Category Archives: Woodstock Music and Art Fair

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts

Remembering and appreciating him on his birthday
January 26, 1945 – October 27, 2001
Woodstock Ventures John Roberts
Clockwise from top left: John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Michael Lang, and Artie Kornfeld

E pluribus unum


Each of the four Woodstock Ventures partners contributed to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair and it would be silly to say any one of them meant more than any other, but I think it is fair to say that the idea, however great, would never have gotten off the ground if not for the financial backing, patience, and endurance of John Roberts.


It may be a stereotype, but the personalities of each Woodstock Venture partner was predictable. Lang and Kornfeld, the originators and instigators of the event, are best described as hippies and idealists. Lang in particular. 


Joel Rosenman and John Roberts were the business guys in business suits who business acumen helped navigate the venture through the choppy cultural waters of the late 1960s.


John Roberts, in particular.

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts

John Roberts


John Roberts was a nephew in the Block Pharmaceutical family. Alexander Block had founded the company in 1907. In 1969 John Roberts was 24 and had recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and with friend Joel Rosenman delved into writing for TV. They wanted to pitch the idea of two young men with money looking to make a TV program. 


To get ideas, they placed a newspaper ad in the Wall Street Journal which read, that they were ”young men with unlimited capital.” Though they received thousands or responses, the TV idea died.


Instead, Roberts and Rosenman went into business with a recording studio in Manhattan, Mediasound. Since Lang and Kornfeld’s original idea was to build a recording studio in the town of Woodstock, NY, Fortune and fortuitousness brought the four together.

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts

Woodstock Ventures


The four formed Woodstock Ventures and they would (“they” is a funny word to use here) finance the project with profits (another funny word in retrospect) from a festival with an inheritance John Roberts had just received from the Block fortune.


The Woodstock Music and Art Fair story is John’s and it is not John’s. The vision and thrust was Lang’s. John Robert’s patience, persistence, and, obviously, money made the idea a reality despite huge initial losses.


After the event, it was John’s family who strongly recommended that John buy out Lang and Kornfeld from Ventures and also to sell the movie and music rights to Warner Brothers to begin to recoup those huge losses.


It was not until a dozen years later that the still extant Woodstock Ventures made its money back. By that point, Lang had gotten back into the company and remains there, with Joel Rosenman, and the Roberts family to this day.

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts

Legacy

John Roberts


John Roberts died from cancer on October 27, 2001.


Ben Sisario wrote in the New York TimesEven as a producer of Woodstock ’94, Mr. Roberts made it clear that his interests were in maintaining the peaceful legacy of Woodstock rather than in making money, said John Scher, another producer. ”John was a smart businessman,’‘ Mr. Scher said, ”but he had a lot of heart.

Thank you John

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts
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Ten Years After

Ten Years After

October 27, 1967

Happy premier album anniversary

Ten Years After

“I Wanna Know” first cut, first album
Ten Years After released its first album, Ten Years After, on October 27, 1967.  The band consisted of Alvin Lee (guitar), Chick Churchill (organ), Ric Lee (drums), and Leo Lyons (bass).


Here was another example of a British band bringing American blues back to us. The band did write most of the album's material, but their sound and the song's they covered clearly showed those roots.

Side one

Ten Years After

Here's side one:
Side one
  1. “I Want to Know” (Sheila McLeod as pseudonym Paul Jones) – 2:11
  2. “I Can’t Keep from Crying Sometimes” (Al Kooper) – 5:24
  3. “Adventures of a Young Organ” (Alvin Lee, Chick Churchill) – 2:34
  4. “Spoonful” (Willie Dixon) – 6:05
  5. “Losing the Dogs” (Alvin Lee, Gus Dudgeon) – 3:03

Side two

And side two:
Side two
  1. “Feel It for Me” (Alvin Lee) – 2:40
  2. “Love Until I Die” (Alvin Lee) – 2:06
  3. “Don’t Want You Woman” (Alvin Lee) – 2:37
  4. “Help Me” (Ralph Bass, Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Williamson) – 9:51
Note how short the majority of the songs were, the single-size under-three-minute good-for-radio-play type. Of course, there are those few where the band gets to stretch it out.

 

Ten Years After

Ten Years After

Alvin Lee

Alvin Lee was the heart of the band and for better or worse the inclusion of the band's "Goin' Home"  into the film and onto the record of Woodstock brought fame. 

Fame from a single song’s performance that likely sounded like dozens of others performed that summer likely surprised Alvin Lee. An albatross that laid a golden egg. He was already a great guitarist when he began his trek along the summer of 1969’s festivals. June 28, 1969: Bath Festival of Blues. July 3 – 6, Newport Jazz Festival. July 11 – 12, Laurel Pop Festival. July 25 – 27, Seattle Pop Festival, Aug 15 - 18 – Woodstock Music and Art Festival. 30 – Sept 1: Texas International Pop Festival.

How many times did Alvin Lee play “I’m Going Home” that summer? It’s filming in August at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair preserved it and sent it worldwide. His name was and will forever be associated with that song and that performance.

Here are some factoids about Lee:
  • originally influenced by his parent’s collection of jazz and blues records
  • began playing guitar age 13
  • by aged 15 his Jaybirds band formed the core of Ten Years After
  • moved to London and changed the band’s name to Ten Years After in 1966
  • the band’s performance at the Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival in 1967 led to their first recording contract.
  • concert promoter Bill Graham who invited the band to tour America for the first time in the summer of 1968. Ten Years After would ultimately tour the USA 28 times in 7 years, more than any other U.K. band. 
  • After the breakup of Ten Years After, Lee continue to form bands and record music.
  • Lee’s overall musical output included more than 20 albums.
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Leslie West

Leslie West

Happy birthday

Leslie West

born October 22, 1945

Mountain, “Theme for an Imaginary Western”

Forest Hills High School

What do the four original members of the Ramones (Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy and Joey), Burt Bacharach, Dick Stockton, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Bob Keeshan, aka Captain Kangaroo, Jerry Springer and Peter Parker all have in common with Leslie West?

Except Peter Parker, aka Spiderman, they all actually attended Forest Hills High School in Queens, NYC. 

Leslie Weinstein

Leslie Weinstein became Leslie West after his parents divorced, but talent and luck, always a bit of luck, made Leslie West a household name among rock fans in the late 60s.
While Greenwich Village was pumping out folk musician after folk musician into the 1960's cultural revolution, West though nearby geographically was light years artistically on "distant" Long Island, NY.

Leslie West was in the Vagrants and the band had minor success. Felix Pappalardi produced some of their recordings. Pappalardi produced and played on West's first album, called Mountain (1969). It was from that album's name that, in 1969, they formed Mountain. 

Pappalardi had also produced Cream and some compared Mountain's sound to theirs.  Steve Knight (keyboards) and N.D. Smart (drums) were the other two original members. 

Woodstock Music and Art Fair

The band appeared at Woodstock on Saturday night. Their well-received set was neither on the movie soundtrack nor the first movie, but the strength of their sound made West and the band favorites especially among the FM crowd.

Following Woodstock, the band released it's first album,  Climbing! (February 1970). Nantucket Sleighride followed in January 1971, and Flowers of Evil in November 1971.

In 1972 Pappalardi left the band to do more productions and West, Jack Bruce and Corky Laing (had replaced ND Smart on drums) formed West, Bruce, and Lang.

Over the decades versions of Mountain have formed and re-formed, always with West at the center.  

Leslie West

Substance abuse and diabetes have plagued West, but have not kept him away from music very long. He lost the bottom half of his right leg to diabetes in 2011. He told Billboard afterwards, ""I cried a couple fuckin' times. I look down -- 'Where is it?!' You still feel the nerves and stuff like that. I had to make a decision -- lose my leg or lose my life. What are you gonna do?  But I'll tell you, it's a good thing it wasn't one of my arms. Then I'd be really fucked." [insert gallows humor comment here]

On August 15, 2009 he married Jenni Maurer on stage after Mountain's performance at the Woodstock 40th anniversary concert at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, located on the site of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Note Mr Levon Helm on the far left!

Leslie West

 

In 2015, Rolling Stone magazine rated West as 65/100 among the greatest guitar players. The blurb said in part that, " On songs like the 1970 hit "Mississippi Queen," West played roughened blues lines with deceiving facility and an R&B flair, through a black forest of stressed-amp distortion. "

 

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