Bill's Home Town of Medford Mass. Erects Historical Marker, Creates "Hanley Corner!"


Official Woodstock Photographer Elliott Landy

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair

August 15, 16, 17, 1969
Bethel, NY,


From his choice of the festival site to his design of the stage and a custom-built sound system, Hanley Sound helped to make Woodstock a success it was.

When you’re starting
something on this scale,
the most critical thing
is the people you bring into it.

-Festival Producer Michael Lang, to Elmore


As the pouring rain turned Max Yasgur's green pastures to thick mud, and as the crowd grew "dangerously oversized," It was said that only two things worked consistently; the water supply, and Bill Hanley's custom-built sound system.



"Michael Lang and I were driving around through Max Yasgur's fields," recalls Hanley. "He was the dairy farmer who hosted the festival. We were looking through his pastures for our location..."

Yasgur's Farm

"...We got out and walked around a big open area with a hill, all full of little hollows. I thought the site was perfect, so Michael and I decided right there, that this was going to be the place...

So I drove back to Medford... (Bill's hometown in Massachusetts, where Hanley Sound opened its first office) ...and I began designing the system."

The "Woodstock Sound"

From Bill's custom Shure microphones, to the tweaked electronics (including 12,000 Watts of McIntosh amplifiers!) right up to the specially-built loudspeakers and the trailer full of multitrack recording machines, Hanley Sound's team shaped and defined the sound at the Woodstock festival, and the album and movie as well.

Eugene Levy Portrays Max Yasgur in

"Taking Woodstock"

Eugene Levy (SCTV, American Pie I-VII, Waiting for Guffman, Best of Show, A Mighty Wind...) will portray Rural Upstate New York Farmer Max Yasgur in Taking Woodstock.

"I made a deal with Mike Lang before the festival started. If anything went wrong I was going to give him a crew cut; if everything was O.K. I was going to let my hair grow long. I guess he won the bet, but I'm so bald I'll never be able to pay it off. ”

-Max Yasgur (Life Magazine)


The Sound System

At the 2008 Audio Engineering Society Convention in New York, Bill described the sound system he built for the Woodstock festival...

Hanley mixes at Woodstock using several Shure 4 to 1 mixers.
Photo: Hanley Crew Member David Marks, Founder of 3rd Ear Sound, South Africa

Hanley was a McIntosh authorized dealer, and influenced The Grateful Dead in adopting high-end McIntosh amplifiers in their legendary "Wall Of Sound" touring sound system.

"We built our Front of House (FOH) mixing station on a platform about 75 feet from the stage so we could see the stage and hear the mix (through the stage-left lower speaker cluster.)

On the stage, we used custom microphones I had built from Shure factory parts. They closely resembled what Shure Brothers would soon sell as the popular Shure SM58, the most noticeable difference being that mine had a brushed chrome finish, like the older Shure 'bird cage' mics.

Under the stage we had our McIntosh amplifiers, both transistorized and tube models. Transistors were new, and a bit risky, but we needed all the power we could get.

In a nearby trailer, we had two eight track Scully recorders catching the show. Those are the tapes everyone knows through the album and for Martin Scorcese's Woodstock movie, which was nominated for an Academy Award."

Shure 55SH
"bird cage" mic

Shure SM58
hand-held mic


Hanley Horns and The Woodstock Bins

Because most of the audience would be perched high on the hill, Bill decided to build two speaker towers, each with two levels of speaker clusters, one high, (about 70 feet, to reach the middle and top of the hill,) and one much lower for the near audience.

This geometry sent the music directly to everyone's ears, without causing any backslap (echo,) because all the grass, and soil ...and the bodies of half a million fans, would absorb the sound, eliminating the unwanted resonances and reflections that we have to deal with indoors.

Bill designed and built his own speaker cabinets of marine plywood. Two "bass bins" were placed under a pair of high frequency horns, totalling about a thousand pounds and standing roughly 6 feet tall, 4 feet deep, and 7 feet wide.

Each of the four upper level bins was loaded with four 15-inch JBL D130 drivers with a loudness maximizer compressing the sound to improve reach.

Each of the four lower bins was loaded with four 15-inch JBL D140 drivers for extended bass.

The high frequencies were handled by model 1003B, 5x2 Altec multicell horns (300Hz. min freq) and Bill's own custom built 2x2 horns, all with Altec 290 compression drivers.

Upper Level
(Photo: Elliott Landy)


The Woodstock Bins and Hanley-Horns fight Apartheid in Soweto, South Africa.

Altec multicell horns and compression driver
(Altec's History Page)

Lower Level
(Photo: Elliott Landy)


More Woodstock Stuff



Woodstock and Fillmore E. Photos by Official Woodstock Photographer Elliott Landy:
Aerial Photography and more from
Woodstock Witness


Music from the original Woodstock era

Woodstock to the World!

Woodstock NY's Home Town Station


Psychedelia Decodified

. . . WTF?

Achieving Intelligibility is a sound engineer's job, and Hanley's system was up to the challenge. Sitting atop his specially built platform, Hanley enjoyed both an excellent view of the Woodstock stage, and the sonic perspective essential for proper live mixing.

But when Procol Harum Lead Singer and Ray Charles sound-alike Joe Cocker delivered his psychedelic rendition of Lennon and McCartney's "A Little Help from My Friends," Bill was stumped. “I didn’t have a clue what he was saying.”

Now, through the magic of the Interwebs, we all can understand the deeper, and long-hidden meaning of this amazing vocalist's verbosity. (Cocker's gesticulations, however, remain a mystery, perhaps yet to be deciphered by some future generation.)

Cocker Decoded