Tag Archives: Woodstock Music and Art Fair

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House

a documentary by John Kane
Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House
Bill Hanley working the boards in 2013 at the annual Yasgur Farm Woodstock Reunion (courtesy of Charlie Maloney)

If you were at Woodstock or have ever listened to any songs from that festival, you have Bill Hanley to thank. He was THE sound man for that event,  John Kane has made a documentary about Bill called “Last Seat in the House.”

It is astounding how many things Bill Hanley has been a part of throughout his career and why he is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is simply a reflection the that Hall’s too common shortsightedness when selecting whom to honor.

A bit of Hanley’s story from the movie’s site:

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House

Medford, MA

Born in 1937 in Medford, Mass., Parenelli Award winner Bill Hanley was the oldest of five children. By the age of six, his father gave him his first crystal set, followed by a one-tube radio, then a six-tube radio setting off an interest in electronics. During his teens he and his younger brother Terry would install TV antennas on roofs, and fix TVs for neighbors. At Christmas they even hooked up one of the early amplifiers they built to a big speaker, pointed it out their attic window, blaring Christmas music for the neighbors.

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House

Hanley Sound

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House

During Hanley’s time in vocational school he became unimpressed with the state of public address driven technology used for the emerging live music scene. However he was impressed by the sound system at a local roller rink, developing a long lasting love for organ music and Jazz.

By 1957, Hanley chased down Newport Jazz Festival promoter George Wein, establishing a long successful career as Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals sound company.  Soon his reputation grew and other big jobs began to trickle in, eventually leaving his day job and establishing Hanley Sound at 430 Salem St in Medford, MA by the late 1950s.

A proud moment for Hanley’s family and community was when the firm handled the sound for the second inauguration of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. That same year, he opened an office in New York City, providing sound for places like Café A Go Go and the Bitter End. Eventually the college circuit broke and a need for concert touring sound reinforcement would emerge.

In 1966 a job for the local Boston band The Remains, allowed Hanley the opportunity to support the group on their accompanying tour with the Beatles. Soon Hanley would find himself behind the mixing console for eastern portion this historic Beatles tour. Known for distributing Altec-Lansing speakers fanned around the bases, Hanley doubled the sound and power typically used, with an impressive (for the time) 600-watt amplifier system… Sadly, his sound system was pulverized by the crushing power of 43,000 screaming teenage girls. Moving on, more bands turned to Hanley Sound, like the Buffalo Springfield for example who put him under contract. While working with the band Hanley introduced them a new device called the on-stage “monitor.” Blown away by the results, Neil Young would  forever be indebted to the sound engineer for allowing them to be able to “hear” while on stage.

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House

Fillmore East

By 1968 Hanley was brought in to do the sound for Bill Grahams Fillmore East in NYC.  At this point his reputation for quality sound was mammoth, leading him to provide sound reinforcement for some of the largest pop & rock festivals in American history. However, nothing could match Hanley’s culminating performance in sound, the pivotal gig of live event history ~ The Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969. Thereafter Hanley would forever be known as the “Father of Festival Sound.”

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House
Bill Hanley at Woodstock Music and Art Fair

 

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House

World-wide

Moving into the next decade Hanley’s social conscience lead him to work on several large scale anti-war protest rallies, even sending the entire Woodstock sound system to South Africa for their Anti-Apartheid movement.

The post Woodstock, anti -mass gathering initiatives in America at the time set the sound company’s projections back. Unprepared for what was to come Hanley’s company felt the shortcomings of a changing era of technology and live performance. The 1970s also brought a great transformation to the industry where more sound companies were surfacing. From the 1970s on, Hanley would continue to be called on for more sound work, eventually turning his attention to staging.

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House
Bill Hanley walking the festival field

A true pioneer, Bill Hanley’s contributions to live concert sound reinforcement can be felt to this day.

Help get Hanley into the R and R Hall of Fame by signing the petition!

Visit the movie site for a LOT more sound and sights…I get goose bumps just listening!

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House

Parnelli Audio Innovator Award

In 2006, Hanley was given the Parnelli Audio Innovator Award which recognizes pioneering, influential professionals and their contributions.

Bill Hanley Last Seat in the House
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Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick

Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick

October 30, 1939
Happy birthday
from several years ago, Grace’s advice to women trying to break into rock

Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick

Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick

Grace Slick

Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick

From the Jefferson Airplane site: Grace Slick, to the public mind, is synonymous with Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship in the way that Mick Jagger is synonymous with the Rolling Stones. Ironically, Grace was not an original member of the band, nor was she with Starship at the very end. But Grace’s importance to every phase of the band cannot be underestimated. White Rabbit, which she wrote, helped define not only Jefferson Airplane but also the acid rock era. Her unconventional vocals on Somebody to Love gave the Airplane its biggest hit. As one of the first female rock stars (as opposed to pop singers), Grace helped redefine women’s role in modern music as more than just a sex symbol backed by a band. Of course, with her statuesque beauty and icy blue eyes, Grace had the sex symbol bit down pat as well.

Grace Barnett Wing was born October 30, 1939, in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago, IL. Her father, Ivan, was an investment banker, and her mother, Virginia Barnett Wing, had been an actress and singer in the early ’30s. Her lineage goes back to Norway, where the family name was Vinje.

grace slick woodstock

Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick
“Good morning, people!”

The Great Society

Jefferson Airplane

Jefferson Starship

Starship

What about Woodstock? From a Rolling Stone magazine article: What did you think when you walked out and saw all those people? It’s always good to see the people. I played a lot of festivals in the summer and it was set up for various kinds of performances and they had spotlights that are bolted in place, and they’re blinding. I wore a white dress with fringe. I packed it in California and I didn’t even think about the weather. I just assumed it would be marvelous. That day [after it rained], I thought, “Christ, I don’t have anything else I can wear — this is it!” So I had to keep my feet out of the mud. 

Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick

Today

What is Grace up to nowadays? In a September 2017 Variety magazine interview one of her comments was, “I mostly paint now and I will encourage or not encourage people depending on who I am talking to. But also this is a period of time where I’m sitting back, which is fine. When you are older, generally, you’re a bit quieter. Rock and roll is a young expression — it’s strong, loud, and ironic. There are just things you do when you’re 25 you don’t do when you’re 70 because you look silly.”

Thank you!

Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick

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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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