Tag Archives: Woodstock Birthdays

Ustad Alla Rakha

Ustad Alla Rakha

April 29, 1919 – February 3, 2000

Docents on a Bethel Woods Museum tours  are sometimes asked: “Who was the youngest performer?” Country Joe talks about how Santana drummer Michael Shrieve was only 17–but Shrieve had turned 20 in July. The likely answer is Sha Na Na’s Henry Gross who was 18, but if Greg Reeves birthday is actually April 7, 1955 (uncertain), then he is the answer for sure.

No one has ever asked me, “Who was the oldest performer?” That distinction goes to Ustad Alla Rakha. In fact, he many have been the oldest person on site that weekend. As far as I can find, Max Yasgur (also born in 1919) comes in second with his December 15 date.

Ustad Alla Rakha

Indian youth

Ustad Alla Rakha

Alla Rakha was born in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. He was the oldest of seven sons and his father opposed Alla’s desire to learn music.

When he was 12 Alla ran away and studied at the Punjab school of classical music. While he did have many years of training as a vocalist, he never lost his love of the tabla.

As a young adult, he worked for a theatre company and later at a radio station. In 1940 he moved to Mumbai and worked with Pandit Ravi Shankar.

He also began to compose music for some Hindi films.  Alla had five children in his first marriage, two daughters and three sons. His daughter Razia remained close to him throughout his life.

Ustad Alla Rakha

West Influenced

As the Beatles–particularly George Harrison–became interested in Indian philosophy and music, so did thousands of young westerners. Both Ravi Shankar and Alla Hakha had played in the United States before the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, but the fame, film, and soundtrack of their performance there set up many other invitations to play at other non-traditional concert venues. Of course the most famous was Woodstock.

Ustad Alla Rakha

Woodstock

Shankar was disappointed with Woodstock. He eschewed the use of drugs and felt that they got in the way of truly becoming one with music.

He said in a 1999 NPR interview with Terry Gross’s “Fresh Air”: Monterey was something which I liked because it was still new, fresh. And there was some – in spite of the drugs and everything, when these young girls and boys, they showed these two fingers like that, like a V, and said peace and love and offered you a flower, there was some innocence. There was some beauty which touched me so much. But Woodstock was a time which was almost two, three years later. And believe me, by then I thought that this thing is not going to live anymore because it was far gone. Music was just an incidental music to them. They were having fun. It was a fun place, picnic party. They were all stoned. It was raining. It was in mud. And as I said in my book, it reminded me of these water buffaloes we see in India who are, you know, they feel very hot and they sit there, get so – so dirty, but they enjoy it. So I mean that was the thing I felt. But because it was a contractual thing, I couldn’t get out of it. I had to go through it. But I was very unhappy.

Ustad Alla Rakha

Bangladesh Concert

Alla Rakha also played with Shankar at the famous (filmed and recorded) Concert for Bangladesh that Shankar and George Harrison had organized for the relief for the refugees of then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Ustad Alla Rakha

Teacher

Ustad is an honorific given to a master musician and teacher. From BritannicaAlla Rakha…was also a devoted teacher. In 1985 he founded the Alla Rakha Institute of Music in Bombay, which further helped to elevate and popularize the tabla. Alla Rakha’s three sons—Zakir Hussain, Fazal Qureshi, and Taufiq Qureshi—all became tabla players, Zakir acquiring the most international recognition and Fazal eventually managing and expanding the work of their father’s institute. In honour of his contribution in the field of performing arts, Alla Rakha received two of India’s most prestigious awards: the Padma Shri (1977) and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1982).

Ustad Alla Rakha

Death

On February 3, 2000 a spokesman for Moment Records and Zakir Hussain Management announced that Rakah had a heart attack when he learned of the death of his daughter, Razia, during cataract surgery. [NYT obit]

Chandrashekhar Nair directed this 12-minute documentary on Rakah in 1970.

Ustad Alla Rakha
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Norman Rogers Quill

Norman Rogers Quill

April 21, 1943 – July 9, 2011

The band Quill was the opening band of day 2 for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. The opening band. Nowadays, when people go to a concert, are in the parking lot tailgating, and someone says, “The first band will be on soon. Should we get going?”

“Nah. Never heard of them. Have another beer.”

Opening bands are often the scapegoats. Some of the crowd is actually in so might as well get things going with what is sometimes a good local band, or a band good enough to tour with the big names but not big enough to stand alone.

Norman Rogers Quill

Quill the Opening Band

That was Quill, but at Woodstock the big difference is that even though there may still have been thousands of people still streaming onto Max Yasgur‘s field, there were hundreds of thousands already there.

Woodstock Ventures had hired the Boston-based band to play at the festival, of course, but to also be in the area a week or so early as good will ambassadors to local institutions. “See us? We have long hair and big sideburns and play this rock and roll, but we smile and are good people.”

Brothers Dan and Jon Cole had begun Quill in 1967. Norm was a guitarist, Roger North a drummer, and Phil Thayer a keyboardist.  Rogers had grown up in Brattleboro, VT. He had been in the Morning Start Blues Band.

At noon that sunny Saturday in Bethel, Quill did four songs in a 30 minute set:

  1. They Live the Life
  2. That’s How I Eat
  3. Driftin’
  4. Waiting for You

Here’s a piece of Waiting for You. As shown above it was their last song despite the slicing of an intro in front of the piece.

Norman Rogers Quill

No Woodstock Bump

Cotillion Records did sign them and the band did release an album. Cotillion was the same company that released the famed Woodstock album, but Quill was not on it.

Jon Cole would soon leave the band. Norm Rogers also left, but came back to record a second album. When Cotillion did not release it, the band broke up. Norm returned to Brattleboro.

Norman Rogers Quill

2011

He died in 2011 and the Brattleboro Reformer’s obituary read as follows:

Norman Page Rogers, 68, passed away unexpectedly at home, July 9, 2011. Norman was a loving husband, father, friend, artist, illustrator, musician and student of life. Son of Hubert and Helen Rogers, born April 21, 1943, Ottawa Canada, grew up in Brattleboro. Graduate of High Mowing School, N.H., 1961, studied at St. Lawrence University, Marlboro College and The Arts Students League, New York City. Traveled worldwide with colleague and friend Hugh Swift to Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal and into the Himalayas. Inspired by Never Cry Wolfe, Norman traveled to Newfoundland to find author Farley Mowat. Served in the Merchant Marines and spent time long line fishing off The Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Georges Bank. Norman celebrated the bicentennial by riding his bicycle from Vermont to Washington, D.C. He had an extensive musical career, his band, Quill, was the first band to play at Woodstock, Saturday, Aug. 16, 1969. As a string bass player and vocalist Norman’s career included playing with: Arwen Mountain Band, The Filthy Rich, Jeff Potter and The Rhythm Agents, and The Bill Strecker Band. Past 20 years was a musician with Andy Avery of Normandy. A singer in The Blanche Moyse Chorale. Most recently enjoyed playing with the Windham Orchestra.

Article on entire band from Boston dot com

Norman Rogers Quill
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Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Happy birthday
March 24,  1940

Luis Gasca played in Janis Jopin’s Kozmic Blues Band at Woodstock. That’s why I’m doing this blog piece, but like so many other times in my life, I’ve discovered that that momentous performance is simply one small piece in Gasca’s nearly lifetime of performances.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Houston

Luis Gasca grew up poor in Houston. His parents made and sold tamales.  Earning a living was first for them. Performing music was not part of the picture, but one day Luis saw two men playing trumpets and he felt something.

By the time he was 15 he was playing gigs and by 16 getting paid to play.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Berklee

By 18 he had a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston and traveled on weekends to New York City and absorbed the music of Tito Puente, Cal Tjader, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

He was drafted but afterwards lived in Japan awhile–playing trumpet, of course. Then to Oahu.

When asked about his love of the trumpet, he answered, “”It’s a very demanding instrument…. And I’ll never quit learning it. I got that at an early age: Never let anything slide. I have a hunger and a thirst for music. That love for something, that is the impetus to make you never never quit, to make you give it your all. That love cannot be taught. One has to love the music and the knowledge. I’m 100 % joyous playing music with other masters.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Count Basie and more

One of his greatest achievements was being a part of the Count Basie Band.

In 1969, he released  “The Little Giant” album. on Atlantic. Interestingly, one of the album’s cuts is “Motherless Child” made famous as part of Richie Haven‘s famous Woodstock improvisation of Motherless Child/Freedom as well as the very next song played at Woodstock, Sweetwater’s cover of the same song.

Gasco’s cover is like no Motherless Child you’ve ever heard:

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Solo artist

Gasca released three other albums: For Those Who Chant (1972), Luis Gasca (1972), and Collage (1976).  And though that discography may seem short, have a Snickers nearby if you’re going to look at his extensive credit list at AllMusic.

Among the names listed are Santana, Van Morrison, and Mike Bloomfield.

As sadly happened to many of his generation’s fellow musicians, the lifestyle overwhelmed him and he left music until the 90s.

Here he is in 2012 leading an all-star Latin Jazz Big Band – The Mambo Kings on the second night of a three-day Latin Jazz Festival.

Thank you, Luis, for everything your given our ears.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca
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