Getting There… To Woodstock

Getting There… To Woodstock

It’s been said that it is not the destination that is most important, it’s the journey along the way. And in my experience, sometimes it’s the journey after the journey, too.

Like many bands in early 1969, all of us in Quill had heard the rumors 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 were mostly established recording stars, but through the cracks we heard the names of some lesser-known regional ones being bandied about. We had no notion that we could ever 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 festival’s lead promoter, agreed to listen to us play in New York City at Steve Paul’s Scene, one of the hippest nightspots anywhere in the US.

On the big day, we took a plane in the mid-morning from Boston to Cincinnati to appear on a television show, Scene ’70, that had been previously booked. The plan was to do the show (which was filmed at the Cincinnati Zoo in the early afternoon to be aired later that night), then catch a plane to New York City, arriving in the early evening. Our roadie, Berred Oulette, was to pack our equipment into our truck in Boston, drive down to the Big Apple 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 totally unexpected (and unavoidable) 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’d be diverted and landing in Philadelphia. 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, then called ahead at a pay phone to let Michael know we would be really late, but not to leave. Remember, this was long 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 up front with the driver, who made sure Ray had enough money when he was informed that we were going to New York City (nearly 100 miles from Philly).

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’d done well given the circumstances, but Roger North, our drummer, told me that he saw B.B. King in the audience giving us some dour looks over our (my) performance shenanigans. “Oh well,” I thought. Quill wasn’t designed around the blues, even though we played some of that.

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 joined them all on stage later. It was an exciting day, capped by an even more exciting evening. Yet another step in Quill’s journey….

(by Dan Cole)

Dan Cole was Quill’s lead singer.

Published On: July 16, 2024