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From Woodstock to the ER

Former member of Sha Na Na still rocks when he's not practicing medicine

By Kelly O'Connor

May 28, 2003


COMMUNITY NEWS WRITER

Witkin (second from right) went to Woodstock as an original member of Sha Na Na

DEL MAR – Joseph Witkin still has the shirt he wore to Woodstock. It is in the back of his closet and hasn't been worn since.

Witkin bought the sweat shirt bearing a skull and crossbones decal at what he described as a "sleazy paraphernalia store" in Times Square. He cut off the sleeves and wore it when his group, Sha Na Na, performed at sunrise on the final day of the 72-hour festival in August 1969.

Witkin, now living in Del Mar, stayed in a hotel with many other performers.

"It was awesome," he sad. "Joan Baez was being paged, and Crosby, Stills and Nash were sitting at the table next to me."

An original member of the oldies group Sha Na Na, Witkin was on stage right before Jimi Hendrix. Sha Na Na played for 40 minutes. They were paid $300, and the check bounced.

Thirty-four years after Woodstock, he sings and plays keyboard with a local group, The Corvettes.

They will perform Sunday at La Jolla Concerts by the Sea in Scripps Park at La Jolla Cove.

Wearing costumes of gold lamé and sequins, the eight-piece band covers a range of favorites from "At the Hop," originally by Danny and the Juniors, to "Soul Man," by Sam & Dave.

"People who can't possibly remember the music get into it," Witkin said.

Although the group is based on the same concept of rock 'n' roll nostalgia as Sha Na Na, The Corvettes include three women. One is Witkin's wife, Carol, who sings and plays tambourine.

Witkin was an original member of Sha Na Na from 1969 to 1970. Last year, he rejoined the band for a performance at the San Diego County Fair to sing Dion and the Belmonts' "Teenager in Love."

Joseph Witkin (right) is an emergency room physician when he's not singing and playing keyboard with the Corvettes.

Unlike the good old days, Witkin does not have to worry about checks bouncing. He is an emergency room physician; his wife manages the band.

Carol Witkin is always on the lookout for props that provide comic relief at their concerts. She has collected hats (including a Viking helmet), feather boas, handcuffs and various wigs.

Witkin left Sha Na Na to follow his medical path. This led him from Columbia University to University of California San Diego for his first internship in 1975. He now works at Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa.

Although he is a successful doctor, Witkin said, "music is what I am."

The framed awards and degree certificates on the walls of his home are second only to his guitars, which number nearly 40.

Witkin said guitars are like women. "They're sensual," he said.

Witkin's love of music is evident throughout his entire house. He had his grandmother's 1931 Steinway piano shipped from New York. It now sits under all of the guitars.

His sons, Brian and Sean, have followed their dad's home-decorating style. Both have several guitars hanging on their bedroom walls.

Witkin's talent has been passed along as well. The 17-and 15-year-old, respectively, sing and play guitar. Brian and Sean formed the band Warrior Finches in 1999 and play wherever they can.

The Corvettes perform regularly at Viejas Casino and for private parties.

For band and concert information, visit www.thecorvettes.com.

Do you have a story idea for Del Mar? Contact Kelly O'Connor at (760) 476-8221 or kelly.oconnor@uniontrib.com. For special events, please alert us at least four weeks in advance. We work ahead!

Copyright 2003 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.












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