurate. The most common theme I note after conversations with returning Woodstock alum at the Museum was the sense of "Us" that we had there and afterwards.

Always remember that on that misty Monday morning when Hendrix finally closed the (actually) 4-day event, there were "only" 30- to 40-thousand people left. Most of us had gone home. We were tired. We were hungry. We were wet. We were muddy. We wondered whether our car was still there. And we had to get back to our jobs--whether that was a full-time one or a summer job before college began.

Love for Sale

Old Man Woodstock Reflections
Locals along 17B on Saturday 16 August selling hot dogs and soda. $1 each.
Woodstock's mythic story intensified what had already begun. FM rock stations and college stations (always underrated in terms of their influence) became a bigger influence. Hillburn writes that, "Woodstock changed the progressive rock format from an experiment to a boom."

The record industry did continue to increase its profits, but not, until the mid-70 did sales skyrocket: "$2.37 billion in 1975 . . . $2.73 billion in 1976 . . . $3.50 billion in 1977 . . . and $4.13 billion in 1978." And those profits are credited to Woodstock's fame.

The end result, by 1989, is that the counter-cultural music scene had gone mainstream. Stadium shows with commercial sponsors and ticket prices that make Woodstock ticket-buyer wax nostalgic.  The idealism of the 60s could still be found, but now part of a subset, not the primary aim.

A disillusioned Bill Graham quit the promotion business. Temporarily. He  returned to help create hundreds of stadium shows and help oversee a merchandising-related company. Ironically, he died in a helicopter accident after a successful meeting with Huey Lewis about doing a benefit concert.

By 2017, even a not-for-profit venue like Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has to charge what seem to many to be exorbitant prices for tickets to make ends meet. Ends, actually, that don't meet and depend on the generosity of others to close the gap and finally end in the black.

Apparently the intersection of Hurd and West Shore Roads will always be a beautiful, iconic, and historic site, but not a profit-making one.

Today you can find an exhibit at the Museum called "Love For Sale." The exhibit "examines the pervasive influence of the Counterculture on American popular culture and commerce." 

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Sha Na Na John Jocko Marcellino

Sha Na Na John Jocko Marcellino

Happy birthday
May 12, 1950

Sha Na Na

Sha Na Na John Jocko Marcellino

Most Boomers have heard of Sha Na Na and remember their successful late 70's TV show, but young visitors to the Museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts not only don't recognize the name, they don't associate the band with Woodstock. Hendrix, of course. Sha Na Na? Never heard of them.

Not many had heard of the band made up of Columbia University undergrads before that famous August 1969 weekend in Bethel, NY either. And most weren't there to hear the band on Monday morning.

Sha Na Na was there, though. They "opened" for Jimi Hendrix, an acquaintance and apparently the person who punched their ticket to Woodstock.

Sha Na Na John Jocko Marcellino

You can win some bar bets by asking who the youngest person to play at Woodstock was? Those who have an answer will often reply, "Santana's drummer, Michael Shrieve. Country Joe McDonald boost that belief dozens of times each day during the repeating movie in the entrance to the Main Gallery at Bethel Wood's Museum.

McDonald is wrong. It's John Jocko Marcellino, Sha Na Na's drummer. Born May 12, 1950.

Post Woodstock

Sha Na Na John Jocko Marcellino

For five years after Woodstock, the band toured and then landed the aforementioned TV show. It had an eight-year run. 

In 1978 they appeared in Grease, the wildly popular film adaptation of the rock’n’roll revival musical.

In addition to that movie, Marcellino has appeared in many others, including Rain Man. Check out his IMDB page.

Lately

Sha Na Na John Jocko Marcellino

Jocko continues to be in music and perform with his own band that departs from doo wop and believes in the blues. He released an album (“Funky Chicken” heard above) called Make It Simple.

Internet resources:

Sweetwater Alan Malarowitz

Sweetwater Alan Malarowitz

Sweetwater Alan Malarowitz

March 20, 1950 – August 2, 1981
Remembering Alan Malarowitz, the drummer for Sweetwater at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. 

Jay Walker and the Pedestrians

As with nearly every band, Sweetwater grew out of another group: Jay Walker and the Pedestrians.  That is a bit of information that I had never seen or read about until recently when I surfed onto Bruno Ceriotti's site, brunocerriotti dot weebly dot com. At that site Ceriotti has links to many of his projects, one of which is his ( and Mike Stax's) research into Sweetwater. Since today's piece is aimed at Alan Malarowitz, I will only use the tip of the wonderful iceberg of information Ceriotti and Stax have accumulated and I encourage you to use the link above to check out the complete article as well as his research into many other bands and themes.

Nancy Nevins appears

Robert 'Bob' Barboza had formed Jay Walker and the Pedestrians  while in high school in Rhode Island. He moved to Los Angeles where he re-created the band with a core group of players as well as many others who came and went. Sometimes there were four or five playing a gig, sometimes a couple dozen.  But never a vocalist!

The story goes that one April 1967 night on her way home, a too-high-to-drive Nancy Nevins ambled into the Scarab coffeehouse  in Hollywood. Some of the many Pedestrians were hanging out there and jamming. She stared at them awhile. They invited her up. She sang along to a loose version of "Motherless Child." They loved it. She left. Unlike Cinderella, the nameless Nevins left no glass slipper.

Between that hazy evening and re-discovering Nevins, the band played at the Freedom of Expression Concert on Sunday, April 30, 1967

Sweetwater Alan Malarowitz

Sweetwater’s source

Alex Del Zoppo finally located Nevins, she joined the band, and sang with it in sometime in late spring 1967.

Alex Del Zoppo suggested to a few of the band members that with Nevins and a few other more rock-oriented players, they could go in a different direction. That was fine with founder Barboza, he suggested a couple of players, and the as yet unnamed band was on its way with:
1) Alex Del Zoppo: keyboards, vocals
2) Albert B. Moore: flute, vocals
3) Pete Cobian: congas, other percussions
4) Nansi Nevins: lead vocals

5) Fred Herrera: bass, vocals
6) Andy Friend guitar, vocals
7) Alan Malarowitz drums
8) Wesley Lloyd Radlein cello
The story goes that the group went to attend the Monterey Pop Festival and while there Albert Moore drank water from a nearby stream. Nancy said he shouldn't. He disagreed and said it was sweetwater. And so a name arrived.

Sweetwater Alan Malarowitz

At its inception, Alan Malarowitz was only 17, but, he had good feel and instinct for his instrument. He had a sympathetic easygoing temperament, but was often the first to let his hair down when it came time to party. He became a touring and studio drummer in his later career (band site)

 Malarowtiz died when he fell asleep at the wheel in San Bernardino, CA  (source) and crashed.  He was 31.

Sweetwater Alan Malarowitz, Sweetwater Alan Malarowitz, Sweetwater Alan Malarowitz,