Rockin’ before she could walk, a vinyl hound who can’t remember a thing because the words to all songs from 1960-2019 are stuck in her head.
Blood, Sweat & Tears were already a hugely successful outfit and their blend of R&B, soul, jazz and a touch of psychedelic was the perfect fit for the diverse musical lineup at Woodstock.
This series of articles—32 in all—covers each of the artists who performed at the original Woodstock festival August 15-18, 1969. Johnny Winter appeared just before BS&T, and next up would be Crosby, Stills & Nash. Was anyone still awake?
Blood, Sweat & Tears
The band had its roots in New York City in 1967. Al Kooper, who was already an established session player, producer and vocalist, began playing with Steve Katz (guitar), Jim Fielder (bass), and Bobby Colomby (drums). The foursome first appeared on September 16, 1967 at a show at the Village Theatre, where they opened for the James Cotton Blues Band.
Fred Lipsius joined the quartet in mid-October, and recruited three additional horn players; Dick Halligan, Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss. They were quickly signed to Columbia Records, and hit the studio November 11, 1967 to begin work on their first album, Child is Father To The Man. Released in February 1968, the record didn't attract a lot of attention outside of New York, and the label immediately started setting up a heavy tour schedule to promote the band.
In 1968, Kooper left due to mounting tensions within the band. Brecker and Wiess soon followed, and were replaced by Lew Soloff (trumpet) and Chuck Winfield (trumpet/flugelhorn). Colomby and Katz found a solid new vocalist in Canadian David Clayton-Thomas, who had been recommended by singer/guitarist Judy Collins, after she caught him performing in a New York bar. Dick Halligan took over keyboard duties and Jerry Hyman the trombone.
The revised lineup soon moved to the studio to record their self-titled second album, which was released on December 11, 1968. This album was a far more pop-oriented record than their first release had been, and the album reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Pop Album chart. Three singles from the LP, "You've Made Me So Very Happy," "Spinning Wheel" and "And When I Die," all reached the top of the charts in 1969.
David Clayton-Thomas at Woodstock
The Woodstock lineup included Clayton-Thomas, Steve Katz (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Dick Halligan (keyboards, trombone, flute), Jim Fielder (bass), Bobby Colomby (drums), Jerry Hyman (trombone), Fred Lipsius (alto saxophone, piano), Lew Soloff (trumpet, flugelhorn), and Chuck Winfield (trumpet, flugelhorn). With a great kit bag of hits to choose from, it should have been an amazing show.
The guys hit the stage just after 1:30 a.m. and launched into "More and More," a song from their smash self-titled second album. They followed that up with a cover of Randy Newman’s “Just One Smile,” from their first LP, Child Is Father To The Man.
Blood, Sweat & Tears Performing "More and More" at Woodstock
Next up was a cover of Joe Cocker’s “Something’s Coming On,” which would appear on their third album, Blood Sweat & Tears 3. This was followed by a song penned by their former frontman, Al Kooper. “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” was a lovely, soulful tune from the band's first album.
But all was not well onstage. The horn section struggled throughout the set to hit the notes just right in the humid night air. It got a little better as the set progressed, but the horns just weren't achieving their usual high standard.
Moving on to one of their hits, “Spinning Wheel,” written by Clayton-Thomas, seemed to get both the band and the audience pumped. Even the horns started to sound better. “Sometimes In Winter,” written by Katz followed, and then they moved smoothly to a wonderful cover of “Smiling Phases” by Traffic. They closed out the main set with a superb arrangement of Billie Holiday’s jazz standard “God Bless The Child,” followed by an up-beat version of their current hit “And When I Die”. Their encore was another hit “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.”
BS&T Performing "You've Made Me So Very Happy" in 1971
Life After Woodstock
In June 1970, Blood, Sweat & Tears released their third album, Blood, Sweat & Tears 3. With the exception of "Lucretia MacEvil," which was written by Clayton-Thomas and "The Battle," written by Halligan and Katz, all of the tracks were covers of songs by other artists, including Joe Cocker and Chris Stainton, James Taylor, Steve Winwood and Gerry Goffin/Carole King. "Hi-De-Ho," written by Goffin and King, and "Lucretia MacEvil," both did respectably well as singles, and the album itself reached the #1 spot on the Billboard album chart.
But the band was coming apart at the seams. Personality conflicts, evident from the band's earliest days, were boiling over. The band also made a couple of career faux pas that caused them to lose their street cred with the counterculture, including a State Department tour of eastern Europe, a show at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and an appearance on the soundtrack of the Barbara Streisand movie, The Owl and the Pussycat. All very uncool.
In June 1971, Blood, Sweat & Tears 4 was released. This album was made up of songs that were primarily penned by the band members, and though it reached the #10 position briefly, it just didn't have the commercial success that their two previous albums had. After playing a final show on December 31, 1971 in Anaheim, California, Clayton-Thomas departed to focus on his solo career. Halligan and Lipsius also left after the LP's release.
Since the early '70s, BS&T has continued to record and perform, with a revolving door of musicians passing through. Clayton-Thomas was originally prevented from using the name Blood, Sweat & Tears for his solo appearances, but in 1984, he worked out a licensing deal with Colomby, who owned the name BS&T. Katz went on to produce two albums for Lou Reed and remained active in the music business. In the '70s and '80s, Halligan became a composer of movie scores, including Go Tell the Spartans and A Force of One. Fielder worked as a session musician and also became a member of Neil Sedaka's band. Founding member Colomby still owns the Blood, Sweat & Tears name and manages the current touring lineup. Hyman left the music business all together. Lipsius continues to perform and has also recorded music for radio and TV commercials. Soloff was a member of the faculty at the renowned Juilliard School in New York City, and passed away from a heart attack in 2015. Winfield, who left the band in 1973, became a teacher and retired to Maine.
Five Musical Facts
- Just how big was Blood, Sweat & Tears? Their self-titled second album spent eight weeks in the #1 spot on the Billboard chart, and picked up a Grammy for Album of the Year, beating some upstart English band who had an album called Abbey Road.
- BS&T demanded $12,000 for their appearance at Woodstock, which was a pretty tidy sum in those days. Like so many others, they never saw a dime.
- The band didn't think their set at Woodstock was any good, and they refused permission to use any of the songs from their set in either the 1970 documentary or the soundtrack album. The camera crew had also apparently been ordered to stop filming right after “Spinning Wheel.” The band's manager Bennett Glotzer, like Keef Hartley's manager, hadn't given his permission for BS&T's set to be filmed. Luckily, some footage has actually survived, along with at least four audio tracks.
- It's funny to think about it now, but when the band first emerged in New York City in 1967, they were embraced by the counterculture that was so prevalent in those times. They were viewed as being outside the mainstream (a good thing) because Fielder had previously been a part of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention and had also played with Buffalo Springfield, and Kooper had played with Bob Dylan at his infamous "electric" Newport Folk Festival show in 1965.
- If, like me, you enjoy reading about what went on behind the scenes with these bands, pick up a copy of David Clayton-Thomas’ fascinating memoir, Blood, Sweat and Tears. This guy had a rough start in life and turned himself around through music. He also vividly describes the downward spiral that took place within the band. Highly recommended.
© 2019 Kaili Bisson
Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on July 06, 2019:
They had a huge following back in the '60s, and people still love their music. I must say that I wasn't a big fan back then but grew to appreciate the music as I got older.
John Hansen from Gondwana Land on July 06, 2019:
Another interesting chapter in this series. I always loved the song Spinning Wheel for some reason. I didn’t know the band was still performing albeit with a totally different line-up.
Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on July 05, 2019:
They were so popular back in the day. Such a distinctive sound too!
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 05, 2019:
This was always a band I enjoyed. I sure didn't know all the facts, and this has been a very interesting article about their fame and band members.
Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on July 05, 2019:
I know, it's amazing how many "old" bands are still out there with maybe one original member. BS&T has a number of dates through this summer, including August 16th at Bethel Woods, site of the original Woodstock festival. Bobby Colomby is still with them.
FlourishAnyway from USA on July 04, 2019:
So many bands perform years later under their original name and people don’t realize that the current line up has really nothing to do with the original band other than the name. Didn’t know they have a current touring lineup!