Monday, August 26, 2019

The Catalyst of Woodstock and Miles From Nowhere

Miles From Nowhere is a novel about a young man whose teen years were often spent in the hospital. Miles at 17 finally gets the kidney transplant he needs, and at 19, after the death of this father, Miles heads out on a 3000-mile trek from California to Woodstock; like everything, it's about the journey. 

Woodstock and this the fascinating country of ours do more than just provide a backdrop to Miles' story, they become characters within the journey. Of course, my research for the novel, which I wrote over the better part of the past three years, includes everything from Woodstock to Kidney Transplants to the American subculture, weaving a story to connect them all.

They say if you were at Woodstock, you don't remember it. Miles remembers. But let's put it into perspective, let's go back to the beginning, not of Miles' story, but the story of Woodstock itself.

In Early 1969, 50 years ago, music entrepreneurs Joel Roseman and John Roberts were the financial backing for what would become Mediasound, a state of the art recording studio in Manhattan that would over time produce artists like Stevie Wonder, Blondie, and Talking Heads. The pair, still in their mid-20s, printed an ad in the New York Times that read, "Young men with unlimited capital looking for interesting, legitimate investment opportunities and business propositions," In February, Michael Lang, considered the impetus behind Woodstock, and his partner, Arthur Kornfeld, approached Roberts and Roseman about funding a studio in the Catskill Mountains near Woodstock New York, the home of Bob Dylan and The Band, Paul Butterfield and Donald Fagan. Instead, Roberts and Roseman proposed a concert festival featuring those same artists. And with that, Woodstock Ventures was born. Told you Bob and The Band were the catalysts of Woodstock).


At this point in time, no one knew what Woodstock would become, indeed, Lang and Kornfeld couldn’t find anyone who wanted to participate until April 1969 when Creedence Clearwater signed on agreeing to play for $10,000, roughly the equivalent of a 100 grand today. CCR’s signing led to the interest of a myriad of others from unknowns like Joe Cocker to Jimi Hendrix and The Who. Interestingly, the event that would host the half-million


strong was a muddy mess from beginning to end, the concert didn’t even take place in Woodstock but some 50 miles away at Yasgur‘s Dairy Farm in Bethel Woods, expected crowd? Just 50,000. First order of business? The Fab Four of Woodstock printed tickets for what they called The Aquarian Festival, Three Days of Peace and Music. One day, $7, just twice what a movie cost at the time; two days $13, all three days, $18. Split four ways, Lang and Kornfeld figured they’d clear enough to build their recording studio.

But things slid downhill from there. Downhill in the mud. Fast forward to July 2, 1969, just six weeks prior to the festival, when the town of Wallkill, just outside the Woodstock city limits, passed an ordinance prohibiting the concert. It wasn't till mid-July that Max Yasgur offered up his 600-acre dairy farm fifty mikes down the road. Now on a timeline of less than a month, there was barely time to build the stage, the outbuildings, the ticket booths or the perimeter fence. The fence wasn't completed and the ticket booths were never even started. Woodstock was now a free concert. 

And here's a bit of a spoiler for the novel; Miles doesn't make it to the three-day concert until day four! Rain, lightning, overcrowding, a lack of facilities turned the three days of peace and love into four days of mud. Miles would make it for Hendrix, though, to see the guitarist iconic performance in front of a skeleton crowd of just 25,000; the other 475,000 had already gone home.

Miles' inspiration was a student of mine who I introduced to John Steinbeck's Travels With Charlie. The student had suffered through two kidney transplants and as his health deteriorated, he, like Steinbeck and Miles, took off on a journey across America. This was the true inspiration for Miles' journey and of Miles himself. Miles From Nowhere is a coming of age novel that I hope you will enjoy, particularly those of you love the music of the 60s and are fascinated by Woodstock. And for me, it's a tribute to a student that, although I didn't know him well, I was able to touch at least on some level.

Miles From Nowhere is available through the AM website and from Amazon. Through Amazon, it is also available for your Kindle and is free to read for those of you who have Kindle Unlimited.

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