Friday, March 21, 2014

# 40 Butterfield Blues Band at Woodstock '69

    Large music festivals have been around for hundreds of years, but for baby boomers, the beginning is in the late fifties with George Wein's Newport Jazz, and Newport Folk festivals. Wein's festivals prove to be very popular with thousands of music fans, but they are tiny in comparison to coming next generation of festivals.

    Consider, seventy-six million Americans are born between '46 and '64, so by '65, there is the largest mass of young people the country has ever experienced. By the mid-sixties, the first wave of these baby boomers are coming of age, and they select Rock Music as the soundtrack of their generation. It is only natural that savvy promoters look for ways to capitalize on the spending power of this massive market.

    After Newport Folk '65, the next big festival is the Monterey Pop Festival attracts over fifty thousand, (Miami Pop Festival in '68 attracts about one hundred thousand patrons, but the festival isn't documented on film, and consequently doesn't receive much attention), and then there is the Woodstock Music and Art Fair,'69, catering to more than four hundred thousand. Back then, music critic Griel Marcus wrote for Rolling Stone that Woodstock has become the third largest city in New York state...

    The history of  the Woodstock Music and Art Festival, its impact on the future of Rock music, and its influence on all future music festivals is well documented. After Woodstock, sociologist Philip Ennis noted, It’s not a ‘youth thing’ now, but a generational event; chronological age is only the current phase..... In addition, many historians consider Woodstock '69 as the beginning of the lucrative industry of staging massive Rock Festivals all over the world.  For many new artists these festivals, especially if they are as well documented as Monterey or Woodstock, usually serve as a big break in their career, and for more established artists, the festival generally solidifies their popularity.

     So, the key music festivals for the sixties generation start with Newport, '65, Monterey, '67Woodstock, '69, and end with The Last Waltz, '76. They are significant because they change the direction of both popular culture, and the music of that culture. Of all the artists to appear at these significant events, Paul Butterfield is the only one to perform at all four.

    However, by the time Butterfield performs at Woodstock '69, the cultural door he helps to open with his music is right off its hinges, and literally thousands of artists are passing under the threshold. Consider that most of the artists who appear at Woodstock '69 are white people who are playing music which is rooted in African-American blues. It is a trend for which Butterfield should be recognized, but too often this acknowledgement is ignored. For example, if it hadn't been for Butterfield's performances at Newport '65, Woodstock performers such as Canned HeatJohnny Winter, Janis Joplin, and several others probably would not be accepted as credible interpreters of blues, 

    Even the new horn band Blood Sweat and Tears, fronted by Canadian singer David Clayton Thomas owes a great deal to the contributions of Paul Butterfield. Another band who receives inspiration from Butterfield's horn bands is Chicago Transit Authority. They try to get a time slot at Woodstock '69, but lose out to Bill Graham's band Santana. Apparently, Graham plays a shell game with the scheduling to push Chicago out, which offers the San Francisco band an opportunity to promote themselves. The other horn based band Butterfield inspires is the Canadian group Lighthouse. They are invited to play Woodstock, but like so many bands of the era, make the regretful decision to decline the invitation.

   The truth is that by '69, few people view Butterfield's past contributions to Rock as marketable, and with no major mainstream hits to shore up his name, he is tucked in between newcomers Crosby, Still, Nash and Young (they just released their first album in August), and the novelty act Sha-Na-Na for the 6 a.m. to 6:45 a.m. time slot. Unfortunately, it is too close to the end of the festival, most of the audience is sleeping, hung over, coming down, passed out, or packing up to leave the grounds. Years later, when organizers are asked why Butterfield was placed in the 6 a.m. slot, and their response is that they were looking for a band who can jam for long periods. 

    In spite of  scheduling politics, and the Butterfield Blues Band's impressive performance, none of it is in the Academy Award winning release of the Woodstock documentary. The reason is quite simple, Albert Grossman stipulates in his contracts that he does not want his acts to appear on film. His reasoning is people will not bother to pay to see his artists if they can see them on film. It isn't just Grossman who feels this way as artists like Creedence Clearwater Revival also share the same philosophy.

    In retrospect, it seems like such an archaic attitude toward artist promotion, but there could be an element of truth to this attitude. The mass appeal of the internet has taught the entertainment industry that free music is not as exciting as live music, but it is cheaper. It won't be until 2009 that fans can see the Butterfield Blues Band, and all the other artists omitted from the documentary perform at the festival in the director's cut of the festival.

     All of the artists who perform at Woodstock '69, including Paul Butterfield, will reap long term economic and social benefits from their performances at Woodstock. For example, performances by artists Santana, and Crosby Stills, Nash and Young at Woodstock mark the beginning of their long, and prosperous careers. However, for music pioneers the Butterfield Blues Band, it is the beginning of the end. .

Paul Butterfield: Vocal, & Harmonica, Rod Hicks: - Bass, & Vocals, Ted Harris: Piano, Buzzy Feiten: Guitar, Gene Dinwiddie: Tenor Saxophone, Percussion & Vocals, Steve Madaio: Trumpet & Percussion, David Sanborn: Alto Saxophone & Percussion, Phil Wilson: Drums, Keith Johnson: Trumpet & Percussion, Trevor Lawrence: Baritone Saxophone & Percussion.

1) Born Under a Bad Sign
2) No Amount of Lovin'
3) Driftin' and Driftin'
4) Morning Sunrise
5) Love March
6) Everything's Gonna Be Alright


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