Woodstock Music Festival is without a doubt one of the most well-known events in music history. Many stories have been told about the events of that inspiring weekend in Bethel, NY. Stories of the nearly unknown performers who became overnight stars, of the huge names who didn't make it to the festival, of the mishaps, near disasters, and kindness of strangers.
Richie Havens definitely wins for the best entrance at the Woodstock music festival. Originally set to go on fifth on the first day of the festival, Havens was flown in by helicopter to open the show as he was the only one who could fit with all of his gear. Armed with his Guild D40 he opened what was to be a 20 minute set with “High Flying Bird”. Havens played almost exclusively in open tunings and had a unique style of barring chords with his massive thumb. Over 2 hours later, and having played every song he knew, Havens started into a now iconic improvisation named “Freedom”.
On the morning of Monday, August 18th, 1969, Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys took the stage at the Woodstock music festival. Throughout that two hour set, Hendrix played a 1968 Fender Stratocaster in Olympic White that he had purchased the year before at Manny's music in New York. The guitar was a stock right handed guitar that Jimi had strung upside down and played lefty. Playing the guitar this way gave Jimi the ability to do those enormous tremolo dives that can be heard on his rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.
10 Years After performed at Woodstock on Sunday night. The performance was plagued with technical issues due to the high humidity. The band had trouble remaining in tune and the recording equipment was only able to capture one song from their performance. With his signature “Big Red” Gibson ES-335 Alvin Lee breaks into a blistering and intense version of “I’m Going Home” which became one of the highlights of the festival. In later years Gibson made a signature model of the guitar and lee retired “Big Red” to the vault stating it had become too valuable to tour with after a fan had offered him half a million dollars for it.
The Gibson SG Special earns a second spot on our list, only this one was both played, and briefly wielded as a weapon by Pete Townsend. In what has become known as the Abbie Hoffman Incident, Townsend reportedly knocked Abbie Hoffman off the stage, after Hoffman grabbed the microphone to protest the incarceration of John Sinclair of the White Panther Party. But it's The Who's memorable performance of songs from the rock opera, Tommy, that has to be included in our top 5!
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