40 Years Later, Glenn, The Old Hippy, Returns to Woodstock
By Marc Mahuzier, Special Correspondent, Ouest-France.  8/15/09
  Trans. Mary Wojtyk, Ed. by Glenn Weiser

Me at the Woodstock site in Bethel, NY, on 8/4/09. I'm pointing in the direction of where my girlfriend Patty, her two brothers, and I were camped at the 1969 Woodstock festival. - G.W. (Photo Marc Mahuzier)


On August 4, 2009, I returned at last to the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival in Bethel, NY, which I had attended when I was 17. I was with Marc Mahuzier, a reporter at large for the French daily Ouest-France, which circulates to 800,000 in the Brittany-Normandy region. Mahuzier interviewed me for an August 15 press story, about my experience at Woodstock,  took pictures, and filmed me standing on the gravel patch where the stage had been playing an fingerstyle acoustic guitar version of Jimi Hendrix's Red House to the ghosts of Woodstock. It felt strange being there-as Mahuzier observed, the former cow pasture where the largest concert audience ever assembled in one place once sat stoned digging the best rock music of the day is now a well-kept lawn, looking more like a golf course than the place where the 1960s counterculture reached its crest. At first I thought the scene sterile and wondered what had become of the hippy zeitgeist. But as I lingered, people came in a steady stream to the small Woodstock monument that sits on the northwest corner of the grounds to see the place where history was made and pay silent homage to the ideal of peace and love. 
     Marc Mahuzier's story, which appears below, was translated from the original French by Mary

Watch the video clip of me playing Red House at Bethel Woods.
View the original story (in French).

15-16 August 2009
The Story - Forty Years Afterwards, Glenn, "The Old Hippie," Returns to Woodstock

The organizers expected 35,000 people.  Instead, there were close to a half-million.  From the 15th to the 17th of August, 1969, the American festival of Woodstock was a world-renowned event, and the climax of the hippie movement.  Glenn Weiser is back on the grounds where he witnessed "Three days of love and peace". 

BETHEL WOODS (From our Special Correspondent) - He is standing in the middle of the field, with his massive silhouette thickened by the guitar strung over his back. With one hand, he points to a patch of the grass: "This is where I was sitting throughout the concert. Our tent was over there, at the other corner of the woods."  About fifty meters away, there was a gravel rectangle, like a small parking lot. There was the scene-a place of magic where for three days, the cream of rock music played. The dazzling Hendrix, the six-months-pregnant Joan Baez, Santana with his drummer prodigy, Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Alvin Lee, the Who, Credence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Canned Heat. We embraced the ground they walked upon.

Glenn Weiser was one of the 450,000 youths who participated in Woodstock, that festival that lasted the 15th, 16th and 17th of July 1969, and yet echoed around the entire planet.  Moved by the pilgrimage that took him back after forty years, he gazed at the amphitheater-shaped hill. With its grass closely cropped and its fences in good repair, the place looks like a golf course now. "When I left this place it was a cow field. Today, it looks like a lawn!," commented the old hippie, who has since become a guitar teacher, specializing in Celtic and American roots music.

At the time, Glenn was 17 years old.  He had long hair down to his mid-back and protested against the war in Vietnam.  The son of an aeronautical engineer, he was from the small New Jersey town of Glen Rock. "Everyone knew about the festival.  The radio stations never stopped talking about it."  On Thursday the 14th, in the afternoon, after having obtained parental consent, he hopped into an old Chevy belonging to Sergio, the brother of his Argentine girlfriend Patricia. Another one of her brothers, Claudio, was ready for the expedition. They brought camping gear, food - which they barely touched - and diverse illicit substances including acid (LSD), marijuana, hashish - which they made liberal use of, during those "three days of love and peace". 

"We each had thirty dollars to get in. But when we arrived, the gates had been taken down, and we no longer needed it."  Coming from the south, they had evaded the gigantic bottleneck of traffic that had shut down the main highway through New York State. Such an event was previously unheard of. Once the tent was planted, the small group took their place in the crowd. 

"From where we were, we could see the whole scene pretty well.  The sound was good, and not too loud despite the huge towers of speakers."

The memories of my friend Glenn are a mix of precision and fog.  "The hashish and marijuana were going around. We also passed around some cheap red wine in jugs." He remembers these benefits with great detail, but could not recall who played when, or whether it was night or day. More than anything, it was the ambiance that left a marked impression. 

"It was more than friendly: it was brotherly, as if we were all followers of the same religion.  I have never found that again."  Each person helped one another. Glenn passed the rainstorm that deluged the festival on Saturday afternoon under an improvised canopy made of ponchos and pieces of plastic. He was also struck by the incredibly huge crowd. "In every little town like Glen Rock, there were a handful of hippies. They were on the fringe. Me, I horrified my parents with my long hair, and, to them, strange beliefs. But at Woodstock, there were a half-million of us. For the first time, we realized that the counterculture was a powerful movement in the country, and that we could truly change things."

In the following years, Max Yasgur, owner of the farm on which the festival took place, ran the diary as before. In 1984, a small monument bearing the names of the performers was placed at the site to honor the event. It wasn't until 2000 that a museum opened on the grounds, and the land became officially open to visitors.  Unfortunately, it does not attract large crowds, even in this anniversary summer. Only a steady trickle of the curious and the nostalgic - old hippies with gray pony-tails - come to the site and walk around the field as if visiting a hallowed battleground.

For today, Glenn has chosen to live out a dream of his own. At the spot where the gods of rock once played, he has taken out his guitar and rips into "Red House", by Jimi Hendrix, for an invisible public.  Ah, Jimi!  "He was the greatest.  Not just a virtuoso; a creative genius!" At Woodstock, Hendrix  had played last, on the Monday morning. "Most of the crowd had gone, and we weren't more than 30,000. But I was there!"

--Marc Mahuzier

Photos: (Top) Me beside the Woodstock Monument, which bears the names of musicians and groups who performed in 1969. In the background on the left is the gravel patch where the stage stood; at right is the sloping field where nearly a half-million gathered. (Below) At the monument with fellow festival attendee Duke Devlin, the famously who came to Bethel in August 1969 and never left. He now works for the Bethel Woods museum as the festival "interpreter." Among Devlin's Zen-like quips that day was, "We're here because we're not all there." Looking at the photo of us, it's hard to deny.
 


 

See also-
Woodstock 1969 Remembered by Glenn Weiser  - a firsthand account
Woodstock Program Guide- Highlights - scans from my original copy
The East Village Other reports on Woodstock - 8/20/69 - alternative press report
Woodstock & Hippy Links

Woodstock 1969 Bibliography - Turn on, tune in, read up

Please visit-
My blues, Celtic music,
acoustic guitar and harmonica pages
Liberal and Progressive Websites you should know about
Tim Leary speaks at RPI - 4/8/67
Leaders of the 60s counterculture I've seen or met

Email: banjoandguitar100@yahoo.com
  

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