Home30 Rare Woodstock Photos Show the True Woodstock Experience

30 Rare Woodstock Photos Show the True Woodstock Experience


The original plan was for an outdoor rock festival, “three days of peace and music” in the Catskill village of Woodstock. What the young promoters got was the third largest city in New York state, population 400,000 (give or take 100,000), location Max Yasgur’s dairy farm near the town of White Lake. Woodstock, the actual music festival, didn’t take place in Woodstock, New York, as everyone thought. It actually occurred in the Town of Bethel, which is nearby. Here you can see people setting up driftwood and what looks to be practicing their crowd surfing into a pile of hay.

With attendance estimates coming in around 500,000 people, the festival lasted 3 days. The irony of the whole thing is that Woodstock didn’t even take place in the town of Woodstock… it took place on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in the nearby town of Bethel.

The idea for the festival came from band manager Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld, a songwriter turned record company executive. They wanted to raise money to build a recording studio in Woodstock, upstate New York, a haven for artists including Bob Dylan, The Band, and Van Morrison. Waits to get into the festival were so brutal that people eventually put on their own jam sessions in the middle of the street.

Sullivan County dairy farmer Max Yasgur agreed to have the festival on his property after original permits were revoked a month before the festival date.

This is an image of one of the makeshift ‘smoke camps’ that hippies erected during Woodstock. Here they openly smoked marijuana and hash, sharing with those around them. People would use these smoke camps to meet new people and share stories.

With this much free-love, you have to imagine that there was a whole lot of… loving going on. Reports have found that there were a total of 1982 “woodstock babies” created during the festivals 3 day run. But how many of those babies were actually conceived during the festival, there is no way to know.how

There was no suitable site in Woodstock, so organizers opted for Wallkill, 40 miles away. But residents blocked their plans, so dairy farmer Max Yasgur stepped in to offer his alfalfa field, in the neighboring hamlet of Bethel. A deal was struck for $75,000.

What most people don’t talk about when talking about Woodstock is how much of a logistical nightmare it was. There was little to no security, no facilities, barely any staff, and the venue didn’t anticipate the actual amount of people that showed up for the festival. People were so fed up with traffic that they eventually just got out of their cars and walked the rest of the way to the festival… turning the streets into the area into a parking lot.

The accommodations at Woodstock were… freeform. Here you can see a concert goer taking a snooze on his motorcycle in the middle of the festival grounds. You won’t see that coachella!

Unsurprisingly, the festivals rules were very… non-existent. Arguably the last place you would want to bring your little ones, there were surprisingly a large number of kids in attendance. Estimates come in around 1 thousand kids.

When people hear that Woodstock had around 500k people in attendance, it’s hard for most to wrap their heads around how massive that is… until they see this picture. For comparison, the current population of San Francisco is 884,363

With THAT many people, you would think it would be complete chaos… and it was to a degree. But you gotta remember, this was a festival built on the principles of peace and love in the 70s, so most people were on the same frequency… and also probably stoned out of their gourds. 

As legendary as Woodstock has become in the rock and roll pantheon, people usually don’t talk about how the festival got rained out. But that didn’t stop the 32 acts perform outdoors throughout a rainy weekend. Additionally, the performance of The Star-Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix that closed Woodstock was described by the rock critic from the New York Post as ‘the single greatest moment of the Sixties’. Yet it was witnessed by just a fraction of the crowd. Most had gone home by the time Hendrix came on stage, at 9 am on a Monday morning.

Thirty-two bands were listed to play, but Iron Butterfly got stuck at the airport and didn’t make it because the helicopter booked to ferry them to the site didn’t arrive. Organisers were, in fact, worried their hippy heavy-metal music would incite violence.

John Lennon told organizers he had wanted to be a part of Woodstock, but he was in Canada and the U.S. government had refused him an entry visa.

Though Bob Dylan was one of the original inspirations for the festival, and his backing group, The Band, played to the massive audience, the great man never made it, as one of his children was hospitalized over that weekend.

There were an estimated ten million yards of blue jeans and striped T-shirt material at Woodstock.

Scottish folk quartet The Incredible String Band told writer Mark Ellen about appearing on the Woodstock stage. ‘It was incredibly high and three out of the four of us had vertigo. Little flimsy dresses on the girls, acoustic guitars out of tune, the drums damp from the tent, it was like playing off the Forth Bridge to this sea of people cooking beans in the mud.’

Family vans were a common sight at Woodstock. With no “bus parking”, patrons were able to park basically anywhere in the festival.

On the bill was Janis Joplin, who was in her prime years in 1969. Going down as one of the most legendary performances of the weekend, Janis’ show pulled in the majority of the festival goers to the main stage.

Eight women suffered miscarriages, while there are varying reports of babies born. John Sebastian, the lead singer with Lovin’ Spoonful, announced from the stage: ‘Some cat’s old lady just had a baby, a kid destined to be far out!’ Reports suggest a birth at a local hospital to a mother flown from the event by helicopter and another involving a woman in a car in the nine-mile traffic jam.

The organizers played down the numbers they anticipated, telling the authorities they expected 50,000 while selling 186,000 tickets in advance (costing six dollars for each day) and planning for 200,000. In the end, 500,000 attended. Another million had to turn back because of traffic. It was originally advertised as ‘A Weekend in the Country.”

As an unknown and unproven business concern, the organisers, Woodstock Ventures, had to pay inflated sums to get the top rockers to sign up. Jefferson Airplane were the first, paid $12,000, double their usual fee. Even hippy band The Grateful Dead demanded cash in hand before they would play, as did Janis Joplin and The Who.

Off-duty police officers were banned from providing security, so a New Mexico commune known as the Hog Farm were hired to form a ‘Please Force.’ The Hog Farmers were led by Wavy Gravy, a toothless former beatnik comic, who put on a Smokey-the-Bear suit and warned troublemakers they would be doused in fizzy water or hit with custard pies.

About two dozen ticket booths should have been in place to charge $24 admission (about $160 when adjusted for inflation), but they were never installed because of the crush of festival-goers. Attempts to get people to pay were abandoned on day one, the fences were torn down and Woodstock was declared a free event.

As well as forming the Please Force, The Hog Farm was in charge of catering, ordering in bushels of brown rice, buying 160,000 paper plates, forks, knives and spoons and 30,000 paper cups. They fed between 160,000-190,000 people at the Hog Farm Free Kitchen, 5,000 at a time.

Many alternative religions and ideologies were in attendance as well. 

Here you can see an leader of the Hare Krishna religion group giving a talk to a small group of followers.

While most acts reveled in having appeared there, sitar player Ravi Shankar found it a ‘terrifying experience’ and said the crowd in the mud reminded him of the water buffaloes at home in India.

One of the biggest bands of the decade, the Grateful Dead performed during the 3 day festival to a raucous crowd. Pictured here is band front-man Jerry Garcia.

Sweetwater, a psychedelic rock band scheduled to open the festival, were stuck in traffic. Instead, the crowd was entertained by one of the Hog Farmers, who led them through a series of yoga exercises. Sweetwater was on fifth.

For those lost and confused there were two wooden signposts nailed to a tree. Chalked on one was ‘Groovy Way’ with arrows in opposite directions. On the other was ‘Gentle Path’ and underneath ‘High Way’ pointing to the left.

John Sebastian’s performance was unexpected. Spotted visiting backstage, he was urged to appear. He admitted he had smoked a joint and taken LSD, which could explain his shambolic performance, shouting: ‘Far out! Far up! Far down! Far around! You’re really amazing, you’re a whole city.’

Taking place on a dairy farm bordering a forest, a large amount of forest goers took to the trees to have their own mini-concerts and congregations.

Two people died at Woodstock – one man from a heroin overdose and a teenager in a sleeping bag who was killed when a tractor ran over him. The driver was never traced.

For the weekend of the festival, it had become the third largest city in New York State. But due to lack of basic amenities, Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared it a disaster area. The health department documented 5,162 medical cases, including 797 instances of drug abuse. But Time magazine called it ‘The greatest peaceful event in history.’

Though the festival mood was anti-war, ironically the festival would most likely have turned to tragedy without the U.S. Army, who airlifted in food, medical teams, and performers. The hippy crowd was told: ‘They are with us man, they are not against us. Forty-five doctors or more are here without pay because they dig what this is into.’

Actor and country singer Roy Rogers – billed as King of the Cowboys for his western movies – was asked to close the show, singing his trademark song, Happy Trails To You. But Rogers’ manager vetoed it, and years later Rogers admitted: ‘I would have been booed off stage by all those goddam hippies.’

There have been four attempts to recreate the festival on different sites: in 1979, 1989, 1994, and the disastrous 1999 festival, which was shut down amid riots and violence. Commemorative events are taking place across America and Europe.

As you could imagine, drugs were in heavy use at the festival. Amount the most popular was, obviously, marijuana.

Bootsy Collins was one of the only non-rock artists to play the Woodstock festival, although funk is admittedly a close cousin of rock and roll.

drum circles were a common sighting during the festival, with goers sometimes finding steel drums in from the nearby farm to play.

As with any festival, people get tired. This man appears to be zonked out right in the middle of the crowd.

Due to the heavy rains during the weekend, everything got caked in mud and dirt. And some point, people just accepted the dirt and just went with it.

Throughout the festival there were these hay nests for goers to relax in. This patron decided to have a mid-day jam session.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd in attendance was very musically inclined… or at least thought they were. Drugs, man.

Whether intentional or not, the concert goers of Woodstock actually influenced future festival attire for generations to come.

Woodstock didn’t actually have any official merch, so some enterprising hippies decided to set up shop and sell custom merchandise.

Still pretty unknown to the general population, Carlos Santana’s woodstock performance was a huge launching pad for his career, shooting him to legendary status.

The stage setup at woodstock was pretty bare bones, with no awning (which they desperately needed for the rain), and a stage made of plywood slats.

When Woodstart started, it was not intended to be a free event and the organizers were going to charge a fee for entrance. However, a mass amount of young hippies showed up on festival grounds very excited and hopeful changing this as they were in no position to fork over cash for the event.

Martin Scorsese is known as one of the greatest directors of all time. What not everyone knows, is that Martin started at Woodstock. He began his career when he made a Rockumentary that became highly recognized and continued on with several other movies. This picture displays Scorsese at work in one of the most iconic times in music history. 

Woodstock not only had an amazing atmosphere but it also delivered music from those with great talent. The musicians were either famous or beginning their stardum. This photo shows Grace Slick Jefferson Airplane hanging out and enjoying the festival.

Although Woodstock was famous for the music, it is also known that there was large amounts of marijuana. Even though it was illegal, these hipsters were quite the rebels. According to reports, about half the people at the festival smoked marijuana, although there were no known arrests.

What some were not expecting was the legendary turn out of Woodstock, which caused limited supplies, amenities, and space. However, these people didn’t let this bother them or stop the music, but resulted in the community coming together with love and generosity.

Before floral crowns became fashionable, these crowns represented the idea that they were embodied and an expression of love for nature, beauty and harmony.

Part of the hippie culture was based on rejecting capitalism and sharing within the community. There were vendors around the venue who tried to feed the extreme amounts of people, although they did have to sometimes charge for this service.

David Bowie has gone down in history as one of the greatest artists. Known for being a bit on the eccentric side, this photo only adds to his unique legacy. Known for his music as well as his style, Bowie was also known for struggling with a drug addiction. His cocaine problem became such an issue that he even took it on stage with him when he accepted an award, slurring his speech, making it obvious to the audience that he was not entirely in his right mind. Later in an interview, he blamed it on the cocaine. Unfortunately, drugs are something that Bowie had always struggled with, with his battle ending in 2016, passing away from liver cancer.

Before she became a star, Amy Winehouse enjoyed dressing up like Minnie Mouse, who she was obsessed with as a child. Since then, she has blossomed into the singer that we know today. Unfortunately, she died in 2011 due to a drug overdose. Though her death was greatly mourned, her career and influence continue to flourish.

Jimi Hendrix will always go down in history as one of the most best guitar players that there ever was. Though today he is a legend, in his teenage years, he was caught stealing a car and was given the choice of jail or the army. Of course, he chose the army and when he got out started a band and as hard as it is to believe, several people disliked his unique approach to music. Thankfully, this didn’t stop him from his dream of becoming a musician.

Created by designer Dean Jeffries, the Monkee Mobile became a staple for the band, and they drove it often on their tours. In fact, they took it with them on their first tour, which had Jimi Hendrix as their opener. Many people, at that time, thought that his style was strange. Sad to say, Hendrix was not a fan favorite, causing him to leave the tour after a couple of shows. Hendrix’s departure from the tour was especially disheartening for the Monkees, who loved the musician.

Dolly Patron came from humble roots of Tennessee and started singing while she was young and by 1967, she got the role on a television show. Soon afterwards, she released a song that went to country’s top 10. From then on, Patron has built a powerful name for herself, and even has an entire theme park in Tennessee dedicated after her called, Dollywood. Patron is a prime example of how it doesn’t matter what you start out in life with, it matters how you choose to use what you got.

Sharon Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski, enjoyed a life of free love – I mean, it was the 60s. That love was directed towards Jay Sebring, a hairstylist to the stars. The two dated for a while but eventually called it quits as Tate pursued her acting career. Here the ex-couple pose for a picture. Little did they know that the next day they would be killed by the hands of the Manson Family.

The Manson Family was a desert commune and cult that was formed in California in the late 1960s. Besides hallucinogenic drugs, the cult leader was Charlie Manson, a psychotic man that gained about 100 followers, most of which were young women that came from a middle-class background. The girls in this picture were followers of Manson. Though they appear innocent, young women such as this and more would later be responsible for murdering Sharon Tate and four other people.

Sharon Tate was an up and coming actress who had already starred in a number of roles, such as the 1967’s film The Fearless Vampire Killers. Though talented and beautiful, her life was tragically ended  by Mason’s cult. To make matters even more devastating, Tate was eight months pregnant with her and Polanski’s son. This picture was taken months before the murder which took not only her and her son’s life, but also rocked the world.

Led Zeppelin will always go down as being the band which has inspired the most myths and misinformation with one including a mud shark and groupie where a mud shark was used to pleasure a woman. With Led Zeppelin being known to buy out entire hotel levels for eccentric partying, this story and more have continued to be passed along without really knowing the truth behind it.

Alice Cooper was known for his theatrics when it came to his performances. For example, there was one time that he brought a guillotine on stage. Thankfully, he didn’t cut the head off anyone. Another time, he beat up Jolly Old Kris Kringle during the Christmas leg of his 1973 tour. It is reported that he did one time cut the head off a snake who was strangling him. Though he did it out of survival, it doesn’t explain the rumor that he bit the head off a bat. Cooper quickly denied this rumor and said that it was most likely a myth. Either way, for the animal’s sake, it’s probably best that Cooper stays away from wildlife.

Here’s a story of a lovely family! – The Brady Bunch was a hit TV show in the 1970s and captured the hearts of many people. Here, the Brady ladies were at the LA baseball stadium for a charity event. Jan, Marsha, Cindy, Carol, and Alice the maid all strike a pose for the camera, cheesing big as the fans in the stands go crazy for the beloved stars.

Believe it or not, John Travolta almost took the role of Prince in the film Purple Rain. Though the movie has seen major success, many people back in the day didn’t think it wouldn’t amount to anything. In fact, Prince was the only one for a while who believed in the film, thinking that it would be a box-office hit. Though people doubted the movie, Prince knew its potential and, thankfully, fought for it to get on the big screen.

Ric Flair was mainly known for three things: alcohol, women, and wrestling. He was a man who certainly loved the life of luxury. During his career, he has reported to sleeping with about 10,000 women and drinking about 10 beers and five cocktails in one day. He did this for about 20 years.

Sonny and Cher will always go down as the dynamic duo that took America by storm in the 1970s with their TV shows Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and The Sonny & Cher Show. Cher started her singing career by being backup vocals for many stars, including the Ronettes.  Unfortunately for the couple, they divorced in 1975. The divorce ended ugly, with Cher accusing Sonny of not giving her fair share of their earnings, and Sonny taking Cher to fight for full custody of Charity. Not only did their relationship with each other end, but career suffered as well because you can’t have Sonny without Cher and vice versa.

Living in the shadow of her older brother Eric Roberts – Julia Roberts finally broke away and made a name for herself with the help of her first screen role in the 1988 movie, Satisfaction. The film is about an all-girl band looking for – you guessed it – satisfaction. However, Roberts credits the film Pretty Woman as being her breakout role. Ever since, Roberts has become a major celebrity figure with a smile that has captured millions.


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