Oh, what might have been.
Well, reading the previous write ups in this node certainly took me for a stroll down memory lane and while there certainly was an impressive list of performers at this history making event, the list of bands and people who declined offers to play or simply couldn’t make might even be more impressive.
Let's start with Bob Dylan. He was hanging around upstate New York quite a bit during that time and was asked to play but never gave it any serious thought. Besides being booked to play overseas a day before the festival started, Bob was already getting fed up with hippie movement. This was especially true of many of them who made a pilgrimage to his house and camped outside his door.
The Beatles and/or John Lennon. Rumor has it that John said The Beatles would do the gig but only if Yoko Ono and her Plastic Ono Band were also allowed to play. Another conflicting rumor was that John would do the show solo but since he was blocked by the Nixon Administration from entering the country, there was no way he could make it.
The Jeff Beck Group was on the short list to play but Jeff Beck himself disbanded them prior to Woodstock. "I deliberately broke the group up before Woodstock I didn't want it to be preserved."
The Doors were also slated to be on the bill but cancelled at the last minute. Apparently they thought it was going to some kind of reincarnation of the Monterey Pop Festival and decided to kick their heels at home.
Led Zeppelin was also invited but according to their manager turned it down because they didn’t want to be “just another band on the bill.”
The Byrds turned it down because they didn’t feel the event was going to be anything special and that even if they did play, they were concerned that they weren’t going to get paid.
Chicago, (then known as the Chicago Transit Authority) had actually signed up to do the event but were forced to cancel when their promoter, Bill Graham, booked them to play some shows at the Fillmore West.
Tommy James & the Shondells were asked but said no. According to Tommy himself, this is how the offer was presented. “'Yeah, listen, there's this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.' - I can see why they said no.
The Moody Blues. Their name actually appears on some of the posters for the event but they decided to back out at the last minute to play some shows in Paris the following weekend.
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention - "A lot of mud at Woodstock ... We were invited to play there, we turned it down.
Joni Mitchell was originally scheduled to appear but declined shortly afterwards on the basis of some advice from her manager. He felt missing an already scheduled appearance on the Dick Cavett Show wouldn't be a wise career move.
Procol Harum was asked but said no. They were just coming off a long tour and besides, the date of the show was coincided with the due date of lead guitarist Robin Trower and the birth of his baby.
Jethro Tull also turned down the gig. Apparently Ian Anderson knew the event was going to be huge but he also had a distaste for hippies and he was concerned about inappropriate behavior and nudity. Besides the money wasn’t right either.
Last but not least, Iron Butterfly was booked and ready to go. They’re even listed on the Woodstock poster for the event as scheduled to perform. Too bad they got stuck at an airport and couldn’t make it in time.
So there you have it. Just imagine if half of those acts would’ve played. Even though the event made history in its own right, I imagine if those bands showed up, it would have been twice the event.