Welcome to the Woodstock - Preservation Archives
Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival
THE WOODSTOCK SITE
Hurd & West Shore Rds
Designed, Built and Operated the Woodstock '69 Concert Sound System
The Father of Festival Sound
|“I was trying to find someone who could do a
sound system for Woodstock, and there was no one who had ever done
something like that before,” says Michael Lang, promoter of both
Woodstocks. “Then there was this crazy guy in Boston who might want
to take a shot at it.” Lang says they spoke at length, and it left
him feeling that Hanley understood the Herculean task at hand. He
points out that in those days, you couldn’t rent systems—they needed
to be built from scratch.
When the first location for the event fell through, Hanley went with Lang to Max’s farm in a limo, visualized where the stages and sound equipment would go and said, “this is it.” He liked the spot because he could set up the stages and equipment in a big “V,” a design that provided crowd control as well as giving free flowing access to backstage performers. Plus, it meant sound from one stage wouldn’t bleed into another.
In the beginning, Hanley was handling much of the production—picking the crew, even handling the master recording. “It worked very well,” he says of the event. “I built special speaker columns on the hills and had 16 loudspeaker arrays in a square platform going up to the hill on 70-foot towers. We set it up for 150,000 to 200,000 people.
“Of course, 500,000 showed up.”
“I thought the sound was great, and everyone I talked to thought the sound was great,” Lang adds. “Everyone could hear, nothing blew up, and it all hung together perfectly. And it was all mostly on Bill’s instincts.”
Hanley’s social conscience lead him to do work on several anti-war protest rallies and send an entire sound system to South Africa for their Anti-Apartheid Movement, among many other causes.
Excerpt: Parnelli Innovator Honoree, Father of Festival Sound
By: Kevin M. Mitchell
Courtesy: Front of House Online
|Bill Hanley Is A Recipient of the Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award - 20 October 2006|
To put together the sound and lighting system, Lang and Goldstein approached 24-year-old Alan Markoff, the owner of a local hi-fi shop, The Audio Center, in nearby Middletown. In typically haphazard fashion, they picked his name out of the Audio Engineering Society Magazine, where he was listed in the Who's Who of Audio Engineers and the only Woodstock-area resident. Not surprisingly, Markoff was stunned when Lang and Goldstein bowled up and gave him the brief -- to create a sound system from scratch for an outdoor festival that they expected to attract somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people. In fact Markoff thought they were "nuts" and it was a tribute to his organizational abilities that the Woodstock sound crew succeeded as well as they did. Much of the credit for this must go to the unsung hero of the Woodstock sound system, veteran Boston sound engineer Bill Hanley, whom Markoff wisely selected as his chief engineer.
Markoff chose and shipped the basic components (amps speakers etc) to Bethel and Hanley was the one who actually physically assembed all the components, decided their placement, and operated the system.
Markoff did not attend.