Charles Peters, 49, musician in famous Woodstock photo


They were the unidentified Baltimore couple who were photographed atop a Volkswagen microbus painted in psychedelic colors, listening to the music during the Woodstock rock festival in August 1969.

Charles Richard "Ricky" Peters and fellow musician Trudy Cooper were photographed by an Associated Press photographer at the festival in a pasture in Bethel, N.Y.

Mr. Peters, a musician and composer who had worked since 1988 for Corporate Couriers delivering mortgage documents, died Saturday of liver failure at Good Samaritan Hospital. He was 49 and a Parkville resident.

"I had painted the van for Bob Grim, who at the time was a member of the Progressions, the band that Ricky started, and later went on to play with the Four Seasons," said Robert R. Hieronimus, Baltimore artist and radio personality.

"I think every newspaper and magazine in the U.S. used the picture at the time and never bothered to identify Ricky and Trudy. It still appears with Woodstock stories and is even featured on the inside of the Woodstock CD," he said.

Mr. Hieronimus said that the van was driven to high ground to escape the deep mud, and the couple sat on top to hear such legendary artists as Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Sly & the Family Stone.

"They had the time of their life, and it remains Baltimore's most interesting contribution to Woodstock," Mr. Hieronimus said.

Mr. Peters was born in Baltimore, raised by his grandmother in Hampden and educated in city schools. He showed an early interest in music.

"His grandmother, Hilda Peters, played an integral part in his life as well as encouraging his love of music," said his former wife, Valerie Aquilano.

"He was known to bang away endlessly on pots and pans and, in particular, his grandmother's dining room table," she said.

After he left indentations in the table, "his grandmother relented and bought him his first set of drums," Mrs. Aquilano said.

Mr. Peters also learned to play the saxophone and began singing in a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Hampden. When he was 15, he played at the Nite Owl Lounge in Pikesville.

In 1963, he and several other musicians founded the Progressions and played in such places as Judge's Lounge on Greenmount Avenue.

"He was, in my opinion, in those days the best drummer in Baltimore and was acclaimed for his singing and harmonizing," said Mr. Hieronimus. He said Mr. Peters was a "natural musician" who "operated on intuition and hunches."

Mr. Peters composed music, including "Buena Vista," named for the street on which he grew up and dedicated to his daughter, Rhonda Timmons of Baltimore. He later recorded the song for Epic Records.

"His music was very melodic, innocent and soft. The Beatles were an enormous influence," Mr. Hieronimus said.

Mr. Peters performed with Ms. Cooper and another former band member, Walt Bailey, while working for the courier service.

"His musical career was a struggle, and he was unwilling to compromise," said Mr. Hieronimus.

"Yet, he was the only musician I could sit around for hours with who didn't complain about his fate and the breaks that never came. Here was a man who never asked for anything and really lived his life by the Golden Rule," he said.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Tuesday.

Other survivors include his mother, Constance Barsotti of Overlea; a brother, Jerry Brown of Bel Air; six sisters, Angie Gomez of Denver, Peggy Pullias of Lutherville and Debbie Mehan, Maria Hemmeter, Carmelia Boden and Gina Decker, all of Baltimore; paternal grandfather, Joseph Peters of Baltimore; maternal grandmother, Margaret "Nanny" Copper of Baltimore; two grandsons; his companion, Lynn White of Parkville; and two stepsons, Daniel V. McGuire of Newport News, Va., and Herbert L. White of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 5/15/98

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