From Texas to Woodstock


Johnny Winter

When I worked at a small Southeast Texas daily newspaper, we used to try to find “local” angles in pretty much everything in order to have something special for the readers.  Once I thought about writing a column for the 10th anniversary of Woodstock (that would be in 1979) about all of the people from the Golden Triangle area of Texas (Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange) who played at Woodstock.  It was a pretty lame idea back then to put into print, but today this is the internet — and it’s the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, so why not?

Ahem.  You know about Janis Joplin, I suppose.  Born in Port Arthur, Texas, attended high school there, left for Austin then San Francisco and hit it big with Big Brother and the Holding Company.  But when she played Woodstock she’d already left that band – she had the Kozmic Blues Band playing behind her (which unfortunately didn’t include her Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew).  Joplin is a legend and you know her place in history – in a week or so we’ll tell another story about her.


Larry Graham - nice 'fro!

Another dude from southeast Texas who played at Woodstock was Larry Graham, bassist for Sly and the Family Stone.  Born in Beaumont, Larry probably invented the “slap” bass style heard on hundreds (thousands?) of funk-soul records in the 1970s.  He played with Sly Stone (from Denton, Texas, by the way) from 1967 until 1972, when he formed his own successful band, Graham Central Station.  Playing at about 3 a.m. on the Sunday morning of Woodstock (following Janis Joplin), Sly and the Family Stone had black and white members and rocked the peace-and-love crowd with some solid soul from their most recent album Stand!

Perhaps the greatest concentration of Golden Triangle artists was represented in the performance of Johnny Winter, who played at Woodstock on Sunday midnight going into Monday.  Winter, who wasn’t born in Texas but moved there with his family as a youngster, played at Woodstock with a band including drummer “Uncle John” Turner (Port Arthur born and raised), bass player Tommy Shannon (from north Texas) and the pride of Beaumont, keyboardist Edgar Winter.  Johnny’s set at Woodstock gave the festival its blues and roots feel – Edgar sang lead on the John Loudermilk standard “Tobacco Road” and the group encored with Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”  (Shannon went on, of course, to perform as part of Double Trouble with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Uncle John Turner gigged with a number of bands until his death in 2007.)

You don’t see Johnny Winter and Janis Joplin in the original Woodstock movie but Sly Stone was prominently featured.  To capitalize on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, Sony has issued a series of CDs called The Woodstock Experience, featuring classic performances from the festival paired with classic albums from the same artists.   It just so happens that Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter and Sly and the Family Stone each have an installment in the series.  Jefferson Airplane and Santana are also featured.  Go here to find out about The Woodstock Experience series.

And if you aren’t busy in mid-August, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is celebrating Woodstock’s 40th anniversary with “Heroes of Woodstock” on Saturday, August 15.  Bethel Woods Center is built on the hill overlooking the original Woodstock site and this concert ought to be pretty special – it will feature performances from Ten Years After, Mountain, Canned Heat, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Starship and the Levon Helm Band.  You can still get tickets here.

I think I mentioned all the Golden Triangle artists at Woodstock … let me know if I missed any.  See you at Woodstock!

MP3: “Love City” by Sly and the Family Stone (live at Woodstock)

MP3:  “I Can’t Stand It” by Johnny and Edgar Winter (live at Woodstock)

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

One Response to “From Texas to Woodstock”

  1. Thank you for this share. I love Johnny Winter and his guitar style, unfortunately I will never see him play.



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