Woodstock producer: Roy Rogers, not Hendrix, could have closed

Yeas and Nays,Politics,Jeff Dufour

Jimi Hendrix famously closed the Woodstock Music & Art Fair at 8:30 a.m., the morning of Monday, August 18, long after most attendees had left.

But to hear Michael Lang, the festival's executive producer, tell it, things could have been far different if he had his way.

Speaking at the Newseum Sunday afternoon to promote his new book, "The Road to Woodstock," Lang said Hendrix wasn't his first choice to close the festival. Roy Rogers, "The Singing Cowboy," was.

"Roy Rogers had turned me down," he said. "I wanted 'Happy Trails' to close the festival. We all grew up with Roy Rogers."

Insisting on closing all along, Hendrix did the honors in front of only 35,000 people (out of nearly half a million who showed up during the weekend). "It didn't phase him at all," said Lang.

And yes, like any good Baby Boomer, Lang drew a parallel between Woodstock and the inauguration of President Barack Obama. "[Woodstock] just became this moment of hope in this really weird time," he said. "And that's how I felt at Obama's inauguration."

One person who didn't share the festival's hippie values: Max Yazgur, who owned the farm in Bethel, N.Y., where it took place. "He was a Republican, he was pro-Vietnam War, he was the antithesis of everything we stood for," said Lang. Nevertheless, "He was our hero."

More memories shared by Lang:
-On who gave him the best bargain, talent-wise: Santana, who played for $1,250.
-On who he wished he had gotten to play: Led Zeppelin, "but they didn't want to share the stage with anybody." And John Lennon, who couldn't make it because the Nixon administration likely wouldn't have let him in the country.
-On his favorite memory from Woodstock: "When Richie [Havens] went on and the sound system worked."

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