The year was 1968, and artist Dr. Bob Hieronimus was commissioned to paint a mural at Johns Hopkins University. That summer, though, he got a better offer.
“I embarked on a very interesting summer visiting backstage with rock and rollers like Jimi Hendrix,” he recalls. “We would share information on various things like UFOs, Atlantis, reincarnation, and especially the eye in the triangle and pyramid found on the back of the $1 bill.”
Around the same time, Bob Grimm, who sang with the group Light, approached Hieronimus about another painting project — namely, Grimm asked him to “turn his tour bus into a ‘magic bus.’”
Putting off his Johns Hopkins project — one that would result in a 2,700-square-foot design titled “Apocalypse” — for the time being, Hieronimus went to work on the Light bus, a 1963 Kombi VW that Grimm named after his band. Grimm, along with friends and fellow bandmates, would drive the bus, painted by Hieronimus, to Woodstock. That bus would become famous.
“I had heard that pictures of it had appeared in Rolling Stone in 1969, but did not see it until the early 1970s from friends who sent it to me,” says Hieronimus. “Then I started seeing it pop up in CD retrospectives and in anniversary articles.”
The most famous image of the bus was taken by the Associated Press. It features Light members Trudy Morgal and Rick Peters sitting on top holding an umbrella to protect them against the rain.
“This photo has been used around the world without my knowing anything about it,” says Hieronimus. “I think it was used because the symbols on the bus helped convey the message of Woodstock.”
According to Hieronimus, many of the symbols and themes included in his “Apocalypse” mural are reflected in “Light,” a.k.a. the Woodstock bus.
“They were both painted during an intense period of study for me,” remembers Hieronimus. “I was immersed in the study of symbols and their effect on the collective unconscious.”
Vivid and colorful, the Woodstock Bus has, in itself, become a symbol of the ’60s. And with celebrations of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock well under way, what better time for a collectors’ diecast model of the bus to come out? Due out in August is a fully detailed replica of the painted VW bus “Light” from SunStar Diecast as a 1/12 scale model. A 16-page booklet on the history and symbolic interpretation of the bus is included with it. Ordering information is available at www.21stCenturyRadio.com/lightbus. Coming soon is another Web site, www.WoodstockBus.com.
So, what happened to the original bus?
“The original bus, unfortunately, was last seen partially being held together by the paint job,” says Hieronimus. “Its eventual demise is a bit of mystery to us in this day and age. It wasn’t my bus, after all. I painted it on commission for Bob Grimm, who after Light broke up, headed to England to tour with the Four Seasons … today neither one of us can remember what eventually happened to the bus in the end. It’s sad, but I’m afraid it’s long gone.”