My Woodstock quest has brought me to some interesting places and the most recent stop brought me to my past. Well, sort of. My grandfather, Abraham Knapp, was a theatrical stage hand who, in one of his last jobs before he died in 1973, operated the lights for the original Broadway run of the musical, "Hair". One of the cast members was Bert Sommer (he played "Woof"). While he was in "Hair", Bert Sommer was signed to Capital Records and started recording his debut record which was produced by Artie Kornfeld, the same Artie Kornfeld who produced the Woodstock festival.
When his musical career took off, Bert Sommer stopped working with my grandfather (If only I started my quest then) and played Woodstock. He was joined by Ira Stone on guitar and Charlie Bilello on bass. Unfortunately, Mr. Sommer died in 1990 and I have been unable to locate Mr Bilello. Therefore, when I discovered an opportunity to see Mr. Stone at a small club in the City, I jumped at it.
It was a benefit for an organization called Save One Person. I wasn't concerned about the charity, pe se; however, the show was also a tribute to the Monterey Pop Festival – so, in addition to the autograph opportunity – it sounded like a good time. I invited my friend, Joe, to meet me at Triad NYC, a club located on 72nd Street, near the Dakota Apartment Building. We grabbed the Recession Special at Gray's Papayabefore entering the Club.
Triad NYC is a small club located on the 2nd floor above an Indian Restaurant. The club seats about 150, and it was mostly empty when we walked in. The first band, I believe their name was "Otto", was finishing its set. There was a short break and then a band billed as the A.S.C.A.P. All-Stars took the stage. They had a loose line-up with people joining and leaving them during their set. One of these people was Halley DeVestern, a Janis Joplin sound-alike who toured with a later day version of Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band played amazing versions of "Summertime" and "Ball and Chain"While their set was playing, I noticed Mr. Stone in the club and obtained his autograph. Shortly after he signed my Poster and Gary's albums, he took the stage, joined by his wife, Maxine "Max" Stone, and played a short set.
Their set was dedicated to the memory of Bert Sommer. Three of the four songs they played were played by Mr. Sommer as part of his ten song set. "Jennifer", which was a song written about fellow "Hair" cast member, and future singer, Jennifer Warnes, opened the set. Max then told a story about how Tim Hardin borrowed and made of with Bert Sommer's guitar just prior to Mr. Sommer's set. They then played Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter". They played a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "America", a song which allegedly earned Bert Sommer the first standing ovation of the Woodstock Festival. They concluded with another Bert Sommer original, "Smile". After their set, with autographs in hand, Joe and I promptly left.