On April 21, 2012, fifty-five members of the Norwegian Folk College visited Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. During the morning they toured the museum and grounds. In the afternoon they were bussed over to Woodstock, NY to learn about the backstory of the 1969 festival. While in Woodstock, some took the Roots of Woodstock walking tour led by Weston Blelock. Others attended the Art and Craft of Songwriting workshop—with such songwriters as John Sebastian and Robbie Dupree—hosted by the Woodstock Writers Festival.
On August 13th the Historical Society of Woodstock (HSW) screened Jud Yalkut’s Clarence and Aquarian Rushes at Upstate Films. The first film is about Clarence Schmidt, a sculptor and sixties pop icon, and the second one is a documentary about the Woodstock Festival of 1969. The event was a fundraiser for the HSW. Over 75 attended on a very busy summer weekend.
Jud Yalkut, the filmmaker, was on hand to introduce the films and answer questions. Gerd Stern, who helped to produce Clarence, was also in attendance. Both films were made in the USCO tradition, meaning that they combined film with video plus special effects and live actors. Stern is the current president of USCO while Yalkut was the filmmaker-in-chief during the late sixties. The last time Yalkut and Stern were together was at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era exhibit in 2007.
At the reception immediately following the screening, FishCastle, comprised of Cyril Caster (folk musician and ’69 Sound-Out producer) and Catherine Braik Selin, entertained the audience with exquisite tunes.
Billy Faier, one of the co-founders of the Woodstock Folk Festival, came to Woodstock as 14-year-old in 1945. According to Eleanor Walden, Billy was a very independent teenager. She remembers visiting his apartment in the mid-1940s in Greenwich Village and listening to folk and blues records. One time in 1946 she and Billy came up to Woodstock for the weekend. Faier loved Woodstock. When he was growing up in Brooklyn, he recalls on his website, he was patronized, ignored and abused by so-called schoolmates. Upon relocating to Woodstock he attended Kingston High School and found he was treated much the same. However, when he moved out and about in the Woodstock community he encountered a group of people who accepted him. These were the artists of the Woodstock Art Colony.
During the 1950s Faier became proficient on the five-string banjo. He recorded a series of albums, including two for the Riverside label and another on Electra. In 1959 he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival. By 1962 Billy was an accomplished and connected folk music veteran, so it makes sense that he co-founded the Woodstock Folk Festival, which occurred that year. After the festival Bernard and Mary Lou Paturel hired him as a talent booker for the Café Espresso.
In 1964 Doug Gilbert, a photojournalist on assignment for Look Magazine, came up to Woodstock, NY, to do a story on Bob Dylan. The folk singer was on the cusp of superstardom. The next two years saw Dylan release Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Gilbert took a slew of photos, but Look never ran the story. Years later he unearthed the photos in a shoebox.
On the cover of the Roots book at left, Dylan is pictured exiting the Café Espresso driveway onto Woodstock’s Tinker Street. Riding shotgun on Dylan’s Triumph Motorcycle is John Sebastian.