It was August and musicians performed at Woodstock were not scheduled to appear in the New York area. Therefore, in order to add signatures to my poster, I figured that I would try the mail.
My friend Gary used the mail successfully in obtaining Joe Cocker's autograph when I was in the hospital. Therefore, I had some confidence; however, I wanted an assurance that whomever I sent my poster to would be kind enough to return it. Utilizing my research, I emailed several performers and I received a response from Keef Hartley.
Keef Hartley, the leader of the Keef Hartley Band, was a British drummer, now retired. I had just read his self-published autobiography which I ordered from his website because it was autographed and contained information on Woodstock. He was Ringo Starr's replacement in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and played with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers before forming the Keef Hartley Band.
Anyway, he replied to my e-mail stating that he would be delighted to sign my poster and provided me with the address of a friend of his who handles his mail. After determining how to send my poster overseas, I utilized DHL and shipped my poster.
I went to my local (45 miles away) DHL service center and asked them to help me prepare my shipment, as I had never shipped any package overseas before, and to pay for a round trip (also, I desperately wanted my poster back). The clerk, however, was somewhat clueless as to send items overseas. She suggested that I contact the customer service center, which of course was closed. However, she did hand me customs documents and told me that I couldn't pay for the return shipment but, I could check the box to bill the receiver and they will ship the item without receiving payment (note: This advice was wrong. DHL wants to assure payment prior to shipping an item). So, I shipped my poster and waited. And I waited. It took over a week to arrive at Preston, United Kingdom (where Mr. Hartley lives). I was eventually told that there were customs delays due to how the clerk instructed me to fill out the paper work.
And then I waited some more. After another two weeks, I heard from Mr. Hartley's friend, who informed me that he had been on vacation. He told me that he would be meeting with Keef Hartley that week. There is another delay when Mr. Hartley's friend develops back trouble – finally my poster is signed; however, DHL refuses to pick up the poster until it is paid for. I contact DHL's customer service line who told me that everything the first clerk told me was wrong. I pay for shipping and DHL promises that the shipment would be on its way in 3 days, maximum. There is another delay because DHL is unable to contact Keef's friend. A connection is finally made and 2 days later, the poster is in my hands. For those keeping track, I shipped the poster on August 30, 2008 and it was returned on October 23, 2008.
In the two months that my poster was gone, several people have rolled through town that I could complain about not meeting; however, what bothered me the most was having the opportunity to meet Bob Weir and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead and not having the poster with me. Best Buy in midtown Manhattan, a block from where I work, offered customers the ability to obtain the autographs of these two founding members of the Grateful Dead on October 14, 2008.
For someone that used to make jokes about Grateful Dead fans by calling them "the great unwashed", I'm amused that I'm now pursuing them for autographs. Despite my frustration that I didn't have my Woodstock poster, I had a pretty good day. In addition to meeting two members of the Grateful Dead, I had the privilege of meeting the crush of practically every straight man that grew up in the 1970's, Maureen McCormick a.k.a Marcia Brady at a book signing. I wish I brought my camera.
Anyway, I have my poster back. Hopefully, I won't miss any other opportunities; although, with the economy getting to shows will be a little tougher. All I can do is the best that I can. Also, I strongly urge anybody who is interested in the British Invasion to pick up Keef Hartley's Book, it's a good read. I also encourage you to check out his albums that have been re-released in the UK on CD. They're good.