Saturday, August 17, 2019

WOODSTOCK - Part Three (August 17th)

During our 40th Anniversary celebration, longtime Forgotten Hits Reader Bill Hengels supplied this interesting story about a couple who were at the original festival.  (Where the heck do they find these people after all these years?!?!?)
Sadly, we lost Bill a few years ago … he was always an active contributor to our efforts here in Forgotten Hits … and also a true fan of what we did.  He is missed.

I can tell you this … 

One glance at this photo and you'll know IMMEDIATELY who we're talking about. It's been etched in our brains for nearly 40 years now!!! Enjoy!  (kk)

I saw this last week in the papers. Thought it was timely for your article on Woodstock!

Woodstock concert's undercover lovers, Nick and Bobbi Ercoline, 40 years after summer of love
Updated Tuesday, July 7th 2009, 3:08 PM
© Burk Uzzle / Courtesy Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

Love in 1969: Nick and Bobbi Ercoline were immortalized on the cover of the original 'Woodstock' album in 1970, 
as well as on the movie poster.

And still going strong in 2009 -

the couple, now both age 60, reprise their iconic pose nearly 40 years later.

Of all the images snapped during the original Woodstock weekend, one stands above all: a young couple huddled together in a blanket, standing alone in a sea of people lying on wet ground.

It's an enduring image of love, care and protection that earned iconic status through its placement on the cover of the original "Woodstock" album in 1970, as well as on the movie poster.

Forty years later, the couple in the photo - Nick and Bobbi Ercoline, both 60 - remain together. They married two summers after the fabled weekend, and they still live less than an hour's drive from the original concert site of Bethel, N.Y., and within spitting distance of where they both grew up.

Nick Ercoline works for the Orange County, N.Y., Department of Housing. Bobbi is a resident nurse at the elementary school in their hometown of Pine Bush.

The 40th anniversary of the ultimate hippie be-in, this Aug. 15-17, has thrown the Ercolines into the spotlight again - something they never expected or sought.

They say they remember nothing of the original shot, taken by Burk Uzzle. "We weren't striking a pose," Nick says. "We were as surprised as everybody to see that photo on the album cover."

They discovered it while at a friend's house listening to the album and passing around the gatefold jacket. First, Nick recognized the famous yellow butterfly staff in the left corner. "It belonged to this guy Herbie," Nick says. "We latched on to him that day because he was having a very bad experience. He was tripping pretty heavily and he had lost his friends. After I saw that staff I said, 'Hey that's our blanket.' Then I said, 'Hey, that's us.'"

Bobbi, then 20, wasn't overly impressed. "Woodstock was over and done with at that time," she says. "It didn't seem like a big deal. The only thing was that then I had to tell my mother I had gone. She didn't know. But by then, she didn't mind."

The two had arrived in the middle of the weekend, a rare feat given that all main roads were closed by then. "We were local kids, so we knew the back roads," Nick says. "About 5 miles away we abandoned this big white 1965 Chevrolet Impala station wagon."

The two didn't realize the impact their photo had until Woodstock's 20th anniversary, when the world's media began seeking them out. In fact, their memories of the original event have more to do with the scene than the music, because they were too far away to hear or see much.

"I remember the rain, the lack of toilets and the body odor," Bobbi says.  "I also remember an orange haze from the glowing lights of the stage. It was everywhere, lighting up the sky."

The pair had met only three months earlier, over Memorial Day weekend, at the bar where Nick worked. "This waiter brought this beautiful blond in one day and said, 'This is my girlfriend; keep an eye on her,'" Nick explains. "Every night she stood in front of me and we got friendlier and friendlier. Then one weekend he made the mistake of leaving her home while he went to the shore with the guys and he never told her. That was the end of that. And the beginning of this."

Despite all the time gone by, Nick says they still get recognized. "We were in Germany, and right when we walked into the hotel they knew who we were."

As to why their photo was chosen, Nick has a theory. "It's peaceful, which is what the event was about," he says. "And it's an honest representation of a generation. When we look at that photo I don't see Bobbi and me. I see our generation."
-- submitted by Bill Hengels, 2009

And finally, a '60's FLASHBACK of our own:

Eons ago, we interviewed Henry Gross for Forgotten Hits. Here's what HE had to say about the whole Woodstock Experience:

Prior to his success as a solo artist, Henry Gross started his career as the original lead guitarist in the camp '50's group Sha Na Na back in the late '60's. (Performing at WOODSTOCK just HAD to be one of the career highlights for this guy!!!) So we asked him about it!

FORGOTTEN HITS: You obviously had a real appreciation for the rock music that started it all in order to have been involved with Sha Na Na from the very beginning. Can you tell us how the concept for that band came about?

HENRY GROSS: Sha Na Na started when a college glee club, "The Columbia Kingsmen", did a few oldies at a school pub called " The Lion's Den" to a tumultuous response. Seeing this, the brother of one of the members, George Leonard, had the vision and put the concept to the members. Some stayed, some quit when the new direction was taken. I was at a different college but was in a band with two of the members of that glee club. They asked me to join and I did.

FH: The band took a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the music of the '50's in their stage act but musically and vocally were right on the money ... in other words, the music never suffered. How did Sha Na Na happen to be booked at Woodstock? What was that whole experience like? There couldn't have been a less-likely audience for you to play to!!!

HG: After playing at the hottest club in New York, The "Steve Paul Scene" and playing at "The Fillmore East" to incredible reactions, we were added to the bill at "Woodstock". Woodstock was great fun. Got to drive to the stage (for about three hours) with Jerry Garcia! Great guy! I also got to spend time with Jimi Hendrix, who I'd gotten to know fairly well through a guy called Velvert Turner who sat next to me in "The Midwood High School Mixed Chorus" in Brooklyn. Velvert was very close with Jimi and I was lucky to have had the opportunity to know both of them, as they were really great and talented guys. Also met and spoke to Alvin Lee, who is a friend of mine today, although he has no recollection of our meeting then. Why would he? It was right after he came off stage and there were 300,000 other folks talking to him at approximately the same time!

In many ways, 1969 seemed to be the first time we as a musical society took a look back at our rock and roll roots. Certainly Sha Na Na's "camp" performance at Woodstock gave us a fun way to relive some of this great music ... but we can't hold them solely responsible for this trend in nostalgia. Several other factors certainly helped to influence this trend.

Elvis' 1968 Television Comeback Special, for example, did it for me ... I've told the story before about how I only tuned into this in the first place because I had read in some teen magazine that Ringo Starr was going to be appearing, playing drums on some of Elvis' songs. By 1968, Elvis was pretty much off the radio ... his mid-'60's hits weren't making much of an impression on the charts ... but in December of 1968 he COMPLETELY blew me away when he performed some of his biggest '50's hits clad in his black leather outfit. I simply HAD to have this music ... and went out the next day to buy copies of most of the songs I heard that night. (Fortunately, a nearby record shop had a selection of Golden Oldies 45s and I was able to pick up the Elvis hits "Heartbreak Hotel", "All Shook Up", "Hound Dog", "Love Me Tender", "Can't Help Falling In Love", "One Night" and "Guitar Man" that day ... along with his brand new single, "If I Can Dream", which would put The King back up at the top of the charts again for the first time in a long time.)

Keep in mind that Elvis' greatest contribution to the advancement of rock and roll music was already a full decade behind him by 1968 ... after he got out of the Army, he started cranking out all those God-awful movies and saw most of his chart action reflected in the title tunes and soundtrack filler from those films. In 1968, he introduced a whole new generation (myself included) to the music and excitement we missed the first time around. 

Keep in mind, too, that in 1969 Oldies Radio didn't exist yet ... although within a couple of years this would become a VERY viable format of radio programming. Back then, our oldies were the hits of the late '50's and early '60's ... Top 40 Radio pretty much only played the hits of the day in repeated fashion ... there really wasn't anybody committed to keeping this older music alive or in our consciousness. 

Quite honestly, music was changing and evolving SO quickly back then, those early hits probably seemed even more passé then than they do to so many programmers now!  (Here in 2019, oldies radio seems to only exist on the Internet … very few mainstream terrestrial stations are programming this music these days.  Thus again we salute Me-TV-FM for proving that there is still a market for all this great music and memories.)

Thanks to the Woodstock concert film, Sha Na Na was singled out as providing a fun, nostalgic look back in a camp sort of way ... but Ten Years After ALSO incorporated some of these early hits into their performance of "Goin' Home" that night at Woodstock. And let's not forget the big Cat Mother and the Newsboys Hit "Good Old Rock And Roll" from earlier in '69 that ran a medley of Sweet Little Sixteen / Long Tall Sally / Chantilly Lace / Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On / Blue Suede Shoes and Party Doll together ... produced by Woodstock closer Jimi Hendrix no less! Certainly ALL of these factors helped to introduce a whole new audience to "Good Time" Rock and Roll.

Soon, movies like "American Graffiti" and television shows like "Happy Days" became THE way to look back to "Where Were You In '62?" ... I personally discovered some of my all-time favorite oldies (like "Since I Don't Have You" by The Starliners and "All Summer Long" by The Beach Boys and "Sixteen Candles" by The Crests ... which Sha Na Na ALSO did an incredible job on, by the way) ... "I Only Have Eyes For You" by The Flamingos, "The Stroll" by The Diamonds, "Come Go With Me" by The Del-Vikings and SO many others thanks to the "American Graffiti" soundtrack.  Hearing this music for the very first time was like that magical moment in “The Wizard Of Oz” when your entire world changes from black and white to color … I had to stop and by the 2-LP Soundtrack Album on my way home from the movie theater … I just couldn’t absorb it all fast enough.  "Happy Days" took it a step further by pounding "Rock Around The Clock" and "Blueberry Hill" into our heads every Tuesday Night.  I continued to dig deeper and deeper to discover all that I had missed prior to my discovery of Top 40 Radio during The British Invasion.

In fact, The British Invasion helped fuel my interest even further … 

While it’s true that most of these early rock artists had been absent from the airwaves for quite a few years, thanks to the artists of The British Invasion in the mid-'60's, much of this music was revamped and fed back to us, opening up a whole new means of discovery.  (All they were doing was taking our American rock and roll, which inspired them to pick up instruments in the first place, putting their own spin on it, and then feeding it back to us.  All I know is, it worked … Good Music is Good Music.)

By the late ‘60’s, there was a definite turn to much "heavier" and progressive rock ... but by 1972 ... right around the time that Oldies Radio first came into prominence ... some of the biggest Rock And Roll Forefathers were back up at the top of the charts when Elvis, Chuck Berry and Rick Nelson ALL scored Top Five Hits with the likes of "Burning Love", "My Ding-A-Ling" and "Garden Party" respectively. Even '60's artists who had been absent from the charts for a while were enjoying newfound success ... The Hollies with "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress", Johnny Rivers with "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie-Woogie Flu" and Cher with "The Way Of Love", all of which were MAJOR hits in '72 by artists we hadn't even THOUGHT about in ages!!! (Let's face it ... although they performed at Woodstock and would even go on to have their own TV show, Sha Na Na never actually had a hit record!!!) 

1972 was ALSO the year that Don McLean gave us "American Pie", a look back at Buddy Holly and "The Day The Music Died" ... "Rockin' Robin" was a hit all over again in the hands of little Michael Jackson as was "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by Robert John (incredibly produced by a couple of the original Tokens who first took that song to #1 back in 1961!) Other big remakes in 1972 include "Puppy Love" and "Too Young" by Donny Osmond, "Hot Rod Lincoln" by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, "Little Bitty Pretty One" by The Jackson Five and "Sealed With A Kiss" by Bobby Vinton, another name from the past.

And quality remakes have been with us ever since, introducing each new generation of radio listeners to the music that made us feel good way back when.

We hope you all enjoyed this look back at The Woodstock Era ... lots more great 1969 Memories to come so please stay with us!