The Road to Woodstock
Long before the
Woodstock Music and Art Fair
In 1903: (from The Road to Woodstock, by Michael Lang) “In 1903 a trio of utopians—wealthy Englishman Ralph White-head, writer Hervey White, and artist Bolton Brown—settled in Woodstock to pursue philosopher Jun Ruskin’s stance against rampant industrialization. On 1,200 acres...they created the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony to pursue the ideas of the arts-and-crafts movement.
In 1912: (from The Road to Woodstock, by Michael Lang) “a branch of New York City’s Art Students League set up a summer program [in Woodstock, NY], and some painters and sculptors stayed on in town.”
In August 1915: (from The Road to Woodstock, by Michael Lang) the first annual Maverick Festival. A flyer promised “wild sports going on” and the dancer Lada, who “illumes beautiful music like poems, and makes you feel its religion...you cry, it is so esquisite to see....All this in the wild stone-quarry theatre, in the moonlight, with the orchestra wailing in rapture, and the jealous torches flaring int eh wind! In the afternoon, there is also a concert, with a pageant, and strange doings on the stage....There will be a village that will stand but for a day, which mad artists have hung with glorious banners and blazoned in the entrance through the woods.”
In 1920s: (from The Road to Woodstock, by Michael Lang) in Woodstock, NY, “there were bacchanalian fetes, with ecentric celebrants wearing handmade costumes for all-night revelry.”
A hint of Woodstock
September 1962: Dylan wrote A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall in the basement of the Village Gate, in a small apartment occupied by Chip Monck, later to become one of the most sought-after lighting directors in rock music and a voice associated with the Woodstock Festival.
January 23, 1963: Janis Joplin, a 20-year-old college dropout from Port Arthur, TX began hitchhiking to San Francisco in order to become a singer, along with her friend Chet Helms. Chet would become one of the major concert promoters in San Francisco with his "Family Dog" series of concerts.
June 13, 1967: a local TV news special in Miami airs “Marijuana in Miami.” The special included the head shop of Michael Lang.
Michael Lang moves to Woodstock
Late summer 1968: Michael Lang moved to Woodstock, NY.
The Road to Woodstock begins
February 6, 1969: Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld met John Roberts and Joel Rosenman for the first time. Lang and Kornfeld propose a music studio retreat in Woodstock, NY that would be an ideal place for musicians to make music in a relaxed atmosphere in an area where many other young musicians live.
The Road to Woodstock takes baby steps
February 10, 1969: Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld met with John Roberts and Joel Rosenman the second time. The idea of a concert to promote the proposed recording studio was discussed.
February 28, 1969: the contract between Joel Rosenman, John Roberts, and Michael Lang was signed creating Woodstock Ventures and its plan for a recording studio in Woodstock, NY and a festival in Saugerties, NY. Artie Kornfeld could not sign the contract because he was still under contract with with Capital. Michael Lang agreed to hold Kornfeld’s share until the Capitol contract expired.
Never in Woodstock, NY
March 29, 1969: Lang found a suitable site in Saugerties, NY right off the NY Thruway. On this date, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman met with a Mr Holmes, the lawyer for the site’s owner, Mr Shaler. The lawyer emphatically told Roberts and Rosenman that the site was not for rent for such a purpose.
March 30, 1969: after the Saugerties refusal, Roberts and Rosenman speak to Howard Mills about a piece of land in Wallkill, NY that Mills was going to develop. Mills agreed to rent the site for the festival.
In April actor Allan Mann met with Elliiot Tibor who had advertised a barn for a theater for free if the troupe would rent a nearby 6-room Victorian for the summer for $800. Paul Johnson, a friend of Mann, agreed to put the down payment of $200 for the house in exchange for a room there for the summer. [keep in mind, this agreement was made before Wallkill evicted the festival.
April 1, 1969: Michael Lang was disappointed with the Saugerties site. It didn’t have the rustic feel he hoped to have.
April 12, 1969: Mel Lawrence and Tom Rounds arrived in NY. They had organized rock concerts in Hawaii, had organized the Fantasy Fair, and had organized Miami Pop in 1968.
Rt 17 in NY is that road
April 13, 1969: Mel Lawrence, Tom Rounds, Tom Driscoll, Bill Hanley, Stanley Goldstein, and Michael Lang visit the Wallkill site. Mel Lawrence becomes the festival’s Chief-of-Operations.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Mid-April, 1969: Creedence Clearwater Revival first act signed to perform. $10,000.
April 17, 1969:
- Michael Lang and Joel Rosenman co-sign a $10,000 check to construct offices for Woodstock Ventures at 47 W 57th Street in NYC. Bert Cohan in charge. They also put down $4,500 as a deposit on a property in Woodstock for the recording studio (the Tapooa property).
- check given to Alexander Tapooz for deposit on Woodstock retreat studio.
Permission from Wallkill
April 18, 1969: the Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals gave permission for the festival.
The Road to Woodstock
…gets Tim Hardin, Canned Heat, and…
April 18, 1969: Tim Hardin signed to perform. $2,000.
April 21, 1969: Canned Heat signed .
Week of April 28, 1969: Johnny Winter signed ($7,500); Janis Joplin signed ($15,000); and Jefferson Airplane signed ($15,000).
May, 1969: Hugh Romney and the Hog Farm commune hired to work at festival for security, free food, and free stage.
May 6, 1969: Wes Pomeroy meets Stanley Goldstein about concert security. Pomeroy agreed to look at site and discuss plans.
…has personnel conflicts
mid-May, 1969: Roberts, Rosenman, Kornfeld, and Lang visit the Woodstock Ventures offices. Roberts and Rosenman have never seen such a layout. Kornfeld and Lang are happy with its laid back set-up.
May 20, 1969: Michael Lang found office space at 513-A Avenue of the Americas in NYC so he can be away from the other organizers.
…more bands sign, including The Band
May 21, 1969: The Band signed. ($15,000)
May 27, 1969: press release: the production staff for the festival was completed. Wartoke Concern is the festival’s public relations firm.
May 28, 1969: Mel Lawrence presented first “checklist” for the festival’s execution.
May 28, 1969: Incredible String Band and Ravi Shankar signed. $4,500 each.
…the word starts to spread
Late May, 1969: newspapers display the first print advertisements for the festival had.
…more personnel conflict
June 2, 1969: just after midnight Michael Lang finally arrived for a meeting with John Roberts and Joel Rosenman. Roberts and Rosenman were upset with Lang’s lack of communication and his unfettered methods of organizing the festival. They are also upset with press releases never listing their names as primaries involved. Lang convinced Roberts and Rosenman that it is Artie Kornfeld they should upset with.
June 2, 1969: that afternoon Joel Rosenman confronts Kornfeld with Lang’s complaints. Kornfeld stated that Lang told him that Rosenman and Roberts were the problems.
June 2, 1969: later that afternoon there was a meeting of all four of the festival’s primaries. Roberts, Rosenman, and Kornfeld tried to confront Lang. Lang convinced the others that all was best if they all worked together toward the goal.
June 3, 1969: Michael Lang met Wes Pomeroy to discuss Pomeroy’s attitude toward security. Pomeroy explained that the attendees must feel that there is no threat from security. Lang agreed.
…work begins in Wallkill
June 6, 1969: twenty-one person crew arrived in Wallkill to begin work. They will live at Rosenburg’s family retreat in nearby Bullville. [among them: Mel Lawrence, Michael Lang, Penny Stallings, Lee Mackler (friend of John Morris), Bill & Jean Ward and five University of Miami artists]
June 6/7/8?, 1969: Sweetwater and Blood, Sweat and Tears ($15,000) signed for festival.
…the threats begin
June 7, 1969: after the festival site received many threatening calls, Mel Lawrence calls workers together to warn them about behavior, particularly drug use, as there might be a narcotic agent planted in the group.
June 9, 1969: an unnamed official visits the site and says that the group does not have permission for the festival.
June 11, 1969: in an attempt to counterbalance negative local feelings about festival, Stanley Goldstein, lawyer for Woodstock Ventures, contacts the Times Herald Record and provides information about festival.
June 12, 1969: Stanley Goldstein and Don Ganoung (minister and head of community relations) attend public meeting in Wallkill Town Hall in an attempt to allay antagonism toward festival. Town Supervisor, Jack Schlosser, against the event but attempts to provide a fair hearing.
…legal issues and threats
June 14, 1969: John Roberts and Joel Rosenman receive a certified letter from Wallkill Town Attorney Joseph Owen requesting submission of fourteen divisions of production plans.
June 14 or 15, 1969: Abbie Hoffman called Michael Lang saying that he (Hoffman) needs money from Woodstock Ventures or else he (Hoffman) will shut down the festival.
…Howard Mills threatened
June 15, 1969:
- local residents Cliff Reynolds and Brent Rismiller (also State police) hire Jules Minker (a local lawyer who works in NYC) to bring an injunction against festival.
- Wes Pomeroy arrived in Wallkill. Late that night Pomeroy heard about the threats Howard Mills and his family had anonymously received. Sets up security around Mills’ house.
…a peaceful response
June 16, 1969: just after midnight a meeting was held about festival security. Pomeroy insisted on a “soft” approach. The Peace Service Corps.
June 16, 1969: Woodstock Ventures issued a statement to the press defending its position in the town.
June 18, 1969: Samuel W Eager, a Middletown lawyer who had agreed to represent Woodstock Ventures (WV thinking a local lawyer would be better received than a NYC one), called Jack Scholsser (Wallkill Town Supervisor) and requested an informal meeting between the members of the town board and the four Woodstock officers. It is set for June 19.
June 19, 1969: Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, and Joel Rosenman meet with Abbie Hoffman. Hoffman demands $50,000. They agree to $10,000.
June 19, 1969: Stanley Goldstein was served with a summons ordering the festival’s principals to appear before the State Supreme court in Goshen, NY on July 7.
June 19, 1969: at the informal meeting the town board lays out its three concerns:
1. traffic control,
2. sanitation, and
3. water supply.
…bad news from the west coast
June 20 - 22, 1969: Newport ‘69 Festival held Northridge, CA. On Sunday at the festival which attracted approximately 60,000 paid admissions, police attempted to break up a small group who had tried to rush the gates. Thousands of sympathizers started throwing bottles and rocks at the police. 165 arrested. 45 charged with assaulting an officer. 90 arrested for drug-related offenses. 402 injuries. The Times Herald Record reported the incident as a “battle” and referred to alleged charges of “attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.”
…the Hog Farm enters the picture
June 21, 1969: Stanley Goldstein met with Hugh Romney and the Hog Farm in New Mexico to discuss the Hog Farm’s role in the festival. Goldstein is accompanied by Jim Grant, a friend and fellow law enforcement official of Wes Pomeroy.
June 23, 1969: Jim Grant, a friend of Wes Pomeroy and asked by Pomeroy to go along with Stanley Goldstein to the Hog Farm meeting, sent at letter stating that “the entire affair [the Hog Farm] appeared to be completely without organization or management.”
June 26, 1969: Woodstock Ventures held a media meeting at the Village Gate on Bleeker Street to cooperatively present, discuss, and formulate “ground rules for outdoor peace and music programs.” In the end it was agreed that the festival was to emphasize music and not politics.
last week of June: John Fabri spoke with NYC Chief Inspector George P McManus and McManus promised cooperation with getting NYC police officers to work at the festival.
…dark clouds over Wallkill
June 26, 1969: the Wallkill town attorney presented Woodstock Ventures with a document outlining proposed ordinances regarding assemblies of 5,000 people or more. Such proposals such as not light, sound, or odor seepage beyond the festival’s specific boundaries created seemingly insurmountable barriers to the event. An application for the event covering all the details had to be presented to the town no later than July 2.
June 27, 1969: The Times-Herald editorial read in part, “We regard the proposed ordinance as an example of flagrant misuse of government power....It is, in our opinion, highly improper to prohibit one event in the guise of regulating it.
June 29, 1969: Pomeroy met with the Tri-County Citizen Band Radio Club and they agreed to assist with the Festival.
July 2, 1969: town meeting in Wallkill with many voicing highly critical views of festival. After the public meeting the council passed an ordinance severely curtailing public events. Woodstock Ventures would have an opportunity at a later meeting to show compliance with the various parts of the ordinance.
…more bad press
July 4 – 5, 1969: Atlanta International Pop Festival at the Atlanta International Raceway, Hampton, GA was a success, but a NYT article stated that the event presented “an impromptu but efficient commodities exchange in marijuana and LSD, where buyers and sellers let supply and demand establish prices.” Such news only added to the Wallkill residents’ aggressive confrontation of the Woodstock Festival.
July 5, 1969: John Fabbri and Don Ganoung meet with transportation representatives from All-State Bus Corporation to discuss transportation for festival attendees. Fabbri and Ganoung also meet with NYCPD Chief Inspector McManus to help mobilize the Peace Service Corps.
…and yet more bad press
July 6, 1969: More bad media news: The NYT reported, “The Newport Jazz Festival was invaded...by several hundred young people who broke down a section of the 10-foot wooden fence surrounding Festival Field and engaged in a rock throwing battle with security guards.”
…preparation road blocks
July 7, 1969: in Albany, Wes Pomeroy and Don Ganoung met with Harrison F Dunbrook, the director of traffic operations for the NY State Dept of Transportation. Pomeroy and Ganoung hoped to get permission for highway alterations during the festival weekend. Their request was denied. Signage for the festival along Rt 17 would be permitted provided Woodstock Ventures went through the normal approval process. Permission to use a nearby completed but unused section of Interstate 84 was denied.
July 8, 1969: the Middletown Fire Department unanimously turned down a proposal to supply personnel to run Nathan’s food concessions. The fire companies’ membershiop objected to the long hours Natahan’s had required.
Second week of July: Peter Goodrich continues to try to find companies for the festival’s food concession stands.
July 8, 1969: Wes Pomeroy and Don Ganoung met with town fire advisory board to discuss the festival’s fire protection needs. Instead of evaluating the festival’s requirements and coming to an informal arrangement, the advisory board decided not to act on the proposed plans until it was asked to do so by the town board under the new local law.
July 8, 1969: Joel Rosenman received a letter from Margaret Y Tremper, the deputy town clerk from the Town of Shawangunk in upstate NY. The letter informed the festival organizers that the festival address used on advertising was misleading as Wallkill, NY (Ulster County) was not the same as the Town of Wallkill (Orange county), where the festival was. She hoped that they would correct their advertising to avoid having thousands of attendees mistakenly arriving at her location and not theirs.
…and yet more bad press
July 8, 1969: a Smoky Robinson and the Miracles concert in Boston resulted in scattered incidents of stone throwing and window breaking after the sound system has problems.
…internal legal issues
July 8, 1969: Miles Lourie resigned as counsel for Woodstock Ventures because of the recent appointment of Peter Marshall as an additional counsel.
July 10, 1969: Peter Goodrich and John Roberts meet in Peter Marshall’s office with Charles Baxter, Jeffrey Joerger, and Lee Howard of Food for Love to discuss providing food at the festival. Because of the lack of any other companies offering their services and the late date, Roberts approved Food for Love’s application.
July 10, 1969: the entire production staff met to go over all progress that had been made since they began. Most were pleased with the many tasks accomplished and plans in place.
…legal dark clouds
July 11, 1969: acting State Supreme Court Justice Edwin M O’Gorman, after hearing remarks from both sides of the dispute, reserved his decision for an injunction against Woodstock Ventures since no festival application had been applied for (based on the new ordinance of July 2) and therefore no permit given.
July 13, 1969: Ulster County assemblyman Clark Bell, a Republican from Woodstock, released a statement to the press about a letter he’d just sent to Governor Rockefeller requesting the appointment of a coordinator to oversee the festival. He also recommended that the National Guard be alerted.
July 14, 1969: THE meeting. Woodstock Ventures presented its application for the festival’s approval based on the new ordinance. The meeting lasted until 1 AM.
July 15, 1969: in a closed session at the town hall, the Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals passed judgment on the status of Woodstock Venture’s application for a permit. The five-member board refused to allow the festival to build anything on the 200-acre site.
July 16, 1969: an eviction notice posted on the front door of Howard Mill’s barn telling Woodstock Ventures to vacate the premises. To this point approximately 150,000 tickets had been sold and $500,000 spent on the concert.
…Yasgur to the rescue
July 16, 1969: Mel Lawrence and Michael Lang helicopter over area looking for new location for concert. While they are gone, Elliott Tieber contacts them about a place in Bethel, NY, 30 miles away. Tieber runs the El Monaco Motel at the intersection of Rts 17B and 55. His site is completely unsuitable. Tieber contacts Morris Abraham who sets up meeting with Max Yasgur.
July 17, 1969: although initially expressing disinterest in renting land for the festival, Max Yasgur agreed to meet with Woodstock Ventures after hearing that it is the group just kicked out of Wallkill.
July 18, 1969: in the morning, Michael Lang and Ticia Bernuth explore Bethel area. They “discover” the site; in the afternoon Lang, Mel Lawrence, Elliot Tieber, and Morris Abraham meet with Yasgur. The property he initially offers (across from his home?) is far too flat. Another site is offered which turns out to be the same spot Lang had seen that morning.
July 19, 1969: John Roberts and Michael Lang discuss finances. Roberts concerned about additional costs.
..unhappy Bethel residents
July 20, 1969: someone nails sign “Stop Max’s Hippy Music Festival” to tree at driveway entrance. Angers Yasgur and convinces him his decision to allow concert on his property was the right decision.
July 21, 1969: Judge Edward O’Gorman handed down decision banning the festival from the Wallkill site. That evening, Woodstock Ventures was granted permission to hold their event by unanimous vote of the Bethel council.
July 22, 1969: Mel Lawrence brought Festival workers from Wallkill to Bethel. Holds general meeting at El Monaco Motel. (intersection of Rts 17 B & 55).
Around this time, Woodstock Ventures, seeing the Earth Light Theatre on the El Monaco site, ask the the troupe would do performances at the festival. They agree to. Allan Mann, of Earth Light, offers to arrange for Swami Satchidananda to open the festival on Friday 15 August.
July 24, 1969: Bethel Supervisor reported that he’d received about twenty phone calls from residents opposed to festival, but no legal threats.
July 25 – 26 (?), 1969: screening process of police who wanted to work festival. Those approved told to report to site on August 14.
July 26, 1969: a committee of Bethel residents began circulating petition that opposed festival.
July 28, 1969: a benefit was held at the Village Gate (NYC) to raise money for scholarship funds to enable young artists to exhibit at Woodstock. Performers at the benefit included Marian McPartland, Les McCann, and Robert Flack.
…arrives in Bethel, NY
July 28, 1969: town meeting for presentation of the all-inclusive draft of festival to NY State Health Department lasted 8-hours as many residents challenged each part of presentation, but all questions were answered. That night the Bethel Businessman’s Association voted to support festival.
July 29, 1969: Woodstock Ventures served with papers to appear in court regarding impact of festival on local summer youth camps and local homeowners. An out-of-court settlement agreed to with camps. Judge George Cobb stated that he’d hand down his decision on August 14—the day before the festival was to begin.
The abandoned Diamond Horseshoe hotel ready for workers to move in.
July 30, 1969: Max Yasgur gave permission to Woodstock Ventures to drill on festival site for water.
Lang, Kornfeld, Roberts, and Rosenman met to discuss how to publicize the festival’s new location. Arnold Skolnick drawing.
August 3, 1969: from Dale Bell's book Woodstock (quoting John Roberts): "Over the course of the spring and summer we had gone to several meetings with film makers like Pennebaker and the Maysles Brothers, and they had all expressed interest in making our movie. But talks had languished and then died when it became clear that we would have to finance their efforts ourselves. Bob Maurice and Mike Wadleigh had been latecomers to this process. I had seen some of Wadleigh’s work and thought it to be original and clever, but noting I had seen altered my fundamental view that financing a documentary was a sane use of my vanishing resources.
Sunday, August 3rd, 1969 was turning into another typical day at the office. …Around noon I decided to take a break and go someplace where the phones wouldn’t ring with Woodstock problems. I walked down to my dad’s apartment in mid-town. …The phone rang. It was Bob Maurice. …I said “What’s on your mind?” “About 90 grand,” he said. “That’s what it will take for you to own this movie.” I lectured him patiently on the economics of documentaries, concluding with a polite but firm refusal. “You’ll have to get it somewhere else, Bob, I’m pretty much tapped.
“…a week later…”
August 4, 1969: Don Ganoung presented the Bethel Medical Center with a check for $10,000; officers of the Peace Service Corps moved into their headquarters on Lake Street.
…Hog Farm arrives
August 7, 1969: chartered Hog Farm flight from Santa Fe arrived at JFK Airport with 85 members who join other Hog Farm members who’d already arrived. Total festival workforce exceeded 1,500.
Sunday 10 August 1969
- Chris Langhart assisted by a corps of technical people he knew from summer theatres in Syracuse, began constructing a footbridge over the increasingly congested West Shore Road.
- Howard Hirsch and Peter Leeds begin setting up the exhibition of amateur artists along the festival’s northwestern perimeter.
- stage construction progressed to the point where builders were ready to put the deck on top.
- (around this date) from Dale Bell’s book Woodstock (John Roberts speaking): … one of my partners (Artie Kornfeld?) made a deal with Warner Brothers for the $90,000. When the smoke cleared they owned 90% of everything, and we got 10% of the profits from the film and about one-half of 1% of the albums. Even those drastically reduced percentages were enough to bail us out of debt when the show lost $1,600,000, and 10 years later we could count ourselves slightly in the black.
Monday 11 August 1969
- John Roberts packs for trip to Bethel. As of that afternoon’s accounting, Woodstock Ventures had posted receipt of advance ticket sales totaling $1,107,936. Woodstock Ventures (John Roberts) had spent nearly twice that sum.
- telephone poles bolted into place around stage, but it is discovered that many are split or rotten.
- Woodstock Ventures comes to agreement with William Filippini for use of Filippini Pond for $5,000.
Tuesday 12 August 1969
- festival representatives meet with the state supreme court justice regarding complaints by local businesses about the festival’s impact on them. After reassurances and explainations all complaints were dropped.
- the Food For Love concession area remained unfinished.
Wednesday 13 August 1969
- nearly 30,000 people have already shown up for festival and are in the “bowl.” Bill Hanley pulled his sound truck into the service road behind the stage, plugged in some equipment to a portable amplifier and piped prerecorded music for the appreciative crowd.
- staff technicians notice drop in water pressure throughout site. Audience members had accidentally stepped on and cracked plastic pipes. Repairs made.
- John Roberts with his father and brother, arrived on site to discover that there are no ticket booths for the 30,000 people already on-site.
- the suit against the festival withdrawn after a promise of police protection for the residents is agreed to.
- it is discovered that the $200 an hour crane is trapped within its own construction of the pedestrian bridge over West Shore Road.
- NYC Police Commissioner Howard Leary reminds all NYC police officers that “moonlighting” is strictly prohibited.
- NY State Police “randomly” stop and frisk young people in cars at Harriman interchange on NY State Thruway. Drivers, passengers, and cars were checked for anything illegal.
Thursday 14 August 1969
- NY State Police continue to randomly stop and frisk young drivers at Harriman interchange. 150 arrests made.
- Bill Handley’s sound system erected. “According to one expert’s cumulative eye, the hi-fi equipment in the bowl represented the most expensive sound system ever assembled at one time in any given location.”
- Bill Abruzzi, doctor hired to take care of medical issues at the festival, tells festival to triple his supply order.
- about 270 NYC police show up but insist on being paid in cash without receipts.
- Food For Love demands all profits after repaying the initial $75,00 fee. Woodstock Ventures agreed.
- although warned not to, nearly 300 NYC police and promise to work using aliases, paid in cash, and more than promised.
- a film deal has been reached: 50% split. Warner Brothers and Woodstock Ventures after negative costs. On Friday, Michael Wadleigh signed on as director.
- the Diamond Horseshoe, where nearly 200 Woodstock staff had been staying, caught fire. The fire was extinguished by hotel staff because the fire department couldn’t get through.
August 15 – 18, 1969: Woodstock Music and Art Fair
|Friday 15 Aug
- Richie Havens
- Swami Satchidananda
- Bert Sommer
- Tim Hardin
- Ravi Shankar
- Arlo Guthrie
- Joan Baez
|Saturday 16 Aug
- Country Joe McDonald
- John Sebastian
- Keef Hartley Band
- Incredible String Band
- Canned Heat
- Grateful Dead
- Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Janis Joplin
- Sly & the Family Stone
- The Who
- Jefferson Airplane
|Sunday 17 Aug
- Max Yasgur
- Joe Cocker
- Country Joe & the Fish
- Ten Years After
- The Band
- Johnny Winter
- Blood, Sweat, & Tears
- Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
- Paul Butterfield Band
- Sha Na Na
- Jimi Hendrix
From The College of Rock and Roll: declined invitations and missed connections
- Bob Dylan: although in his “backyard,” Dylan was never in serious negotiation to play. Instead, Dylan signed in mid-July to play the Isle of Wight Festival of Music, on August 31. Dylan set sail for England on Queen Elizabeth 2 on August 15, the day the Woodstock Festival started. His son was injured by a cabin door and the family disembarked. Dylan, with his wife Sara, flew to England the following week. Dylan had been unhappy about the number of hippies piling up outside his house in the nearby town of Woodstock.
- The Beatles/John Lennon: There are two scenarios as to why The Beatles did not perform. The first is that promoters contacted John Lennon to discuss a Beatles performance at Woodstock, and Lennon said that the Beatles would not play unless there was also a spot at the festival for Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band, whereupon he was turned down. The more likely explanation is that Lennon wanted to play but his entry into the United States from Canada was blocked by President Richard Nixon. The Beatles were, in any case, on the verge of disbanding. Also, they had not performed any live concerts since August 1966, three full years before the festival (not including their impromptu rooftop concert given on January 30, 1969 a few months before).
- The Jeff Beck Group: Jeff Beck disbanded the group prior to Woodstock. “I deliberately broke the group up before Woodstock”, Beck said. “I didn’t want it to be preserved.
- The Doors were considered as a potential performing band but canceled at the last moment. According to guitarist Robby Krieger, they turned it down because they thought it would be a “second class repeat of Monterey Pop Festival” and later regretted that decision.
- Led Zeppelin was asked to perform, their manager Peter Grant stated: “We were asked to do Woodstock and Atlantic were very keen, and so was our U.S. promoter, Frank Barsalona. I said no because at Woodstock we’d have just been another band on the bill.” However, the group did play the first Atlanta International Pop Festival on July 5, as one of 22 bands at the two-day event. Woodstock weekend, Zeppelin performed south of the festival at the Asbury Park Convention Hall in New Jersey.
- The Byrds were invited, but chose not to participate, figuring Woodstock to be no different from any of the other music festivals that summer. There were also concerns about money. As bassist John York remembers: “We were flying to a gig and Roger [McGuinn] came up to us and said that a guy was putting on a festival in upstate New York. But at that point they weren’t paying all of the bands. He asked us if we wanted to do it and we said, ‘No’. We had no idea what it was going to be. We were burned out and tired of the festival scene. So all of us said, ‘No, we want a rest’ and missed the best festival of all.”
- Chicago, at the time still known as the Chicago Transit Authority, had initially been signed on to play at Woodstock. However, they had a contract with concert promoter Bill Graham, which allowed him to move Chicago’s concerts at the Fillmore West. He rescheduled some of their dates to August 17, thus forcing the band to back out of the concert. Graham did so to ensure that Santana, which he managed at the time, would take their slot at the festival. According to singer and bassist Peter Cetera, “We were sort of peeved at him for pulling that one.”
- Tommy James and the Shondells declined an invitation. Lead singer Tommy James stated later: “We could have just kicked ourselves. We were in Hawaii, and my secretary called and said, ‘Yeah, listen, there’s this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.’ That’s how it was put to me. So we passed, and we realized what we’d missed a couple of days later.”
- The Moody Blues were included on the original Wallkill poster as performers, but decided to back out after being booked in Paris the same weekend.
- Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, according to the Class of the 20th Century U.S. television special, is quoted as saying “A lot of mud at Woodstock … We were invited to play there, we turned it down.’
- Arthur Lee and Love declined the invitation, but Mojo Magazine later described inner turmoil within the band which caused their absence at the Woodstock festival.
- Free was asked to perform and declined.
- Spirit also declined an invitation to play, as they already had shows planned and wanted to play those instead, not knowing how big Woodstock would be.
- Joni Mitchell was originally slated to perform, but canceled at the urging of her manager to avoid missing a scheduled appearance on The Dick Cavett Show.
- Lighthouse declined to perform at Woodstock.
- Roy Rogers was asked by Michael Lang to close the festival with Happy Trails but he declined.
- Procol Harum was invited but refused because Woodstock fell at the end of a long tour and also coincided with the due date of guitarist Robin Trower’s baby.
- Jethro Tull also declined. According to frontman Ian Anderson, he knew it would be a big event but he did not want to go because he did not like hippies and other concerns including inappropriate nudity and the money being right.
- Iron Butterfly was billed for Sunday on the poster circa Walkill, but could not perform because they were stuck at an airport.
September 9, 1969: the New York Times runs an article describing the likly breakup of the Woodstock Ventures partners. Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld agree to a buyout of $31,750 each.
January 7, 1970: neighbors of New York landowner Max Yasgur sued him for $35,000 for property damage caused by the August 1969 Woodstock Festival.
May 11, 1970: the triple soundtrack album 'Woodstock' was released in the US, going gold within two weeks.
February 9, 1973: Max Yasgur died at age 53.
April 25, 1990: the Fender Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix played at the Woodstock festival was auctioned off for a record $295,000. His two-hour set at the 1969 festival became the longest of his career.
October 27, 2001: John P. Roberts, one of the four promoters of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair and a partner in its revivals in the 90's, died at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. He was 56 and lived in Manhattan. NYT Obituary