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The Two Woodstock Anniversary Fests: What Legacy Acts Might Return?

Michael Lang has promised “legacy acts” for Woodstock 50, but what groups from the original festival could he be talking about?

Roger Daltrey of the Who, Carlos Santana and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and Dead and Company.

Roger Daltrey of the Who, Carlos Santana and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and Dead and Company.

Wes And Alex/REX/Shutterstock, Richard Isaac/REX/Shutterstock, Emg/REX/Shutterstock

The Woodstock festival has been on ice since the disastrous one back in 1999 nearly ruined the brand forever, but now that the 50th anniversary is almost upon us, two competing events are trying to bring back the spirit of the 1969 original. One is being organized by original Woodstock co-creator Michael Lang and will take place in Watkins Glen, New York on August 16th to the 18th, while the Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival will take place on the original Woodstock grounds that same weekend.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Lang – who has the legal right to call his festival “Woodstock” – dismissed the Bethel Woods event as too small-scale for what he’s trying to accomplish. “They’re good stewards of the original site and they built a beautiful performing arts pavilion,” says Lang. “But it’s a 15,000-seat shed. That’s not a Woodstock.”

At his Woodstock, Lang has promised “legacy bands” from the original festival along with tributes to Joe Cocker, the Band and Janis Joplin. The Bethel Woods show, meanwhile, has promised “prominent and emerging artists spanning multiple genres and decades.” While neither festival has announced lineups, it’s likely that both festivals will have acts that played at the 1969 Woodstock. Let’s take a look at the groups still around from that era that could conceivably return (in one form or another). Note: We’re leaving out groups that are completely dormant like Sweetwater, Quill, the Incredible String Band the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

The Who
State of the Band: There’s no band from the original Woodstock that remains as popular on the road as the Who. This summer, they are playing arenas, amphitheaters and even a few stadiums on their Moving On! symphonic tour.

Percent of Woodstock Lineup Remaining: 50. Drummer Keith Moon died in 1978 and bassist John Entwistle followed in 2002, but Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend have carried on with new members.

Will They Play? They seem like a natural fit for Woodstock 50 as one of the major headliners, but they’ve already ruled it out. “What would be the point?” said Daltrey. “I can’t work outside in the heat anymore like that in August. It’ll kill me. But I think they should do it with young bands. I don’t see why they should have us there.”

The Grateful Dead
State of the Band: The “core four” members of Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann haven’t played together since the Fare Thee Well concerts of 2015, but soon after Weir, Hart and Kreutzmann formed Dead and Co. with John Mayer and remain a huge live draw. Lesh continues to play select gigs at theaters with his Terrapin Family Band.

Percent of Woodstock Lineup Remaining: This one is somewhat complicated because they now tour in two camps and Woodstock-era keyboardist Tom Constanten (whose tenure in the band lasted just a little over a year) is in neither of them. But simply put, Dead and Co has 43 percent of the Woodstock lineup and Phil Lesh and Friends has 14.

Will They Play? Dead and Co. have a long summer tour on the books, but it wraps up July 7th in Boulder, Colorado. It’s feasible that they’ll play Woodstock 50 the following month while Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band will play the smaller Bethel event, but no one knows at this point.

Santana
State of the Band: Santana were nearly unknown when they played the original Woodstock, but the festival (and the movie it produced) helped turn them into superstars. There have been some lean periods over the past 50 years, but they’ve been riding pretty high since their remarkable 1999 comeback album Supernatural.

Percent of Woodstock Lineup Remaining: This one is also complicated. The main Santana touring lineup has only Carlos Santana himself from Woodstock, or 17 percent of the Woodstock lineup. But in 2016, he reunited with singer/organist Gregg Rolie, drummer Michael Shrieve and percussionist Michael Carabello for a new album and a Las Vegas concert, bringing them to 67 percent of the Woodstock lineup.

Will They Play? Carlos Santana confirmed to Rolling Stone that his band will be playing the Bethel iteration. “I’m going to invite whoever is still here, whether it’s Joan Baez or members from Sly Stone, and I’m going to play Santana music,” he says.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
State of the Band: To put it mildly, they are in rotten shape. They haven’t played with Neil Young since 2013 and two years later, the remaining members turned on each other and dissolved CSN. This is their 50th anniversary year and they seem to be celebrating it by doing absolutely nothing.

Percent of Woodstock Lineup Remaining: By no small miracle, all four of them are still alive. But if you want to get technical, Woodstock drummer Dallas Taylor is dead and bassist Greg Reeves is alive, so 83 percent of the Woodstock lineup is still around.

Will They Play? There’s almost no chance that CSN/CSNY will play either event, but we can imagine Young and Promise of the Real or Crazy Horse playing Woodstock 50 and at least one of the CSN guys playing at Bethel Woods. They just shouldn’t book Graham Nash on the same day as David Crosby. That could cause some backstage tension.

Creedence Clearwater Revival
State of the Band: It’s not good. John Fogerty hasn’t played with his surviving bandmates Doug Clifford and Stu Cook since their 1983 high school reunion. That was before legal issues ripped them apart and Fogerty’s refusal to play with them at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame led to Cook and Clifford putting together Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Fogerty plays large theaters and amphitheaters and Creedence Clearwater Revisited are on the casino circuit.

Percent of Woodstock Lineup Remaining: Guitarist Tom Fogerty died in 1990, but Creedence Clearwater has 50 percent of the Woodstock lineup and John Fogerty has 25 percent every time he plays a solo show.

Will They Play? We can see Fogerty playing either of the Woodstock events, though Creedence Clearwater Revisited are probably a little too C-List for these sort of shows.

Canned Heat
State of the Band: Almost no song brings back memories of the original Woodstock like Canned Heat’s 1968 classic “Going Up The Country,” which is probably why it’s been so hard for them to be seen as anything but a relic of a bygone era for a long time. They still tour, but it’s often on cruise ships or little clubs.

Percent of Woodstock Lineup Remaining: The Canned Heat banner is being waved by original members Larry “The Mole” Taylor and drummer Adolfo de la Parra along with new members. That means that just 40 percent of the Woodstock lineup is still in the group.

Will They Play? They’d probably fit in better at the Bethel Woods event, but like Creedence, they might simply be too diminished a force to book.

Mountain
State of the Band: Things are not very good in the world of Mountain right now. They haven’t officially dissolved, but the “Mississippi Queen” rockers haven’t had a gig since 2010. The following year, frontman Leslie West had his right leg amputated due to diabetes. He still tours, but it is now under his own name. Mountain drummer Corky Laing gigs under the banner Corky Laing Plays Mountain.

Percent of Woodstock Members Remaining: There are actually zero Woodstock members in Corky Laing’s Mountain since the drummer didn’t join the band until a few months after the festival, but Leslie West’s solo project has 25 percent of the Woodstock lineup simply because he’s in it.

Will They Play? The 50th anniversary of their most famous concert might be enough to get Laing and West back onstage together, but most likely, that would take place at the Bethel Woods event.

Sly & The Family Stone
State of the Band: Sly and the Family Stone haven’t really existed since 1983, but in the 2000s an offshoot called the Original Family Stone began gigging with some old members. Every once in a long while, the reclusive Sly Stone himself would join the group. They primarily play casino and cruise these days and it’s been quite a long time since Sly has gone near their stage.

Percent of Woodstock Members Remaining: Sadly, the death of Cynthia Robinson in 2015 means that saxophonist Jerry Martini is the only member of the Woodstock lineup still in any sort of touring version of the old band. That’s 14 percent.

Will They Play? Unless Michael Lang can somehow coax Sly Stone back onto the stage, this group will be at Bethel Woods at the very best.

Jefferson Airplane
State of the Band: It would take a extensive PowerPoint presentation and about six hours to explain all the twists and turns that the Jefferson Airplane took after their performance at Woodstock, but let’s just say that the current bands “Jefferson Starship” and “Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas” play a mixture of clubs and cruises.

Percent of Woodstock Members Remaining: When you combine the number of Woodstock vets in Jefferson Starship and Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas and multiply that number by 10,000, you still get zero. Hot Tuna, however, has Woodstock vets Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen. That’s 28 percent of the Jefferson Airplane Woodstock lineup right there. Grace Slick could technically perform at one of the festivals, but she’s as retired as it gets.

Will They Play? While it’s hard to imagine one of the Starship bands playing at either festival, Hot Tuna would be a great booking at the Bethel Woods show. They sometimes play a set of old Airplane tunes, which would be perfect for the occasion.

Ten Years After
State of the Band: The blues rock band were always more popular in their native England than America and continue to gig at theaters and clubs all over mainland Europe.

Percent of Woodstock Members Remaining: Amazingly, the four Woodstock members held together until frontman Alvin Lee (who died in 2013) left the group in 2003. Bassist Leo Lyons left in 2014, leaving keyboardist Chick Churchill and drummer Ric Lee to carry on with new members. That means 50 percent of the Woodstock lineup is still in the band.

Will They Play? Ten Years After hasn’t had a lot of traction in America since the early Seventies, so at best they’d be at the Bethel Woods event.

Blood, Sweat & Tears
State of the Band: Blood, Sweat & Tears have been through so many incarnations and members that they make the Jefferson Airplane saga seem simple. They continue to tour heavily, though mostly at casinos and cruises.

Percent of Woodstock Members Remaining: Zero. Woodstock-era Guitarist Steve Katz used to sometimes sit in with the current band, but even that hasn’t happened in about a decade. Right now, there’s an entirely different band touring under the Blood, Sweat & Tears name. But Woodstock frontman David Clayton-Thomas does tour under his own name and still belts out the classics.

Will They Play? It’s possible to imagine Clayton-Thomas and his solo band at the Bethel Woods event, but definitely not the big one.

Sha Na Na
State of the Band: They seemed like a novelty Fifties revival band at the original Woodstock, but they quickly gained a big following in the Seventies and even had their own variety show. They play now at small casinos, theaters and cruise ships.

Percent of Woodstock Members Remaining: There were 12 members of Sha Na Na at Woodstock and today only drummer Jocko Marcellino and singer Donald “Donny” York are in the touring lineup. That’s 17 percent.

Will They Play? Once again, we can kind of imagine the group at the Bethel Woods event, but not Woodstock 50.

The Solo Acts
Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald and John Sebastian all played at the original Woodstock and remain active on the road today. Baez is currently in the middle of a farewell tour and could conceivably play at Woodstock 50 as one of her last concerts. The other ones are probably better suited for the Bethel Woods event.

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