It is often printed that Led Zeppelin was at one time booked to play Woodstock but later opted out. This is not the case, says Woodstock organizer Michael Lang. Led Zeppelin was never booked to perform at the festival.
In a conversation with Lemon Squeezings last week, Lang remembered talking with Led Zeppelin's manager, Peter Grant, in 1969 about booking the band for Woodstock but was unable to obtain a commitment. "Their manager [Peter Grant] said he didn't want them to be just another band on the bill," Lang recalled.
It's an odd explanation, given that Led Zeppelin played similar festivals near Seattle and Austin two weeks before and after Woodstock, alongside many of the same acts that were at Woodstock. But when it came time for the three days of peace and music, Led Zeppelin took its serving of "Whole Lotta Love" elsewhere.
Woodstock was the second gig for a supergroup called Crosby, Stills & Nash. It was the breakthrough gig for a San Francisco band called Santana. Jimi Hendrix made an iconic appearance, turning the Star-Spangled Banner into an expression of how an abandoned generation felt about the war and the establishment. The Who played its genre-bending rock opera "Tommy."
Led Zeppelin, meanwhile, chose to play four gigs over the weekend Woodstock was taking place.
- The first was a headlining gig over Jethro Tull and Sweet Smoke on Friday, Aug. 15, at the Hemisfair Arena in San Antonio, Texas.
- The other three, however, were a short driving distance from Woodstock.
- Two on Saturday, Aug. 16, took place at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, N.J., with Led Zeppelin headlining over Woodstock act Joe Cocker.
- The weekend closed with a Sunday night performance at the Oakdale Musical Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. Led Zeppelin was the only band on the bill that day.
Peter Grant addressed the subject in one of the final interviews he gave before his death. What he told Dave Lewis in 1993 indicated Grant's own personal preference for having Led Zeppelin be the only band on a concert bill, rather than one in a multitude. This explanation obviously gels with the one Michael Lang now cites. Lang's remarks to Lemon Squeezings on Aug. 10 followed a panel discussion and screening of "Woodstock: Now & Then," a new documentary directed by two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple.
Lang served as executive producer of the film and is also featured prominently in it, as is fellow Woodstock organizer Artie Kornfeld, who also took part in the panel discussion after the screening. Also joining the discussion was singer Grace Potter, who was a generation younger than the others present. She said her dad skipped out on attending Woodstock because he preferred to see Led Zeppelin at one of the weekend concerts.
The documentary airs, in edited form, on the History Channel tomorrow night, Aug. 17, at 8 p.m. Eastern / 7 p.m. Central.