I discovered the Keef Hartley Band one day when, in a spasm of curiosity, I searched the internet for Woodstock’s complete line-up. Among the handful of performers that I found, this group was one of the few that I could find on my Rhapsody account.
This entry may seem like a bit of a departure for my smattering of readers, but it’s really not. It actually aligns perfectly with one of my fondest interests: historical minutiae.
I don’t mean to infer that The Keef Hartley Band is insignificant in any way, but the lack of attention that this band has received in the 43 years that have elapsed since their Woodstock performance has relegated them to obscurity. This British band, which has been categorized as “boogie rock” and “British blues rock”, boasts a horn section and the band’s namesake, Keef Hartley, was not the singer but the drummer, evidently leading from behind. The band’s vocalist is actually the phenomenal Miller Anderson.
Why this group failed to gain attention following the festival that elevated other performers to at least modest popularity is something of a mystery. I have read that the group, in a decision likely guided by some form of artistic integrity (and in quite possibly the worst music industry decision since a music exec at Decca declined to sign The Beatles, telling them guitar bands were “on the way out”), refused to allow their performance to be recorded. Therefore, they never appeared in any incarnation of either the movie or the album. There is a mention of an audience member’s recording, but I have yet to hear it.
Keef Hartley, it should be known, got his start as a replacement drummer for Liverpool’s Rory Storm and the Hurricanes after Ringo Starr departed for bigger and better things. Following Woodstock, Keef played through many line-ups in his own band, and then joined many other bands through the years, playing venues large and small, and even teaching budding musicians.
Keef died on November 26, 2011 in Lancashire, England. Again, no notice, no fanfare. In researching him, I once came across an email address. I just went and dug up the message I sent him several years ago, because I felt compelled to tell him how much I enjoyed his music. Rock on, I told him.
Best to you, Mr. Hartley.