ON MY WAY TO WOODSTOCK
Music & Lyrics: Sal Belloise
My name is Sal Belloise, and I turned 40 on July 28th. I've been planning my birthday present since April, a trip to the 25th anniversary of Woodstock at Yasgar's farm.
I've been a performing songwriter for almost 20 years, playing guitar and singing in night clubs and at concerts across the United States and Europe.
When word came of the Woodstock concert in Bethel, N.Y., I quickly booked myself into a club in Lake George in the Adirondacks. I performed through June and July, using my free time for song writing. One of the songs I composed, "On My Way To Woodstock" was a big success with local crowds. Two weeks before the festival, I recorded the song in my apartment on a four track cassette and drove copies to all the radio stations in the area. Soon I was on the air.
While performing at the club, I was offered the chance to sing my song on an NBC television show. Of course I accepted. I'll be doing the show in the next few weeks.
Finally, the weekend of the festival arrived. I bought $30 worth of groceries, grabbed my guitar and sleeping bag, and drove off in my van.
I had two copies of "On My Way To Woodstock" planning to give them to the most important people I met at the festival. I was daydreaming about performing at the exact location where Hendrix played 25 years earlier. Naturally, I got lost, but as fate would have it, I found myself in front of the radio station. I stopped, got directions, left a tape and was on my way. About 60 miles down the road I left my remaining tape at another radio station and was on my way again.
Late Thursday afternoon, I arrived at the original Woodstock site. there were approximately 1200 people camping, at least I wasn't the only one who felt a cancelled concert in Bethel was better than the "new" Woodstock 50 miles away. I parked on a hill overlooking the stage-yes, there was a stage and sound system in place.
Excerpts from my diary:
Thursday night (August 11) - Campfires light the darkness - people pounding homemade drums - balloons full of nitrous oxide selling as fast as they can be blown up. The sign at the entrance "Fort Apache" - it's no joke. Band playing on stage, but it's a free for all. I'll try later.
Friday night (August 12) - The crowd has swelled to 6 or 7 thousand. a flatbed trucks in place creating a new stage. I want to play now, but I know I should wait for the big stage to be completed. It looks like rain is on the way. God must be smiling on me because I've camped next to the Associated Press Photographers. We party late into the night. They are taking dozens of pictures of me.
Saturday afternoon (August 13) The stage is nearing completion- the crowd is about 10,000 strong-hundreds of musicians signing up for a slim chance to get on stage. Rain is coming and might last for days. I decided not to wait for the big stage - I dress for the possible performance in standard folk singer garb - jeans, button down shirt and black leather vest - grab my acoustic guitar and fight my way down the hill to the stage.
Melanie and her daughters are performing. I seek out the stage manager who is surrounded by 25 people trying to get on the line-up. There's an hour wait just to talk to him. Finally, it's my turn. He asks in an uninterested voice, "Yeah, who are you? What do you do?" "I'm Sal Belloise", I reply, "I have a song "ON MY WAY TO WOOD STOCK" I'd like to play." He looks up, smiles and says, "I heard your song on the radio this morning. I love it! I'll get you up next .
The M.C. pronounces my name wrong but gets the song title right. I'm nervous; I don't care. I play four of my original songs. They like me. Things couldn't be better. I'm asked back to play on the big stage tonight if there's time between the big name acts. The rains pour down.
Saturday night (August 13) The big stage is completed - I'm dead tired - I head for the stage. Melanie is on again. What a trouper! Arlo Guthrie, Sha Na Na and other celebrities are milling around backstage. I'm one of the two non-stars being considered for the nights line-up. I look out on an ocean of people, no guessing the numbers now. Film crews race from one event to another, I get a 3-minute interview in a Woodstock film documentary.
I get an offer to play tomorrow at Freedom Festival down the road. I say hello to Melanie and tell her I'm from Florida too-I smile and nod at Arlo. I don't play this night, but I remember I'm a guitar player from Florida with a birthday wish that came true.
Sunday afternoon (August 14) - Yasgar's far is a mud bowl. I wave good-bye to my Associated Press friends as a farmer tows my van behind his tractor. I give my last $7.
What a 40th birthday, a song on the radio, a TV appearance, and a live performance at the 25th Woodstock Anniversary Festival. I can't wait for the 50th anniversary. In the meantime, I'll be returning home to Clearwater to work on my latest recording project.