10 Rock Stars Who Didn’t Play Woodstock – And Why
Woodstock was a legend-making moment for a number of the participants, including Santana and Crosby Stills and Nash — both of whom could look back to the 1969 festival as a launching pad for the legendary careers that followed. Still, for all of its famous participants, the number of people who didn’t perform — and the reasons they chose to skip this epic event — has come to hold just as much intrigue. Here are 10 of the more memorable stars who didn’t play Woodstock, and why …
“I asked our manager Terry Ellis, ‘Well, who else is going to be there?’ And he listed a large number of groups who were reputedly going to play, and that it was going to be a hippie festival,” Jethro Tull‘s Ian Anderson once told SongFacts, “and I said, ‘Will there be lots of naked ladies? And will there be taking drugs and drinking lots of beer, and fooling around in the mud?’ Because rain was forecast. And he said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ So I said, ‘Right. I don’t want to go.’ Because I don’t like hippies, and I’m usually rather put off by naked ladies unless the time is right.”
Jeff Beck Group
Jeff Beck and an all-star band that featured Rod Stewart, Nicky Hopkins, Aynsley Dunbar and Ronnie Wood were actually scheduled to play — only to split up just before Woodstock. Seems Beck simply disappeared on a plane back home, according to Rod Stewart in his autobiography ‘Rod,’ because he was worried about a possible marital infidelity. Not that Stewart was that concerned about missing out. “Ah, well,” he writes. “Seen one outdoor festival you’ve seen them all.”
Led Zeppelin was invited, of course. But manager Peter Grant apparently decided that headlining their own concert was preferable. Instead, the band headed off to the Asbury Park Convention Hall in New Jersey, just south of Woodstock, for two of the festival’s four days. Grant, in ‘Led Zeppelin: The Concert File,’ said “I said no because at Woodstock we’d have just been another band on the bill.”
Riding the popularity of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Iron Butterfly decidedly overreached with its pre-appearance demands — supposedly asking for such niceties as a helicopter ride in from a New York airport, an immediate start time on stage upon arrival, complete payment upon completion of set and an immediate return helicopter ride for airport departure. The story is they were told that promoters were considering it, but ultimately it seems nobody ever called Iron Butterfly back. “Apparently the agent had a real attitude,” festival co-creator Michael Lang has said, “and we were up to our eyeballs in problems.”
Rumors of the Beatles‘ appearance at Woodstock were everywhere, likely fueled by their surprise 1969 rooftop concert in London. Reasons as to why they ultimately did not play are just as rampant. One theory has John Lennon insisting that Yoko Ono appear on stage. Another cited immigration problems for Lennon. Still another, that the group simply couldn’t get together at that late stage.
Another huge star, another raft of innuendo. Bob Dylan reportedly said no because one of his kids fell ill. There was also a rumor that he had become annoyed with the gathering hippies around his home, which stood near the town of Woodstock. Whatever the reason, it didn’t keep him from playing another huge festival — and just two weeks later — at the Isle of Wight. Dylan reportedly left for England aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 on August 15, 1969, the day the original Woodstock Festival started. Dylan then moved away from upstate New York, complaining that his house was being beseiged by “druggies.”
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones declined because Mick Jagger was in Australia that summer, filming a forgotten movie called ‘Ned Kelly.’ You don’t remember ‘Ned Kelly’? It’s the poorly received 1970 Tony Richardson-directed biopic of a 19th-century Australian bushranger. Also, Keith Richards‘ girlfriend Anita Pallenburg had just given birth to son Marlon that week in London.
Joni Mitchell reportedly wanted to play Woodstock, but was dissuaded from making the trip by manager David Geffen, reportedly because he wanted her fresh for an appearance on ‘The Dick Cavett Show.’ In a twist, she would end up performing on that TV program with two other participants in the Woodstock festival – David Crosby and Stephen Stills of Crosby Stills and Nash, and Jefferson Airplane. Worse still, she’d be forced to write ‘Woodstock,’ one of her better-known songs, based on boyfriend Graham Nash‘s account of the event.
The Doors apparently gave Woodstock strong consideration, only to decline the invitation. Not because of a scheduling conflict, however. Robby Krieger would later say, “We never played at Woodstock because we were stupid and turned it down. We thought it would be a second class repeat of Montery Pop Festival.” John Densmore, however, had other ideas. He was actually at the festival. Densmore appears side stage during Joe Cocker‘s set in the concert film.
The revelation that old-timey TV cowboy Roy Rogers had actually been invited, as well, remains something of a shock. Apparently, as Michael Lang relayed in an interview for the expanded Woodstock DVD, the idea was for Rogers to close out the festival with a rendition of ‘Happy Trails.’ It didn’t happen, of course, but only because “his manager didn’t think it was such a great idea.” Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?