Remembering Leslie Perry
(May 28, 1936-March 5, 2014)
The last time I saw storyteller Leslie Perry was at a gathering he hosted in Pasadena in order to have his close friends surrounding him one more time; photographs were taken, memories shared and of course stories told.. His body was withering away from the devastating effects of Lou Gehrig’s disease, but his smile was still incandescent as he held forth in typical Leslie fashion, all eyes upon him till the end. He had hosted many such gatherings in recent years, refusing to stop living in the face of his dire medical diagnosis. Indeed, it seemed to propel him into action, as he published two books, organized fundraisers for the Pasadena ALS (Amytropic Lateral Sclerosis) Society and became the center of gravity to his friends who were already missing him. And always this Michigan-born California transplant continued to practice his craft and tell his stories.
One of four African-American storytellers of my acquaintance (Michael McCarty, Barbara Clark and Nick Smith are the others) from LAs Community Storytellers, he devoted as much energy to being the main organizer of storytelling events as he did to actually telling stories. He was a focal point for WOW—With Our Words—whose leader Karen Golden has now put some of Leslie’s best known tales from live performances at the Beverly Hills’ Public Library up on YouTube. But the thing I remember with most fondness about Leslie is not his own storytelling—it was the fact that if he wasn’t performing himself he would always be in the audience listening. He was the Supporter-in-Chief of the entire community and it didn’t diminish his pleasure one iota to be in the audience rather than up on stage. He taught me that the story listener is just as important as the story teller. Without fail with Leslie in the audience you could count on a great performance from the stage; his kinetic energy, his rapt attention, his joy in the entire relationship was profoundly contagious and enveloped the performer as well as the room of other audience members.
Pete Seeger: Precious Friend
(May 3, 1919—January 27, 2014)
Just when I thought all was lost
You changed my mind
You gave me hope
Not just the old soft soap
You showed that we could learn to share in time
(You and me and Rockefeller) I’ll keep plugging on
Your face will shine
Through all our tears
And when we sing another little victory song
Precious Friend, you will be there (Singing in harmony)
Precious Friend, you will be there.
Pete Seeger, America’s tuning fork, the folk singer
who revived the five-string banjo
who taught We Shall Overcome to Dr. Martin Luther King at Highlander Folk School in New Market, Tennessee and turned an obscure Georgia Sea Island hymn into an international anthem for freedom from the March on Washington to Tiananmen Square
(April 15, 1947 - December 25, 2013)
For nearly four decades Bob Webb presented the music of seafarers, loggers, railroad men and other folk heroes and heroines. A singer, raconteur and instrumentalist, Bob reached all ages in presentations ranging from theatre concerts to intimate informal programs.
Robert Lloyd Webb died peacefully at home on December 25, 2013 from complications of hereditary hemochromatosis. Born in Santa Monica, California in 1947 to Effie Margaret Young and James Milton Webb, Bob grew up in Culver City, California. He attended Culver City schools and the University of Oregon, and graduated from California State University at Northridge, with a degree in English.
Bob had a life-long love of history and research and was fascinated by a wide variety of topics, from the geology of California to automobiles and aircraft, antique firearms, sailing ships, the history of the Martin guitar and the writings of Jack Kerouac. Childhood explorations around the Los Angeles waterfront with his uncle, Ted Brown, gave him glimpses of vanishing times and a desire to preserve and document those times. Maritime history brought him to the East Coast, first as librarian and educator at the Kendall Whaling Museum in Sharon, Massachusetts and later as curator at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.
The Passing of Vic Koler
Ode to a Friend – The Bass Man
“We’ve lost our formation,” Rick Cuhna said with a somber look upon his face, looking a bit like the role of the hardened commander who knew that he had just lost a good pilot at sea, or a person being hit with the frosty reality of knowing that ‘one of ours’ was never going to return again from the hundreds of missions we all ‘flew together’ as part of the Goin’ South Band. Our lives in music are very much like that of peaceful military missions. Every day that we performed an educational show for students, drove to the studio to record a score or sat up late at night composing music, we all came to know that it is nothing less than our mission in life. It is our calling in life. We have lost one of our own now. Vic Koler, our bass man, our rock steady pillar in the back of the band, holding down the foundation is no longer with us.
Vic was a musician, composer, studio recording artist, music director and educator whose life work in music was a calling and mission that shaped his life and gave joy to many others.
MEMORIAL ON SUNDAY, JANUARY 26th. SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS
Lillian Dolores “Dolly” Martin
(October 24 1942- November 10, 2013)
Dolly Martin was a dancer. She embodied and did what Whitman was telling us to be and do. She was a doer, a dancer, a golfer, a wife , a mother, grandmother and an actor- both onstage and off. When she was present, wherever it was, you knew it.
The Monday before last, at the music seisiún ,the night after Dolly died, Barry Lynch, former Artistic Director of An Claidheamh Soluis/The Celtic Arts Center, fondly remembered, “When Dolly was in the audience, you always knew it. You could hear her laugh.” He also said that when you were rehearsing, if she was acting with you she wouldn’t hesitate to tell you what she thought, something I have experienced myself, and in Tim’s, Dolly’s husband’s, case, she also wouldn’t hesitate to tell him exactly how he could do it better!
Lillian Dolores Martin, born Murray, one of ten children born to Thomas and Mary Murray, grew up on Stanaway road in Dublin, with five sisters and four brothers. Her sister, Anna Gossain, says she was beautiful from the day she was born. Anna remembers her mother saying about Dolores, ”If you put a sack on her she’d look beautiful but you’d want Brown Thomas’s of Grafton Street for Anna to look anything”!
(1925 - October 23, 2013)
Allan Block, fiddler and human being extraordinaire, legendary sandal maker of Greenwich Village back in The Day (1960s), recently passed away at the age of 90. Good run, Allan!
Alan Block was one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met. He was warm and welcoming of anyone with a song or tune, or who wanted to learn one. I moved to southern New England too late to have gone to his legendary folk-Mecca/sandal shop. His central role in the burgeoning folk scene there would have made him famous even had he done no more playing after that, a prospect impossible to imagine.
I had the great fortune of meeting and playing with Allan a handful of times in the 1980s at festivals and parties around New England, where his making of music and fun was completely infectious. I hate to admit that he was the age I am now, but he had more stamina for late night sessions than I had then. My excuse was being a circadian ‘lark’ - but Allan was obviously both lark and owl. Joyful and energetic!
He must have known hundreds or more tunes. Someone more expert in fiddle styles could comment on the exact variety of “old-time” that he played, but Allan was no purist. As his extensive discography shows, he played plenty of Celtic-influenced New England contra dance music in addition to Appalachian tunes.
(OCTOBER 14, 1923 - SEPT. 18, 2013)
JAMMING WITH THE ANGELS!
"Imagine an afternoon stretching into the evening and maybe into the wee hours of the morning – spent playing along with an enthusiastic and non-exclusive jam session – one tune after another. If you’re a beginning fiddler player trying to get your feet wet, no problem. The energetic guy with the mandolin on his knee says, ‘Well, good! Do you know Soldier’s Joy?’ If you’re a hotshot guitar player with fancy licks at your fingertips: ‘Hey, BIG chords now. Bring that E string up a bit. Now take the A string down. Stay off the four chord there – this ain’t Western Swing. Key of D. Let’s go!’ Many readers will immediately recognize this as a Kenny Hall session in progress.”1
The last several years have seen Kenny and friends jamming together regularly on Wednesday evenings at the Santa Fe Basque restaurant in Fresno. But on Wednesday, September 18, 2013, Kenny missed this jam session. But he had a good excuse – because that’s the day Kenny went to join the jam session we all hope to see some day. And I have it on good authority that he was heard haranguing the angel with the harp: “Hey, BIG chords now. Bring that E string up a bit. Now take the A string down. Stay off the four chord there – this ain’t Western Swing. Key of D. Let’s go!”
July 1, 1922 – July 9, 2013
Toshi Seeger, Filmmaker, Homemaker, Troublemaker and according to her husband Pete, “The brains of the family” died Tuesday night, July 9 at their log cabin in Beacon, New York, on the Hudson River she spent forty years trying to clean up. She was 91 years old.
Toshi Seeger was a driving force behind all of Pete Seeger’s projects, including the Hudson River’s Sloop Clearwater, that she transformed from an informal concert venue into an educational opportunity for children to learn about the environment and how to restore the river. She was also Pete’s manager and producer, going back to the days when he was blacklisted for refusing to name names before HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee. When he was finally convicted in 1961 for his August 18, 1955 appearance, she accepted all of the bookings that came in, planning on him going to jail and then having to cancel most of them. Much to their surprise, the US Court of Appeals overturned the verdict the same year and Pete had to keep all of the engagements Toshi had made. This turned into his busiest year as a folk singer since he had been blacklisted in 1950. Toshi vowed never again to put up with that—“Let him go to jail,” she declared.
In Memory of Richie Havens
(January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013)
Just Like a Mensch:
[Editor: In 1963 I lived in Greenwich Village and was fortunate to have seen many of the singers who defined the times. Richie Havens played ‘pass the hat’ coffeehouses and he made a big splash. His voice was unique, but what everyone talked about was how he used his thumb for chording. Everything about Richie was one of a kind. – Leda Shapiro]
Iconic American folk singer and musical activist Richie Havens, who turned an opening act into a star-making turn at Woodstock, passed away from a heart attack on Earth Day, last April 22. He was 72 years old. From his days in Greenwich Village coffeehouses in the 1960s to his book-ending Woodstock with Jimi Hendrix and forty years of music and environmental activism Richie Havens became a symbol of music and social change for children of all ages.
In addition, he put a guitar company on the map by choosing to play a Guild D-50 in preference to the Martin D-28 or Gibson J-200 that defined the folk era. His distinctive and highly refined rhythmic style of using open tunings rather than either flat-picking or finger-picking of his contemporaries made his performances immediately identifiable, even before his hypnotic and always passionate voice kicked in on such songs as Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman and George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun.
February 4, 1955- February 27, 2013
Ricardo Aguero died of a massive heart attack on Wednesday, February 27, 2013. He was a gentle soul, a talented poet, an avid movie fan, a music appreciator and an exceptional photographer. His combined interest in music and photography brought him into our circle and he became the semi-official photographer for the annual Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest. All of us in the community he so beautifully captured in his pictures will miss him. His pictures are on Topanga Banjo Fiddle on FB:
[Ed. Note: Chris Caswell, Northern Californian Celtic musician and harp maker, died of cancer on January 21 at 60. Beginning in 1976, Chris recorded three albums and toured North America and Europe with Robin Williamson and His Merry Band. In 1980 he formed Caswell Carnahan with Danny Carnahan and recorded two albums: New Leaves On An Old Tree and Borderlands.
Holy Wood (2001) is Chris's solo bronze-strung harp album displays this rare and hauntingly beautiful instrument in a mix of the popular and eclectic from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England and France,. Celtic Tidings (1999) is his well-loved Christmas CD. He is on over thirty recordings, including Bonnie Rideout's multi-award-winning Give Me Elbow Room and Grammy-nominated Kindred Spirits. Chris was a featured artist with Bonnie’s national A Scottish Christmas tour, 1998-99 and Live from the National Geographic, 1997.]
At the point when I first met Chris Caswell I was already bound and determined to be a performing musician but I had little idea how to go about doing it. I hung out with Chris at the Renaissance Faire and we played and drank and joked and shared plenty of youthful enthusiasms. But when I saw him perform with Robin Williamson's Merry Band I had a real epiphany. Here was someone my age, interested in the same wacky stew of musical styles I liked, who was breezy and confident in front of an audience, damn good at a load of instruments, and most important, clearly having the time of his life on stage. That was the life for me.
Linda (Leake) Stone
Celebration of her Life
July 29, 1937 – January 11, 2013
I’d like to introduce you to an exceptional lady: Linda Stone, who shared her laughter and smiles with us for a short 75 years. A special part of our world was lost the day Linda could no longer battle the insidious demons of Cancer.
I was asked if I’d like to write something about Linda. I have never written anything under these circumstances. I’ve only celebrated a person’s life. So that is what I will do.
Linda arrived in the San Fernando Valley in July of 1979, met her husband, Warren Stone on March 23, 1981 and fell in love seven days later. Warren smiles and says they were 31 good years. They purchased a home in Twin Lake, Chatsworth, November, 1981, which began her 31 year love affair and passion for bettering her community: Boards of Directors for the Santa Susana Mountain Park Association and the Immigrant Genealogical Society, volunteer for the California Traditional Music Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, Chatsworth Library Association, Chatsworth Historical Society, Save Chatsworth Inc., Happy Hooker Knitting, Twin Lakes Property Owners Association and the Chatsworth Coordinating Council.
Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson
March 23, 1923-May 29, 2012
Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson, recipient of the National Medal of Arts, a National Heritage Fellowship, and eight Grammy Awards (including one for Lifetime Achievement) died on Tuesday, May 29 at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC following abdominal surgery last week. He was 89.
Doc Watson was born in Deep Gap, North Carolina on March 3, 1923, into a family already rich in musical tradition. His mother, Annie Watson, sang traditional secular and religious songs, and his father, General Watson, played the banjo, which was Doc's first instrument as well. At age thirteen he taught himself the chords to When the Roses Bloom in Dixieland on a borrowed guitar, and his delighted father bought him a $12 Stella. He later picked up some chords from a fellow student at the Raleigh (NC) School for the Blind, and began to incorporate material that he heard on records and the radio with the music of his heritage. Back home he played mostly with neighbors and family, among them fiddler Gaither Carlton, who became his father-in-law when Doc married Rosa Lee Carlton in 1947. They had two children, Eddy Merle (named for two of Doc’s idols, country stars Eddy Arnold and Merle Travis) and Nancy Ellen.
Remembering Doc Watson
“Just one of the people,” said Doc Watson, when asked how he wants to be remembered; “Don’t put me on a pedestal.” Sorry Doc, but you belong on a pedestal—along with other musical geniuses like Jascha Heifitz, Andres Segovia and Vladimir Horowitz.
Pete Seeger once said of Doc that his musical standards were uncompromisingly as high as Isaac Stern’s. This in a field where “close enough for folk music” is considered acceptable currency. Close enough for folk music wasn’t close enough for Doc. His guitar playing—both flat-picking and finger-style--was purer than Ivory Soap.
Born at the root of the tree of Southern traditional music—Deep Gap, North Carolina, the birthplace of the modern folk festival—on March 3, 1923, Doc was the best folk guitarist of the 20th Century, the standard against which all others are still measured. At McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica there are photographs on the ground floor of most of the great musicians who have played there over the past 30 years. But climb the stair case to their guitar instruction room, where their staff of excellent teachers pass on the lessons of the masters, and there is only one photograph—that of Doc Watson—their tutelary deity of the guitar.
Levon Helm: The Voice of America
MAY 26, 1940 - APRIL 19, 2012
Four Canadians managed to do the unimaginable: write songs that seemed to come out of the heart of America—from Civil War ballads to Biblical parables to moonshine romances—the soundtrack of the most iconic road movie of the late 1960s, and all created by strangers to this strange land. They were four-fifths of The Band—Robbie Robertson, the songwriter of record, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson—originally The Hawks, who became Bob Dylan’s backup band from Woodstock, who squirreled away with him during his recovery from his motorcycle accident of 1967, in what became known as “The House at Big Pink.”
But they needed a lead singer to pull off the greatest ruse of 1960s folk rock music, to convince the audience that they were singing authentic American songs—from the Ozarks no less—distilled with a rhapsodic sensibility that wedded Dylan’s surrealism to bedrock Americana.
January 6, 1924 – March 28, 2012
REPRINT FROM FolkWorks October 2011 preview of the UCLALive! UCLA Concert by Ross Altman
Series: Mercury Theatre Show: Dueling Banjos Dateline: Oct 30 2011 REPORTING FROM ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO For FolkWorks of the World An unusual amount of static has been detected at a radio switch station above Roswell, New Mexico, where an unmarked aircraft has just set down reputed to be carrying bluegrass banjo legend Earl Scruggs. He was said to be laying over at a local farmhouse en route to Los Angeles for a concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Saturday, November 5. We interrupt this story…our keyboard has just been seized…breakup…breakup…alt…control…delete…permanent error…blue screen of d… Banjo Players on High Alert in Los Angeles: Rapture Predicted for November 5 at Royce Hall This is Orson Welles speaking from Grover’s Mill, New Jersey; Memo to Department of Homeland Security: we have received credible intelligence that Los Angeles banjo players are concerned for their safety as November 5 approaches. A recent discovery in Princeton, New Jersey of Nostradamus’ last prophecy proves that the world is about to end in a Martian attack to rid the city of five-string banjoists, based on the high probability that they will all be convened in one target area on that specific evening at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The medieval French scientist even pinpointed the time as 8:00pm sharp, when a high value target—Bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs—is scheduled to arrive on stage for a “concert.”
Series: Mercury Theatre
Show: Dueling Banjos
Dateline: Oct 30 2011
REPORTING FROM ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO
For FolkWorks of the World
An unusual amount of static has been detected at a radio switch station above Roswell, New Mexico, where an unmarked aircraft has just set down reputed to be carrying bluegrass banjo legend Earl Scruggs. He was said to be laying over at a local farmhouse en route to Los Angeles for a concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Saturday, November 5.
We interrupt this story…our keyboard has just been seized…breakup…breakup…alt…control…delete…permanent error…blue screen of d…
Banjo Players on High Alert in Los Angeles:
Rapture Predicted for November 5 at Royce Hall
This is Orson Welles speaking from Grover’s Mill, New Jersey; Memo to Department of Homeland Security: we have received credible intelligence that Los Angeles banjo players are concerned for their safety as November 5 approaches. A recent discovery in Princeton, New Jersey of Nostradamus’ last prophecy proves that the world is about to end in a Martian attack to rid the city of five-string banjoists, based on the high probability that they will all be convened in one target area on that specific evening at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The medieval French scientist even pinpointed the time as 8:00pm sharp, when a high value target—Bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs—is scheduled to arrive on stage for a “concert.”
October 23, 1951-March 23, 2012
On March 23rd, Dan posted on his Facebook page: At 5:13 pm Pacific time today, March 23, 2012, Eric Lowen peacefully ended his nine-year standoff with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease), surrounded by family and awash in love, gratitude and beautiful music. We all appreciate the support and well wishes that have come his way these many years, and will always hold dear the shining example he was, and still is, to us all. I've written blog posts about family members who have passed on, and while Eric is not blood family, he's family in another sense.
He is part of the family of people who love music, get together at places like Falcon Ridge, and work towards making the world a better place. He's part of the family that sings with Dave Carter, This is my home, this is my only home This is the only sacred ground that I have ever known And should I stray in the dark night alone Rock me goddess in the gentle arms of eden Eric is now visiting Dave in the gentle arms of eden, and probably stopping off at the rock and roll heaven as well. The words of one of the most popular songs he and Dan wrote comes to mind,
Close your eyes and try to sleep now
Close your eyes and try to dream…
we belong to the light
We belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words
We've both fallen under…
August 23, 1941 - March 23, 2012
We are so sad to bring you the news that Frank Javorsek has passed away. Frank was a musician and teacher here in the L.A. area for decades. He and his wife Tammy are former owners of the Blue Ridge Pickin' Parlor - in fact they met there when Tammy's folks owned the store in the '70s. Frank had been teaching lessons at the CTMS Center for Folk Music for a couple years. It was during a mandolin lesson there on Thursday, March 23rd, that he had a heart attack.
As his wife Tammy says: The thing about Frank that keeps running through my mind is that he never made an enemy. Everyone that ever came into contact with him liked him. He also worked daily to "only see the good in everyone" - this was his personal mantra and belief.
Frank was a warm, generous person, a real gem. We're so thankful to have known him, he will be greatly missed.
September 16, 1957—March 14, 2012
A Woman of Many Hats
Author, media consultant, screenwriter, nature lover, gardener, public relations director, and web site developer, Alexandra Pollyea was a woman who wore many hats, including the one she wore as a musician with her partner Derek Dickson in the folk duo The Hats. Alexandra passed away at home March 14, 2012, in her 54th year after a lengthy battle with breast cancer.
She had many circles of friends who virtually never intermixed, and each felt she was somehow the hub. This included media groups like her clients at the Los Angeles Times, AOL and Disney Online; the world of art that she contributed to from her post as Director of Public Relations and Marketing at the Santa Monica Art Museum; the realm of education from her alumni group at one of the Seven Sisters women’s college Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania—where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, with Honors in History, to join the ranks of Katharine Hepburn—their most famous graduate. Wherever she went she was “a sparkling star” as her partner Derek Dickson so memorably described her. From her most recent position at the Otis College of Art and Design, their Communications Director Margi Reeve remembers her with great clarity and fondness:
February 1, 1937-August 30, 2011
September Song for Steve Parker
As ragtime musician Steve Parker’s days dwindled down to a precious few, I was lucky enough to be able to spend a memorable afternoon with him and his beloved wife Sue, doing what he loved to do, playing music just a month before he passed away. Steve long ago taught me a string-band classic that no one else knew the words to—Bill Morgan and His Gal. And every time we got together we pulled it out and started singing:
Oh a man named William Morgan took his gal to see a play
And on their way back home they walked into a nice café
As soon as they were seated Liza grabbed the bill of fare
And when the waiter asked she ordered everything in there.
Steve’s eyes always lit up when he came to the second verse:
Cowboy Poet, Singer RIP
October 30, 1933—July 30, 2011
Southern California’s most beloved cowboy poet, singer, recording artist, author and hotrod specialist, Ken Graydon of Fallbrook, CA lost his eight month battle with metastasized melanoma on Saturday evening, July 30. The cards were stacked against him from the start, when he was first diagnosed last November at stage 4, but like his cowboy heroes he did not go down without a fight—undergoing grueling treatments of chemotherapy and nuclear radiation directly to the brain. Each treatment required preparatory medications to ward off the nausea that accompanied them, some of which were almost successful.
Despite eerily living out the narrative of The Dying Cowboy ( see accompanying tribute) that is not how he will be remembered. For more than thirty years he set the standard for transmuting straw into gold, turning the raw material of local legends and historical vignettes into beautiful, permanently crafted poems and songs, a number of which were recorded by internationally-known artists like Tommy Makem and Glenn Yarborough.
THOMAS BENTON FLIPPEN
July 18, 1920 - June 28, 2011
A fiddle tune might not differ too much from musician to musician — but when Benton Flippen played, he created a sound like no other.
That was an observation made time and time again Wednesday by people who knew or performed with Flippen, one of the last-remaining creators of an old-time musical style unique to Surry County but appreciated worldwide.
Flippen, who also played the banjo, died Tuesday at age 90 after several years of declining health — and his loss is being mourned near and far.
“He was part of a great tradition of Round Peak music, which is centered in Surry County, North Carolina, but has become known throughout our country and really many parts of the world,” said Wayne Martin of the N.C. Arts Council.
“A lot of what he learned was from friends and neighbors,” Martin added of the musical climate of the early 20th century in rural areas such as Surry, long before the advent of CDs or computers.
“But he had a genius for putting in his own style and really making it unique,” said the official of the state arts council, the director of its Folklife Program. “That was one of his greatest contributions — he was a very creative musician.”
June 1, 1935- April 22, 2011
Songwriter for the Other America
It's Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song
Hazel Dickens was born on June 1, 1935 in Mercer County, West Virginia, and died on Earth Day, April 22, 2011, at a hospice in Washington, DC, from complications of pneumonia. She was the voice of the hardest hit poor people in the coal mining region of the country, a folk singer who wrote and sang songs like Don’t Put Her Down (You Helped Put Her There), and They’ll Never Keep Us Down.
She sang for folk socialist Michael Harrington once described as belonging to “The Other America,” outside of the middle class, or even of middle class aspirations. They belonged proudly to the working class, what the IWW used to call wage slaves, those who barely entered the consciousness of most Americans before Michael Harrington’s friend Bobby Kennedy went down to Appalachia and brought a camera crew with him, to shine a bright light on Americans who had long ago been forgotten and consigned to the dark underbelly of the American nightmare, for whom there was no way out and no way up.
It was for these people, white, black and brown, that LBJ finally declared his War on Poverty. It was on their behalf that Hazel Dickens sang her heart out and wrote her hard-hitting songs for hard-hit people.
FEBRUARY 12, 1929—DECEMBER 15, 2010
A Personal Appreciation
Before Peter, Paul and Mary, before the Kingston Trio, before Bud and Travis, before Ian and Sylvia, before Joe and Eddie, there was Keith and Rusty McNeil, the Southern California based folk duo who traveled the country in their specially outfitted school bus to take students to a kind of school no other bus would take them to: a thorough grounding in their nation’s folk music and history—which they taught as one subject, not two.
Bettine Kinney Wallin
May 14, 1936 - June 5, 2010
Bettine Kinney Wallin passes away at 74; educator, activist, philanthropist and Renaissance Pleasure Faire pioneer, her public-spirited life enriched Santa Barbara and all who knew her.
Singer, dancer, patron of the arts, beloved wife, mother, friend and teacher Bettine Wallin passed away June 5, 2010, after a long and valiant battle against breast cancer.
She was born Bettine Celia Kinney on May 14, 1936, in Beijing (then Peking) China, the daughter of Ray and Beth Kinney, American missionaries who had come to China to teach English at the mission school. Ray Kinney was a Congregational minister whose activities included saving businesses owned by Japanese-Americans interned following Pearl Harbor, and early work in the development of Dianetics as a counseling technique.
(1946 - 2010)
Canadian folk and roots music singer Kate McGarrigle, best known for her work with her sister, Anna, as the McGarrigle Sisters, has died at age 63. The McGarrigle Sisters, known for their gorgeous vocal harmonies, first rose to prominence when Linda Rondstadt had a hit with Anna McGarrigle's song "Heart Like A Wheel" in 1974. The sisters then went on to release several critically-acclaimed albums, beginning with 1975's Kate and Anne McGarrigle.
Kate McGarrigle is the mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, her children with Loudon Wainwright III. She succumbed to a rare form of cancer.
Western Music Association
Co-Founder, Makes His Last Ride
Bill Jacobson passed away this week after a brief illness. Bill was a founding member of the Western Music Association. At the initial meeting in Las Vegas in 1988, volunteers were needed to launch a publication that would pick up where the Sons of the Pioneers newsletter left off. It would broaden the scope of coverage to include new music releases, articles of historical interest, and help bring together musicians and fans who were interested in preserving and continuing Western music.
November 12, 1964 - December 25, 2009
Singer/songwriter and longtime Athens, GA resident Vic Chesnutt, whose literate lyrics and intimate, unadorned music impressed fans, critics and fellow musicians alike, died of an intentional overdose of muscle relaxants on Christmas day, two days after falling into a coma.
Born in Jacksonville, FL and raised in Georgia, Chesnutt learned trumpet in school and guitar from his grandmother. Chesnutt had been in a wheelchair since being injured in a one-car accident at the age of 18. Though he'd been a guitarist and keyboardist in a series of rock bands since before his accident, afterwards he re-learned guitar, and sticking to simpler chords by necessity, developed his own idiosyncratic songwriting style, equally influenced by songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and an (allegedly shoplifted) copy of the Norton Anthology of American Poetry.
After REM's lead singer Michael Stipe saw him play in the 40 Watt Club in Athens, where he was playing a weekly residency, Stipe offered to produce his debut album, Little, featuring Chesnutt's voice accompanied only by ARP synthesizer.
On Saturday, January 9, from 10 am-1 pm, a "Celebration Of Curly Musgrave's Life" will be held at Pomona First Baptist Church, 586 N Main St., Pomona, CA 91768. A multiple top-award-winning musician, headliner at many festivals, past performing guest on radio's "Tied to the Tracks," and all-around great guy, he will be remembered in song and word that day and well beyond in the legacy of music he left us.
There is no Grammy for Western Music. The genre's most prestigious awards come from two entities, the Western Music Association (WMA) and the Academy of Western Artists (AWA). Curly Musgrave won top honors from both. He received two Academy Of Western Artists "Will Rogers' Awards" as "Male Performer of the Year" and "Entertainer of the Year" in 2003. He won the Western Music Association's "Male Performer of the Year" in both 2002 and 2003, and he was the WMA's "Songwriter of the Year" in 2002, 2003 and 2004. His final music award came in November 2009 - at a time when everyone expected him to make a complete recovery - when he won the WMA's "Instrumentalist of the Year."
Bess Lomax Hawes RIP
January 21, 1921 - November 27, 2009
With the passing of Bess Lomax Hawes on the day after Thanksgiving, November 27, 2009, an era of the great folk song collectors started by America's founding father of folklore, John A. Lomax, has come to a close. Bess Lomax was the last of that extraordinary first family, who along with her father and brother Alan defined the role of the folk song collector for the past century. She was eighty-eight years old, and died of a stroke in Portland, Oregon. As W.H. Auden once wrote about the Irish poet Yeats, "Earth, receive an honored guest; Bess Lomax Hawes is laid to rest."
Where to begin? Let me tell you a story about a woman named Bess: Sixty years ago, in November of 1949, a sound truck was rumbling through Boston with loudspeakers blaring a campaign song she and her friend Jacqueline Steiner had just written: The MTA Song:
Banjo Fred Starner
August 6, 1937 - October 25, 2009
HOBO TROUBADOUR AND FILMMAKER
LOS ANGELES. LA's hobo troubadour and documentary filmmaker "Banjo" Fred Starner, a veteran of 1969s first voyage to clean up the Hudson River with Pete Seeger's replica of a 19th century sloop The Clearwater, has died of complications from pneumonia and sarcoidosis, a chronic lung disease to which ship builders are particularly prone.
Fred Starner was 72 years old and had been in failing health for two months. He died on October 25, at Chatsworth Park Rehab in West Hills.
The idea to build a replica of an old Hudson River sloop, which had sailed up and down the Hudson River in the 1800s, came from Pete. He thought if he could get people to come to see this beautiful sloop that he could call attention to the plight of the Hudson, and to educate the public along the Hudson to realize that the river was so polluted that no fish could live in it.
November 9, 1936 - September 16, 2009
Mary Travers passed away on September 16th. After successful recovery from leukemia through a bone marrow/stem cell transplant, Mary succumbed to the side effects of one of the chemotherapy treatments.
We all loved her deeply and will miss her beyond words.
Statement by Peter Yarrow
"In her final months, Mary handled her declining health in the bravest, most generous way imaginable. She never complained. She avoided expressing her emotional and physical distress, trying not to burden those of us who loved her, especially her wonderfully caring and attentive husband, Ethan.
March 31, 1917 - September 10, 2009
Sam Hinton passed away on Thursday, September 10, at 4 p.m., surrounded by family and hearing his own songs.It was a peaceful end to a long, creative and beloved life. There is a sweet tribute to him on his website maintained his grandchild Katrina Cooper and her husband Danny.
Ross Altman, in a feature article, pays tribute to Sam referring to the song It's a Long Way From Amphioxus:
"The song became a part of oral tradition, at least in zoology and biology departments across the country, mostly from the singing of marine biologist/folk singer Sam Hinton, who recorded it for Folkways Records in the early 1950s. Sam later became the head of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla and carried on his dual career until about ten years ago.
May 2, 1943 - September 9, 2009
Steve Mann wanted to achieve some kind of immortality as a guitarist, and wasn't afraid to admit it. To him that meant meeting the standards set by only one guitarist, the one who sold his soul to the devil at a famous meeting at the Crossroads, in exchange for which he would be able to play the blues like no one had ever played them. It was a Faustian bargain and Robert Johnson paid for it with his life.
In the end, so did Steve Mann. But let me start at the beginning.
If LA had a Mt. Rushmore of folk guitarists I know who would be on it: Ry Cooder, who at 16 could play Blind Blake so you couldn't tell the difference between them; David Cohen, a hulking Buddha statue of a man who taught an entire generation of guitar-enthusiasts to finger-pick like their favorites, from Doc Watson to Elizabeth Cotton; Dick Rosmini, who played the 12-string guitar in the movie Midnight Special, based on Leadbelly's life, even though the filmmaker had to conceal his white hands; and Steve Mann, the most exciting ragtime and blues style guitarist I ever saw, who stole the show at the Ash Grove no matter who else was on stage.
February 23, 1955-July 16, 2009
Farewell to Master Cape Breton Fiddler
A sad day in 2009 was July 26, when Cape Breton fiddler Jerry Holland passed away after a long struggle with cancer. He was 54 years old. Holland was an acclaimed performer, known for a sweet tone that complemented the sometimes rough, always energetic, musical tradition of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. He was also known for his mentoring and teaching, and for the many tunes he wrote in the Cape Breton and Irish traditions. Jerry's best known tune, Brenda Stubbert's, has become a session favorite.
Fiddle music was brought to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, by Scottish immigrants during the Highland Clearances. These immigrants were from the wilder and remote regions of Scotland, the Highlands and the Hebrides Islands.
(1933 - 2009)
After a long struggle with cancer, Mike Seeger died peacefully last Friday, August 7th, in his Lexington, Virginia home, surrounded by his wife, family, and friends.
Best known perhaps for his role as co-founder of the music group The New Lost City Ramblers, Mike devoted his life and career to performing, collecting, and teaching, and disseminating the music of rural Appalachian America to a vast throng of friends, students, and admirers. Born in NYC in 1933 to Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, Mike grew up in Washington DC and its suburbs. Along with the Lomax's, the Seeger's could be considered among the first families of the American folk music revival. His father, Charles, beginning his career as a musicologist, once recounted that he'd tired of studying European classical music, as he realized that this segment comprised just a small amount of the world's musical output. Shifting his attention to folk and ethnic musics from around the world, his studies formed the basis of what we now call ethnomusicology. Mike's mother, Ruth, was an accomplished pianist and music arranger, transcribing the field recordings of such collecting luminaries as John and Alan Lomax for publication via the Library of Congress.
Non-violent Banjo Player RIP
Mike Seeger, Peggy Seeger's older brother and Pete's younger half-brother, died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Lexington, Virginia, on Hiroshima Day, Thursday, August 6. He was 75 years old. He couldn't have picked a better day to leave this world, as he was a quiet champion for peace through music, mentioning during a concert at McCabe's Guitar Shop ten years ago that he played old-timey "non-violent banjo," to distinguish it from hi-powered bluegrass.
He was playing a fretless banjo at the time, one that Frank Proffit, collector of the original version of the ballad Tom Dooley, had made for him many years ago. He also played the Jews Harp (or Jaws Harp), which he could get more music out of than anyone I had ever heard.
Not known particularly as a political artist like Pete, Mike Seeger nonetheless manifested his politics through his music, making African-American traditional songs and tunes a core part of his expansive repertoire, and closing a memorable appearance at UCLA's Royce Hall with a peace song from World War One. He loved letting old voices speak through him; rather than singing the most recent topical song on the politics of the Bush administration, he would make the same point even more forcefully with a seventy-five year old song that no one had ever heard before.
Tony Young grew up in central Scotland, went to sea as a young man, and ended up in Los Angeles. Somewhere along the way, he learned to play the spoons like no one you've ever heard before or since. It wasn't just that he was the most technically gifted player; it was the absolute joy that he got from playing and sharing his music. He sat in with just about every Irish or Scottish band in California at one time or another, and was a fixture at the local festivals. Lots of folks never even knew his name... they just called him "Spoonman."
wasn't able to play his spoons for the last few years of his life, but we bet
he's playing them somewhere now.
A memorial service took place this past Saturday at Maggie's Pub in Santa Fe Springs. A gathering of his friends, neighbors and fellow musicians celebrated his life. His brother Ron shared stories and fond memories.
Tony we will miss you.
January 1, 1948 - May 11, 2009
Once Upon A Time ...
there was a storyteller named Kathleen Zundell who traveled far and wide telling stories of fearless kids, feisty women, family foibles, and four-footed creatures. Her repertoire celebrated many cultures, stories with American Sign Language, and tales of the earth.
Beloved Los Angeles Storyteller Kathleen Zundell passed away Monday morning, May 11, 2009. Kathleen was Storyteller-in-Residence at UCLA-Seeds University Elementary School for many years,as well as at Wildwood School and Children's Community School in the Valley. She continued teaching and performing even as she battled both Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma with both conventional and alternative methods of healing.
September 23, 1932 - May 9, 2009
Travis Edmonson was a gift to the world, enthralling everyone who knew him or heard him sing - as part of Bud & Travis, The Gateway Singers and as a magnetic solo performer. Not just an entertainer, Travis Edmonson was inevitably also a profound source of inspiration to those who listened to his music.
Mixing that incredible vocal range with the ability to profoundly touch the heart or create an instant smile, he consistently drew each member of the largest audience into a direct one-to-one relationship.
To understand Travis Edmonson's extraordinary life, a look back at the beginning will reveal many links to the inspiring entertainer who captivated us all so completely.
Born on September 23, 1932 in Long Beach, California, Travis Jerome Edmonson's first sojourn as a Californian was short-lived, and from infancy to leaving college, he lived in southern Arizona, not merely a state of residence for him, but a virtual state of mind which affected much in his life, his career and his thinking.
(1930 - 2008)
Great African-American Folksinger
Odetta (December 31 1930 - December 2 2008) was an African-American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a human rights activist, often referred to as "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement." Her musical repertoire consists largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and '60s, she was a formative influence on dozens of artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Janis Joplin.
Early life and career
She was born in Birmingham, Alabama, grew up in Los Angeles, California, and studied music at Los Angeles City College. Having operatic training from the age of 13, her first professional experience was in musical theater in 1944, as an ensemble member for four years with the Hollywood Turnabout Puppet Theatre, working alongside Elsa Lanchester; she later joined the national touring company of the musical Finian's Rainbow in 1949.
While on tour with Finian's Rainbow, Odetta "fell in with an enthusiastic group of young balladeers in San Francisco", and after 1950 concentrated on folksinging.
Mama Africa and the Empress of African Song
The world was dealt a blow early this morning, in a small town outside Naples, Italy when Zenzile Miriam Makeba..Mama Afrika to the world, passed away.. and left this earth, aged 76 years. She was born on 4th March 1932.
Whilst this great lady was alive she would say "I will sing until the last day of my life"
Zenzile Miriam Makeba collapsed on stage, at the end of her set, after singing Pata Pata,. She was immediately attended to by her grandson Nelson Lumumba Lee and others before being rushed to the nearest hospital. Tragically, in the early hours of this 10th of November 2008 morning, the doctors pronounced that they were unable to revive her.
Folk musician, educator
Pomona resident Clabe Robert Hangan died at home on August 9 , 2008 at the age of 74. A musician for a lifetime, Mr. Hangan steered his talent into the realm of education later in life, bringing inspiration to young people eager to absorb his valuable lessons in music and life.
Born in Ashdown, Arkansas in 1934 to Artomia (nee Ghoston) and John Hangan, Mr. Hangan grew up in Redlands, graduating from Redlands High School around 1950. He went on to earn a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Redlands.
"This was the late 50s, and there was the whole Beat thing going on, and [my parents] were, in their own way, involved in that Bohemian, Beat era. So sociology was the kind of field you go into if you were interested in alternative ways of thinking about social justice, etc.," said his daughter, Margaret Hangan. "Bear in mind, people were starting to see the African American Civil Rights Movement build at this time. There was a confluence of things going on, including a movement in the folk music scene, and he was at the forefront of all of this."
In 1955, Mr. Hangan married Emily Gates, a fellow sociology student in college. He worked as a probation officer for a short time and then, during the 60s, built his career as a musician. He had started his music career as a young man singing with a gospel group called the Mu-tonic Singers in Redlands. In the early part of the decade, he began to play guitar and perform folk music with the Riverside Folk Song Society whose members included Sally and Jim Thomas, Keith and Rusty McNeil, Keith Chalmers, Roberta and Chet Roistacker and many more.
April 3, 1943 - July 20, 2008
It is with profound sorrow that we announce the untimely passing of Artie Traum, a brilliant and creative musician as well as a much-beloved husband, brother, uncle and friend.
Four years ago, Artie was diagnosed with a rare ocular melanoma, and he had been undergoing regular treatments for it. In May, however, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his liver, and it was incurable. Like everything else in his life, Artie handled his diagnosis with dignity, strength and acceptance - and even a little of his irreverent humor.
September 25, 1933 - August 3, 2008
A Personal Appreciation
"Close enough for folk music," was not close enough for Erik Darling. He was a perfectionist who "practiced the banjo the way Heifitz practiced the violin," according to his one-time Weavers' band mate Fred Hellerman. Darling passed away this past August 3 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, of lymphoma. He was 74 years old, and had been a prime mover in the folk revival of the 1960's, having replaced Pete Seeger in the Weavers a few years earlier.
Darling was a virtuoso banjo player, whose sparkling accompaniments enlivened countless albums of traditional American music on such small but essential labels as Riverside, Tradition, Vanguard, Elektra and Folkways, often as the sole guest instrumentalist for better-known singers. He was also a virtuoso 12-string guitarist at a time when none of the major guitar makers included 12-string guitars in their catalogs. Darling was about to change all that and bring the 12-string into the forefront of the folk revival.
Aloha ‘Oe to Two Hawaiian Treasures
Two beacons of traditional Hawaiian culture have passed away in recent months, leaving vivid memories for the audiences they entertained and rich legacies for the students they inspired. Nona Beamer (August 15, 1923 - April 10, 2008) was a noted chanter, composer, singer, and teacher of hula, who established "Hawaiiana" as an area for scholarship and education in Hawaii. Genoa Keawe (October 31, 1918 - February 25, 2008) set the standard for female Hawaiian falsetto singers through today with her uniquely sweet soprano and heartfelt interpretations. Both remained active in their kupuna (elder) days when I was privileged to see them perform.
JOHN STEWART: THE PASSING OF A LONESOME PICKER
Legendary singer-songwriter, John Stewart, passed away on January 19, 2008, after experiencing a massive stroke. He was 68 years old. He is survived by his wife, Buffy Ford-Stewart, and children, Mikal, Jeremy, Amy and Luke. He is also survived by a legion of devoted friends and fans. A testament to John's influence as a folksinger is the lack of a fine line between the fan and a friend. This is the mark of a true troubadour of folk music.
John's career took off in the early 1960s when he replaced Dave Guard on banjo in The Kingston Trio. During that time he formed a relationship with the Kennedy brothers, especially Bobby. Because of this, he joined RFK's presidential bid in 1968. After Bobby Kennedy's assassination, John would later call this “The Last Campaign.” This would become a touchstone he would revisit during his prolific career as a songwriter. His words still sing out in the history of those times:
A peerless craftsman and gentle jewel of a person.
Larry was a brilliant acoustic instrument luthier/repairman. His work on acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins, and the like was a delight to behold. He always knew what needed to be done and the best way to do it. If you have ever entrusted your beloved instruments to someone and experienced the care, impeccable judgement, and exquisite workmanship of a true craftsman who honored music and musicians, then you know a little about what letting Larry work on your stuff was like. From his days at McCabe’s, to his own place, to his shop above Boulevard Music, there have been many who would trust their instruments to no one else. A trip to Larry’s to hang out and discuss music, musicians, instruments, and life was always a joy. His friendship and his talent will be greatly missed.
John David from rec.music.makers.guitar.acoustic
March 4, 1950 - October 14, 2007
Ron Jackson was a fixture in the San Diego music scene as both a music teacher and performer for 35 years.
His first full-time band was Molly Stone's New Honkytonk Band, followed in succession during the 1970's by Squatters' Rites, Squatters' Last Rites, and Fancy Peaches, culminating in the formation of the Unstrung Heroes in 1981, which was still active until his death. He was also a member of the La Mirada Gutter Strutters jug band and performed from 1979-1985 with Gabe Ward, last performing member of the well-known Hoosier Hot Shots of the 1930's National Barn Dance. Ron also played rhythm guitar for Patsy Montana on her Southern California tours.
It is with great sadness that we share with you the passing of FolkScene founder, Howard Larman.
Howard was one of a kind. A generous soft-spoken man with a love for folk music he shared with his wife and co-founder of FolkScene Roz Larman. Their musical journey started 35 years ago and they shared that journey with FolkScene listeners almost every Sunday night during this time.
February 19, 2007
This St. Patrick's Day was strangely quiet for many members of the Irish Community. The festivities went on as usual, but for many there was a distinct silence. There was no lively button box music, for Des Regan had passed away on February 19th, 2007. Desmond James O'Regan of Moycullen, County Galway, Ireland gave us the great joy of his music for the better part of his 70 years.
Des Regan has been a central figure in the Irish Community, performing at many of the community events for decades with his Irish Show Band. His career as an Irish button accordion player is noted in Susan Gedutis' book, See You at the Hall, Boston's Golden Era of Irish Music and Dance. In his lifetime, he played with some of the best in Irish music including other box players such as Kevin Keegan and Joe Burke.
Des was a distinguished player on an instrument that many musicians forsake due to the challenges. His love of the music sailed through the jigs and reels he played. When he played A Bonnie Bunch of Roses, it sounded holy and you could hear the church bells resonating. Those of us who were lucky enough to share sessions with him will mourn his passing for a long time.
MARY GRIFFITH COX
April 25, 1941 - December 18, 2006
Mary Griffith Cox, wife of folk musician and actor Ronny Cox, died Dec. 18, 2006, at the age of 65, at Tarzana/Encino Hospital it was announced today. The cause of death was lung cancer. She was born Mary Lee Griffith on Aug. 25, 1941, in Elk Horn, Iowa. Her family moved to Portales, New Mexico, in 1952, where she attended public schools. She took a BS degree from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, majoring in chemistry.
She studied organic chemistry at Georgetown University, receiving her PhD there. For several years she did research at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in Rye, New York.
The family moved to Sherman Oaks, California, in 1972, where they have lived ever since.
She is survived by her husband and two sons; by her granddaughter Catherine; by her sisters Joyce Hansen of Elk Horn, Iowa; Alice Hansen of Mesa, Arizona; Kathryn Carol McNair of Ashland, Oregon; and Jane Wittrup of Albuquerque, New Mexico; by her two brothers, John Griffith of Seattle, Washington, and Gene Griffith of Sonoma, California; and by numerous nieces and nephews.
She was a woman of many interests. In addition to her expertise in the sciences, she was widely read in several historical areas. She enjoyed bird-watching, needlepoint and running. She was a valued member of a wide-spread community of folk-singers.