Much has been written about the “Three days of Peace and Music” that took place on a 600 acre dairy farm just north of Bethel, New York. The Woodstock Music Festival took place 40 years ago this past weekend, and as the saying goes, if you remember it – then you weren’t there.
Rolling Stone listed it as one of the 50 Moments That Changed Rock and Roll and for good reason. The lineup was a who’s who of the best artists of the day with 32 acts performing in front of over 300,000 people. The movie and soundtrack of the event went on to be top sellers and some artists credit their success to their appearance at the event.
What isn’t really talked about are some of the big names that decided not to appear at the event for various reasons. Some didn’t really suffer much in terms of their own success but in some cases, it may have been exposure that could have taken them to the next level. Let’s look at some of these acts:
Led Zeppelin – Their manager refused since they’d be sharing the spotlight with so many other acts. Instead they played a few concerts in Toronto on the fourth day of Woodstock.
The Beatles – Too busy putting the finishing touches to an album you may have heard of – Abbey Road.
The Rolling Stones – Mick was busy filming a movie in Australia and Keith Richard’s wife had a baby that week.
The Doors – Jim Morrison bailed at the least minute because he wasn’t a big fan of the big festival type gigs.
Tommy James and the Shondelles – They were in Hawaii at the time and could have made it to the gig but they weren’t properly told what the event was all about. They thought it was a small gig on a pig farm.
Bob Dylan – One of his children got sick so he opted out.
Joni Mitchell – Even though she went on to write an epic song about the event, she never actually played or attended the event thanks to her agent telling her it would be a better career move to be on the Dick Cavett Show. People still talk about Woodstock. Dick Cavett – not so much.
Others that didn’t make the gig for one reason or another include Frank Zappa, Procul Harem, Jeff Beck, The Byrds, Iron Butterfly, Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues. One of the strangest acts to refuse to play was Roy Rogers. The organizers wanted him to end the festival by singing his trademark “Happy Trails” but apparently his manager didn’t think it would be a great idea. Good call.
Here’s what that may have looked and sounded like. Imagine a bunch of stoned hippies rocking out to this: