50 Rarely Seen Images From Woodstock 1969
Woodstock was the biggest event in music history. It was a gathering of some of the best musicians of the time, with nearly three dozen acts performing over the course of four days. In August 1969, an estimated four hundred thousand to five hundred thousand people attended Woodstock in Bethel, New York. It became a defining moment in the countercultural movement of the era. The Woodstock Music & Art Fair is considered to be the very height of the 1960s Peace and Love countercultural movement.
Woodstock Was Banned From Its Original Site Because Of Toilets
Woodstock was created by Artie Kornfeld, Michael Lang, Joel Rosenman, and John Roberts, and they formed the company Woodstock Ventures. The original location of the festival was supposed to be Howard Mills Industrial Park in Wallkill, near Middletown, New York.
However, Wallkill residents said no because they feared that an influx of visitors under the influence of alcohol or drugs would be potentially problematic. They stated that the concert's portable toilets weren't up to code and wouldn't give them a permit.
Woodstock Was Saved By A Farmer
Wallkill fell through as the location for Woodstock, so the promoters turned to Bethel, New York. Max Yasgur owned a six hundred acre dairy farm in Bethel, and he respected the desire of concert-goers to share in a communal experience and allowed organizers the use of his property for a fee of fifty thousand dollars.
However, Bethel residents were not very enthusiastic about hosting a concert for thousands of people. Yasgur even came out at one point and talked to the crowd and congratulated them on the assembly.
It Wasn’t Meant To Be A Free Concert
Rosenman, Roberts, Lang, and Kornfeld had to pay for the entertainment, production costs, location, and other expenses in the hope of profiting from ticket sales. Originally, a one-day ticket cost seven dollars, and to attend all three days, the ticket cost eighteen dollars.
However, people started to arrive before the event was ready, and they had no way of turning away crowds, so they decided to make it a free event. Of the estimated four hundred thousand people that attended, three hundred thousand were never charged.
Jimi Hendrix Was Paid $18,000 To Perform
Jimi Hendrix was the highest-paid performer at Woodstock; he was paid eighteen thousand for his performance. Creedence Clearwater Revival was the first act booked and was paid ten thousand.
The Who received six thousand, two hundred and fifty, and Joe Cocker made one thousand three hundred and seventy-five. Sha Na Na was paid seven hundred and fifty, and the lowest-paid performer, Quill, received just three hundred and seventy-five.
The Crowd Was Actually Very Well-Behaved
Many were concerned about the anticipated misbehavior of the concertgoers. However, there were virtually no reports of violence other than after the food shortage, some attendees looted nearby farmland for corn and produce.
"They were the most courteous, considerate, and well-behaved group of kids I have ever been in contact with during my twenty-four years of police work." ----- Lou Yank, Chief of Police. He also stated that they could have made several arrests for possession of marijuana, but they opted not to.
There Were Public Service Announcements Between Each Act
They needed a way to communicate with the audience, so a staff member, Edward "Chip" Monck, would take the microphone to deliver announcements. He would alert the crowd to unattended children and notify the people where they could find help.
So, anything they needed the crowd to know, Chip would announce it between the acts. For example, "Kenny Irwin, please go to the information booth for your insulin." or "Paul Andrews, Mike needs his pills and will meet you where he did yesterday."
Organizers Weren’t Ready In Time
The organizers only had twenty-nine days to find a new site for the concert and get everything ready. Chip Monck stated, "The thing is that it was such a short time. It was particularly difficult to try and re-create what we had in design.
And obviously, as you know, no ticket booths, no fences, no staging roof, no ability to hang the light show, no ability to hang the six hundred and fifty thousand watts that were underneath the stage, no ability to build a secure barrier, which was a great help in a strange way. Lots of things were missing."
The Artist Lineup Was Incredible
The lineup at Woodstock was incredible, with thirty-four acts on the bill. The lineup on Friday was Swami Satchidananda, Sweetwater, Tim Hardin, Richie Havens, Bert Sommers, Melanie Safka, Joan Baez, and more.
On Saturday, the lineup included Santana, John B. Sebastian, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Janis Joplin. Finally, the Sunday lineup included the Grease Band, Johnny Winter, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Sha Na Na, and Jimi Hendrix.
Credence Clearwater Revival Ended Up Feeling Miffed
Credence Clearwater Revival was set to perform at Woodstock, but they experienced big travel delays, and then they didn't get to play until sometime between one and three Sunday morning. They didn't get to play until late because the Grateful Dead went on too long, which left Credence Clearwater Revival feeling like they got the shaft.
They were so unhappy about the whole situation that John Fogerty refused to allow their set to be included in the original Woodstock documentary. However, the band finally released an anniversary album featuring their memorable set.
The Sound Was Excellent
Sometimes outdoor festivals can have terrible sound, but not Woodstock. Pioneering audio engineer Bill Hanley created a custom sound setup that became known as the 'Woodstock sound system,' and many said it was the most advanced, expensive, and largest ever constructed.
The system took full advantage of the field's bowl shape and had custom speaker columns powered by over ten thousand watts of McIntosh tube power amplifiers.
The Grateful Dead’s Set Was Literally Electrifying
When the Grateful Dead took the stage for their performance on Saturday night, it was pouring rain. Rain and electrical instruments don't work well together. "It was raining toads when we played. The rain was part of our nightmare. The other part was our sound man, who decided that the ground situation on the stage was all wrong."
"It took him about two hours to change it, which held up the show. Every time I touched my instrument, I got a shock. The stage was wet, and the electricity was coming through me. I was conducting! Touching my guitar and the microphone was nearly fatal. There was a great big blue spark about the size of a baseball, and I got lifted off my feet and sent back eight or ten feet to my amplifier." ----- Bob Weir.
Woodstock Wasn’t Supposed To Be Political
Woodstock was not long after the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However, Michael Lang did not want the festival to be political; instead, he wanted it to be a place where opposing ideas could coexist.
Regardless, there was still politics at Woodstock, but overall the focus remained on peace and music. It was a music celebration and was just meant for everyone to have a good time and enjoy the entertainment.
Food For Love Got Torched
At the time of Woodstock in 1969, outdoor festivals were still a fairly new thing, and large food vendors said that Woodstock was too daunting a task. So, the organizers hired three men with little food experience who called themselves Food for Love.
However, the lines were long, and as the food supply diminished, Food for Love increased its prices. Finally, the people were so frustrated by the long waits and jacked up prices that they burned down two of the concession stands.
There Weren’t Enough Toilets
Organizers had no idea that so many people would show up for the Woodstock festival, and as a result, they didn't have anywhere near enough toilets. They only had about six hundred toilets, which is roughly one toilet for every seven hundred people.
It got so crowded that people couldn't get out to go to the bathroom, and some people just started going to the bathroom right where they were standing. There were roughly half of a million people there, so if you managed to get out to go to the bathroom, you would never get back in.
Most Of The Crowd Missed Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix was the last performer at Woodstock, and it was 8:30 Monday morning by the time he got onstage. There were several delays and bad weather, so most of the concertgoers had headed home. Sadly, the crowd had dwindled from four hundred thousand to just thirty thousand.
Hendrix performed his iconic and politically fuelled version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" about ninety minutes into his set. Thousands of people missed the performance that is often considered one of the greatest moments of the 1960s.
There Were At Least Two Deaths
Sadly, there were two deaths at the Woodstock festival. One of the deaths resulted from a drug overdose, and the other one was someone who had fallen asleep in a nearby field and was accidentally run over by a tractor.
Other than those two deaths, most of the festival was fairly peaceful. There was medical support on sight, which helped with some of the injuries that occurred during the weekend.
Farmer Max Yasgur Considered The Event A Huge Success
Max Yasgur was a dairy farmer who owned the land where the festival took place. He considered the festival a resounding success and a victory for peace and human kindness.
"If a half million young people at the Aquarian Festival could turn such adverse conditions, filled with the possibility of disaster, riot, looting, and catastrophe, into three days of music and peace. Then perhaps there is hope that if we join them, we can turn those adversities that are the problems of America today into a hope for a brighter and more peaceful future." ------Max Yasgur.
Several Have Tried, And Failed, To Recapture The Magic Of Woodstock
There have been several promoters that have tried to re-do Woodstock. In fact, there was supposed to be a Woodstock 50 featuring the Killers, Jay Z, John Fogerty, Robert Plant, Miley Cyrus, Janelle Monae, and The Raconteurs.
The original Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang was involved in the new Woodstock. However, the event was canceled after a series of organizational failures, including not receiving some of the permits.
Woodstock Bins Was The Name Of The Festival’s PA
In order to project the sound out to the thousands of people, the team needed to come up with something special. Michael Lang found a man in Boston, a sound engineer, Bill Hanley.
He was able to visualize where the sound towers would need to be set up and how to make sure sound from the two stages wouldn't bleed together. Hanley came up with the idea of using robust marine cabinets, known as Woodstock bins.
There Were 12 Spotlights Used To Light The Main Stage
E.H. Beresford "Chip" Monck came up with professional-level lighting for the Woodstock festival. They had planned on building a roof but ended up not having time, leaving a lot of mounted light left unused.
They had four scaffolding towers that stood forty feet tall and were secured to the ground by planks. In addition, they had twelve spotlights that pointed at the stage. They did the best that they could with the time and supplies that they had.
There Were An Estimated 400,000 To 500,000 Festivalgoers
Woodstock organizers expected roughly fifty thousand attendees but between four hundred thousand and five hundred thousand showed up. However, in secret, they did plan on two hundred thousand because they had pre-sold more than one hundred and eighty thousand tickets, but it still ended up being twice that much.
The festival gained more coverage as the promoters went from town to town asking if the festival could be held there but were repeatedly denied permission.
They Used The Please Force For Security
They called the festival "three days of peace and music," but the organizers knew that they would have to find some way of controlling unruly elements. However, they didn't feel like uniformed police would be a good idea, and they decided against having teams of off-duty cops.
Instead, they decided to have the site policed with a team from Hog Farm, a Californian hippie commune that was led by Wavy Gravy. They were called the Please Force, and instead of stun guns and handcuffs, they threatened to douse them with soda water or throw custard pies at them.
Traffic Jam Was 20 Miles Long
There were so many people trying to get to the festival, which meant the roads leading to the site were backed up for miles. The drive from New York was taking around eight hours when normally it would take two hours.
At one point, the traffic was backed up for twenty miles, and several people chose to abandon their cars. However, thousands of people never made it to the festival because there was no way through the clogged traffic.
Joni Mitchell Was Sad That She Didn’t Attend
One of Joni Mitchell's most well-known songs is actually called "Woodstock." However, Mitchell didn't perform at Woodstock and didn't even attend. She didn't perform because her manager thought it would be more beneficial to play The Dick Cavett Show.
She regretted it later and said she wished she wouldn't have listened to her manager at the time. She was inspired to write the song "Woodstock" by her then boyfriend's experience at the festival and after watching footage of the event on TV.
There Was A Definite Food Shortage
Because of a severe lack of planning and underestimating the number of attendees, the festival ran out of food on the very first day. Thankfully, members of the Monticello Jewish Community handed out sandwiches.
Locals stepped in with thousands of food donations that were airlifted to the site, including thousands of sandwiches, fruit, canned items, and water. In addition, the Hog Farm Collective served brown rice, vegetables, and granola, and Max Yasgur provided milk, cheese, butter, and water.
They Had A Rotating Stage
A particular stage was designed for Woodstock, and the hope was that it would cut down the time between acts considerably. The stage would rotate like a turntable, and it would allow one band to get ready as another band was still performing.
However, it didn't work because the weight of the equipment was too much, and the casters broke almost immediately. The organizers had to revert back to the original way of tearing down and setting up, and because of this, they were constantly behind schedule.
The Famous Couple Wrapped In A Blanket
Thousands and thousands of pictures were taken at Woodstock, but there were none quite as famous as the couple huddled together under a blanket as hundreds of people sat around. In fact, the photo was even used as the cover of the Woodstock live album.
The couple was Nick and Bobbi Ercoline, who, at the time, had only been dating three months when they attended Woodstock. The couple was married two years later and remains together today.
Water Was Expensive At The Event
In addition to the food shortage, there was also a shortage of drinking water. In fact, they dug six wells just to try and accommodate the crowd, but weed was in better supply than water. People were warned beforehand to bring plenty of water, but most didn't listen.
So, of course, because it was hard to come by, people selling water jacked the prices up. Max Yagsur was furious that people were charging for water, so he put up a sign on his barn that read "Free Water."
The Festival Was The Brainchild Of Money-Minded Entrepreneurs
The idea for Woodstock originated in New York with entrepreneurs John P. Roberts and Joel Rosenman. The two were approached by Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld, music promoters.
They wanted to have a recording studio in Woodstock, New York, because it is a favorite area for top recording artists, including Bob Dylan. However, Roberts and Rosenman suggested an outdoor concert featuring those artists. They went ahead with it because they felt that they were going to turn a profit.
The Neighbors Weren’t Too Pleased
Not everyone was excited about the Woodstock festival, especially the farmer's neighbors. Bethel had a population of just two thousand three hundred and sixty-six, and most of the area was farms.
Yasgur even received threatening phone calls and messages from his neighbors that were angry about the hundreds of cars blocking the roads and the people on their properties. Some put signs up in town, calling for a boycott, saying, "Stop Max's Hippie Music Festival. No 150,000 hippies here. Buy no milk."
Monck Warned People About Bad Drugs
Monck also made announcements about bad drugs, saying the brown acid was circulating around, and it wasn't too good. He suggested that they stay away from it and also get down from the towers because of the electrical danger.
Drugs were everywhere at Woodstock, and several people even stated that their drinks and the ice in the drinks were spiked with acid. In addition, the use of psychedelic drugs caused several 'freak-outs,' especially on the first night.
Joe Cocker Wasn’t Really That Sweaty
The footage shows Joe Cocker extremely sweaty during his performance. However, he wasn't actually sweaty; he had just had a huge amount of water dumped on him.
Due to the heavy rains, the canvas roof was threatening to cave in, so they cut a hole to release the water. It was a smart way to remove the water from the roof, except that Cocker was standing right underneath and was drenched, looking like a drowned rat.
Sha Na Na Played Before Jimi Hendrix
Right before Jimi Hendrix took the stage, Sha Na Na played at 7:30 a.m. Monday. They were a 1950s-styled doo-wop group, singing hits like Duke of Earl and At the Hop, which didn't really fit in with the rest of the music from the festival.
Before performing at Woodstock, the group didn't have a record deal, but their career was cemented after playing there. It even sparked a 1950s resurgence that led to American Graffiti, Happy Days, Grease, and Sha Na Na's self-titled TV show.
Iron Butterfly Demanded A Helicopter
British rockers Iron Butterfly were one of the bands scheduled to perform at Woodstock, but they ended up stuck at New York's LaGuardia Airport. They couldn't secure ground transportation, so they demanded that the festival organizers send a helicopter for them.
However, Morris sent the group a telegram saying, "For reasons, I can't go into/Until you are here/Clarifying your situation/Knowing you are having problems/You will have to find/Other transportation/Unless you plan not to come."
We Shall Overcome Was Joan Baez’s Song As The Rain Started
Joan Baez was one of the 1960s biggest stars and a major draw at Woodstock. Her first set was on the first day of the festival, right as the storm clouds started rolling in.
It started lightly raining, but Baez continued to play; but as the rain became heavier, she played We Shall Overcome to the sodden crowd. The storm turned the entire area into a mud pool; there were waves of torrential water hitting thousands of people that had nowhere to go.
Wavy Gravy Was The Festival’s Clownish Head Of Security
Hugh Nanton Romney is well known as a political activist and a member of the California hippie community Hog Farm. He went by the name of Wavy Gravy, a clown, and would spray concert-goers with seltzer and throw custard pies.
He was there to calm the situation, and he and his group helped feed the crowd when the food ran out. In addition, he took time out from security and made several announcements from the stage.
Roy Rogers Was Supposed To Play Last
Jimi Hendrix was not supposed to be the festival closer; it was intended to be singing cowboy Roy Rogers. Michael Lang and his co-organizers wanted to have the show closed out with the famous song "Happy Trails."
However, Rogers turned it down because he was a Republican, a pro-Vietnam War, and the antithesis of everything they stood for. It all worked out, though, because Hendrix closed the weekend with an iconic performance.
A Band From The Movie Grease Played A Set
In the 1978 movie musical Grease, Johnny Casino and the Gamblers was the band that played the Rydell High School dance. The band formed at Columbia University and came on the scene in 1969.
The band covered songs such as "Get a Job by the Silhouettes," "Duke of Earl," and some Beach Boys songs. Interestingly, it was Jimi Hendrix who persuaded Woodstock organizers to see the band in concert.
The Media Initially Ignored Woodstock
Initially, the media didn't pay much attention to Woodstock because not everyone anticipated its significance. In fact, The New York Times actually rejected a pitch to cover the festival, but the writer went anyway and later talked his editors into publishing it.
However, by the end of the festival, all three major networks, including CBS, ABC, and NBC, ran stories recapping Woodstock. ABC even used aerial shots of the grounds to segue into a piece about overpopulation.
Melanie Safka Was Terrified
Melanie Safka was only twenty-two years old when she performed at Woodstock. She was fairly unknown at the time, but her performance made her a star. However, she stated that during her performance, she was terrified and had an "out of body experience."
She stated she was alone and scared and thought it was her doom, but boy, was she wrong. In addition, she didn't receive a performer's pass and had to sing her song "Beautiful People" in order to get past the security guards and get backstage.
Woodstock Launched Martin Scorsese’s Career
Martin Scorsese was hired as an assistant director for the 1970 documentary film Woodstock. He had the opportunity to do some editing work on the one hundred and twenty hours of footage from the festival.
It was his launching pad as a filmmaker. One of his jobs was to sit on a nine-foot-wide platform just to the right of the stage under a huge stack of speakers and watch out for shots they would want to include in the movie.
There Were Several Famous Acts That Turned Down Playing At Woodstock
There were several amazing performances at Woodstock, but many bands also declined to play there. Those bands included The Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, and Jethro Tull; Ian Anderson stated that he didn't like hippies.
In addition, the Beatles were invited to Woodstock but declined. In fact, John was barred from entering the U.S. because of his arrest in 1968 for possession of marijuana, and the group was finishing up their album Abbey Road.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Was A Brand New Group
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performed at Woodstock, and it was only their second gig together. Drummer Dallas Taylor stated that the band was not well-rehearsed, and Neil Young skipped most of the acoustic part of their set.
In addition, Young refused to be filmed for the electric performance, and he went as far as to threaten the cameramen. Young said about Woodstock, "Woodstock was a bulls**t gig. We played awful. No one was into the music."
There Were Many Medical Cases
There were two deaths reported at Woodstock, and while there weren't any other major injuries reported, there were several medical cases. Most involved drug-related issues and bare-feet injuries, and eight women reported they experienced miscarriages.
Several people reported the ice in their drinks was spiked with acid without them knowing. Several people suffered panic attacks, and there were more than five thousand medical incidents reported, eight hundred of which were drug-related.
Extensive Clean-Up Was Required
Cleaning the venue was a massive task and took several days, bulldozers, and tens of thousands of dollars. The workers actually started the clean-up by shoveling the trash; it looked like a tornado had gone through.
Plastic, crates, and clothes were strewn about, and the farm's green grass was trampled into oblivion. However, there were more than eight thousand attendees who volunteered to help clean up, and it went fairly quickly and smoothly.
Original Site Is Now The Bethel Woods Center
The site where Woodstock was held is now known as the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. The original hill that overlooks the field where the festival took place now has a concert pavilion and museum. Several of the performers from Woodstock have come back and performed at the pavilion, such as Joe Cocker, Melanie, Santana, and Arlo Guthrie.
The concert venue today includes a fifteen thousand-seat outdoor stage, a museum, and an intimate four hundred and four-seat indoor hall. The concerts at the venue run from June through September.
There Were 2 Births
Even though John Sebastian said on stage that "some cat's old lady just had a baby," no one has ever been identified as a Woodstock baby. However, the festival's medical director reported that one baby was born in a local hospital after the mother was transported from the concert.
There was another woman who gave birth in a vehicle while stuck in the massive traffic jam. On the other hand, several babies were most likely conceived that weekend.
Woodstock Turned Into Mud Pits
Woodstock is known for several reasons, including hippies covered in mud. It rained almost continuously during the festival and was often downpouring, which caused muddy roads and fields. Some attendees were seen frolicking in the mud; however, the puddles were a mix of water, mud, and sewage.
Besides the rain, festival attendees broke pipes and caused a flood of water that mixed with sewage from overflowing Porta-Potties. In addition, the barrels set up for drinking water were actually used for bathing.
There Was 120 Miles Of Footage
The Woodstock documentary team ended up with one hundred and twenty miles of footage that they edited down to three hours. The movie was a huge hit and won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
In addition, it was called one of the best concert movies of all time and one of the most profitable documentaries ever produced. It has since gained a cult following in the hippie subculture. There was also a separate DVD titled Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock released.