Ramble on

I was in the bathroom when it really hit me.

The shower curtain. The fully-packed towel closet. Febreeze air freshener and a choice of fruity hand-soaps on the sink. This was not a typical concert-venue WC. I really was in the guy’s house. That “the guy” was a musical legend for all the right reasons, the beating heart of the greatest American band of the sixties — the stripped-down music The Band recorded in Saugerties in 1967 was so raw and pure, Clapton said it made psychedelic music irrelevant and dissolved Cream a few months after the release of Music From Big Pink — well, that just made it all the more surreal. Some fans had told me earlier that they couldn’t remember ever having a problem with rowdy, out-of-control people at the Ramble, despite pretty much everyone nursing beers in plastic red cups throughout the evening.

I could see why. When someone you’ve got nothing but respect for invites you into his home, you don’t want him to regret it. The bathroom being so close to the stage, I waited for the music to start back up before flushing.



The Midnight Ramble cost another dollar, dollar and a half. You’d see what in those days was defined as a hootchy-kootchy show. The comedians would do some of their raunchier material, and people’d be holding their sides. The band would get into its louder rhumba-style things, and the dancers would come out in outfits that would be right in style today but were bare and outrageous back then. The master of ceremonies might get caught up in it and jig across the stage like a chicken or anything familiar from the barnyard, which always set the crowd off. That was the Midnight Ramble, so called because it usually ended at twelve o’clock…Today, when folks ask me where rock and roll came from, I always think of our southern medicine shows and that wild Midnight Ramble.

– Levon Helm, This Wheel’s on Fire


Coming up Route 375, you make a right onto 212 and quick left onto Plochmann Laneand start climbing. Non-descript but well appointed homes are scattered among the trees. This isWoodstock, after all. After a little over a mile, you come to mailbox #160, a house set farther back from the road with a separate entrance and exit. A sign warns private property but the guy at the little booth further down the drive greets you with a warm smile.

“Howdy,” he says. “Welcome to the Ramble.”