Ronnie Peterson returns to Woodstock

No flare jeans, no field, no Hendrix, but still a rocking good time.

By EMMA MCAVOY
August 5, 2019 22:17
3 minute read.
Blues

Blues musicians Ronnie Peterson (right) and Lazer Lloyd. (photo credit: CHAIM RAVYA)

Imagine thousands of people in a giant field in rural New York swaying to the sound of Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” in flare jeans, knitted tops with tassels, flower prints and flowing curly hair.

Now imagine the same scenario in Tel Aviv – only no flare jeans, no field, no Hendrix, but still a rocking good time.

Ronnie Peterson, Israel’s venerable bluesman, will take audiences back to Max Yasgur’s farm in 1969 with his upcoming 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival tribute shows. Performing with primo tribute band Ummagumma and vocalist Diana Golby, Peterson will share his love of rock music in celebration of the musicians who emerged at what he believes to be the most legendary rock & roll festival of all time.

“The time period of the 1960s and ‘70s was absolutely the most creative, inventive and musically superior period of time for rock & roll, folk and soul and blues,” Peterson said. “It was a magical time musically.”

The 61-year-old Peterson believes there was never any type of music more versatile, diverse and universal than that of the Woodstock generation. 

“Those songs are the best, most enduring songs are written,” Peterson said of the performances of the likes of Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and their musical brothers and sisters. “They became classics.”

The musical and lyrical “genius” of the songs and musicians impacted the lives of so many, but according to Peterson the music played at the festival has endured due to the electric and soulful performances delivered on that stage. 

“Those bands were absolutely killing it,” Peterson said. “They were playing at the very top level and that’s why it’s endured.”

Peterson has endured as well, ever since he picked up the guitar – literally – at age three. He said a relative left the instrument in his mother’s closet. When he found it, he started strumming and couldn’t get enough. 

 “I never stopped, and I’ve always been self-taught,” Peterson said. “I was just born to play. It’s the sound that I’m able to pull from the instrument that drew me to it.”

The German-born US-raised musician starting playing professionally at the age of 11. He also played trumpet in high school, but claimed it was too one-dimensional. 

Peterson moved to Israel shortly after meeting rock icon Shalom Hanoch in New York City in 1987. Hanoch was looking for a creative collaborator, and the two hit it off. According to Peterson, Hanoch is a “real rocker at heart.”

“He just couldn’t get what he needed out of Israeli musicians,” Peterson said. “He held auditions in New York and I got the job.”

The two soon began playing rock and blues together, touring around Israel.

Peterson stayed in Israel and eventually established a solo career, releasing albums that combined the genres of rock and blues and inspired by the playing of Hendrix, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. He’s become a familiar face at Israeli clubs and festivals, and professes that he wants to keep the spirit of rock & roll alive.

In addition to playing some of the big hits of the Woodstock era at his upcoming shows, he’s also going to perform some of the lesser-known material, including songs by those artists who were not featured on the Woodstock album or in the movie.  

“The bands that weren’t in the album or in the movie gave their best performances in their entire career at Woodstock,” Peterson said. “They were at the height of their powers. The whole vibe of everything brought out their most incredible performances.”

Peterson believes performing live is “the highest level of existence,” involving telepathy, communication and impulse.

“The few little square meters I have on stage is the one place I can completely relax,” Peterson said. “I feel completely relaxed, comfortable and at home.”

Expect Peterson’s passion for the music of Woodstock to shine through his performances, beginning at the Zappa Club on August 9, Agamon Market on August 16, Berala at Lehavot Habiba on August 22 and Grays in Yehud on August 23. Don’t forget to wear flowers in your hair.

For more information, check out Ronnie Peterson Blues on Facebook.com.


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