If you thought Woodstock legend Carlos Santana was the O.G. hippie in the ’60s, think again.
In fact, the 76-year-old guitar hero was once an anti-weed warrior as his namesake band was huffing — and puffing — to succeed in the San Francisco scene alongside groups such as the Grateful Dead.
“I’d been around marijuana all my life since I was a child, but I never toked,” reveals Santana in the new documentary “Carlos,” which opens in theaters on Friday.
Indeed, the “Smooth” operator was that guy who was a downer to the doobies — in part, to protect his own good name and reputation.
“You’re building a band around me, and I noticed that they smoke weed. And I don’t smoke weed,” he recalls in the film.
“And every time that they smoke weed, they don’t play the same song twice. They play it differently, and they forget things. I wish they wouldn’t smoke pot, man, so they could learn the damn song right and play it correctly.”
But Santana’s then-managers put the pot pressure on their cannabis-averse client one day at the legendary Fillmore rock club.
“They looked at me like, ‘Damn,’” he recalls. “So they rolled a [big] joint … and just left it there and said, ‘We’re gonna go get some lunch. We’ll be right back. ‘”
It was then that Santana finally sucked it up and gave in to the toking temptation.
“I finally went, ‘OK,’” says Santana, who would eventually become such a marijuana aficionado that he launched his own brand, Mirayo, in 2019.
That’s one of “Carlos” director Rudy Valdez’s favorite stories in the documentary that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in June before hitting theaters nationwide this weekend.
“It was calling to him, and he finally smokes,” Valdez told The Post. “And all of a sudden the Fillmore was a very different place.”
Humanizing such a “Supernatural” guitar god was no easy task for the Emmy-winning Valdez, who got the titanic task shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020.
“Next thing I know, we were on a plane out to Vegas to go and see Carlos at the House of Blues,” he said. “It was very exciting just mainly because of the sort of influence that Carlos had on my life as a creator, as an artist, as a storyteller. It felt very full circle to me.”
Indeed, Santana’s journey from Mexico to worldwide iconography made a very personal connection to the New York-based director as a Mexican-American himself.
“I’ve struggled throughout most of my life, even sometimes today, with this idea that somebody looks at me and they have a preconceived notion of what I am, where I come from, and what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said.
But listening to Santana with his his mother growing up helped Valdez to see his potential beyond preconceptions.
“She reminded me, ‘Carlos is somebody who looks like you, and he blazed his own path. He is somebody who was probably expected to play a certain kind of music a certain kind of way. And he set out to do what he wanted to do and create the career he wanted to create.’
“And so he was one of the few people I looked at to say, ‘Look, I can think outside the box, I can tell stories outside of what people expect of me and that can be something different’ … I never told Carlos about that during this process, because I didn’t want to sort of muddy that professional relationship that we had. But he’s probably going to find out some of these things, you know, after the fact.”
While Valdez got to know Santana at first through phone calls and Zooms during the pandemic, he made some special discoveries once they were able to have face time together.
“I mean, you know, the home video stuff was unbelievable,” he said of the documentary’s early archival footage. “All of a sudden, Carlos walks in front of the camera, he straps on a guitar, and he starts playing and singing to the camera. And I was like, ‘OK, nobody touch these tapes! We’re gonna get these digitized.’ We held them so delicately.
“So it was amazing to see him with no audience, with no sort of feedback or anything, just enjoying and playing, and seeing his true love of music and the guitar. It felt very intimate, and that’s what I wanted to find.”
Valdez hopes that “Carlos” will give a fuller picture of the “Black Magic” man who was introduced to another generation thanks to his blockbuster “Supernatural” album, which swept the Grammys with a record-tying nine wins in 2000 — long after he had already achieved mythic status at Woodstock in 1969.
“If ‘Supernatural’ were to happen to any artist — just that one album — that’s unbelievable,” said Valdez. “But as phenomenal as that moment in musical history was, when you understand the context of everything else before that, it makes it even more phenomenal.”