Dan Cole was the lead singer for the Boston-based band Quill
It has been said that it is not the destination that is most important, it’s the journey along the way. And sometimes it’s the journey after, too.
Like many bands in early ’69, we were aware of the rumors going around about the possibility of a massive festival being put together to take place sometime in the summer somewhere in upstate New York. The names being mentioned as potential acts for the festival were mostly big-name, established recording stars, although through the cracks one heard the names of some lesser-known regional acts being bandied about. We had no notion that we could be one of those bands. But our manager Ray Paret, being an ambitious and persistent sort, contacted the festival in June to see if they would be willing to give us a shot. We couldn’t believe it when he told us that Michael Lang, the lead promoter of the festival, had agreed to listen to us play in NYC at Steve Paul’s Scene, one of the hippest live music nightspots in the city.
On the big day, we got on a plane in the mid-morning to fly from Boston to Cincinnati to do a TV show, Scene ’70, that had been previously booked. The plan was to do the TV show, which would be filmed (sorry, no portable video yet) at the Cincinnati Zoo in the early afternoon to be aired later that night. We would catch a plane to NYC, getting there in the early evening. Our roadie Berred Oulette was to pack our equipment into our truck in Boston, drive down to the city and set it up at Steve Paul’s, so that when we arrived we could play almost immediately. And it all worked to plan… except for one thing.
As we flew out of Cincinnati, we hit a huge lightning storm. Not only was it scary, but after an hour or so of circling around, waiting for the storm to subside, the pilot announced we would be diverted and landing in Philly. Oh no… It couldn’t be. We were freaked!
When we got off the plane, Ray immediately ran off to the taxi area and corralled one of those large cabs with jump seats and then called ahead at a pay phone to let Michael know we would be really late, but not to leave. This was before cell phones, even before airplane phones. The six of us, the band and Ray, squeezed into the cab, and it was a real squeeze, with three in the back, two in the jump seats and one upfront with the driver, who had made sure Ray had enough money when he was informed that we were going to NYC, 150 miles away.
I don’t know what we were worried about. NYC nightlife doesn’t even start until 10, which is about when we arrived. Berred had set up our kit and after a brief period to gather ourselves, we played our set. It went by in a blur, but the upshot was that Michael liked us enough to invite us to play at the festival. We thought we had done well given all of the circumstances, but our drummer Roger North later told me he saw B.B. King in the audience giving us some dour looks over our (my) performance shenanigans. Oh well, Quill was not designed around the blues, even though we played some of that, too. A sidebar to the evening was that Johnny Winter had a promo party after our set and was short some sidemen, so he asked our rhythm section — Roger, my brother Jon (bass), Norm Rogers (guitar) and Phil Thayer (keyboards) — to sit-in and jam with him. Jimi Hendrix later joined them all on stage. It was an exciting day capped by an even more exciting evening, and another step in Quill’s journey.