PH: You were the original choice for the Woodstock poster. I'd love to hear the story about how that happened, and why your design wasn't ultimately used.
DB: Well, that once again is Bill Graham! Bill and I got along really well, and John Roberts and Artie Kornfeld and those guys asked Bill if he knew a poster artist, and he said oh yeh, call David Byrd. Woodstock Ventures was actually around the corner from my loft - they were on 16th & 5th, and I was on 17th & 5th. I went over there to see them, and they said ok, we're doing a big concert and we need a poster. And I said well, Bob's your uncle, that's me! So, I got the job to do this poster. It was in late May of 1969. The show was scheduled for August, and I did the Wallkill poster because that's where the show was supposed to be. I thought, well, it's just another show and it probably won't happen. I quoted $500, and they paid me $500!
I had just finished a big job with the light show where I had to do a 15 minute animation - which is a LOT of drawings. I had to have a staff and all that, which we hired at minimum wage - they were all friends of mine. So I was just exhausted from that. My friend who worked on the animation with me said let's go somewhere, and I said oh great! We immediately thought of the Caribbean because I'm from Miami and I used to go to Havana in high school over winter break. We would all go down there because you could drink and hire prostitutes and all that, so it was like wild youth or something. Anyway, we decided to do this while we both had horrible hangovers. So we went to a travel agent and we quickly chose Saint Martin because it looked like nobody lived there, which pretty much was true. We ended up in an apartment over the Neptune Bar and Grill in Grand Case, which was one of the towns. It had 100 people more or less. We spent June and July there.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, in New York they were having big troubles with the Wallkill City Council because they were very trepidatious of young people and a rock concert in their shady little town. The group didn't like the poster, saying it was obscene because there was a nude woman on it. I think they were just using that as an excuse to get out of having a rock concert. Finally, they said, well, we can't have more than 5,000 people and we can't have this poster - it's just full of sex and drug related images. I'm still trying to find those images. But at any rate, they were adamant. So then John and Artie and everybody did another poster overnight. They tried to get in touch with me to do this, but I was lying in the sun in Saint Martin drinking Cuba Libres. God, gin was so cheap I can't believe it - it was cheaper than the tonic. Tonic was expensive. A quart of Tanqueray was like $2, so we drank a lot of gin.
Anyway, they couldn't get in touch with me, and someone knew this guy who I now know, Arnold Skolnick, and he did it overnight out of cut paper. Then they brought it to the Wallkill City Council, and they still said no. There would be no kind of show in their town. This was getting really close to the day of the show, which was August 15 - "three days of love and music" - and they had to find a place. They scouted locations and they found Max Yasgur's dairy farm, which was near Bethel, NY (which is about 40 minutes from Woodstock). Woodstock (the festival) had already been called Woodstock, and they already had tickets printed up for it to be in Wallkill, but they went with it. They paid Max Yasgur $75,000 to rent this big pasture, which was kind of a bowl shaped thing where one side of it was low and the side by the highway was high. And that's where they quickly built the stage and put up the light towers. And of course, the rest is history as the cliché says!