Favorite Woodstock Performer: Felix Pappalardi

Here's where it gets personal. Getting back to comments made on my About page. For everyone there comes a time when you process a quantum leap forward - for whatever reason - you experience some sort of epiphany affecting the trajectory of your life thereafter. My teachable moment was delivered by Felix Pappalardi.

I'd been just a singer to start out, but I picked up the bass guitar to explain a bass lick to my bass player and nature took its course. The first professional instrument I handled belonged to Seals & Croft, who my ambitious high school classmate had booked into the local movie theater. As any musician will confirm finding your own personal instrument can be lots of anticipation interspersed with a few moments of joy. I saw Felix Pappalardi perform at Woodstock in August of 1969. He played bass in the band Mountain. I'd heard of them just a few weeks prior when my manager handed me a DJ's promotional copy of an album by Leslie West. I asked him - "Who's she?". Felix had produced Leslie's first album after first producing, three albums for rock's first super group Cream, which had Jack Bruce on bass. I'd been trying to replicate the bass sound that Felix had been recording.

The memory of Mountain at Woodstock though, was overshadowed by the bands that followed (see About page) but I became a student of Felix's after returning from the festival. A couple years later I was standing at the front of the stage focused on Felix's fingers and he opened my mind to the possibility I could do that too - Felix had shown me the way! I nearly crossed over when I called out "Felix!" as he walked off stage of the Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY (1970-71) and he came over and handed me his guitar pick. Here're some awesome items I've collected...

This photo is hand inscribed in blue ink "Felix 1967 Greenwich Village NYC" That is the same year Felix is credited with producing Cream's second album - Disraeli Gears (including songs Sunshine of Your Love & Tales of Brave Ulysses). Interesting note; that album's engineer was Tom Dowd, who working on behalf of Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler had installed the first available eight track recording machines at Atlantic Records' Manhattan studio, Criterion Studios, Miami, and Muscle Shoals Studio in Alabama where they produced hit songs for Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones.

I met Richie DiMartino at his home on Long Island NY a year or so before he passed away. He'd been friend and roadie for Felix and Leslie West and to help pay for medical treatment he sold me an old photo album with amazing and personal stuff. Richie was instrumental in getting up the tribute website for Felix: pappalardi.com. RIP Richie!

The group shot is one that's been published a few times - but this is the original Polaroid - with a woman's inscription written in pen on the back.

This is a very special item. A Christmas card, hand drawn by Gail Collins and most likely touched by both Felix Pappalardi and Cream bassist Jack Bruce, its recipient. Bought at auction (with LOA) from the personal belongings of Janet & Jack Bruce, with two unpublished photos of Felix, the hand written note says "Congratulations on the son! Hope the music's going as well as the babies! We miss it ... Look forward to seeing you all again before we're too much older..."

This card was sent six months before the group shot above was taken in May 1969 at Felix & Gail's wedding, with Jack & Janet Bruce (baby on hip).

This original, unpublished picture of Felix, relaxing in a well appointed suite, with inscription on the back.

Here's a rare promotional photo for the movie "Woodstock"- Mountain's fourth gig - featuring Felix in a flimsy t-shirt.

A rarely seen photo of Felix Pappalardi performing at the 1969 Woodstock Festival taken by Joseph Sia - taken from his book: A Photo Review - Summer Pop Festivals - Woodstock 69

The cover photo is of Alvin Lee, guitarist/vocalist for Ten Years After (1945-2013). He includes photographs taken at the Atlantic City Pop Festival - two weeks before Woodstock.

The gifted pick and a second, unique, smaller one below with a piece of cork on either side to grip.

A classmate of mine - Tom Cafarella - was a very talented artist. Here is testament to his ability. After attending a Mountain concert I returned to school gushing about the experience. Tom pulls out his sketch pad and sez "Describe it to me". This remarkable pencil drawing was Tom's interpretation of my description, and sight unseen he created a spot on likeness of Felix and Leslie in action. Signed by the artist and stored for years in the Nantucket Sleighride album sleeve it's now framed and proudly displayed.

Felix was much loved in Japan as evidenced by these advertisements saved from Japanese music magazines. The first anoints Felix as the creator of rock. The other places Felix in the same class as Theodore Roosevelt and Douglas MacArthur for having assembled the first Japanese rock band!

This is my favorite photo, taken by a Japanese photographer, with Felix on his beaded moccasined toes.

A very disturbing story I will relate succinctly - Felix was shot and killed by his wife Gail Collins who had been his long time collaborator. Here is the official release form, signed after Gail had served her sentence, which was included in the material I received from Richie DiMartino.

With Felix gone, Leslie West and long time drummer Corky Laing were joined by bass player Jack Bruce, whom Felix had produced in Cream, for several albums and tours. Here is an original advertisement for West, Bruce and Laing taken from a Japanese tour program.

After following my girlfriend to Nantucket Island in the early eighties, I found out that Felix had actually bought a house and lived on island for a period of time. As chance would have it, a housemate of mine worked for the auction house that was hired to liquidate his estate. This is the original auction booklet documenting Felix's extensive collection of artifacts from Nantucket's historic period as a center of whaling industry (see Moby Dick).

Bass Guitars

Here are home photos of Felix Pappalardi's bass guitars;

My sweet EB-1. Pickups by well known jazz guitarist and master luthier Tom Doyle of New Jersey. I knew Tom when he was working out of his parent's basement in Westwood. While there for a six string tune up I almost talked him out of his own EB-1 that he'd appropriated from his sister and cut open to test different pick up configurations.

Without delay - the finest bass I've played; the Gibson EB-1, solid cherry body, humbucker pickups. There are photos of me on this website playing Hofners, which are hollow bodied. I was too small for Fenders or Rickenbackers. I tried the Gibson EB-3 cuz Jack Bruce played it but it's sound was muddy - so the Hofner filled the bill.