Sunday, August 2, 2009

Woodstock stories: Chip Monck

Beginning today, I'll be writing a series of posts about the events and personalities at the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair, held in 1969—40 years ago—in Bethel, NY. This weekend of music, performed by an eclectic variety of 32 different acts, became one of the most important events in the history of rock-and-roll...and U.S. popular culture.


During the late 1960s, rock-and-roll concerts always featured a local personality—usually a radio disc jockey—introducing the groups. The organizers of Woodstock debated whether or not to have a master-of-ceremonies before deciding that they would handle the duties themselves. They ultimately asked Chip Monck, best known as the designer of stage lighting at major venues like the Fillmore West and the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, to be the emcee. Monck designed the lighting for Woodstock and thus was part of the core group responsible for putting on the massive music festival.

It was Monck and his voice who became “the voice of Woodstock.” His understated style, and deep voice, kept the festival organized during the three days, even though the festival was anything but—the traffic jams kept many acts from arriving on time resulting in a constantly changing schedule. It fell to Monck to keep the audience informed and entertained, and to also provide announcements during the torrential downpour which came on day two and threatened the success of the event.

When the show finally started on Friday, August 15, 1969, Monck announced "Sit down, stand up, do whatever you wish to do, but we're ready to start now and I bet you're pleased with that. And, ladies and gentlemen--please--Mr. Richie Havens."

A few years after Woodstock, Monck found himself driving from Los Angeles to San Diego. He pulled off I-5 into a gas station and told the gas pump attendant (yes, in the days before self-serve), "Fill 'er up, boy. High test!" A few yards away, a hippie hitchhiker, who had heard Monck, yelled out in an awed voice, "That voice! I know you--you're the voice of my generation! My God, you're Chip Monck. You're the Voice of Woodstock." A smile crossed Monck's face as he eyed the hitchhiker, then pointed to the backseat of the convertible. "Get in!" he ordered, in his best Woodstock emcee voice.

Chip Monck--the voice of the Woodstock Nation.

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