WEAVING THROUGH THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS:

THE WEAVERS AT CARNEGIE HALL—DECEMBER 24, 1955

By Ross Altman, PhD

Weavers at Carnegie Hall Album

‘Twas the night before Christmas, December 24, 1955: sixty years ago to the day this coming Christmas Eve. The Weavers, America’s consummate folk quartet, had been blacklisted since their chart-busting Number 1 hit Goodnight Irene in August of 1950—when Red Channels fingered them as a communist threat to the country and put them out of business—and two years’ worth of bookings were cancelled overnight.

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MERLE HAGGARD AND KRIS KRISTOFFERSON AT THE SABAN THEATRE:

THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES RIDE AGAIN - FEBRUARY 11, 2016

By Ross Altman, PhD

Merle and Kris

Last year I celebrated my birthday with Merle Haggard at the Canyon Club in Agoura. Looks like it’s getting to be a habit; the Hag is going to help me make it through December this time around too; with a little help from Kris Kristofferson, former Rhodes Scholar and perhaps the most literate writer ever to lay claim to being a country singer. Between Merle and Kris there won’t be many country staples left untouched: drinking (Tonight the Bottle Let me Down, and Sunday Morning Coming Down); sad love affairs (Me and Bobbi McGee, Help Me Make It Through the Night); prison (Mama Tried); Hard Times (Workingman’s Blues and Here Comes That Rainbow Again); Patriotism (The Fightin’ Side of Me); and Jesus (They Killed Him)—between them a veritable glossary of country music.

Read more: MERLE HAGGARD AND KRIS KRISTOFFERSON AT THE SABAN

DANCE WITH WHO BRUNG YOU

THE HIGH LIFE CAJUN BAND AT 
GOLDEN SAILS HOTEL PCH CLUB IN LONG BEACH - OCTOBER 25, 2015

By Ross Altman, PhD

In Memoriam Joel Okida

Il Miglior Fabbro

High Life BandWhat is the sound of one heart breaking? A Hank Williams song, of course, though not the one you may be thinking of. That slightly modified Zen Koan came to mind after a Fais Do-Do (Cajun Zydeco dance party) at the Golden Sails Hotel PCH Club (their bar) in Long Beach last Sunday. I don’t usually frequent such places (just approaching my 3rd year of sobriety in a well-known twelve-step program) but Jill invited me, so I went. Two non-alcoholic mineral waters got me through the evening, and as I listened to the music and watched the couples dancing I fell in love.

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IS DYLAN MURAL WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS?

HERE THEY ARE

By Ross Altman, PhD

Dylan MuralOn the side of a five-story office building in downtown Minneapolis is a new mural of Bob Dylan called The Times, They Are A-Changing—painted by Brazilian street artist and public muralist Eduardo Kabro and a team of five assistants—two of them from Minneapolis—and completed September 8, 2015. It’s an enormous homage to American’s greatest songwriter—as described by Kabro—“one of the most important figures in 20th Century music.”

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COMING VERY SOON: UNUSUAL PAIRS OF HAWAIIAN DELIGHTS

GEORGE KAHUMOKU JR. WITH JERoMe KOKo AND HAPA WITH ACADEMY OF HAWAIIAN ARTS

By Audrey Coleman

Barry Flanagan
Barry Flanagan with a Beamer Steel String.

Two pairs of Hawaiian guitarists, veterans of their genres, have injected their shows with fresh elements that should draw audiences to Little Tokyo’s Aratani Theater on Saturday, October 4 and to the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, October 10. Experience George Kahumoku Jr. and Jerome Koko together on the first Saturday followed by the duo Hapa together with the Academy of Hawaiian Arts  on the second. Here’s why.

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Pitt Kinsolving

A Folk Hero and a Bluegrass celebration

By Rex Mayreis

Pitt KinsolvingPitt Kinsolving, a man with a most distinguished name, is known for organizing folk music events, as well as getting musicians together to make music. While engineering sound for recordings, performances, and other live programs has been his profession, he has been an important force in bringing folk music to Southern California through his volunteer efforts in planning and promoting concerts and festivals, and in his active participation in hoots.

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L.A. CELEBRATES “MIGHTY UKE”

By Audrey Coleman

Uke FestivalI can’t lay claim to the nomenclature. It comes from the title of an enchanting and informative 2010 documentary titled Mighty Uke: The Amazing Comeback of a Musical Underdog produced by Tony Coleman (no relation) and Margaret Meagher. The words beautifully capture the feistiness of those who have embraced the instrument since its adoption by Hawaiians and westerners living in the islands a little over a hundred years ago.

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THE WOODY GUTHRIE PRIZE:

WHAT IS IT AND HOW DO YOU GET IT?

A FOLKWORKS COMMENTARY

By Ross Altman, PhD

Woody Guthrie PrizeI had no problem with the first recipient of the “Woody Guthrie Prize,” which was awarded to Pete Seeger last year. With Pete’s name on it you could count on a little press.

Unfortunately, between the time the prize was announced, and the time Pete was to receive it at an event in New York City co-sponsored by the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles—and for which Arlo was to serenade Pete as the highlight of the ceremony—Pete—whose timing was usually impeccable—passed away. Kind of took the wind out of the Clearwater’s sails. Nonetheless, they went ahead with the ceremony and it became one of hundreds of memorials for America’s Tuning Fork, albeit with a lot more cachet due to Arlo. But all in all it was not an auspicious beginning for the “Woody Guthrie Prize” to be bestowed upon a dead man. If it was to amount to anything they would have to be very careful on whom they bestowed it the second time around.

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JC MEETS JC: GOOD NEWS AND THE FOLSOM PRISON BLUES

THE JOHNNY CASH TRIBUTE ROAD SHOW REVIVAL:

AT MISSION PARK IN DOWNTOWN VENTURA - JUNE 27-28 2015

By Ross Altman

Road Show RevivalIf you wonder what’s missing from the Topanga Banjo-Fiddle Contest and Claremont Folk Festival, you should come out to Ventura next weekend for The Johnny Cash Tribute Road Show Revival. For starters, how about pin-up girls, hot rods, bikers, classic cars, Jesus and Johnny Cash—all of whom were there in abundance last year. Produced by Ross Emery Entertainment and Johnny’s other daughter, Cindy Cash, the show has all the ingredients of an old school revival meeting, minus Billy Graham and the Man in Black himself, but with many impersonators to create a general impression of what he sounded like. This June 27-28th will be their 7th annual Road Show.

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LAISSEZ LES BON TEMPS ROULIER!

SIMI CAJUN & BLUES FESTIVAL

By Karen Redding

Simi Cajun - Blues Festival

Forget the beach, the mountains, and Las Vegas. Camping? Who cares? Southern California's 26th Annual Simi Cajun & Blues Festival is the only place to be for Memorial weekend. With the most spectacular lineup of Blues, Cajun and Zydeco music in its 26 year history, there's no better option for entertainment for this All-American holiday. The festival is held on Saturday and Sunday, May 23 and May 24. Hours are 12:00pm-7:30pm both days.

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FOLK DANCING:

A PLEASURE & A TREASURE

By Beverly Barr

Folk dances are ethnic dances from countries around the world, and they are danced in many different venues with different emphasis. There are recreational groups, performing groups, and ethnic groups that dance their own country’s dances. Dances are from Israel, Scandinavia, Armenia, Greece, Turkey, the Balkans, the Mideast, South America, the South Pacif ic, Africa, Scotland, England, the U.S.A. and many more. Some dances are ancient, even from countries that no longer exist, and some are more recent creations. Some dance groups also include a few contradances and line dances in their international folk dance repertoire.

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ISRAELI DANCING

NO LONGER YOUR MOTHER'S "MAYIM MAYIM"

By Ruth Morris

Israeli Folk DancingIsraeli "folk" dancing is not just a form of dance. Of the relatively familiar circle dances, a friend recently observed, "it's kind of like a (circular) group exercise class." Israeli folk dancing is now comprised of line and partner dancing, too. It is no longer your grandmother's "mayim mayim" or "hora," which can still be frequently seen and heard at synagogues on Friday nights. It is a symbolic manifestation of the Jewish spirit and mind.

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ELEGANCE & STYLE

ENGLISH COUNTRY DANCING

By Linda Repasky

You say you’ve never heard of English country dancing? You’re in good company, since many people are unfamiliar with it. But if you’ve watched Pride and Prejudice on TV or seen Sense and Sensibility or Emma at the movies, you have indeed seen it. But fear not – English country dancing is not the obscure relic you might think it to be! This traditional form of dance has been around for several hundred years, and it’s still thriving today. There are dances all over the United States.

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NAMM JUNKIE

By David James

BurstMandoO.K., I admit it, I’m a NAMM junkie. It’s one of three or four annual events that I plan my year around. I turn down gigs; I miss people’s birthday parties; I take two days off of work so that I can be there all four days. After years of trying to find some way to get in, I managed it in 1994, and I’ve been to every one since then. For four days every year, the Anaheim Convention Center turns into the biggest playground/candystore in the world, and I can’t stay away.

Last weekend, the candystore was open. Both of the Morris dance groups I play for attended a day of dance in the Bay Area, and both of them had to find alternate musos. It was no contest, for a bunch of reasons.

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OLD-TIME SQUARE DANCING: OLD-TIME MUSIC, OLD-TIME FUN

By Becky Nankivell

square dance
Photo by Nima Razfar
“Promenade around the ring, while the roosters crow and the birdies sing…”

Old-time square dancing – lively dances to old-time, southern-Appalachian-style string band music, open to all comers – have been revived in the Los Angeles area largely through the efforts of the trio who call themselves “Triple Chicken Foot”, and dance caller Susan Michaels. Monthly on third Saturdays, the sound of fast-paced southern reels played on fiddle (Ben Guzman), banjo (Mike Heinle), and rhythm guitar (Kelly Marie Martin), with Susan’s light-hearted guidance, propels a smiling and whooping crowd of dancers. The average age of the crowd is thirty-ish, and can range from elementary schoolers through retirees.

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CONTRA MAGIC

By Jeff Spero

Contra DancingThe piano sets the groove. The mandolin adds its frenetic energy. The fiddle soars above it all. All around, the hall is a blur of movement and smiles.

The band reaches its peak, the dancers whirl with excitement — and it’s over. Time to find a new partner and start it all over again.

People are having these joyous experiences more and more often these days. Contradance has spread throughout the nation and beyond from its New England origins. In Southern California, there are as many as seven dances, with approximately 350 attendees, in any given weekend.

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HOT DANCING FROM SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA

By Peter Parrish

Cajun DancingCajun/Zydeco music and dance from the prairies and bayous of Southwest Louisiana and East Texas is one of the most exciting and enduring folk/roots dance scenes in California. Largely supported by expatriates from the Southwest Louisiana and East Texas regions, this music and dance can be found at regular monthly dances, “church dances,”, and clubs like the House of Blues.

The Cajun/Zydeco scene in California owes its roots to a considerable number of Louisiana and East Texas natives that immigrated to California during and after WWII. Today the Bay Area, the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley and Southern California are home to large numbers of these Louisiana expatriates now into their third generation. For this reason, Cajun/Zydeco is strongly linked to Southwest Louisiana and their cultural identity includes the French language, the Catholic Church, and a world famous cuisine—as well as the music and dancing.

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NAMM SHOW 2015

By Steve Shapiro

Anaheim Convention CenterNAMM is the National Association of Music Merchants which is a not-for-profit association “that promotes the pleasures and benefits of making music and strengthens the $17 billion global music products industry. Our association—and our trade shows—serve as a hub for people wanting to seek out the newest innovations in musical products, recording technology, sound and lighting. 

Read more: Steve Shapiro's NAMM 2015 Impressions

A DAY AT NAMM 2015 WITH ANNETTE & NOWELL

By Annette Siegel (Living Tree Music)

(Ed. Annette and Nowell Siegel run Living Tree Music which specializes in fretted instruments. Nowell is a luthier.)

Bruce and Mary Weber NAMM 2015Our NAMM day started at one of our favorite exhibit halls “E”. The acoustics instruments tend to be in clusters here and the volume is usually a bit more tolerable. Nowell and I always like to check in with Bruce & Mary Weber even though they've sold their biz to the Two Old Hippies brand, they’re still involved with the instruments and continue to occupy the “old Schoolhouse” factory where Bruce used to make them in Montana. Weber instruments are now made in Bend, Oregon with their son (Bruce Weber, Jr.) overseeing the production end of things. Weber still offers quite a wide range of mandolins, mandolas, and octave mandolin types.

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