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How Woodstock Really Came About – As Told by Someone Who Really Knows

Jeff Hall

Posted on August 18, 2019 19:27

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There has been a lot of buzz lately about the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. I know someone who not only was actually at Woodstock – he was one of the chief organizers. His name is John Morris. He lives in Malibu.

John Morris and several members of the original Woodstock team gathered at the Grammy Museum in Downtown Los Angeles the other night to preview a documentary movie, “Creating Woodstock”, produced by Mick Richards and Eric Morris.

John Morris, in his thirties at the time of the festival, was head of production, in charge of booking the bands and running the stage.

The field at Max Yasgur’s farm was already filled with 50,000 people the day before the event.

This was before a perimeter fence, along with the ticket booths, could be completed.

A hard choice had to be made by event organizers: Finish the fence or finish the stage?

Stage it was. 

Footage of John Morris, which originally appeared in another documentary.

 It was Morris’s voice that famously called out to the crowd that the concert was now free.

 “It was just stating the obvious,” said Morris.

The rest, as they say, is history: Richie Havens; Jimi Hendrix; Crosby Stills, Nash and Young; Joan Baez; The Who; Arlo Guthrie; Santana – the list goes on and on.

For three days, 500,000 people somehow survived traffic jams, rain, wind, sun – and each other. 

“We suddenly found ourselves in the city running business, not the concert running business,” said one of the organizers.

Distributing food and water to the huddled masses became a massive challenge – but everyone pitched in and somehow it all came together – aided by John Morris talking to the crowd, spreading good vibes – keeping everyone mellow.

Readily available marijuana in large quantities probably didn’t hurt.

What many don’t realize is that it was a group of very young, very inexperienced individuals who organized Woodstock.  Two trust fund babies in their twenties, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, along with Michael Lang and Artie Kornfield, thought it would be cool to put on a big, outdoor concert – the likes of which the world had never seen.

Surviving members of the original team tell their tale. John Morris is third from left.

The original location, 50 miles away, got nixed by city fathers.  Things seemed pretty hopeless, but a few days later, Max Yasgur, who was following the news of the concert’s trials and tribulations, called to invite the organizers to check out his farm. 

It was an immediate “yes.”

Those building the stage and setting up the electricity, sound and lights had to get paid extra in order to finish on time.  When the event started, helicopters had to be rented so the bands wouldn’t get stuck in traffic.    

The festival’s losses ran around $3 million, but the two financial backers swore they would make everyone whole. Proceeds from the original “Woodstock” film allowed organizers to eventually retire all debts.  It took ten years, but they did it.

For several years now, some friends and I have relived all this through John Morris.  He always has yet another story to tell.  

Our parents had D-Day; we had Woodstock.  I guess that makes John Morris our General Dwight D. Eisenhower.


Jeff Hall

Posted on August 18, 2019 19:27


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