We’ve all seen Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock, the Academy Award-winning 1970 documentary about the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. It’s a great film, and it made legends of both the performers that it featured and the festival itself. Don’t believe the film had that much power to shape pop culture history? Tell me all about Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
But even at a hefty three hours there’s no way that the film could capture the entire three days of peace and music. Also, Warner Brothers owned the rights, so non-Warner acts were not favored. Here are the performers whose role at Woodstock is all but forgotten because they didn’t make the final cut:
Sweetwater followed Richie Havens on Friday evening. What a thankless task. Here’s some archival footage:
Bert Sommer is worthy of a Nick Drake-like revival. He was supposed to open the show but was too frightened, so Richie Havens stepped up and took the opening slot. Why was Sommer so scared? Woodstock was his first time on stage as a singer-songwriter (he had previous experience on stage in Hair). Check out his performance of “Jennifer”:
Tim Hardin followed Bert Sommer, playing a twenty-five minute set that included “If I Were A Carpenter”:
Ravi Shankar kept it going during a Friday night rainstorm:
Melanie is the last of the Friday performers who didn’t make the movie:
Quill opened Saturday with a 12-bar blues oriented set and lots of cowbell:
No footage is known to exist of the Keef Hartley Band at Woodstock, but some bootleg recordings allegedly exist:
The Incredible String Band was supposed to play Friday but refused to go on in the rain. Honestly I would’ve been okay with this remaining lost:
Mountain hit the stage around 9:00 Saturday night and turned it out. Listen to this great riff in “Southbound Train”:
When I was a kid the Grateful Dead’s missing set was almost mythical. Why was Jerry in the movie but the Dead didn’t play? I hear they hated their performance. No, dude, they got electrocuted during the rain. The band wasn’t even there, man, just Jerry and he was there to party.
Anyway, here they are:
Imagine this: It’s about one a.m. Sunday morning. You’ve been up for two days, give or take. You’re high, hungry, exhausted, wet, and Creedence Clearwater Revival launch into this Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic:
One hour later Janis Joplin hits the stage:
Sunday night The Band and the gone but not forgotten Levon Helm played “The Weight” along with ten other classics:
Johnny Winter tore up some slide guitar on “Mean Town Blues.” Although this was billed as a Johnny Winter set, his brother Edgar played keyboards on three cuts.
Blood, Sweat & Tears spun that wheel again:
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is the last of Woodstock’s forgotten artists, unless you consider Neil Young’s refusal to play on camera with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young:
I highly recommend the Rhino Records box set Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm. Along with Jimi Plays Woodstock and the two official Woodstock soundtracks you’ll cover a lot of ground. That being said, if anyone ever releases a complete collection of full sets from all bands I’ll be first in line.
So what’s your favorite Woodstock performance? I’m listening.
(Update: On August 2, 2019, Rhino Records released Woodstock – Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary. With exception to two Hendrix tracks and one Sha Na Na cut, the massive box set contains complete sets from every Woodstock artist—even those long believed lost or never recorded. The entire limited edition of 1,969 units sold out before it was even released, though, so unless you find one on the secondary market compiling your own (kind of) complete Woodstock remains the way to go.)