Tag Archives: Performers

Donald Donny York

Donald Donny York

From the podcast Keep the Dream Flowing
Happy birthday
March 13, 1949
Donald Donny York
York patiently signing more than a few albums for a fan at an airport

There have been many many members of Sha Na Na over the years, but Donny is one of the only two originals who still remain in the group.

Donald Donny York

Social media footprint

I’ve done many little pieces about the performers at Woodstock, but Donny York is the only one I’ve found a LinkedIn page for. Under Education, he lists the following:

  • B.A., liberal arts, political science,   – 
  • Transformed the King’s Men into Sha Na Na
  • Activities and Societies: King’s Crown Activities

His Facebook page expands upon his personal information:

  • Studied Political Science at Columbia University
  • Went to Borah High School (Boise, Idaho)
  • Lives in Midlothian, Virginia (though it seems he’s back west now)
  • From Boise, Idaho
  • Married to Lily Grace
Donald Donny York


From the Woodstock.com site “My experience of Woodstock was that, for reasons having nothing to do with a drug high, there was just a goofy feeling of magic in the air there.  A performer, but not famous and recognizable, I could wander in the crowd and witness that there was an obvious disaster underway–but nobody getting hurt!  I encountered nothing but cheerful human warmth, and individuals taking good care of each other, sharing resources.  It wasn’t socialism, no people’s committee directing anything in top-down fashion, just one-on-one caring and patience while we waited for the music to go on despite repeated delays. It amounted to a real love-in—not sexualized, just very brotherly.  And it felt like heaven.  Woodstock’s lesson for the ages was not that “socialism works” (as proclaimed in many of the free urban news weeklies back then, notwithstanding emergency services to the festival from the Nixon-era grown-ups); it was that brotherly love really does have its magical power.” [source]

Pat Boone

Donald Donny York

In addition to his years with Sha Na Na, he worked with Pat Boone on his 2006 memoir. Of that he says: “For me, getting this gig was a case of “Wait until the folks back home find out about this!” It was like the gig of a lifetime—even measured against the great gigs I’ve already stumbled into in places like Woodstock or in cinematic majesties like Grease. I appeared in them, along with other worthy young talents by the dozen. But I’m the only guy who assisted Pat Boone in the preparation of his definitive autobiographical career memoir. Back home they’ll be more impressed about my affiliation with Boone than they were about Woodstock or Grease, and they’ll probably have gotten it just about right. (Think effect on history, as opposed to reflection of it.)

IMDB: He is an actor, known for The Fall Guy (1981), Sha Na Na (1977) and Festival Express (2003).

Here’s a YouTube “video” which is simply an audio recording of Donny describing the beginning of Sha Na Na and more.

Donald Donny York

Life Is Short

And here’s a video he did in 2015. It was “A loving tribute to Sha Na Na’s SIX DEPARTED MATES.”

In the life we’re livin’ we’re all givin’ hot pursuit

To the time it takes to make it all get done

Oh the time we’re givin’ just to tryin’ to square the route

To the exit from the show we’re s’posed to run.

York says in the YouTube notes: First uploaded on the night before Denny Greene’s memorial service, this reflects the sorrow in the loss of cherished partners too soon among the angels. My thanks to Emiliano Rocky Monroe for assembling these images.and sorrowfully adding some of Lennie Baker, whose passing followed Denny Greene’s by but six months. “ShaNaNa is here to stay” he inscribes at the end. Well, we know that only by the grace of God and the cherishing of people is anything remotely “Here to stay.” So… Thanks to God, and to people like you!

Donald Donny York

Keep the Dream Flowing

On September 20, 2020, I was fortunate to be part of a podcast interview with the Woodstock-themed Keep the Dream Flowing.

Here were some of the things we learned, but go to the link of the podcast itself:


Dr Joe Witkin Woodstock

Dr Joe Witkin Woodstock

Happy birthday
March 7

Joe Witkin played keyboards for Sha Na Na at Woodstock. According to an undated statement by Joe himself, “Hey, I’m just a guy from Brooklyn, N.Y. who like (sic) to play music. My mom still tells me I used to sing the Hallelujah Chorus in my crib. Piano at age three. Lessons at age six. I’m still learning at forty-nine plus. First guitar in Junior High. Folks got me a funky paisley Hofner 6-string electric in Germany in 1964. And an Ampeg Gemini II. Blue tolex with one 15″. Man, was I in heaven. Heard the Beatles and had to learn bass, too. Robin’s-egg-blue Hagstrom, made in Sweden. My goal was to perfect the guitar AND bass parts of every Beatles song. Still doing the Mozart-Beethoven thing on piano, too. Some fine teachers in New York City!”

Dr Joe Witkin Woodstock


He joined the Glee Club at Columbia, also did Beach Boys music, also was in The Soul Syndicate, a 12-piece Columbia-based band.

Apparently he had a plate large enough for a lot of music and in 1968 he joined Columbia’s King’s Men, a sub-part of the Glee Club. Serendipity stepped in one night and with some time to spare, the King’s Men spontaneously started singing 50s songs. Keep in mind that by the late 60s, most of the songs were barely 10 years old.

The student reception was great.

Dr Joe Witkin Woodstock

Grease Under the Stars

As a result of that success, The King’s Men did a special 50s concert called Grease Under the Stars that was so well received that the group, now Sha Na Na, started getting gigs.

One of those gigs was at Steve Paul’s Scene and one night Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld stopped in, loved what they saw, and offered them $300 to play at a festival. Sha Na Na accepted.

Dr Joe Witkin Woodstock

Woodstock and Doctor

Dr Joe Witkin Woodstock

He wound up with an old Wurlitzer electric piano that is now proudly exhibited in the Museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.

After he graduated from Columbia in 1970, he left Sha Na Na. The idea was never to make Sha Na Na a career.  He became Dr. Witkin,  an ER physician (now retired) who did his internship and residency at University California at San Diego. He worked at Scripps Hospital East County and at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in the San Diego area.

Dr Joe Witkin Woodstock


Dr Joe Witkin Woodstock
Joe on far left

Witkin may have left Sha Na Na, but he didn’t leave music.

In the late-Eighties joined the “Legends Doo Wop ‘n Roll Revue” which a Howard Blank had formed. In 1989, Witkin answered an ad about auditioning for the band. He preferred doing guitar, but that spot was not open. He became its keyboardist. Deja vu all over again.

His wife Carol joined as a background vocalist.

In March of 2003, Legends changed its name to  The Corvettes. Carol became manager.

The band’s site describes the band: “Take a large pinch of nostalgia – that feeling that makes you tingle inside, and brings you face-to-face with the tastes, smells, and feelings of your past. Combine it with the best well-known hits of the fifties and sixties. Stir until totally danceable. Arrange the music on a platter exactly as people remember it. Embellish with glitter, add a helping of wild-and-crazy, and sprinkle with a generous portion of laughs. Serves thousands…

Ladies and gentlemen…Dr Joe Witken.

Brian Witkin

Brian Witkin is Carol and Joe’s son. He went to law school, but always wanted to be, like his dad, a rock and roll star.

Brian became an entertainment attorney  and in 2003 founded Pacific Records, which, according to it’s site, “has evolved from its humble beginnings as a retail record store chain into a multi-dimensional entity that includes recording studios, engineering services, music merchandising and talent buying services, while its primary focus remains as an independent record label and music publisher.

Dad Joe is the Chief Technical Officer for Pacific Records — whose releases include an album by The Corvettes.

Starting a label doesn’t necessarily make you a rock and roll star, but being in a band is a better idea. Brian Witkin just didn’t think that playing traditional Hawaiian music would be the way.

He now leads an award-winning band, Slack Key Ohana, whose lineup features his retired emergency-room doctor dad Joe on bass ukulele and his retired travel agent, teacher and Realtor mother Carol on ukulele.

And not to be left out, Brian’s 36-year-old brother, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Sean, is also in the band.

Pacific Records has released more than 200 albums, singles and EPs. Many of them are by San Diego-based artists. Others feature such nationally acclaimed performers as Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Billy F. Gibbons, Tom Waits and Nancy Wilson, the boy band O-Town, longtime Bruce Springsteen collaborator Southside Johnny and Grammy Award-winning Oceanside troubadour Jason Mraz.

Dr Joe Witkin Woodstock

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Maya Kulkarni Chadda excels in three areas: that of dancing, that of playing the tanpura, and that of being an academic.


From Lassi With Lavina site article:  Her father, Gopalrao Kulkarni, was a writer and editor of Harijan, a newspaper published by Gandhi. Her mother, Nalini, was a political activist who also briefly served in the Indian Parliament after Independence. Her parents spent many months in jail during the freedom struggle, and were part of every satyagraha from Dandi March to the Quit India movement. Their lives were tied to Gandhi and they lived with him, and two of their sons were born in the ashram.


Maya Kulkarni, noted indian classical dancer performed at Anamika Navatman Studio o

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

A September 19, 1966 Clive Barnes article in the New York Times wrote of Maya Kulkarni, “In acting and dancing, Miss Kulkarni was delightful. Her rhythmic sense is strong (and this is difficult to sustain with the mental monotony of recorded sound, which permits not immediate response)….

Maya Kulkarni Chadda


Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Three years later, Maya was a 22-year-old postgraduate student when she serendipitously became part of Ravi Shankar’s tour, replacing an ill tanpura player. She joined the Pandit Shankar and the celebrated tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha Khan.

I know little about Indian music and perhaps the tanpura (or tampura) can be a lead instrument, but  at Woodstock, it appears that Maya was simply a background musician to Shankar and Khan.

According to a 2012 article by Somya Lakhani for the Indian Express, “Woodstock was not Chadda’s introduction to Shankar or his sitar notes. As a young child, she used to be a regular at Bhulabhai Desai Institute in Mumbai, where she learnt Bharatnatyam. ‘Raviji used the institute to work on his own productions. I also worked on one, a dance-drama called Chandalika, written by Rabindranath Tagore, to which he gave music. Vyjayantimala Bali had choreographed the piece and I was her chief assistant. Raviji and I developed a strong bond of affection, and he would invite me to all his performances and to his home.”

Also, from a 2019 Hindustan Times article: Maya Kulkarni was on a scholarship at New York University to study economics. She knew Pandit Ravi Shankar, the sitar maestro, from her Bombay days, where she had been assisting actor Vyjayanthimala in the production of a dance drama. “Ravi ji had given its music,” says the artist and academic Maya Chadda (formerly Kulkarni) talking over the phone from New Jersey. “So when his regular tanpura player, Kamala Chakravarty, fell ill just before Woodstock, and there was need for a quick replacement, I stepped in. Alla Rakha ji was accompanying him on the tabla. There was no question of saying no. Besides, for me, Woodstock was always more than rock ‘n’ roll….”

Maya Kulkarni Chadda


In the same article, Chadda relates an unusual story. ““Once, we were to share a helicopter with a rock band, and I saw a man chasing a chicken around the farm while we were waiting for the helicopter. Later, during the ride, he sat in the cabin pulling hair from of his chest with studied concentration. While I sat frozen in embarrassment, Raviji kept smiling away at his antics. Later, I found out he was Jimi Hendrix,” 

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Incredible Thread

In a 2012 liveMINT article, Chadda related how the Woodstock experience was one of a kind: ““The distinctions between artist and audience collapsed—not physically, but there was an incredible thread stretching between us,” she notes. “It’s a spontaneity that I have never encountered since then.”

Maya Kulkarni Chadda


Though her live for music and dance remained, her career choice became academia. Dr Chadda is on the staff of William Paterson University (Wayne, NJ) and according the staff site she holds an M.A. in Government from NYU and a Ph. D. From the Graduate Faculty, The New School of Social Research and is a research fellow at the Southern Asian Institute, Columbia University.

Her publications include Indo-Soviet Relations (Bombay, Vora & Co.); Paradox of Power: The United States Policy in Southwest Asia (Santa Barbara, California, Clio Press);Ethnicity Security and Separatism in South Asia ( New York, Columbia University Press/Oxford University Press) and Building Democracy in South Asia: Pakistan, Nepal and India (Lynne Rienner Publishers, March 2000). Maya Chadda has worked as a consultant to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Family Planning Agency (UNFPA).

In 1998 she was appointed as the Director of Undergraduate Research for William Paterson University responsible for setting up a grant and scholarship program and served on the review board of the United States Institute of Peace, a prestigious think tank in Washington D. C.

Chadda is a recipient of many grants, the most recent among these is the Rockefeller Residency Fellowship at Bellagio, Italy. In 1998 she was given the Excelsior award for excellence in academic achievement by the Association of Indians in America and the Network of Indian Professionals.

Maya Kulkarni Chadda

Dancing Feet

Maya Kulkarni Chadda
Maya Kulkarni performs at Anamika Navatman Studio in New York

Writer Lavina Melwani was walking in New York City when she came upon the Anamika Navatman Studios and a production called Bhinna Pravaaha: Memories of a Performing Artist – Maya Kulkarni.

Melwani found the experience “a rare treat.” In a 2017 blog piece, she described the early life of Maya.

Her father, Gopalrao Kulkarni, was a writer and editor of Harijan, a newspaper published by Gandhi. Her mother, Nalini, was a political activist who also briefly served in the Indian Parliament after Independence. Her parents spent many months in jail during the freedom struggle, and were part of every satyagraha from Dandi March to the Quit India movement. Their lives were tied to Gandhi and they lived with him, and two of their sons were born in the ashram.

Melwani continued.

Ask her about the greatest joy that she has got from performing and she says, “I live for that moment when movement, music and emotions all blend to elevate the self beyond bodily existence. The dancer simply melts away and what remains is that indescribable state of being. Unfortunately not every time one dances one experiences it. But if one had, then you live for it. I have many times, but not often enough for me. To me that is nirvana.”

Maya Kulkarni Chadda