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.
A slice of the 70s is found in this video done while recording L.A. Turnaround in 1974. Produced by Michael Nesmith of the Monkees, it also features pedal steel guitar player Red Rhodes.
RIP Bert and now Mike Nesmith. Thank you for the music.
October 5th is the birthday of one of our favorite folk performers of early ’70s Bridget St. John. The English singer-songwriter and guitarist is best known for the three albums she recorded between 1969 and 1972 for John Peel’s Dandelion record label. Here’s a great video from a legendary performance on French TV.
Happy Birthday Bridget!
Also, 10 years ago today the wonderful Scottish folk musician Bert Jansch (The Pentangle) passed away. Bert’s music inspired the creation of The Hobbledehoy blog which attempts to promote ongoing respect for British folk music. Forever thanks for the music Bert!