Licorice McKechnie, a musician from the ’60s that performed at Woodstock, mysteriously disappeared around 1990, with no word since.
By Samantha Sanders
Counterculture figures from the ’60s have not been known to lead the most straight-arrow lifestyles, so when a woman who’d not just been at Woodstock but performed there seemingly drops off the face of the Earth, it might be tempting to dismiss the disappearance as just a free spirit following her bliss. But Licorice McKechnie’s trail didn’t go cold in the era of peace and love; she was last heard from in 1990, well after her days on stage had come to an end. Her last-known destination was the Arizona desert, but after that, the trail ends.
According to the blog Woodstock Whisperer, sometime in the early ’60s, McKechnie left her home in Edinburgh, Scotland, to marry fellow Scottish folkie, Bert Jansch. However, the wedding never took place. Yet, the young woman (who would have been somewhere between her late teens and early 20s) did end up connecting with a man named Robin Williamson, who’d assembled a new group called the Incredible String Band, which McKechnie promptly joined.
Though the Incredible String Band, led by Mike Heron and McKechnie’s then-boyfriend, Williamson, was a forerunner of British psychedelia music — and included fans such as Paul McCartney — their reception at Woodstock was lukewarm at best, recalls the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Thanks to some scheduling snafus, the band got bumped from their original performance date and were relegated to a slot on a heavier, all-electric day when fans were less than taken by their style of folk music. In fact, the band got left out of both the soundtrack and film that seemed to document nearly every moment of the iconic festival.
Though McKechnie has been lauded for her ethereal vocals and musical contributions on the organ, the Incredible String Band never seemed to stake out a firm place in the public’s musical consciousness. Like so many other counterculture figures of the time, members of the group, including McKechnie, also got briefly caught up in Scientology, which had a less notorious reputation then than it does now. Still, despite critical acclaim and a seemingly new spiritual outlook, McKechnie left the band (and Williamson) in 1972. By 1974, the remaining members disbanded and the Incredible String Band was no more.
It’s at this point in her story where the details around McKechnie’s life start to blur. An army of amateur online detectives has attempted to piece her life together from the mid-’70s on. What we know, according to Web Sleuths, is McKechnie married a musician named Brian Lambert, but the two amicably divorced some time in the early 1980s. Beyond this, it’s believed that she may have bounced around, living perhaps in Los Angeles, Arizona, and Sacramento.
The Diversity of Classic Rock reports that McKechnie’s sister last heard from her in 1990, when McKechnie had been recovering from surgery in Sacramento. The site is also one of many that claims McKechnie disappeared in the Arizona desert, but this has never been conclusively proved. Time to hit the kitchen to grab a few grains of salt because Reddit has also weighed in on her disappearance, with unproven theories ranging from a Scientology connection to parsing the words of former bandmates who wish (emphasis on the present tense) her well.
Redditors also claim that McKechnie’s family hired private investigators to find her, though they were unsuccessful. Others counter that she’s been traced via a basic internet search to a small city in the States. The confusion is enough to make any casual sleuth hope that McKechnie just grew tired of the spotlight and is now happy in her anonymity. For now, we’re content to let the mystery be and just hope for the best.