Mountain's Leslie West Remembers First Woodstock, Looks Forward to Next

Leslie West is a founding member of the group Mountain. The band played at the original Woodstock on the festival’s second day, August 16, 1969. He told his memories from that day, 40 years ago, and the special reason he’s looking forward to playing Woodstock again this year at the 40th Anniversary show at the original concert site.

"It’s hard to believe when we play there on August 15th this year, it will have been 40 years since we played there the first time. We went on after the Grateful Dead and before Creedence Clearwater Revival. It was Mountain’s third show ever — third or fourth. Jimi Hendrix’s manager was our manager, so I guess he said if you want Jimi, you’ve gotta take Mountain, too!

"The Grateful Dead did four songs. And it wasn’t the Grateful Dead like we know them, with this big caravan of people following them around. It was just some band from San Francisco — nobody knew who they were really. And I guess the Dead didn’t like their set because they wanted a do-over. Mountain did 13 songs, and I don’t remember half of them. I was young, I was nervous, but I wasn’t high. I was afraid to touch anything then. My friend John Sebastian, who played earlier, was making tie-dyes backstage, and I asked him if he took acid or something, because he was just tie-dying everything and he said 'I’m not sure, I ate a chunk of something.'

"We rented our own helicopter to get up there, and we saw all of these thousands and thousands of people on the ground watching the show. But the pilot wouldn’t fly back out after our set because it was dark, and he was afraid of all the surrounding mountains. Backstage afterwards was pandemonium. They ran out of everything, no food, no water. For some reason, my manager’s wife Gloria told us beforehand 'There’s not going to be much food up there — here, take these barbeque chickens.' So we packed up all this chicken in a cooler and brought it with us, and we were the only ones with food!

"So we stayed the night, and I watched The Who and Sly and The Family Stone. They were amazing, man. When people put up their Bic lighters for the Sly encore, that was the first time I ever saw people do that at a concert. First time! We left around daybreak the next morning.

"After that it was festivals every weekend. Atlanta, Detroit, Watkins Glen — Woodstock started the whole thing. Our set didn’t make the Woodstock movie, or we would have been even more famous! But I just saw the new DVD and some Mountain footage is on that — it looks great.

"I still don’t know how we got through that set. I do know that I’m going to make it through the set at our 40th anniversary show though. I have to because I’m getting married near the end of it! We’re going to have a short ceremony onstage with a justice of the peace, me and my fianceé Jenni, then we’re going to finish up with “Mississippi Queen” and have a party! You comin'?"

MORE: Click here for more information on Leslie West and Mountain.

MORE: Click here for more information on the Heroes of Woodstock 40th Anniversary Concert.