WOODSTOCK: A NEW NATION part 1
Book excerpt from "Aquarius Rising" by Robert Santelli
John Roberts met Joel Rosenman in 1967. Roberts, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, had just taken a job as a reporter for a small news service until he figured out what he wanted to do with his life. Money was the least of his problems. His father, Alfred Roberts, was president of Lydia O'Leary Inc., a large cosmetics firm. His mother had died when he was a child, leaving him a trust fund of over four million dollars. The money was to be handed over to her son in three installments: on his twenty-fifth, thirtieth, and thirty-fifth birthdays.
Joel Rosenman had recently graduated from Yale Law School, and he too searched for something meaningful to do with his life. That was part of the reason Rosenman and Roberts hit it
The two men quickly became good friends, and within a month they were roommates. They hung out together, both looking for something to get involved in that would be fun and profitable. In 1968 they decided to put an advertisement in the New York Times that read: "Young men with unlimited capital looking for interesting and legitimate business enterprises." In less than a week, Roberts and Rosenman, who had recently formed Challenge International Inc., received close to five hundred replies to their ad. Some were preposterous, others enterprising and adventurous, but none of them totally captured their fancy or enthusiasm.
One day a lawyer friend of Joel Rosenman introduced him and John Roberts to two "shaggy-haired individuals with a great idea that needs financial backing." The two long-haired men turned out to be Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld. Their idea was simple and promising: the building of a rock star retreat in New York State which would include an elaborate recording studio, living quarters, and a peaceful atmosphere where rock composers could write and exchange musical ideas in comfort and style. Lang and Kornfeld suggested the site be near or in Woodstock, New York. The town, they explained, was fast becoming a countercultural hotspot, especially with rock musicians. It was located just a couple of hours north of New York City, and it was the home of Bob Dylan.
After the studio and retreat had been constructed and ready for business, Kornfeld suggested that a large concert and gala press party be staged to introduce the structure to the media and rock world. Kornfeld figured that if all went well, such Woodstock locals as Dylan, the Band, and Tim Hardin could headline the concert.
Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang had met when Kornfeld was working with Capitol Records and Lang approached him with a tape of a band he was managing at the time. Prior to his position at Capitol, Kornfeld was a part-time producer and lyricist for a top-40 band, the Cowsills. He had also served as an A&R (artists and repertoire) man with Laurie Records. Lang had once owned a head shop in Florida before moving back to New York to take up managing rock bands. Both men were hip to the music scene, at least more so than either Roberts or Rosenman.
The cash that Lang and Kornfeld talked about was Roberts's money, not Rosenman's. Roberts would soon be receiving the first allotment of his inheritance and was eager to invest it. Because Rosenman was his friend and roommate, Roberts decided to cut him in on any investments he made. But Roberts was no fool. He didn't feel good about handing over a few hundred thousand dollars to a couple of long-haired hipsters for them to invest in a field he knew next to nothing about. Still, for some reason, he liked the idea.
Roberts came up with a modified idea. What if they expanded the concert idea into a two- or three-day rock festival? The profits could be used to finance the rock retreat and recording studio. Roberts would invest a portion of his money to get the festival idea off the ground, but it would be a smaller sum than the original idea called for. Lang and Kornfeld had nothing to lose. Neither did Joel Rosenman. The four agreed on a basic strategy, and Woodstock Ventures Incorporated was formed.