How Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young hotwired a truck to get to Woodstock, 1969
We’re taking a trip back to 1969 and the famous Woodstock Festival. More specifically, we’re focusing on a trip that Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young shared with one another.
Woodstock in 1969 was iconic for a number of reasons. However, this story linked to the landmark event may be even greater than Jimi Hendrix’s groundbreaking headline set and National Anthem performance. This was a moment when the guitar God teamed up with Neil Young to remarkably hotwire a pickup truck in order to travel to the festival.
The historic event was held in the summer of 1969 was famously hosted on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York. The festival was billed as ‘An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music’ but instead just referred to it simply as the Woodstock Rock Festival. The first edition of the event attracted a mammoth audience size of more than 400,000 who flocked to the fields on the East Coast for the bash.
For the whole weekend, the weather was torrential. If the event was held in modern-day it would have almost certainly been cancelled due to health and safety measures which were seemingly an afterthought back in the late 1960s.
The first day of Woodstock welcomed a remarkable headline set from a six-months pregnant Joan Baez and, with the likes of The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and The Who taking all taking to the stage before a headline set from Jefferson Airplane, a performance which began at 8am because of the torrid weather. The Woodstock lineup was jam-packed with now-legendary names.
Sunday evening—or in fact Monday morning—would be the night that etched the incredible Jimi Hendrix into rock royalty as he delivered a headline performance of the highest calibre at 8:30 am following an incredible showing from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on the main stage. It would see Hendrix become an icon.
During an appearance by Neil Young on the Mary Turner hosted radio interview programme ‘On The Record’, he was asked about what fond memories he has of the inaugural Woodstock Festival and Young’s response was nothing short of magnificent.
Young recalled: “One of the things I remember about Woodstock was trying to get there to play. As it turns out, the charter plane I was on with Jimi Hendrix flew into the wrong airport. We were supposed to be picked by a helicopter. The roads were jammed and there was nobody at the airport, so we had no way to get to the concert.”
He then added: “So we’re standing at the airport with Melvin Belli [an attorney] trying to figure out what to do. And Melvin Belli steals this pickup truck parked at the airport. So it’s the three of us in this stolen pickup truck trying to get to the Woodstock concert to play—Jimi, Melvin and me. That’s what I really remember about Woodstock.”
The anecdote reads like a scene straight from an action film and if there is ever a follow up to the 2013 Andre 3000 starring Hendrix biopic Jimi: All Is by My Side which follows his path from obscurity to international megastar between 1966 and1967 then this hot-wiring incident undoubtedly deserves to heavily feature.