Peter Blum and the Sound-Outs

November 15th, 2010

Peter Blum circa 1969

Peter Blum is a long-time resident of the Woodstock area. His shamanic sound healing practice is widely recognized and supported by the community. In 2009 he was honored with an award from the National Guild of Hypnotists for “a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication and service.” I spoke to him recently by phone to learn about his connection to the Sound-Outs.

Peter started his journey as a folk singer in the Bronx. During the early 1960s he traveled down to Greenwich Village to see such fellow folkie acts as Happy and Artie Traum perform in Washington Square Park. From 1962 he took in performances of Bob Dylan, John Sebastian, Richie Havens and Jimi Hendrix around the Village at venues like the Night Owl Café and the Café Au Go-Go. But soon all his idols were hanging out and performing in Woodstock. In 1965 he became a counselor at the Boys Club of America’s Camp Harriman in East Jewett, NY. One day he heard that John Hammond, Jr. was performing at the Café Espresso. Blum decided to hitchhike to Woodstock to catch the show. Unfortunately he couldn’t get a lift from Mt. Tremper to Woodstock, and missed Hammond’s performance. By 1969 he met Jan Zeitz in Greenwich Village and learned about the Sound-Outs. Zeitz was living with her then boyfriend, Cyril Caster, in a school bus on Pan Copeland’s farm. Caster later booked Blum for a gig at the Sound-Outs.

Blum was fully intending to return to NYC in the fall. But one day as he was walking down Tinker Street he heard a voice in his head say, “This is where you’re supposed to be.” Peter rented a place along Sawkill Road near Woodstock and began to jam with Paul Album (of the band, Woodstock Trucking), Spider Barbour (Chrysalis) and Chris Zaloom (Fear Itself). His group consisted of Richard Ledbetter (bass), Alan Hand on keyboards and a yet-to-be-found drummer. He also hung around with Daoud Shaw (Chrysalis) and Mike Winfield (Colwell-Winfield Blues Band). He started to ingest lots of LSD to raise his consciousness and played in all-night sessions. Others in his circle of acquaintances included Gilles Malkine, Keith Johnson, Martha Velez, Paul Butterfield and Gene Dinwiddie.

One afternoon in late 1970 Fern Hand, Alan Hand’s wife, took Peter to meet Gail Varsi, who was manning a runaways’ hotline on Library Lane. This service eventually morphed into Family of Woodstock, where Blum still volunteers. Around the same time Blum helped to co-manage the Aurora Bookstore. This was an occult shop that was located upstairs from the Corner Cupboard, and was initially founded by Elliott Landy.  Eventually Landy turned it over to Blum and Les Crook—who later became known as Les Invisible. Blum read the contents of the store voraciously. Aurora also sold avant-garde Indian music and Macrobiotic titles. By 1973 he began taking lessons from Karl Berger at his Creative Music Studio. In 1978 he went to Holland to study the sitar, and in the 1990s he began working with magical Tibetan singing bowls. For more information on Peter Blum see www.soundsforhealing.com

~Weston Blelock

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