talkin' 'bout Our Generation
The Woodstock Episodes
Head of Production
John Morris was Woodstock’s production coordinator and part-time emcee. This has led many people to assume, wrongly, that he was the one who made the announcement warning festival-goers to stay away from the brown acid. He set the record straight about that.
“[Stage lighting designer Chip Monck] did that announcement,” he said. “I get credited with that, and I did not do it. I did not do drugs, because I was usually in charge and I didn’t feel I could. So me saying the brown acid is not particularly good would be very out of character, because I would not have the vaguest idea.”
Morris worked at the Fillmore East, first helping to set up the] venue and then creating shows with such groups as the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.
“The main thing I was being hired to do was to supervise the production, the stage, and other things, and to help book the artists for the show,” he said. When the time to prepare for Woodstock
came, a person’s individual specialty was less important than the prevailing sense of “just
make it happen.”
Morris, and the people he worked with, relied on some unorthodox methods as a result.
“We used Boy Scout manuals and U.S. Army field manuals to plan for toilets and stuff,” he said. “Of course, we thought we were going to have 50,000 to 75,000 people, not half a million.”
When Morris was deputized to make stage announcements, he said that the job was made easier by the fact that the audience was compliant. “We asked them to take care of each other; we asked them to cooperate,” he said. “I mean, during the storm, I was asking people to
get off the towers, because the towers were dangerous, and they got off the towers.”
The crowd was even responsive when informed that an anarchist group from New York City called the Crazies planned to descend on the festival and destroy the concession stands. This was capitalism, the Crazies reasoned, and it needed to be smashed. “When they came running out of the woods, they got smothered by about 50,000 people who said, ‘Nah man, you don’t
want to do that’, and saved the concession stands,” he said.
“One of the major things about Woodstock, and to me it’s the greatest example, is that Woodstock got a lot of people to do stuff they wouldn’t have normally done, and help other people totally selflessly,” Morris added.
“I mean, [there were] just a tremendous amount of people who did that.”