tv History Bookshelf Michael Lang The Road to Woodstock CSPAN August 17, 2019 9:16am-10:02am EDT
life all the time. that is not the problem so much as they lack the background knowledge and vocabulary to understand the past. and that has big -- been a big problem that he has overlooked. this past week marked the 50th in a virtue anniversary of the woodstock music festival. who reflected on the creation and execution of the concert that took place on the farm in upstate new york. it's wonderful for us to be here in a state where we feel the spirit of woodstock still lives.
i was definitely interested in the topic from the historical musical per suspected. i was 12 years old living in north carolina at the time. didn't get to go. and now i feel like i was there because of getting to spend so much time. the questions we will have time. after we chat for a little while. where to go through a little bit of a back story with michael because like many people who were not at the festival my impression was based on the film. and come to find out.
when they started working together on the real story. i found there out there was a whole lot more to it than what we got to see in that wonderful film. some people don't realize but woodstock was not michael's very first festival that he put on. he was living in berkeley -- brooklyn and new york city. and getting involved in the music scene and becoming in becoming a fan. and then found his way down to coconut grove florida let me tell you what the scene was like there. growing up i never really had a clear understanding of where i wanted to go to my life. and that's probably still true. i had been there for a couple years.
i have met some of the local indian tribes in this covered that you could smoke marijuana on indian reservation without getting arrested. and perhaps that was a place for us to hold our next event. we spent some time talking about it. for some reason they declined it somewhere. i became friends. you'll probably remember. a very popular children's show. and with a trained adoption. interesting site history. at one point rick when one of them started to commit to it. he realized that he should not be responsible for starting in
this industry. he's been doing that for 40 years. the story of what he's doing today. it's a wonderful film. rick and i decided because we are both fans that we would put something together and with the help of other people but the money together. marshall have that blue image. that is under one condition.
in the headliner. to the local additions. we hired it and it was a real lesson in improvisation. as i can go along. the first day was absolutely amazing. we have a long drought in miami that spring. and i was actually getting kind of dangerous. we decided to forgo the rain insurance because there is no chance it was in a rain. saturday came along and it was perfect.
we read that they exceeded the clouds. and the skies opened up. and that was my first experience with heavy rain. the brick and i tried to recoup our losses. the rain never stopped. i decided miami was over for me. back to new york. my parents had taken my sister and i on lots of trips to canada. she like to stop and look at the art gallery art gallery on the way back. it was very famous for its musician residents. at the time they called butterfield. in any case.
woodstock did have this history going back to the early night teen hundreds of bni being a arts community. not only free thinkers but musicians and artists and the perfect place for michael to have these interests. but also participated in some events. tell me about the sound offs there that added to your ideas of an outdoor festival after your miami experience? >> the local realtor. every weekend she ran these concerts at the farm. 6 inches off the ground. and the amazing way to see music. he would get a crowd of three to 400 people.
they would come and go from town. most of the music was local. it was an amazing array of talents. and so comfortable and natural to be in this environments. it occurred to me then that this was the best way i started to think about it in a series of concerts based on this. i managed the man called the trade. who knew what management was. i became a manager. i know the manager was the guy that did the business. i have that responsibility.
and the drummer. he was aware of or friendly with. or have some connection with the writer. it was from my neighborhood. when i called his office. i said it's michael. it's kind of one for the neighborhood. i said okay. have them come up. we became instant friends. but we had known each other are lives. the early part of the fall we were talking late into the night every night about these ideas of producing concerts.
hasn't been out of concerts. are dragging us. it shows. it also occurred to me that it was becoming a mecca for musicians. there was no place to record. it seemed like that was the perfect answer. you could come and spend time in the country and recorded at your leisure. so we proceeded to try to put that together. we were following these two paths and i hired a local realtor to help me according to arty. i don't remember the actual night. somewhere they decided in the concert series. we would just put it all together. and do the biggest event anybody had ever seen. so we proceeded along those lines starting to plan those two projects. i think our target was 200,000
people. although the biggest show have been the festival in miami. we picked 200,000 because we figured we were in the northeast corridor. 1% of 1%. that was our target. and that sort of how we begin that read. you guys found some partners. and became more are or less the financial backers. there's someone going to woodstock right now on that motorcycle. working on some of the business aspects of it. you are concentrated on the booking and looking for the actual site. you look and look until you found a place called
wallkill. when you toss tell us a little bit about how it came about and then how you segued to that. it was supposed to be in woodstock. when we could it be in woodstock anymore. i gave everybody the idea of what we were doing. i wanted to be close to woodstock. we looked into expanding circles. it was 10 miles out of town. a big long to mister schaller. and they all sort of well-known german company. we spoke to the caretaker. it sounds interesting. we like to talk about it. we did not know do not know what they were talking about.
and they never used the place. so i said great. we have a say. and when we thought for $5,000 we would offer it to them and would be off and running. .. .. >> they seem interested but not really convinced and at the end of the conversation i think i had mentioned that i was doing this festival and that was another project we working on. and they seemed to perk up at
that and asked us if we will come back and come back with a budget. we went away in we were talking through the festival and he called me in terms of proceeding and i said sorry, let's continue to talk but at the studio. and they didn't. we said we could still do both project. they both seem nice and bright in our age and that would be fun to work with the company. and that is what happened fraser two weeks later we signed a contract and started to go. and i would say within two or three days of signing the contractors backup to trying to pursue the site and by then, i
think the district attorney or one of the officials had gotten wind that we were doing it and pick something up in the local newspaper and said never again in woodstock. they were having trouble with this on. so i read that and that was the end of that. so we started looking further or something that would fit. we need acres, access, water, power, a place where you could build a small city to support this crowd of 200,000 people for three days. and we were not finding them. and one weekend we are running around and there was a place for rent. and it was rented for $10000 and
they agreed on the spot and called me and said we've agreed and you can always back out and come look at it. maybe it's not exactly what you're looking for or describe. so i went out to look at it anyway, it was horrible and industrial site and it would require an immense amount of work. but have the advantage of being there and being rentable. it had water and power and all those other things so we said okay. they were getting really nervous of the point it was early march. so he proceeded to work there and because they were so straight they took it to the town fathers with the idea. the requirements in those days were permits for permanent structures. so they describe what the festival is going to be for jazz
with maybe 20 or 30000 people. [laughter] and he came back to new york and said we got approach and i said great and we started setting a cruise up and by that point i hired an amazing staff of people. from all walks of life's, engineers, construction people and most of the experience in the music as this. at least they had some of that. a bunch of genius characters that can build anything that needed to be built. so we put this together and sent them up and we started to convert an industrial site into something very beautiful and interesting and as the weeks progressed, the town began to realize how come all the people
that are working here have long hair. [laughter] and where's the jazz bus they did not know what was happening. they found out what we were up to and got uptight in the hordes of hippies that were going to overrun the town and run their fields. so were trying to figure out how to get us out of town. we're spending a lot of money in town so the merchants were on our side. we were having many town meetings where people would be whistling as a talk to the microphone. the resistance vote quite strongly to the point where they formed the ccc concerned
citizens committee. it w kind of intense and we started thinking how we were going to bring people to this atmosphere we make sure we didn't plan anything into the ground where we laid out the site and we dispelled them up we needed certain permits to proceed with 5000 people and were not getting any of those permits. on the 14th of july they showed us the permits that were violating laws and we have to shut down immediately. the miracle with woodstock is having to spend all the time and having to settle.
it had to be more than life. it was too good to be true and a guy called me and uses subject of the movie that he distracted and produced call taking woodstock is coming up. it becomes the 14th of august. so that was calling me in a helicopter turns out. and they called my office when we were in a panic and had her lawyers trying to figure out what rules we can make and we could've one the lawsuit and it would wound up around christmas and it never happened. so i said let's get out and had everybody pack and start loading trucks and anybody who is not packed i put on the telephone so put on the radio stations, press
and anybody they could think of to get the word out. they said sure enough the next day they, office and said i have a fight and i have a permit and we want to. i left the lawyer's office and i drove there. -- i called two guys that my staff and told them to meet me at the motel and they said pull behind the hotel which was hard to describe.
[laughter] it was to open. and it was really open so we would take a lot down and go to this field in certainly my ankles were knee-deep wha wet. we went up to his office and said use when shows around something in the neighborhood. so it was the same group of people that wanted to protest. we went around the neighborhood and went down 17 and turned down a dirt road and that's when an
miracle happened. we all got out of the car and there was a local dairy farm and max was the leading businessperson and the community. he was a self-made man quite an amazing guy. and so i said we have the 2000 acres. we went right to his house and knocked on his door and he had known about us. in all the press. everybody knew what was going on with woodstock so i took a ride to this initial field and we went crossed and said abraham is
busy in the car so we struck a deal right then on the spot. there are so many stories like this and dealing with these connotations in the meantime he had to settle all these fires that were in the nearest city office. you would think all the underground counterculture people would all be together on this one instead it was all different things and people demanding more from money in wanting this and others wanting this and the concert promoter in new york wanting and not thinking he led the idea of starting the festival and looking at the bands that played in his venues. in the meantime, thanks for travel along until there's three weeks ago to put together a massive fight. it was basically a city.
i don't know how many people live in the area but if you think about how jun was and where we live 27 out of 30 days, with rain that was like the three weeks they had to put together the stage, lighting, campgrounds and all the infrastructure that they needed. somehow they did it. [laughter] >> it was 24/7 for everybody but that's how we had grown with people working. only the local power company and telephone companies pitched in and helped us tremendously. they were working every day and overnight. and we were constructing in
those site with the initial patch was on the acres. there was food stands and i was thinking of woodstock from the beginning of the moment that we will be welcoming for anyone to come. i had spent that year to show america. from small festivals to cultures. there was a lot of tear guessing at the time and i wanted to eliminate any of those confrontations. when we designed it was designed for everyone who had a ticket campground, three stages and if you cannot afford food we had free kitchens. anybody who wanted to be there be there.
it was a gathering of our friends. and so we proceeded based on now that principle of everything being open. in one of the reasons we designed a structure is written to be three days in the country. kate brown's are part of our plan. and people have been from the city and necessarily had camped for three days in the country. we brought in a group that were used to setting up big outdoor facilities and is probably the first time anyone he really
seemed -- in more than they provided a town, they set off a vibe of welcoming everybody, getting them situated in getting them to understand it's their job to welcome the next group and get them to join them. so that started the whole idea of sharing responsibility and that were all in this together and that is really what started to bring the community together in a great way and like we help each other with whatever we have and you share something they don't and really that was the fact that there is nothing to confront, and this was how they did it. and i think that is part of why
it was accepted. >> in a philosophy also applied with musicians as they started raising and michael always says the biggest art of woodstock was audience. when musicians came in and and when they were following the vibe and they were willing to compromise from unusual things that they needed. >> ricky was the first act up, not by choice. in the bands were there and
there is a feeling in the audience. in that sense from the site to the town in the parking lot was the same feeling in the year end energy and you didn't have to run, you are okay and enjoying yourself even if you're sitting in a parked car just to be a part of this. and that husband for the most part, there was a couple of exceptions a couple people didn't want to be the and was an acyl from the entire day. [laughter] but he did play an amazing time. it was delayed by rain, traffic, but it could've been hours and hours late but everybody did
their best and we were ready for them and they were ready for us. some people advised that the wrong time. [laughter] and it was part of how we went out. >> just to wrap up, why don't you finish up by telling about after the festival was over and the partnership and part of the woodstock venture team, and the effect of woodstock on you and your future endeavors and people would meet and seemed. >> we tried to do the actual effect because in your formative
years you can get trapped and i did not want to be trapped. but i did recognize a lot. from very early on and people would come up to me and they always said the same thing woodstock james my life. even if they were there they heard a horror movie it seemed to have a life-changing effect on everybody. they said it takes away from the experience. and i think that is how it probably change my life most radically. >> thank you we have time for questions. we have time for about five or six questions. >> and we will ask you to come
and formalize. don't be shy. if you have questions come up and ask. >> this is maybe one you can both interpret i'm assuming they did a whole festival might've filmed and to make the movie, if that was the case will heard what hendrik said later. in the second question, i heard the gig was a nightmare, horrible on the base and every thing like that. [inaudible] the sound, the dvd has a lot of
unreleased footage. it did have a horrible time. on stage. use known for being the greatest and also famous for being a major producer and i put these two things together in before he took the stage he decided to rewire everything. and i don't know if any of you are from new york or have been there but your member going
through a tunnel and have a clown t. [inaudible] >> also, the other cool thing rhinos putting out a couple of weeks for the first time ever you will be able to actually hear every single artist that was at woodstock including bands like sweetwater, the dead, everybody at least one track and it will become logical in the order that they performed an woodstock because to make a great film is completely out of sequence. check it out. >> thank you. >> to questions, the first the
beatles. [inaudible] why does woodstock designate in the culture of today since 1969 and why do you think that so? >> i tried to get online into, and he wanted to come but he was in canada and he had a very strong war sent in our government wasn't working. and it turns out just around the time -- they sent us a letter that said basically instead of sending john wilson billy preston and james taylor all would've been terrific.
but because were in the midst of chaos in this letter, and fact i never saw the letter before started writing this book. >> pretty amazing. there could've been a singer-songwriter movement with james taylor who is just done as first recording in 1971. >> thank you for going to vermont and to the bookstore. for the past 25 years my wife and i have traveled around the country introducing your amazing program to all the original artist that played woodstock and 69. it's been a fascinating road but it would not have happened if it wasn't for this beautiful printing and great graphics of the 60s so i was wondering if you could tell us about the history of the program as it relates to the farm and a little
bit about the graphics excel and of course i will ask you to participate in the program before you leave tonight. thank you. >> the program that was given out the festival? the program book? >> yes. >> is an amazing piece of memorabilia. >> with the poetry and lyrics. the interesting thing, we missed one that said he was at woodstock and on the wayut he found a carton of the program and took one because they did not show up until sunday. the trucks bringing the programs that were going to be distributive for free or stuck in the traffic jam along with another million people or so so many of the people that attended the festival never got to see the programs.
[inaudible] he was very well-connected and very kind and disconnected in many ways. [laughter] they didn't do a very good job getting it there. how many do you have question works. >> epic 150,000. >> i think you can also see the group listed in there. an iron butterfly, rod stewart quit the group at the beginning of summer so they cannot play because they did not have a lead singer anymore. [inaudible] >> i think they really wish they
had been there. >> thank you. >> welcome. [screams] anybody else? >> wasn't a specific moment during the three days that he realized this is historical, not just a music festival, is beyond that? >> i think we realize that the first day. we knew with the crowd that it was historic and itself. and what it would mean when she got that picture then you can get through this. but yeah it was be on anybody's imagination. >> another question? >> have you been able to do anything sense and that is giving you the same kind of satisfaction? >> yes. [laughter]
[inaudible] >> on the business and you put these people together and all the bands have never even been -- you got paid somehow the finances planned. >> weighed about 2500 working by the time we're done. and by the end of it you were 1 million -- sold 126,000 ticketed via we were 100 - 200000000 in debt. and it was john roberts money. and his family came in and took over, they thought he was an idiot for getting involved and his father was invisible character actually. and.
there was a lot and if we would've kept their wits we would've done fine. but we do not. the company went bankrupt and they were willing to back us in one of the brothers bought them out to make up for the loss in one of the brothers went on -- >> warner bros. is a big winner. >> in some way. >> financially. >> anybody else? [applause] >> this past week mark the 50th anniversary of the
woodstock music festival. american history tv in c-span "washington journal" are also looking back at the three-day rock concert that attracted nearly half a million people. it all starts tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. eastern time on c-span "washington journal". followed by oral histories with woodstock cocreator on cspan3 american history tv. >> wear life from the fifth animal mississippi book festival in jackson. throughout the day you will hear from authors on a range of topics including true time, civil rights, world war ii, the civil war in the south in american history. check your program guide for complete schedule. the festival kicks off in just a moment with the unveiling of the