WHO WROTE COPPER KETTLE?

THE REST OF THE STORY

By Ross Altman, PhD

Throughout my research to reconcile two apparently conflicting accounts of the authorship of Copper Kettle—which I finally realized were not in conflict at all, but only two different names for the same person—and thus supported Joan Baez’s original credit of the song to Albert Frank Beddoe on her 1962 album Joan Baez in Concert—I nonetheless kept asking myself, “But if not the original author, from whom did Joan Baez learn the song?”

Lo and behold, within days of the article being published, the answer appeared in an email from Bob Gibson’s daughter:

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Hello Ross,

Searching for a photo of Phil Ochs and my father, Bob Gibson, I stumbled on a blurb about Of Thee I See. This lead me to your column at Folk Works about Copper Kettle. My father's recording of Copper Kettle was released by Elektra on his YES I SEE album in 1961. Frank Beddoe was credited. Perhaps Joan Baez learned the song from Bob?

Not that it really matters, but thought you might be interested.

Best,

Meridian

Bob Gibson Family LLC

Meridian Green

911 SE Columbia Ridge Drive

Vancouver, WA 98664

Ph:503-504-1666

email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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To which I replied as follows:

On Feb 20, 2017, at 1:34 PM, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. wrote:

Hello Meridian,

Oh my goodness! Well, yes it really does matter. I would certainly assume that Joan Baez would indeed have learned the song from your father, since they were friends and it was he who brought her to Newport in 1959 (a story I have recounted in a previous FolkWorks article, though I'm not sure which one at the moment). Since her album came out the following year in 1962 the timing was perfect. I'll figure out a way to add this account to the record, though I'm not exactly sure how or when at the moment. But when I do I will keep you informed.

Thank you so much for writing, and all I can say for now is I'm not at all surprised to hear this new information. While I was trying to sort out the conflicting accounts of the song's authorship I remember thinking to myself, I wonder where Joan learned it! Now I know. And yet, I must add, I now wonder where and how your father learned it. There was precious little information available on-line about Albert Frank Beddoe.

One more thing: One of my friends is also a big fan of your dad--and made me make digital CD versions of all the albums of his that I have, since she could no longer play his LPs. I saw him several times before he passed away, once with Hamilton Camp at the Hollywood theatre Camp owned and operated, and once or twice at McCabe's as well. I also have his album (or two) with Tom Paxton. Your Dad was one of the greats.

I'm so glad we are now in touch.

Thank you again for writing. You will hear back from me eventually. What a great description: "Bob Gibson--the Holy Ghost of Folk Music." !!

Best,

Ross

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To which I received a follow-up reply as follows:

"Bob Gibson…the Holy Ghost of Folk Music"

I have a friend, a former college radio DJ, who said, “There is a folk trinity in which Pete Seeger is the father, Bob Dylan, the son, and Bob Gibson, is the holy ghost of folk”. My dad, who escaped his Catholic upbringing tho’ retained the choir boy voice, would probably NOT appreciate the reference. But until I find better…

All of his albums (and more) are on the new website I’m building. You can listen now at:

https://www.bobgibsonfolk.com/albums/

Please check out the ALBUM pages if you like but everything else is underdevelopment and not ready for the general publication yet…soon.

But while the site is under construction, feedback welcome!

Best,

Meridian

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A little further research established that Bob Gibson’s album Yes I See, with the song Copper Kettle credited to the same author Joan Baez had credited it to—“Frank Beddoe”—which Gibson’s daughter Meridian dated to 1961, one year before Joan released her album with the same song—was actually first released in 1959. That is the year Bob Gibson introduced Joan Baez—un-booked and unheralded—to the Newport Folk Festival, to sing a couple songs before he started his scheduled set. She was 18 years old, and brought down the house, thus beginning her illustrious career as reigning queen of folk. Since Bob Gibson’s album of that year, with Copper Kettle on it and properly credited, would have no doubt been the source for Joan Baez learning the song—given the fact that he was now chaperoning her around the folk scene all the way to Newport—I see no reason to look further for her source for the song. If and when I discover how Bob Gibson may have met the original author, be assured I will pass it on. Until such time, however, with apologies to Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story.

Ross Altman has a PhD in English; Ross may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.