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The Weavers and the McCarthy Era

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GUEST 17 Mar 04 - 10:42 AM
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Acme 17 Mar 04 - 10:49 AM
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Subject: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 10:42 AM

I'm writing a paper on dissent during the McCarthy Era, and I am including the Weavers in the paper. What I'm wondering is how the Weavers (and their songs and reputation etc) affected the general public, you, and/or public opinion. I realize that most people here probably came after that time, but if you have any knowledge to share, that would be great (especially if you remember the 50s). Thanks a lot!


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: greg stephens
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 10:46 AM

"Most people here probably came after that time"...I shouldnt bet on it! I should say you'll find loads of people remembering the Weavers. Not me of course, Alma Cogan was more my thing.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Acme
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 10:49 AM

Exactly! I think a lot of Mudcatters remember that time perfectly. (Okay, I am too young to have been there, but my parents talked about it at length over the years).

SRS


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 10:53 AM

I remember the 50's, ok. I was a kid, and the Weavers had a couple of LPs out, which elevated them to the status of deities to those of us who were just starting the folkways trail. But we didn't know anything about McCarthyism or its impact on the Weavers -- I remember the McCarthy HUAC hearings running on our grainy black and white TV as my mother gasped over it, but it had little meaning to me, at the time. SOrry I can't offer more, but at that age what you concentrate on is baseball and peanut butter, usually.

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: pavane
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 11:45 AM

I do remember vaguely that their defence was along the lines of ' How can it be unAmerican to sing traditional American songs', but I don't believe such logic was acceptable!


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 11:45 AM

Guest-

You probably could pick up a lot of previous comments by doing a search for "McCarthy Weavers" in the "Lyrics and Knowledge Search box."

It would also be more courteous if you disclosed more about yourself and gave us at least a first name to address you.

I also remember that period as a youngster through listening to my parents' comments as they watched the various hearings on the TV. One of my uncles' musical careers was sadly derailed by the blacklisting that followed anyone being cited at the hearings.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: greg stephens
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 11:48 AM

GUEST: yes, do give us your name, and what you are writing this for. A load of us here are always glad to help students writing papers and all that stuff, but it is nice to know who you are talking to.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Backstage Manager(inactive)
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 11:52 AM

The best thing you can probably do in researching this topic is to read "How Can I Keep From Singing," a well-researched biography of Pete Seeger by David King Dunaway. It's available new from Amazon.com at $17.00 and used from $4.74.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Steve-o
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 12:14 PM

I must echo Amos' sentiments almost exactly. I had no clue what was going on, but my parents talked about it while reading the paper- they were basically outraged by McCarthy and his boys. And they bought all the Weavers albums and played them regularly, which was my introduction to folk music. There was also a lot of "subversive" jazz played, like "Strange Fruit" and "Fine Brown Frame". Oh, and for me it wasn't peanut butter and baseball, it was Cheese-its and soapbox derby racers.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 12:28 PM

Here's a brief page about Seeger and McCarthyism. Hope it helps.

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Obie
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 12:42 PM

Active socialism could not be distinguished from communism. Communism could not be distinguished from Stalinism. Therefore the political deduction was made, that anyone opposed to the right wing establishment of the day had to be actively planning for the Russian takeover of the USA. Anyone who would deduct otherwise was a communist traitor themselves, and subject to the same witch hunt .
What always amazed me was that these inquisitors professed to have Christ on their side. Anyone who suggest that the rich should be required to share with the less fortunate were branded a communist. Seems that in the Bible Christ gave that same direction to his followers. What a paradox! If Christ were alive at the time there is little doubt that he too, would have been branded as being a communist traitor.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Allan C.
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 01:09 PM

The PBS fundraiser that currently features Peter, Paul and Mary included an interview with one of the Weavers. I am sorry that I cannot recall the name. She spoke briefly of the problems the group had with McCarthy and his bunch. Check at PBS.org for your local listings. You may still be able to catch the show.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 01:26 PM

Well, I certainly don't mind admitting that I am old enough to remember the Weavers and their impact very well. I'm 66 (or is that 166?) and when I first heard them, it was like a huge earthquake hit me. I picked up a guitar when I was 13 and fell in love with the world of folk music then. By 14, I was living at the Seattle public library, devouring every book I could find on the subject. By the time I was 15, I probably had a repetoire of 1,000 songs.

The weavers were the FIRST group to hit the radio where I lived. They became very populiar very quickly. As the McCarthy era heated up, they did become somewhat controversial to the general public. But, NEVER to me. I was a HUGE fan.

When I was about 18, Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry and Sonny's cousin C.J. Burroughs, stayed at my home for a week, during which they performed several sell out concerts at Seattle's then biggest theater, "The Moore." I was instrumental (no pun intended) in getting Pete that gig and I was also very active in the publicity for it.

Even at my tender age, I was clearly able to see through the phonyness of the McCarthy era. And my Father, who was a republican businessman, was also a strong critic of what was happening at the time.

So, I don't know if this is the kind of information you're looking for? Let me know if there's anything further I can add. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,MAG at work
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 01:52 PM

Numerous documentaries have been done on the Weavers, starting with their sold out reunion concert at Carnegie Hall. The info. is there; tell us where you have already looked.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Backstage Manager(inactive)
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 02:34 PM

The PBS fundraiser that currently features Peter, Paul and Mary included an interview with one of the Weavers. I am sorry that I cannot recall the name.

Ronnie Gilbert.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 02:52 PM

Ronnie, THANK YOU for your years of wonderful music. HUGS, Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Peace
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 03:02 PM

I heard that Pete Seeger sang "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" in tthe HUAC meetings in the Congress buildings (Senate?). I do not know if he was allowed to finish it or not.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Larry K
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 03:18 PM

If you are going to do a paper on Joe McCarthy please do your research.   First- do not combine McCarthy and the HUAC.   McCarthy was in the Senate.    The HUAC was in the house and started 7 years before McCarthy ever got into the senate. 2. In 1995 (or so) the government relseased transcripts of intercepted Russian intelligence.   These were reported and confirmed by the New York Times.    The net result was that Joe McCarthy was correct.    The people he said were communists were actually communists and the CIA knew that at the time from the decoded messages.   3. The vice president of the US under Roosevelt resigned and joined the communist party.   That is a very scary thought- if Roosevelt had died two years earlier we would have had a communist president.   4.   Please research Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers.   You can't do a paper on McCarthy and not include these two.    The story of the Underwood typewriter is pricless.   (Hiss claimed in court that Chambers broke into his house and typed the letters to the Russians on his typewriter without him knowing it)   You gotta love it. 5.   The Weavers influence on American Folk Music has always been understated.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Folkiedave
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 03:21 PM

They produced a magazine and there is a copy for sale on ebay.

Item number:3595285271

Regards,

Dave
www.collectorsfolk.co.uk


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Backstage Manager(inactive)
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 03:29 PM

Deckman,

A clarification: I was naming Ronnie Gilbert as the Weaver who appeared in the Peter, Paul & Mary special. I was not signing her name.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 03:58 PM

Thank you for the clearification ... although I was NOT at all surprised to think that she might be posting. Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Mary Katherine
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 04:58 PM

In the book which accompanies the Bear Family Records Weavers box set (written, I think, by Dave Samuelson?) there is a long discussion of the political maelstrom in which the Weavers were caught up. A shorter mention can also be found in the booklet which accompanies the Vanguard Records box set "The Weavers: Wasn't That A Time." (Disclaimer: I produced and annotated the Vanguard set, but have no financial involvement, nor do I profit in any way from its sales.)

Mary Katherine


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: greg stephens
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 05:03 PM

Deckman: your reminiscences, and stuff like it, is why I frequent Mudcat. thank you
greg


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 05:08 PM

GUEST, I don't know if this will be of value to you, but I present it because I think it gives an idea of the effect that the whole HUAC and McCarthy phenomenon had in this neck of the woods (Seattle), and probably just about everyplace else in the country. This is a chapter from a book I am writing: reminiscences (a "memoir," if you will) of my journey through the world of folk music from my first involvement in 1952 to the present.

A bunch of us, including Walt Robertson, had got together in late 1952 or early 1953 and formed the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society. The fate of the organization is described below.

The material is copyrighted (I saw to that when I first began publishing bits of it on the internet), but if any of this is of value to you in preparing your paper, feel free to quote from it, but I do ask that you credit me, e.g., "from a forthcoming memoir by Seattle folk singer Don Firth," or something of that nature. The book is as yet unnamed (I'm open to suggestions).

Chapter 7
SPIRIT OF THE TIMES

        In fall of 1954 a major folk music event took place in Seattle. For the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society it proved to be more than a major event.
        Pete Seeger came to Seattle to give a concert.
        Under the aegis of the Folklore Society, Walt Robertson made the necessary arrangements and obtained the use of the basement auditorium of Wesley House, where several earlier Folklore Society events had been held.
         Seeger would be in Seattle on Monday and Tuesday, the fourth and fifth of October. Being weeknights, they were not ideal for drawing the largest possible crowd, but that would have to do. Walt made tentative arrangements and wrote to Seeger for his approval: the concert on Monday evening, and a party or gathering with Seattle's folksingers, Folklore Society members, and friends on Tuesday evening. Seeger responded, saying that he would not be free on Monday because a group of friends in Seattle had already arranged a reception for him that evening. But Tuesday would be okay. And although it would make it pretty late especially for a week night, if we were game for a private party and song swap after the concert, that would be fine with him.
        Tuesday afternoon before the concert, Dick Landberg and I were sitting in Howard's Restaurant when a Folklore Society member joined us. He was upset, and he seemed almost furtive.
        "I thought I'd better warn you guys, just in case," he said in hushed, confidential tones. "I just found out that the 'reception' that Seeger attended last night was actually a fund-raising concert for an outfit that calls itself 'Cafe Society.' It's a Communist front organization."
        Dick and I looked at each other, perplexed.
         "You know what this means, don't you?" he continued. "Seeger's been called up before the House Un-American Activities Committee. People are going to think the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society is putting on a public concert so Seeger can pay his way out here and do a free fund-raiser for the Communist Party.
         "Look," he said, leaning forward and practically whispering, "I'm studying aeronautical engineering. I plan to work for Boeing when I graduate. Now, that's probably going to involve my being able to get a security clearance. So I'm not going to Seeger's concert. And I want my name taken off the Folklore Society's mailing list!"
        This may seem bizarre and paranoid to us now. Yet, during the early Fifties, mention of the House Un-American Activities Committee evoked emotions similar to those that must have been evoked in the 15th and 16th centuries at the mention of the Spanish Inquisition. People glanced apprehensively over their shoulders, shuddered, and crossed themselves.
        There was not much Dick and I could do about it but pass the word to whoever maintained the mailing list. We talked it over and decided that this was probably an overreaction. No way were we going to miss Seeger's concert.
*    *    *
        That evening the Wesley House auditorium was packed. Rather that singing from the lighted stage with the rest of the auditorium dark, Seeger stood on a riser against the side wall of the auditorium. Folding chairs were arranged in concentric half-circles around the riser and the house lights were kept on. Seeger wanted to be able to see the audience and be among them.
        Tall and slender, dressed in his usual plaid shirt and tie with sleeves rolled up well above his elbows and with his long-necked 5 string banjo slung over his shoulder, he strode rapidly to the riser, surveyed the audience with a friendly grin, and launched into his first song.
        I've heard critical types say that Pete Seeger doesn't have the greatest singing voice in the world. He characterized his own voice as "a split tenor with a corn husk stuck in his throat." The same types also say that there are better banjo players or guitarists than he is. Okay, that may be. But one would have to search far and wide to find anyone as versatile, or who has the knack of engaging an audience as quickly and enthusiastically as he can. A couple songs, a story, a ballad or two, and he had the entire audience singing along with gusto. He is probably the world's greatest song leader.
        He is also a powerful advocate of "do it yourself" music. He urged everyone in the audience who felt at all inclined to go ahead and learn to play and sing. "Get yourself an instrument and don't be deadly serious about it. Don't say to yourself, 'Okay, every Tuesday night I'll practice for half an hour.' Just pick it up and have fun with it. Goof off. Anyone can do it." Then he grasped the banjo and launched into his "Goofing Off Suite," a musical goulash that included ingredients such as Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the Cowboy Yodel, and much more, all on the 5 string banjo, occasionally joined by his "split tenor." Amazing!
        For over two hours he took us from whimsy to high drama, from Cumberland Mountain bear chases to chain gang songs to tragic ballads to exploding frogs to riding the rods with hobos to love songs to sea chanteys, jokes, tall tales, and many, many sing-alongs. The place rocked.
        Anyone who has attended a Pete Seeger concert knows that it was not just a concert; it's a unique, unforgettable experience.
*    *    *
        After the concert, Dick and I headed directly to Carol Lee Waite's house a couple blocks south on 15th N. E. where the after-concert party was to be held.
        Within a few minutes the place was packed. Bob Clark brought several quarts of his home-brewed beer, and other beverages and comestibles appeared. Nancy-Lu Patterson who had done the mural-sized poster for the Folklore Society's Hobby Fair exhibit was there with her husband; Dick Landberg and I, of course; and . . . it's impossible to remember who all else. Most of the folksingers and folk music enthusiasts that I knew were in attendance. People sat on the furniture and on the floor and on window sills and there may have been a few people hanging from the picture molding.
        Walt Robertson and Pete Seeger arrived. Seeger accepted a glass of Bob Clark's home brew and opted to sit cross-legged on the floor. A lot of singing went on that night and Pete sang a bit himself, but mostly he wanted to hear other people. I sang some, as did Dick, Bob Clark, Nancy Lu, and many others.
        Walt reluctantly left early because he had to go to work in the morning (it was past midnight by now) and many others did the same, but as long as there were those who wanted to stay, Pete was game. It ended up with about a half-dozen of us sitting in a circle on the floor passing a guitar--my recently purchased Martin 00-18--back and forth.
        It had never occurred to me until then that Pete played anything but the 5-string banjo, but it was obvious that he really knew his way around the guitar as well. It wasn't like a class, workshop, or anything that formal, it was just a half dozen people sitting around trading guitar licks and tricks. Pete's enthusiasm was contagious and we all learned a lot from him that night. He talked about various singers he knew, how they would approach a song, and what they did on the guitar. Then he would demonstrate.
        For example, he told us how Leadbelly heard someone sing an Irish ballad about a dead cow. Intrigued by the modal melody, Leadbelly worked it out on his 12-string guitar in his own unique style and played it just as an instrumental. Normally it would have started and ended on an A minor chord, but Leadbelly played an A seventh instead. This made for a modal melody with a strong rhythm and some unusual and unexpected "lemon juice" in the harmony. Catchy. Lee Hays* of The Weavers heard Leadbelly play it, liked it, and wrote a new set of words to the tune. That's how one of The Weavers' signature songs, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, came about.
        I watched carefully while Pete demonstrated the way Leadbelly played it, and later incorporated it into my accompaniment when I learned the song. Whatever the source of the song might be – the Irish ballad, Leadbelly's guitar arrangement, or Lee Hays' lyrics – picking it up from Pete like I did, I felt very close to that source.
        We finally broke up, and I think I got home and to bed very shortly before the sun come up.
        That was a memorable event in my life. I learned an immeasurable amount from Pete that night. Some things were specific, such as guitar techniques and arrangements. But many things would be difficult to put into words: things like staying true to the spirit of a song, but exercising your own creativity at the same time.
        And that contagious enthusiasm. My interest in folk music and folksinging multiplied many times over.
*    *    *
        The aftermath of this event was less felicitous. The dark side manifested itself in a particularly sinister way.
        Several people were irked because Seeger had done two performances in Seattle for two different organizations on consecutive evenings. They maintained that this was a violation of performer's ethics. But worse than that – as the person who buttonholed Dick and me in Howard's Restaurant had complained – it made it appear that the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society conspired to arrange for Seeger to come to Seattle so he could do a fund-raising performance for what many insisted was a Communist front organization.
        After all, Seeger had been called up before the House Un-American Activities Committee and he and The Weavers had been blacklisted. Despite that, the first major performer the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society sponsors is Seeger. Never mind that the Folklore Society consisted of a loose-knit group of people, most of whom were apolitical and some even fairly conservative, who simply liked folk music and wanted to hear Pete Seeger sing. Truth? What did that have to do with it? What mattered was what it made the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society look like.
        It was Kafkaesque. Furtive calls came in from people who almost cringingly insisted their names be dissociated from the Folklore Society. It was like cattle stampeding in panic. By the end of week the membership list had dwindled to less than a dozen names.
        After what seemed to be such an auspicious beginning, the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society ceased to exist.
        They might not burn heretics at the stake anymore as they did in times past, but it appeared that the spirit of Tomás de Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition lived on in Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee.
        To be suspected was to be condemned.
-----------------------
*In Folksingers and Folksongs in America (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1965, 2nd Edition), Ray M. Lawless credits Fred Hellerman, another member of the Weavers, with writing Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." I would swear that Pete said it was Lee Hays. I've since heard a couple of variations on the story, but unless I hear something authoritative otherwise, I'll stick with my recollection of what Pete said.
I hope this may be of some interest.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 05:43 PM

And my appreciation back to you, Gregg!

By the way, and you MUST promise not to laugh here. I'm so olde that there is a Cub Scout troop in downtown Everett, where I live, that stations cub scouts on the street corner ... watching for ME. As soon as they see me coming, they rush to my side of the street, and offer to help me across. But, being the smart person that I am, I know what they really seek! They seek the merit badge for helping "olde phokes" across the street. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 06:08 PM

Don, to put your last posting, and my vintage, into perspective: the concert that you write about just above, was just before my time, by a year or so.

When I, with the help of many of the "Seattle Folk Song Society" members, sponsored Pete in his HUGE "Moore Theater" concert, it was a very important turnaround in his career. It was like the bursting of the dam.

To go on with the theme: shortly after that event, I volunteered to join the Army. At my intial interview, I was "asked" to sign a "loyalty oath." I was given a three page list of orginizations and asked if I had had any contact with them. I started checking them off: The Seattle Labor Council, The committee For The Protection Of The Foreign Born, The Committe To Repeal The Smith Act, on and on.

The Captain that had handed me the form almost fainted. He excused himself ("hisself", as Walt Robertson used to say) and returned with a Major. They then grilled me for a looooong time.

They asked me how and why I knew the "Seattle Labor Council?" I said it's "because I sang for them every Friday night." "They give me five bucks, a dinner, and all the beer I can drink." (I was 17 0r 18 and I couldn't drink much beer then ... but I have improved with age!).

On and on, I loved the "Committee For The Protection Of The Foreign Born," because Cecelia played a Clark Irish harp.

The next thing I knew, my parents neighbors called us, I was still living with my parents, and asked why they had been questioned by the FBI. It turned out that indeed, the FBI went all around our neighborhood inquiring as to what kind of a communist I was.

For reasons I only recently learned, my enterance into the Army was hurried up by a neighbor, who was a high ranking Officer in the medical unit I eventually joined. But even six years later, long after Sen.McCarthy died, I was still under some suspicion.

Don, do you suppose that my posting of my background might still cause the FBI to talk to all my neighbors?

CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 07:15 PM

The actions of the FBI sometimes remind me of the three dudes in this song. I figure that if you're not on somebody's list, you ain't got much to be proud of.

In my book, I have a brief piece (couple pages) about my war with the draft board back about then. I use a wheelchair now, but at the time, as a result of having had polio, I walked with the aid of a leg-brace and a pair of forearm crutches. I have never had a more thorough physical examination, and they still weren't convinced that I wasn't faking it. It's a bit of thread-drift, but if anybody's interested, I'll post it. It's kinda funny. Your tax dollars at work!

Just to avoid any possible confusion, the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society and the Seattle Folk Song Society that Bob speaks of were two different organizations. The PNFS got organized in late '52 or early '53, and imploded the day after the Seeger concert on Oct. 5th, 1954. Folk singers in this area were a bit leery of belonging to any organizations for some time afterwards, but a few years later ('57 or '58 if I remember correctly), a group got together and formed the Seattle Folk Song Society. As I recall they met on Saturday nights and the set-up was very similar to the current Seattle Song Circle. They needed a bit of guidance to keep from crashing into the wall, and that's when Bob (Deckman) came along and provided it. A few other attempts were made to form an actual, formal folklore society, but most of them fizzled until 1966 when the Seattle Folklore Society got organized. It's going strong and doing well.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 07:27 PM

Ridicule is the most effective way to fight that sort of harraser, Bob. Folk Music is good at that - which is why such people are feared and have to be silenced. We must never forget such lessons...

Robin


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:00 PM

My applause and thanks to both of you, gentlemen, for your rich tales and the lives behind them! Much appeciated.

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:00 PM

Foolestroope ... You are exactly right. However, when you're 17 or 18, it ain't easy to be brave. And I never thought so much that I was "brave" as I thought that I was right. Besides, as I told the Captain: "Of course I sing Communist songs. They've got the BEST songs!"

Sometime, we ought to start a thread on excatly which songs we did sing. I know that Sandy Paton and I, and others, have previously talked about this.

I cannot end this post without mentioning my concern that we now seem to have already entered another shameful period in america wherein we are agin, at the same point we were in 1949 - 50 - 51 etc. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: wanderhope
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:10 PM

RE: the Weavers. It took me a while to realize how textured was "Irene, Good Night." Also, I was really proud when I heard I had a file in my name at the FBI in the 60's. Thought I had a chip in the game. Then I discovered my membership was in the National Student Association, and that they were a front organization for the FBI. Sometimes you just can't get credentials.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:29 PM

Wanderhope ... How funny, and unfortunatly, how damned true!

A few years ago, I started the process of getting my FBI file through the freedom of information act! I was amazed to find that after six months of effort, I was still on stall. I really wanted those papers so that I could have interesting wall paper for our bathroom.

I suppose that I could start the process all over again ... my daughter is encouraging me. We have lots of bathroom walls that need wallpaper in our familes.

I 'dunno, maybe when I have more time, or interest, I will apply again! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:30 PM

Bob,

once the process starts it never ends, and you can't prove that you are innocent. "Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb", at least that is what Ned Kelly thought...

Robin


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:45 PM

Robin ... We must stop posting at the same time. I confuse myself. As for Ned Kelly, I'd rather sing about him than emulate him!

I've reached the AGE where I don't really give a damn any more. If some President, that I respected, asked me to go to some foreign place and give combat first aid to gunshot victims, I would do that without hesitation. And I could do that again, with a couple of weeks of training on the new meds and methods.

But today, the world is so strange that I have a very hard time understanding it. And, unless my previous FBI file catches up with me, I'm probably safe from President bush ... for now! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:48 PM

Well, Bob, that puts you in a happy minority!

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 10:59 PM

After leaving the Army in 1946,both my wife and I went to University under the "G. I. Bill," which paid our fees and provided a living of sorts. We were part of many; considered a disrupting influence by our younger classmates who had not been in the Military because we stayed above campus politics and campus life. We did not agitate, demonstrate, or cause ripples. Our aim was to become members of the professions. By the time McCarthy was riding high, most of us either were junior professionals or in graduate studies.
How did the Weavers (and the others) affect returning veterans and the general public? We were aware of the Weavers and other liberal performers, and listened to their music. Privately, over beer, we might agree with some of their statements. We considered McCarthy a ranter reaching for stardom, and mostly laughed at his 'disclosures.' Privately, blacklisting was deplored.

On the other hand, we were careful not to speak out or call attention to ourselves by espousing ideas that lay outside of the mainstream; we had to build our future. The future was a good home, a wife, two or more kids, and enough money to live comfortably.

How much did the Weavers (and the others) affect us- the general public? Very little. We were too busy with our own perceived problems, which did not extend to dissent or the rights of the oppressed. We felt sympathy for those who had run afoul of McCarthy and his ilk, but were not about to jeopardize our futures by giving them active support.

WW2 and the immediate post-war period brought prosperity, and we were a part of it. What else mattered?


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 11:52 PM

Deckman, I'm afraid your FBI file is long gone, just like the George Bush National Guard file. The government doesn't keep records forever any more. Most of those Commie-hunting practices were abandoned during or before the Jimmy Carter Administration, and even the Reagan people didn't do much to try to resurrect that sort of stuff. I spent 25 years knockng on doors an talking to the neighbors of those who held security clearances or law enforcement posiions. We had some vestiges of the McCarthy era in the mid-1970's, but it disappeared quickly after that.
I'd like to think that era won't come back but I have to admit that the USA Patriot Act scares me.
-Don and Bob, thank you so much for your stories. I sent every word of it to Headquarters [grin].
-Joe Offer-

(Actually, our managers knew I was a social democrat and pacifist, and they still lked me)


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 12:03 AM

"Q" ... What you just posted certainly rings true for those I knew who had been through the war. Yet I well remember two men who went through that time and experience and were very enthusiastic Weavers fans.

I think it's also to remember that the Weavers were a BIG name on the records. I don't recall the label, or labels, under which they recorded, but they certainly had an impact on "Tin Pan Alley." Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: LadyJean
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 12:07 AM

Mother worked at Chatham College, here in Pittsburgh, until 1952. She told me that during the McCarthy era the faculty were asked to sign loyalty oaths.
Several faculty members had come to this country as refugees from facist countries. They had every reason to be loyal to the U.S.A., and every reason to fear loyalty oaths.

My parents were staunch Republicans. But we watched "Hootenanny" every week.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Art Thieme
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 12:41 AM

Pete chose to take the 5th on some questions HUAC asked him, and then he chose to answer some of them. That, seemingly, was against the rules. If you take the 5th, you've got to take it for all the queries. So Congress found him in contempt. He was sentenced to a year---but that was overturned.

The blacklist was insideous because you couldn't fight it. It was sort of like being incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. All the jobs dry up. Nobody'll hire you---and nobody'll come right out and say why.

Find a real fine Woody Allen film called THE FRONT. It's one of his best. About a guy (Woody) who is sanitized and clean so he puts his name on scripts by blacklisted writers. That way they can get some income --after they pay him. But it hits the guys hard. The scene where happy-go-lucky Zero Mostel goes out the window and kills himself because he's had enough, well, the blacklist did do that to some good people.

Art
Thieme

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 12:48 AM

Some went overseas and worked under different names. The British movie "Genevive" about 2 guys who do the Veteran Car run to Brighton had harmonica music written by such a guy - think the name was Larry Adler - he also worked for BBC on some of the Goon Shows. I think Chaplin left at about that time.

Robin


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 03:50 AM

Well, having seen what subversives like Deckman and Don Firth were up to in the fifties, it's a miracle that democracy survived at all in the USA. And what amazes me is these guys have no shame at all, they just come out with statements like "I went to a Pete Seeger concert" is if that was a normal thing to do.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 06:20 AM

Joe, I found your words very comforting, if dissapointing. We were looking forward to using my FBI file as bathroom wallpaer. Oh well. Maybe I can start over and create a new file! Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,MAG from lab at work
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 12:44 PM

(My home computer is in the shop, folks)

Art, The Front is about the only Woody Allen movie I can take any more. I used to be involved with a guy who would defend Woody Allen after his rather spectacular shenanigans, so I pulled out my tape of The Front. Funny, he didn't like it. The beginning of the end ...

MA (who can just remember those "Stand up ... syand up and be counted" anit-Communist ads on TV.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: NH Dave
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 01:01 PM

The Weavers did songs much like many other folk and non-folk groups did, then and later. As their public grew, many of their songs made it onto the US Hit Parade. They didn't publicize these songs as folks songs any more than the Kingston Trio did some years later, they seem to have fit into the Country genre before Country became electrified. From my own viewpoint then and much later, you couldn't pattern your life on the lyrics of Darling Cory, or Good Night Irene, but someone tipped McCarthy et alle onto the possibility that the Weavers might be Communist, either because someone said they were, because they sang Woodie Guthrie songs which somebody thought were Communist, or because some very desperate person said that he thought he saw one of more of their members at a Communist meeting.

This was the insidious nature of the whole investigation, once you were indicted, regardless of your "guilt" or innocence, you either told the interrogators the names of others you had "seen" at one of these meetings that you may never have attended or you became suspect in their eyes. This and the inevitable publicity of the hearings could scuttle the career of anyone who truthfully denied knowing any Communists, since he or she had never been Socialistically oriented or attended any meetings of this sort. It is interesting that the topic of Venn diagrams appeared just above this topic, as they could have been used to disprove these charges, were the accusers actually looking for the truth.

Since many of the hearings were held much later than the meetings which seemed to damned you, it would be difficult to remember who you saw at any meeting, especially as individual meetings you attended might not stick in your mind. Point of fact, the names of these suspected groups were so numerous and in some cases so similar to completely innocuous groups that small blacklist books were published so that "right thinking" Americans could instantly spot a potential traitor from the list of organizations he or she might inadvertently acknowledge being a member.

These hearings only served to aggrandize those holding them, did little to detect subversives, and ruined the lives and earning ability of many people who previously had entertained no notion of subversion or the dangerous power of a well known folk song. While it may have been popular for socialites to visit Socialist meetings just to be able to say that they had been to one, mere presence at one or more of these meetings should not have been enough to deny work or publication of their artistic works. Additionally since labor unions seemed to many as being Socialistic in nature, attending one of these meetings or even entertaining at these rallies as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie did, was enough to brand one as suspect.

Dave


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 01:19 PM

Looking back over those years, I think that at the time, Guthrie, Seeger and the other socially conscious singers of the 40s and 50s had little effect upon American thought. The effects came later, long after McCarthy was discredited, revitalized with the Vietnam War, the struggle for racial equality, unions at the bargaining table and the folk revival.
A delayed reaction but not historically atypical.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 04:28 PM

In the days of my misspent youth (well . . . I was more youthful than I am now, anyway), I spent many an hour sitting in the infamous Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle's University District, bending my elbow, wetting my nose, and arguing vociferously with guy named Stan Iverson, who was a genuine card-carrying member of the Communist Party. Stan wore work clothes, a hard-hat, and carried a lunch-pail. Actually, he worked four hours a day in a used book store (the hard hat was in case a book might fall off a shelf and bean him, I guess), and he carried a stack of paperback books in the lunch pail. Stan and I talked, we argued, we pounded the table, and we shouted a lot.

During this same period and in the same dark, dank smoke-filled bistro, I also bent my elbow, wet my nose, and argued vociferously with Jerry Pournelle. This was while he was going to the U. of W. and before he turned his hand to writing science fiction. Jerry was (is) a Southerner and a conservative. Very conservative (actually, I think he's a bit more mellow these days than he was back then). Jerry and I talked, we argued, we pounded the table, and we shouted a lot.

Judging on the basis of people I associated with (drinking buddies with both ends of the political spectrum), I wonder what slot they have me in?

Of course, there was my folk music connection. That's pretty bad! But then, Jerry used to come to hoots and hang out with folk singers, whereas Stan did not (I don't think he liked folk music much). It didn't keep Jerry from, among other things, serving as Advisor on Space Policy to the Republican congressional leadership.

Must be confusing, trying to separate the sheep from the goats . . . .

Don Firth.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 05:37 PM

Don and Bob-

Good job in making this grim period real, and even fun. It's the joy of singing that sustained a lot of people in this period, even if they were looking over their shoulders for the FBI infiltrators.

My grandparents were both well known modern artists in the 1930's, based in Greenwich Village. There was always someone circulating a "human rights" petition at neighborhood special events. When the hearings began in the late 1940's some of the "establishment artists" accused my grandfather of being a Communist. At one point he was almost deported to Lithuania, a country his family immigrated from when he was two years old. In the 1950's a major mural by my grandfather for a Texas bank was derailed by the accusations, although he ultimately won full payment in court and donated the completed mural to a liberal arts college. Well, my grandparents' art careers still flourished and I'm extremely proud of them for holding up under all that pressure.

Unfortunately, many other people saw their careers irrevocably ruined, leading to divorce and even suicide.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 06:54 PM

To "Q" ...I would like to think that the Weavers DID have a big impact on society from say 1949 through the 50's. My problem is that I was so very CLOSE to it, that I really can't judge that impact accuratly. I know they certainly impacted me, as I've already said. And more than that, they impacted my parents and most of my friends. But then, "most" of my friends were musicians, if not folk singers. So, I dunno? I'd sure like to hear some more opinions on this point. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 07:09 PM

"Q" Another thought ... I'm somewhat bothered by your point, though it may well be valid, that their social impact came later, during the evolution of the protest of the struggle for equal rights and the Viet Nam mess.

I believe it was BECAUSE The Weavers sang the songs they did, and at the same time spoke out for the causes that they felt so strongly about, that gave social some acceptance to "protesting" per se. Certainly when Pete sang before the HUAC committee (I hope I'm accurate here) it caused a HUGE amount of attention.

Remember just who the Weavers were: Seeger, Gilbert, Hays, Hellerman. And don't forget Woody. Woody was closly associated with them all and he especially gave voice to his causes (issues). Now then, throw John Steinbeck into the mix, and you NOW have social impact, change, awareness, revolution.

Going on, in time, add Guy Carawan and his teaching of "We Shall Overcome," throught the country. Talk about giving a "voice" to a movement.

I guess my point is this: "The Weavers" started it all. This is not to say that there weren't folksingers previously who raised these issues (especially in the union movements), but for whatever reasons, I do believe they were the most successfull.

Good thread. Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 07:29 PM

I guess I'm on a talking jag! This thread has triggured some memories. I mentioned that Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry and C.J. Bouroughs (sp?) stayed at my house about 57 or 58. It was when they were in town for a very successful, and large, concert at the Moore theater. I was living with my parents, I think I was 18, and of course I was very thrilled that I would be able hang around these august folks. But my poor Father! He was a very successful home builder, quite republican in his views, though to his credit, he certainly was not anything that today would be called conservitive.

But, he and Pete tangled, and tangled hard, that very first evening at the dinner table. Pete started talking about his unionizing activities, sang a couple of songs at the table, etc. I watched my Dad getting tighter and tighter. Finally, he cussed in Finn and stormed out of the room. My Father's native tongue was Finnish, and when he lost his temper, he always cussed in Finn. Pretty soon Pete stormed out and dissapeared into his room. I went downstairs with Sonny and C.J. where our bedrooms were.

For the next couple of days, I chauffeured them around town, doing the interviews and stuff. My Dad didn't speak to me during this time. But it wasn't more than a few weeks later that Dad heard something on the radio, or maybe the press, where Pete was being vilifyed. Dad got quite upset about this.

If we had another beer here, I'd tell you of my Dad's reaction to Sonny Terry! CHEERS, Bob (I do go on, don't I)?


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 08:27 PM

Steinbeck received the Pulitzer Prize in 1940- I think of him as a voice of the dirty thirties and the dustbowl days. And Dos Passos with USA- FDR was in the White House, and make-work projects and some reforms were underway. Both writers had entered into the reading program in my highschool, although there was some backlash against Dos Passos- we were told how we should interpret him. This was just before WW2.
WW2 added to the population shifts that began in the thirties. Jobs had increased exponentially, and I don't think that the Weavers, Guthrie and the others really affected the thinking of the average American. People were just too busy climbing the ladder. We listened to the songs and learned to appreciate folk music, but the beliefs of the singers didn't penetrate our skulls, at least not those of the people I knew. Action came a little later, in the 1950s, when the struggle for equal rights (not only for blacks but for the farm laborers) started to receive support from the more socially conscious portion of the population.

Now this view is biased by my own experiences in the circle that I belonged to and therefore myopic. Reading through histories of the post-war era could well change my opinions, but I have deliberately kept this on a personal level- I think the initiator of this thread wanted that. The writers of history may well place the emphasis differently.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,MAG at work
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 08:53 PM

The initiator of this thread does not seem to have posted since starting it. Hshe (he/she) needs to realize that many people from that time are quite leery of talking to people they don't know well.

The father of a good friend was turned in by his brother back then. They did not speak for 40 years. The stepfather of another colleague attempted suicide by carbon monoxide so his family could collect on the insurance because he was blacklisted. These are all too real stories.

John Henry Falk, a liberal, was blacklisted because he told the committee what he thought of them.

Pete Seeger pretty much invented the college circuit back then so he could support his family.

Didn't anyone else cry at *The Way we Were*? The divorces were real, too.

Pete Seeger pleaded the first (sorry Art; not the 5th) saying he had the right as an American to believe any damn thing he wanted to. Talk about change: that was the beginning of the end of the hearings. and if you don't know about Pete and the Smothers Brothers, go back to Popular Culture 101. You don't think that had an effect on consciousness?

Guys like the Chad Mitchell Trio -- where do you think they learned?

We were singing "Barry's Boys" and "Harry Pollick" in high school.

Check out the history of the Sing Out! of the day and The Weavers.

The purists are always with us.

End of rant; I'm going to go watch my copy of *Daniel* and pack for my weekend at Singtime Frolics.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 09:24 PM

Seeger on hs Communism

Intersting perspective!


A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 09:33 PM

From the same site, a Bio of Pete.

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Mary Katherine
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 09:34 PM

You wrote:
This thread has triggured some memories. I mentioned that Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry and C.J. Bouroughs (sp?) stayed at my house about 57 or 58.

I'm guessing: did you mean J.C. Burris, who was Sonny Terry's cousin?

Mary Katherine


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 09:45 PM

Mary ... Yes, that's it excatly. I only met him the one time. Thank you for the correction. Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 09:58 PM

I just dug out an old reel to reel tape that Sonny and his cousin J.C. BURRIS made for me during that visit. It might have been that first evening when Pete and my Dad were upstairs sulking. We went into the basement and I turned on an old Webcor tape recorder, and they let fly for a half hour, two harmonicas and the singing. It was the first time I'd ever heard Sonny do the "Fox Chase." It's been a few years now, but I think that was the name of it! Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Art Thieme
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 10:14 PM

you don't plead the first. it's the fifth.

We do seem to be off the mark on these looks backwards---just enough to make this a pretty humorous thread. No wonder historians never get it right. Oral history is only one guy's opinion and we see stuff the way we think we saw it but... But the memories get fuzzy like a blown awry sky-written message

Pete wasn't allowed to sing at the hearings. He wanted to but didn't get but a few notes out. Then he told them that they had no legal right to ask him these questions. Saying that diverged away from strictly adhering to the rules about taking the 5th ammendment. The HUAC guys just wanted to discredit those being questioned by just ASKING the questions and letting the turds hall where they may. Then "guilt by inuendo" took over and folks' lives were ruined. The media went along too---until Ed Murrow had the guts (spelled BALLS) to take on McCarthy.

Now, that's how I remember it. Could be wrong. But I don't think so. (When your memory goes, forget it !!!) Pete always has been a huge hero and mentor for me.

The Weavers huge hit was On Top Of Old Smoky. It stayed on the charts at numero uno longer than any other song in history. That's a record not likely to be broken 'cause now the music industry won't let songs stay up there very long. One song is pulled so another can squeeze all the dollars it can from the buying public. The record company went nuts 'cause on the other side of that Weavers hit single 78 rpm record was Tzena Tzena which was almost as big a hit as Smoky. Now they couldn't issue it separately and maximize the bottom line.

Again, I just call 'em like I sees 'em. ----------- I might could be be wrong. One side of the 78 could've been Goodnight Irene?! Or was it So Long It's Been Good To Know Ya? Or maybe Philladelphia Lawyer?---No, that particular song by Woody G. was a hit for Wilma Lee and Stony Cooper. The Weavers were best in concert---- without Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra. And I'm happy to be able to say that I managed to see every incarnation of that special quartet. First with Pete, then Eric Darling and then with Mudcatter (sometimes) Frank Hamilton, abd finally, with Bernie Krause.

Look at the thread here that was named something like "What Was Lee Hays Really Like?" There'll be all kinds of insights there for you good folks.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 10:14 PM

To the "GUEST" that started this thread: I also wonder why you have not commented since your intial posting. I think I'll decline to contribute more thoughts until you tell us more of yourself. Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Obie
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 10:25 PM

Bob & Don,
What is more important than who started this thread is the story that is being told. The insight from your recollections is fantastic, and this thread is being read seen by thousands lurkers who have little or no knowledge of a black time in history. That in itself far surpasses the educational value of someone's term paper! Please keep the story going!
         Obie


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 10:44 PM

"What Was Lee Hays Really Like" .

See also links to threads about Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman at top of this one.

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 12:53 AM

Don't worry about the anonymity of the first post. The poster may be shy. I am fascinated by this thread, and you know my name. I crosslinked all the threads about the original Weavers (see top).
-Joe Offer, limping on WEBTV in Florida-


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 04:42 AM

Amos, you've posted some very interesting background material. Thank you. And I'm enjoying everyone's comments. Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Ellenpoly
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 05:32 AM

I have to agree that I for one don't mind if the original poster never shows again. For all we know, it could have been someone trolling a lot of different websites posting a similar message just hoping others would do his/her homework for them.

But this is such a worthy thread, and so much to learn! I am always appreciative that people are willing to open their minds, hearts and memories, especially the difficult memories, and share them on these threads. It is what first attracted me to Mudcat, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

So Thank you Guest for getting this rolling, and an even GREATER thank you for all who are posting such valuable pieces of folk history..xx..e


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: JJ
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 08:50 AM

Suggested reading: "Lonesome Traveler: The Life of Lee Hays," by Doris Willens


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 02:23 PM

I concur with much of what Q said above about people simply getting on about their business, but I do have to disagree a bit with the idea that the Weavers had very little effect. I think we're missing an important intermediate step here.

In 1949 (if my memory serves me) songs like Goodnight Irene, Tzena Tzena Tzena, and On Top of Old Smoky began issuing from radios and juke boxes, along with a song I had heard some years before, sung by a guy who was regarded at the time as Seattle's answer to Burl Ives, Ivar Haglund: The Frozen Logger, written by Pacific Northwest author and collector of Paul Bunyan tales, James Stevens.

1949 was the year I graduated from high school and entered the University of Washington. It was not more than a year or two after this that I began running into people who were taking up guitars and banjos and learning folk songs. Claire Hess, a young woman with whom I was keeping steady company, put a guitar in my hands for the first time and taught me G, C, and D7. She was learning songs from a copy of A Treasury of Folk Songs compiled by Sylvia and John Kolb, Bantam Books, New York, 1948 (35¢), and a stack of Weavers records. Shortly thereafter, I heard Walt Robertson sing in concert for the first time, and I was hooked! It was shortly after this that I met several other people who were making varying degrees of progress learning to play and sing. Among them was Sandy Paton, who was residing in Seattle at the time. I venture to say that all of us had been influenced to one degree or another by the sudden burst of folk music onto the pop music scene made by the Weavers—even if they did vanish from sight (temporarily) shortly thereafter.

This influence was a moving force. When the Weavers were hunkering down from the Blacklist, the Gateway Singers leaped into the breach. The Gateway Singers were frankly and openly patterned after the Weavers (three guys and a strong-voiced female singer, with prominent guitar and 5-string banjo instrumentation), and even though they branched out later, at first their repertoire consisted of Weavers' songs. Then, in 1959, along came the Kingston Trio with their recording of Tom Dooley and the Great Folk Scare was off and running. Roam through (this web site a bit and check some of the links, especially here and here. Various groups (such as the Kingston Trio) and individuals acknowledge the influence the Weavers had on them.

With that wave to surf on, along came Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, and others, then came Bob Dylan and a spate of singer-songwriters, like Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs—and from here on you can fill in the rest by yourself.

One could make a pretty convincing case that when the juggernaut first got rolling, although it was being nudged by people such as Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, Susan Reed and Richard Dyer-Bennet, it was the Weavers who gave it the strongest push.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 02:40 PM

Don ... well said! Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 03:27 PM

Don Firth's post makes we realize that location was important to our exposure, and reaction, to the earlier bloom of folksingers- those before 1955.
Don mentions concerts and exposure which we never had in our area. Lead Belly gave a concert at the University of Texas, and was one of the few that I remember. We connected him with his prison days and pardons but not with the equality movement. Obviously he didn't sing and we hadn't heard of his "Bourgeois Blues." The club music scene was developing in Austin, but western swing and pseudo-New Orleans of the Victoria Spivey kind are about all I remember. The Weavers were known only on record; I don't remember any concerts or club performances.

The first attempts toward equal education opportunities were underway in Texas. Through court action, a black student by the name of Sweat was admitted to the Law School, the first at the University. He was taught in the old Law Building in a class of one. We never saw him on campus. Among the students he was seldom mentioned. At the time, a deoderant named "Mum" was widely advertised. In a university parade, one of the floats has a sign on the back reading "Mum's the Word For Sweat." That seems to have been the general attitude at the time.

It all seems quite different from the environment enjoyed by Firth and others who have posted here.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 03:40 PM

To "Q": I'm enjoying your comments a great deal. By things you've mentioned, I'm guessing that I'm about a dozen years your junior. The time frame of your experiences was pivitol in our country in so many, many ways. Jim Lehrer, the T.V. news journalist, wrote a wonderful biography titled "A Bus Of My Own." In it, he mentions something that I certainly saw when I was in the Army. That was the forced intergration of the races. The barriers between the races started to dimminish within my first 24 hours in the service.

Going back to "The Weavers," so many of their early popular songs were of African origin. By the time I went into the Army, 1955, I think, I knew many of these songs. We had great singing sessions in the barracks.

And yes, I well remember "mum." (it stung!) Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 03:47 PM

Art,

Pete Seeger did plead the first ammendment, not the fifth. His whole point was that he had the right to free speech which gave him the right NOT to disuss his political views before the HUAC. That was a unique thing to do obviously because as you point out, most people would plead the fifth ammendment. This led to a contempt of Congress citation for which Seeger went to trail and was convicted for a yearlong jail sentence. The sentence was never served as the case was appealed, and 6 years later it was thrown out of the court.

I also have to disagree with Don's statment that the Weavers gave folk music "the strongest push" and Deckmen's statment that the Weaver's "started it all". Giving them credit for that "push" almost ignores all the individuals that led up to that "moment".   It is almost like giving the credit for winning a baseball game to the relief pitcher who comes in to strike out the last batter. While it is a pivitol moment and a turning point, we can't ignore all the other individuals and movements that led to the Weavers. Folk music had been building as a commercial entity since the early part of the 20th century.

The collectors who were working hard to preserve these songs and our heritage are largely forgotten, except for the high profile names like "Lomax". Carl Sandberg was probably the first "folksinger" who brought the music to his literary audiences. Folk Festivals began cropping up in the 1930's. Mostly local affairs, but they gave their audiences a chance to remember what made their community important.

Politics played a huge role from the late 30's and throughout the 40's.   While we often think of the left and their role in folk music, we should also take pause to remember the role the political right had in folk music. I was reading Ronald Cohen's brilliant book "Rainbow Race" and he discussed Bascom Lamar Lunsford who organized the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. Very conservative as well as reportedly having some very "un PC" views.   John Lomax was also very conservative.   Their views was that the music served as a reflection on the values of the nation and were not used as political tools.

The roots of the Weaver's can be found in the Almanac Singers. The Almanac's were part of a 1940's folk scene that included numerous "hill billy" acts on radio, Josh White Jr. performing in nightclubs, Burl Ives on stage and screen, Marais and Miranda on radio, and so many others.   This helped build a climate that led to the success of the Weaver's.

I will not disagree with the importance of the Weaver's as part of the folk music chain. Their link strengthened that chain and lengthened it's links to present day.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 04:26 PM

Ron, As usual, you are quite correct. I was basing my importance of the Weavers impact due to their music being available on records and radio. It was this fact that caused them to have such a wider exposure. And I love your analogy of the Relief Pitcher! Very apt. And again, I have to agree with you in Lomax's Conservative bent.

Many years ago I met, and was lucky enough to share a concert stage with Jim Garland. I think he was from Kentucky, and as I recall, he was a cousin of Aunt Molly Jackson. (I hope that I'm accurate here).

The occasion was a three day festival at a small college. During that weekend, I made several opportunities to visit privatly with him and to get a strong sense of appreciation of the miners struggles in those regions.

Again, I had no desire to give short shrift to those that went before and paved the way. I appreciate your comments. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 04:47 PM

Thanks Bob. I do think the Weaver's played an EXTREMELY important part in the history of the folk revival, AND an extrememly important part in the history of the McCarthy era.   I always try to use discussions like this to remind myself as well as others that this music we love was made possible by many unsung heroes.

One observation about the Weavers.   We tend to remember those incredible live albums from Carnegie Hall and their output that came AFTER the McCarthy hearings.   The Weavers recordings on Decca sold more copies and received more airplay during it's day. THAT was the commercial success.   Their post-McCarthy recordings may not have sold in as large of numbers or reached as many ears, but it reached the ears of the people who would carry it on to another generation.

There are so many names that deserve greater recognition. Just off the top of my head - Roger Sprung, Erik Darling, Frank Hamilton, Aunt Molly Jackson, Sis Cunningham, Moses Asch, Jean Ritchie, Josef Marais, Mike Porco, Izzy Young, Earl Robinson, Sam Hinton and so many more. Each added a link to that chain.   Without their contributions, I don't know if we would be talking about a folk revival here today.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 05:05 PM

Ron ... You've sure got that right! Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: JudyB
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 05:42 PM

And Frank and Ann Warner, Jean Ritchie,Tony Kraber, Bill Bonyun, Oscar Brand, Joe Glazer, Malvina Reynolds, and Cisco Huston to name a few more.

Charley Noble, borrowing JudyB's nice PC


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 06:34 PM

You're absolutely right, Ron. I should have expanded my last paragraph to include the people you mention in your last paragraph. Carl Sandburg, with his poetry readings and singing at colleges and universities did a great deal to call people's attention to folk music, as did a substantial number of others. But to a large degree this was regarded as pretty esoteric stuff by most people, if they were aware of it at all. It wasn't until 1949 (I remember this pretty well), when the Weavers started pouring out of radios and juke boxes, that folk music hit the mass media with any impact at all. Suddenly, for the first time, a large number of people were introduced to songs like Wimoweh, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, On Top of Old Smoky, and So Long, It's Been Good to Know You, interspersed with songs sung by Mel Torme, Patti Page, Vaughan Monroe, and Rosemary Clooney. Although a bit strange to people's ears, it was not all that esoteric. In fact, it was pretty accessible. And that was "The Work of the Weavers."

Certainly without taking any credit from the many people who went before, there's no gainsaying the widespread effect the Weavers had when they first emerged on the pop music scene in 1949, prior to the blacklist.   

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Gareth
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 07:11 PM

A superb and objective thread. I must confess I came to it late, as from the the Title I thought it was going to be another trolling rant - I was wrong, repeat wrong.

As a spotty youth in London town, in the early 70's, I can recall listening to old Guthrie, Almanac anbd Weavers records. They fitted, and perhaps infuenced my political thinking.

Bob (Deckman) Art, MAg and others keep up these reminicences, for this is history, and must be recorded.

For if we do not record history, and learn, we are doomed to repeat it.

Minor points. My 80+ year old Mother can still sing such songs as the "16th Brigade" (Spanish Civil War) and the Ballad of Harry Pollitt, learnt from her student days in the late 1940's - University of Wales - Cardiff.

And on a drift, she was conscripted into the "Womens Land Army" and spent a year or two in East Anglia. She has some vestigle memory of the Songs of the Mighty 8th USAAF. And Glen Miller. I dearn't play my VCR Tape of "Memphis Belle" - it reduces her to tears. And no I'am not aking why.

Keep it up 'Cos this is real Folk History !

Gareth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 07:34 PM

Don, I want to be clear - I do think the Weavers had a HUGE effect on shaping what we consider to be "folk" music.   

My point is that the Weavers were NOT the first artists to bring folk music to a general public AND their success was ONLY possible because of the work of others. The songs you mentioned - Wimoweh, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, On Top of Old Smoky, and So Long, It's Been Good to Know You - all songs that were either written or collected by some of the names that have been mentioned in this thread.

I disagree with you when you say "it wasn't until 1949 (I remember this pretty well), when the Weavers started pouring out of radios and juke boxes, that folk music hit the mass media with any impact at all". In hindsight it may SEEM as if the Weavers started it all, but folk music had been heard on the Top 40 or Hit Parade much earlier. In the 1940's Burl Ives had hits with songs like "Lavendar Blue". Ella Fitzgerald had a huge hit during WWII with "A Tisket, A Tasket". That is an old children's folk song - "Kitty Kitty Kasket". Those early 1950 Weaver recordings sold in the same numbers as the others, and THOSE recordings of the Weavers did not turn on a generation to folk music. That would come a few years later.

If you ever find an old copy of Billboard magazine from that era, you won't find a Country Music chart- they called it Folk Music. This is well before the Weaver's became a group. One could argue that the Carter Family were the first group to bring folk music to a commercial audience.   Folk music could also be found on Broadway in the 1940's through plays like "Sing Out Sweet Land" where folk music was the basis of the show. Paul Robeson recorded spirituals going back to the 1920's. Let's not forget radio (a subject dear to my heart!!). Alan Lomax had a program on CBS, Josef Marais on NBC and Oscar Brand began hosting a radio program in 1945 where a group of musicians without a name sang songs. That group became the Weavers.

Again, the songs that you mention, and the recordings that the Weavers made for Decca, were very popular.   If you listen to those recordings (with Gordon Jenkins orchestra), they do not sound much different than the recordings of Patti Page, Mel Torme or other "hits" of the time. The Weavers sound of the early 1950s was a real commercial sound. These are the songs that America was introduced to.

Those of us who love folk music, we tend to remember the "acoustic" sounds of the later year of the Weavers, recordings they made starting with the historic 1955 Carnegie Hall concert. Remember, the Weavers had "broken up" so that concert was really their first "reunion"!. This is the sound that turned on a generation of "folk" fans, but those records never sold in the same numbers as their earlier Decca recordings. The "folk revival" that most of us seem to remember begins with the Kingston Trio, but as I hope I have been able to remind everyone, the folk revival began decades earlier.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 07:56 PM

Ron ... Keep it up. You ARE making a convert of me! It's rather natural that I would identify with the group that first made MY aquaintance, isn't it.

By the way, I have a copy of the script for "Sing Out, Sweet Land." I think this was one of the early productions that "made" Burl Ives. It might of been his debut on the stage. I sit ready to be corrected.

Ron, do you suppose that I should put this on the MUDCAT auction to benifit MUDCAT. Why don't you PM me, please. With great respect to you sir ... Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 08:37 PM

Ron Olesko has me trying to remember just what interested me in folk music. Being from the southwest, many of the cowboy songs and western poems were known to me, and we sang them indoors or out, riding on school buses and even, sometimes, on horseback. My home area was over 50% Spanish- speaking. so we knew many of those songs as well. With college came the bawdy ballads of Oscar Brand. The Kingston Trio became a part of it, as well as a collection of old recordings of Irish melodies of my grandmother's- mostly commercial arrangements as I remember. We listened to the Weavers, but I think the scratchy recordings of Jimmie Rodgers and his yodels (my father had collected them), and of the jug bands and the like were even more appreciated. Rather a strange melange, but typical, I think, of folk music influences outside of the major centers, and outside of the Appalachian-Piedmont, and in my part of America.
I am probably getting the order and dates mixed up, but at my age, memories sort of blend together.

Does anyone remember Walter Winchell? His "newscasts" were widely listened to. I remember he made some remarks about the German Sangerunde (Sp.?) Hall in Austin, TX, outside of which we drank gallon upon gallon of dark beer in their Garten. He misfired (as he often did) by accusing it of being a Nazi center, but nearly all of the Germans there were descendants of settlers who came during the 19th century. Of course he was taken seriously by people from outside of central Texas. In some ways he was a tinpot McCarthy. This was 1940, the year before I was invited to serve in the Army.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 08:55 PM

"Q" ... I'm so enjoying your posts. Please keep it up. Of course I well remember Walter winchell. As an up and comming "newsman, he made a LOT of mistakes, and he also expanded the art. But he was never known for his veracity. Thanks again, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 09:46 PM

So ... "Q"! You were invited, as you say, to enjoy WW2 in 1941. I'll bet you have some stories to tell. Where did you serve? Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 19 Mar 04 - 10:23 PM

Not to belabor the point, but to try to clarify what I am saying: I do not mean to imply that I think the Weavers started the whole folk music revival. I don't think that any more than I think (as some do) that The Kingston Trio started the folk music revival. I'm fully aware of those who went before.

In most people's minds, cowboy songs, country songs, and folk songs all came out of the same bucket (and, of course, in a way, they did). Folk songs were occasionally sung by singers such as Ella Fitzgerald (I remember that, back as far as 1940, I think. An early hit for Ella), and occasionally a singer of folk songs made it into the charts. The Carter Family, although a genuine folk phenomenon in their own right, were generally assumed by most people at the time to fall under the heading of "hillbilly" or "Country and Western" (which included The Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry, and the Hoosier Hotshots).

When I was a wee tot, I vaguely recall hearing Alan Lomax on a series of programs on folk music that he did on The American School of the Air. This was around 1939-40. This was probably why, when I became actively interested, I had the feeling that I'd heard a lot of these songs before. I was also aware of "Sing Out Sweet Land," and I had heard Marias and Miranda on the radio (it was a real thrill to actually meet them at one of the Berkeley Folk Festivals in the early Sixties), and although one heard a lot of "Negro Spirituals" on the radio, erroneously or not, I think most people regarded this in a category separate from folk music.

In the early Forties, my dad and I listened regularly to the Sunday morning radio program of a guy named Ivar Hagland. Haglund was a local, had a voice a bit like Burl Ives on an off day, and accompanied himself by playing an occasional chord on the guitar. He told stories and sang songs about the early days around Puget Sound, and had guests on his program like James Stevens, the man who wrote The Frozen Logger (in 1959, I had both Ivar Haglund and James Stevens as guest on my television series! That was a real snort!). In the mid-Forties, I heard Burl Ives on the radio, doing a program about the history of the Erie Canal. He told stories and sang songs, and I learned more about the Erie Canal from that program than I did in any history class. Also, shortly thereafter, I heard a legendary broadcast by Carl Sandburg, reading his poetry and singing folk songs, transcribed (I believe is the word) from a live performance at the University of Chicago (if I remember correctly). A friend of mine had an album of Richard Dyer-Bennet 78s. In 1948, I saw a movie called Glamour Girl starring folk singer Susan Reed. Apart from the pleasure of seeing and hearing Susan Reed play and sing many songs, the movie itself was singularly gawdawful (plot summary here). Burl Ives appeared in four movies up through 1949, Smoky (1946), Green Grass of Wyoming (1948), Station West (1948), and So Dear to My Heart (1949), in which he sang a lot and played, essentially, himself. It wasn't until later, especially The Big Country and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that anybody learned that the sucker could really act!

So folk music was definitely out there. By all means. But again I say, most of this was pretty specialized.

Out here on the West Coast, there were not very many people who were aware of the Almanac Singers at the time they were performing, or of many other performers that some folks back East may have been aware of. The San Francisco Bay Area folks, particularly those in Berkeley, were probably more aware than folks in Seattle. But that tends to substantiate the point that I am making: that the Weavers, with there slicked-up Gordon Jenkins arrangements and all, were the breakthrough group that brought folk music, at least in that form, to the majority of American people—or at least, up here in this benighted corner of the country. And identified it, not as pop and not as country, but specifically as "folk songs." Their later records (without Gordy and his baton), such as "The Weavers at Carnegie Hall" and their Christmas Concert, were much better. Much more alive. However, at least here in Seattle and environs, very shortly after those first manifestations in 1949 of the Weavers issuing from radios and juke boxes, there was a notable increase in guitar sales, and some pretty intense searching of hock shops for 5-string banjos, which, at least around here, were pretty rare. Most music stores thought you were off your rocker when you asked about 5-string banjos. Like asking for a five-string ukulele.

Maybe my view of the impact of the Weavers was just a local phenomenon, but . . . .

For anyone unaware of what led up the folk music revival in this country, Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music by Benjamin Filene (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and Londen, 2000) gives a pretty good overview. Check it out.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: JJ
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 08:18 AM

I think Burl Ives' Broadway debut was in Rodgers and Hart's THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE in 1938.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 09:27 AM

Our family used to love to listen to the Burl Ives albums in the 1940's. But that was before he testified before HUAC and revealed the names of his friends and associates who sang at various left-labor union meetings or other progressive special events in NYC. My uncle was one of those whose concert career was badly damaged by these disclosures, some would say self-serving disclosures. Of course, no one could say now how well they would hold up under the tremendous pressure generated at those hearings, although some of us may yet have that opportunity if the Bush Administration "wins" another 4 years.

I really appreciate this kind of thread, and join in thanking our shy guest for starting it.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble, whose only "Red File" was a copy of his application for one


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 06:23 PM

Don Firth, I wasn't around in 1950 when the Weaver's started (born in 1957) so admittedly the information I have on that era is from reading various histories as well as interviewing performers from that era, including several ex-Weavers.

I want to be clear about my statements, in no way was I trying to deminish the importance of the Weavers and the inspiration they provided to others.   

I am amazed that their 1950 Decca records would have inspired people to run out and buy banjos and guitars in Seattle or anywhere. Their success was due to Gordon Jenkins pushing their demo to Decca records, and then the subsequent recordings he made with them. The "hits" that had during the Decca era were so heavily orchestrated that it is difficult to discern a banjo and guitar.

My thought would be that people who were inspired to buy guitars and banjos in the late 1940's probably were more inspired by the work of People's Songs.   While born in NYC, there were "offices" set up around the country, and I believe the Seattle area would have been a key area as labor organizing was very active in the region.

The Weavers did not become a "name" until early 1950. "Goodnight Irene" hit the charts in June of 1950 at the same time Red Channels was released and a television show that the Weavers were offered was cancelled. By late 1950 the Weavers had released several hit songs including Wimoweh, So Long It's Been Good to Know You and On Top of Old Smokey (all orchestrated with Gordon Jenkins).   More hits were following, but by summer of 1951 the magazine Counterattack published a story highlighting the "communist" ties the Weavers had. Shortly afterwards they were cancelled from an NBC appearance, the American Legion was organizing a letter writing campaign to keep the Weaver's out of the Ohio State Fair and soon they were being cancelled from other appearances. They struggled on with a few bookings in 1952 and in December of 1952 they began their now famous "sabbatical". In 1953 Decca not only stopped releasing new Weavers recordings, but they also stopped issuing the Weavers back catalog.   The "folk" boom had ended.

Once again, I do question the influence they had on "folk" music during this period. Most of these recordings were with Gordon Jenkins & his orchestra and they do not sound like the "folk" music that we now remember the Weavers for. In retrospect, I think the Weavers influence on folk music really came after the folk revival began. The legendary 1955 Carnegie Hall Christmas reunion concert was not released on LP until April 1957. The album would sell very well, but it did not receive the commercial attention of their Decca years, and it would be overshadowed by a single that was released in early 1958 from a group know as the Kingston Trio. THIS was the beginning of an approximately 8 year period when folk music made major commercial inroads. It is very safe to say the Weavers were a HUGE part of that revival.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 06:51 PM

Surely an interesting topic and most of any errors have been corrected (Seeger 1st Ammendment--thanks Ron) and some insights surely gained. The scrolling is long so I may not recall some of the posters. I would just add a few brief comments and/or insights.
    I would suggest reading Robert Koppelman's book---Sing Out Danger--Sing out Love. It goes into depth re: Lee Hays writings and his thoughts of the group and the era. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for my Tabletalk Program on WFDU. I will be airing another interview by him on the Traditions program (WFDU) on 4/18--with a focus on his music and that of The Weavers.
    There is now a group called Work O The Weavers which offers a presentation of The Weavers music (sounding just like them) and documenting their history. Their web site is:

http://www.workotheweavers.com

If you get a chance to see them I think you will find it quite enlightening in a historical---and musical sense. One of the performers was a neighbor and friend of the late Lee Hays.

    As to a few thoughts---Walter Winchell. Probably the most listened to man in the U S in those years. Sadly he was taken at face value and believed. What he was was an awful gossip columnist (who started out as a song and dance man). HIs biography is fascinating---Television finally did him in and when he died only 1 person ( a relative --according to the bio) attended his funeral. His feuds with legit columnists are legendary.   He also ruined many a career when he held sway as the most listened and believed commentator on the air---"....Mr & Mrs North and South America and all the ships at sea" (remember that??)

    As to the importance of the Weavers' contribution to the resurgant interest in "Folk" music. I have to differ a little bit with Ron---we are hosts on the same station/program (disclaimer for truth in advtsg). The names he mentioned are giants in the field---and, yes, they had been collecting and performing many years prior. But--as Phil Ochs once wrote---Links on the Chain. Recordings, Radio and later TV came along. Prior to that it was limited to a small core of adherants.
      As Lee Hays points out---in the Koppelman book---his thinking was that Pete Seeger believed in the aural/oral tradition and Hays felt that now is carried on electronically.   
      Given the music Ron mentioned re: C/W, Gordon Jenkins w/ The Weavers, etc; it was Pop. No doubt. But---and here is where I think The Weavers influence shines through and kept the music and interest alive---it got the people who listened to the inisipid pop music of the late '40s and '50s to hear this music. Paul Robeson was a giant and one who I admired and listened to. Sadly, I doubt that during the HUAC years there was any interest in him. Prior to that I would think that he had a following limited to a more intellectual audience and to a religious group enjoying his spirituals---and they are great. Luckily I still have the LPs and 78s---I digress.
When they returned after the HUAC days they came up with a purer version---and, I think, people responded and wanted to hear and learn more about this kind of music---the Leadbellys, the tradional pieces, and it also evolved into the later type of folk music---the protest songs of the likes of Ochs and Dylan. After all ---folk music was in its early time the newspaper of the time. In one sense anyway.
I have taken too much space and time here--briefly---check out the book and the group and thie programs I mentioned. And, finally, my opinion---were it not for the Weavers I doubt there would have followed a PPM, Ochs, or Dylan---in the popularity they gained. And let us never forget the contribution of Woody Guthrie---and Seeger in keeping that alive which is now being modernized--so to speak---by Nora Guthrie's projects

Bill Hahn
WFDU
Traditions/Tabletalk
      
    http://www.wfdu.fm


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 07:16 PM

Thank you all for your contributions. This posting will be brief as I have to get to my drawing board shortly ... I do make money as "The Deck Man." But later on, I need to make another contribution that I hope will not be a thread creep. But I know that it WILL be a thread creep, if we have to limit this topic only to the Weavers and the McCarthy era.

In my life, and I suspect in many others, so MUCH a part of this experience also involved the "Negro - Black - integration" movement. For me, it's impossible to separate the two. As someone said, "The issues we felt so strongly were the same issues that the communists used for their own purposes. Therefore, anyone who raised those issues was branded a communist..."

Bob Nelson (I'm in the yellow house, second from the corner, on the West side of the street ... I'll have the coffee on!)


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: cobber
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 07:27 PM

I grew up in England, coming to Australia in 1960-61. My first exposure to the Weavers was their 1963? Carnegie Hall reunion record which I still have and which had an enormous influence on me. The guest who started this thread should get a look at the video of "Wasn't That a Time" which has a lot of talk at the beginning about the blacklisting of the Weavers. Anyway, what I came on to say, was that as a boy in England, I was particularly a fan of Paul Robeson, not exactly a folk singer but also blacklisted. His sell-out Albert Hall, London concert was amazing in that he was not allowed to leave America so they put a solitary microphone on the stage in the spotlight and sent the performance from New York by cable and sent the audience reaction back the other way. I know in these days, that doesn't sound much but in those days it was awesome. A real poke in the eye with a burnt stick for the blacklisters. This has been a fantastic thread. Thanks everyone.
Maybe we could start a similar Australian thread. In 1979, my attempt to take out Australian citizenship was held up for six months because, as a folksinger, I had managed to accumulate an ASIO (Australian Intelligence and Security Organisation) file.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 07:27 PM

Bill, if you read my note you would have noticed that we don't disagree at all- I said earlier that they were all links on the chain. As I repeatedly said, the Weavers were a HUGE influence and their importance cannot be diminished.    My point, from the start, is that the Weavers were not the SOLE start of the interest in folk music. The era that we were discussing, the pop sound of the Decca years, was NOT the sound that we remember the Weavers for.   If it were not for the fact that they persevered and reunited at Carnegie Hall in 1955, I doubt that there would have been a folk revival. Likwise, if it were not for the work of the names I mentioned previously, I seriously do not think there would have been a group known as The Weavers.

It is very pleasing to see that the Weaver legacy is being carried on by Work of the Weavers, and Weavermania (who I really think does the best job of capturing their spirit!).   We can't diminish the importance of the Weavers, but we can't gloss over the work that the rest accomplished to open the door for the Weavers to step in.

Ron Olesko
Producer/Host
WFDU-FM's TRADITIONS/TABLETALK (more truth in advertising!!)


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 07:46 PM

Ron---never disagreed. I merely tried to point out that they were links on the chain. I merely felt that they were the most important link since in the Decca years the music was mostly insipid crap that the public ate up. Having them introduce the music they did---thanks to Jenkins created the interest. We agree that what they did later was surely the key and the catalyst to more purity. Though---you read Koppelman's book--Hays loved the Jenkins sessions and the orchestras.

As to the Kingston Trio. My own feeling is that I never understood how one could consider them a link on the chain---so to speak. They had hits---no doubt about that. Did it have relevance to anything? It was just as commercial as the Weavers in the Decca years and surely not as true as the later Weavers.   PPM, in their way, came closer to that.

As to Weavermania and Work O The Weavers (that, by the way, is the name) I hate to make comparisons. One --Weavermania--is purely entertainment. I have MCd for them and they are truly talented people and have a great sound. That said, they try in the banter to be the Weavers---that part does not work.   Work O The Weavers makes no pretense to be them---the follow the arrangements and give a documentary presentation to involve the audience in the era. The two groups are "apples and oranges" and should not be compared. One is a "Tribute Band" and the other is a Docudrama--so to speak--with the sound of The Weavers recreated.

OK shameless plug time---if you are in the NY NJ area on 5/1 they will be appearing at the Paramus Picture Show---you can Google the site.

Bill Hahn
No more truth in advtsg. Just tried to be honest about my affiliation.   (RON:TABLETALK??)


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 20 Mar 04 - 08:04 PM

Oops!!! Sunday Session!!!!

I guess we do differ on Weavermania vs. Work O The Weavers. You are right it is hard to compare them. I had the pleasure of being the MC for Weavermania at the Hurdy Gurdy in Paramus. I was struck by the feeling that Weavermania gave to the show. I disagree with Bill that they are "pure entertainment". They did a bit of history (Bill have seen Weavermania on a different night. They do not try to be the Weavers, they talk about the group), not the docudrama that Work O' accomplishes, but for my money I enjoyed the presentation of their effort because they did not get bogged down with dramatics. Plus, the musical talents of Michael Smith, Mark Dvorak, Barbara Barow and Tom Dundee gives their show a cohesive sound. I don't think that it is fair to simply call them a "tribute band".

Okay, Bill and I have done our Siskel and Ebert imitation. Perhaps some other Mudcatters have seen either of the shows and would like to weigh in.   The important thing is that there are two groups introducing the music of the Weavers to new audiences, and rekindling memories for older fans.   Go see them both!!!

Ron


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Art Thieme
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 12:32 AM

I love Weavermania and I've said that in several posts and threads. Coming from Chicago as I do, all of these folks have been a big part of my music listening experience. Weavermania did a show a while back at the Chicago Historical Society and Pete was there and joined 'em for several songs. Fo me, it was a real nostagia trip. So much of my life is tied into those arrangements and harmonies that there is no way I can't like what they are doing.

It seems, from what Ron Olesko has said, that I was in the 3rd year of high school the year Ron was born. I was already going to the Gate Of Horn to hear Josh White, Odetta, Paul Clayton, Theo Bikel, Peter Yarrow, Lord Buckley and Sandy Paton. The house band for their Sunday hoots was a trio (the Frets) with Roger McGuinn, Johnny Carbo and Louis MacDonald.---------Damn, Ron, you make me feel old as hell! --- (It's interesting and fun to watch these kids doing their homework.) ;-)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Joe Offer
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 01:12 AM

Up above, Larry K says that Joe McCarthy was right, that those he accused were indeed Communist. I suppose Larry is right - but that's not the point. The U.S. Communists of the 1920's and 1930's were the first to stand up for workers' rights, and the first to oppose fascism. They were loyal Americans using rights given them by the U.S. Constitution. They had no intent to overthrow or undermine the U.S. They were idealists who believed in justice and freedom - and they didn't know about Stalinism. Stalinist totalitarianism is not an inherent part of Communism, and few U.S. Communists were the totalitarians McCarthy thought they were.

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 01:21 AM

Art, that is the first time I've been called a "kid" since high school. That feels real good! Thanks!!!!    :)


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 10:14 AM

Joe-

While I agree with much of your statement above, the generalization of "They were idealists who believed in justice and freedom" is probably a stretch. There were many U.S. Communists who were simply pedantic cranks, and others who while well-intentioned were willing to shift political priorities radically when the party line as directed from Moscow changed. When Hitler's Germany formed a non-agression pack with Stalin's USSR in the late 1930's, U.S. Communists shifted from opposing fascism to opposing U.S. involvement in a capitalist European war. Then when Germany invaded the USSR, there was the new united front against fascism. The Almanac Singers (some of whose members later formed the Weavers) repetoire shifted accordingly. Of course, if I were a progressive back then I probably would have followed suit as well.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Art Thieme
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 12:18 PM

And many of us who grew up and then came into our 20s in the early 1960s, a bit later than Pete and the Weavers, saw the logic of the many various and good causes, saw the truth of at least some of the Communists ideals, morality, and ethics as exhibited by those singers who became our role models, and we knew that many of the reforms needed badly in our society, reforms that they were pointing out to us, were good and true points of view to hold onto and to cherish as we formed our world views. Few of us really wanted to overthrow anyone's elected government----although we did wish to do away with the sterile consumerism ---- the blatant, and excessive corporate Capitalism as developed by our parents generation. Coming out from under the crushing weight of The Depression, our parents had developed this to a high level. That is what was putting us through school in relative luxury --- while exploiting labor and minorities to do it. THIS was worth rebeling against. --- But it was NOTHING compared to the money-grubbing get-all-you-can-and-run-with-it attitudes exhibited today in so many aspects of American life.

In these modern enlightened times, now, our sincerely held feelings and attitudes are relegated to the demeaning category of Politically Correct by those who wish to deny validity to ANY of the advancements our generations have possibly made. What a bunch of crap.

Pete Seeger and The Weavers and their various degrees of Communist friends have shown me graphically, even as totalitarian Communism has been self-destructing, that the way of a Rainbow Quest -- a Grail Quest leading towards heaven on earth must be one of inclusion and not one of exclusion. For that I will always be grateful. ------- De pie be here on Earth--- not in the stratosphere.

(--- And this while we are being told that we need to bomb others into submission rather than share the wealth and foster good will to all. For the first time in American history we are being told we should utilize a National Ammendment to our Constituion to EXCLUDE a large segment of Americans from being able to wed. --- As Bobby D. said, "Now is the time for your tears."   

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Art Thieme
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 12:25 PM

Think about that, good people. For the first time ever, a whole ammendment to the Constitution--for what? TO EXCLUDE A PORTION OF US from something---from anything.

That would be a travesty.

Art


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 09:22 PM

I have felt foolish and sentimental for singing (in the privacy of my home) "And we all sang Bread and Roses" with such feeling and so many tears. But wasn't that a time!

Art: The Weavers' recording of On Top of Old Smokey had Across the Wide Missouri on the flip side (still does; I'm looking at the copy I inherited and listened to as a child). The credits list Terry Gilkyson with chorus and orchestra directed by Vic Schoen. I don't know these people, but I'm sure others do. Wimoweh was backed by Old Paint, and Gordon Jenkins did do that one.   I can't fing my 78 of Tzena Tzenaat the moment, but as I recall, it wasn't by the Weavers. I always insisted that my parents play it while I washed dishes back in 1950.

Bob & Don: You have brought back a lot of memories. That tour of Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry, and his cousin; I saw them at Reed College in Portland, with an after party at an old Victorian called The Castle. In 1955-57 I went to News Year's Eve parties at the Hull's house on Boylston in Seattle, where we sang the political songs and "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore". Red Diaper Babies all.

I got my FBI file in the '70's. Mostly it wasn't about me, but about my parents. However, to show the tenor of the times: In 1957 (McCarthy was already disgraced and out of the Senate by then) I had a discussion with my HS physics teacher about atmospheric nuclear bomb tests. I was informed by my counselor shortly there after that said teacherhad asked other teachers about my "communist thinking". So I, being an arrogant young snot, borrowed my mother's International Publishers copy ofEngels' "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" and read it in class for several days. It wasn't long after that that two guys in a Nash Rambler (these details are engraved on my memory) showed up at the house wanting to talk to my stepfather. They refused to talk to me or my mother, and waited in their car until stepfather cmae home. They grabbed him before he could enter the house, put his in their car,drove aroung the corner and questioned hin for an hour and a half about my politics. They identified themselves as FBI, and I was 16 years old.

I don't know about the larger picture, but I know the Weavers and all the other folk (Walt Robertson was a personal favorite) were what cemented my emotional commitment to activism (I marched in SF yesterday).   And I take very seriously the comment of Jack Miller, an old Seattle Wobbly, as quoted by Utah Phillips, to the effect that a hundred years ago guys whoowned nothing but a blanket and worked the mills or the logging camps could make personal and political commitment that lasted their whole lives, so why can't we, who have so much, do the same?


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 09:25 PM

I apologise for not proofreading that post more carefully.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 21 Mar 04 - 09:37 PM

"Franz S" ... Thank you so much for your posting. I suspect that you and I have shared space on some Seattle living room floors, singing together. I know Irene Hull, and her daughter Sally well. In case you didn't know it, I spoke with Irene just this last Spring. She's still the consumate rebel she's always been. And also, in case you didn't know it, just a few years ago, the current Seattle mayor declared an "Irene Hull Day." He celebrated her years of proper protesting.

And, as for Jack Miller. Unless I'm mistaken, he was the last surviving member of the "Everett Massacre," which was happened in Everett about 1911. The late John Dwyer and I were honered to sing at a waterfront location in Everett where a placue (sp?) honoring Jack was placed. Jack spoke and we sang wobbly songs.

I'd appreciate it if you could "Private Mail" me so we could discuss, in private, some friends we proabably have in common.

Best wishhes to you, Bob Nelson (Everett)


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Songster Bob
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 12:19 AM

What a thread! The song Seeger tried to sing to the committee was, "Wasn't that a time." The Weavers, because they happened to hit it "big" when other folkies were still marginalized, helped put "folk music" into the popular realm (yes, there had been popular folk music since the 20s -- else why would Columbia have set up the "Bristol Sessions"? -- but not in the same "pop" way that happened in the late 40s). No Weavers, no Kingston Trio, possibly no Beatles (think Weavers popularize Leadbelly --> Lonnie Donegon --> the Quarrymen --> the Silver Beatles --> the Beatles).

As for the Communism of the American lefties, I take some of the Eastern European "files" with a grain of salt. I suspect that anyone with a leftist leaning was glommed onto by the Soviet Communist Party and its apparatchiki, and glowing reports of success in 'subverting' Hollywood or popular music were written, however true or only partly true they might be. I don't doubt for a minute that the Soviets had real sympathizers here, and real agents, but how many of these were those that McCarthy (R - Wisconsin drunk) and the even more rabid wingnuts sought to pillory is open to question. For example, Woody often claimed to be a Communist, but the real CPUSA wouldn't have him -- he was too hard to control, a real loose cannon and not given to following the 'line.'

I always thought it odd that the US side took as Gospel the Communist line about being for peace, justice, anti-racism, etc., so that anyone who espooused these laudible ideals was a Red. All the real Party had to do was say 'racism bad,' and the right-wingers would jump all over themselves to prove that they (and our glorious US of A) were racist to the core, giving African popular opinion to the Communists without a fight. Easy pickings.

Gotta go let the dog out (be back later).

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 08:21 AM

Franz-

Pleased to see you posting here, after all your lurking. As one of my long time folk music friends, extending back to the dark dim days of college in Maine, you were instrumental in encouraging me to SING some of the songs I had grown up with. Then there were those long political debates between you and our conservative classmate Al which furthered my "moderate" political education. And then you persuaded me to drive down to the North Carolina mountains one spring in search of even more folk music, and white lightning! And, I like to think, I'm still on that road.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 09:48 AM

Maybe Deckman or Don can help me track down a memory. Utah Phillips in one of his Loafers Glory programs referred to campaign songs recorded by the Progressive Party for use in the 1948 campaign. Around that time I was attending a Saturday labor school at Washington Hall in Seattle, and I seem to remember that on one occasion they had some recording equipment and we recorded a song or two (we being the kids in what amounted to red diaper playschool).   Did such a thing ever happen, or did I dream it? My folks are no help on the subject.

No, the songs themselves won't change the world. But the songs are an essential part of the makeup of the people who do.

I just figured out part of the reason why I found Saturday's march somewhat unsatisfying. Nowhere near enough singing.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 09:56 AM

People's Songs were very active in the Progressive Party campaign 1in 1948. Pete Seeger, Paul Robeson and others often travelled with Wallace. There were several recordings released and dozens of songs written. Music played a huge role in the campaign and there were music coordinators who would insure that artists were there to sing. They encouraged and sought out local artists who would write songs that dealt with local issues. Your memory is probably correct Franz.

The Progressive Party drew less than 1 million votes, unfortunately. In the long run, they may have succeeded because they left the seeds that would blossom into the "folk revival" and even more importantly they dealt with issues that would become important causes of the latter 20th century such as the civil rights movement.

Members of the No-Name Quartet (soon to be the Weavers)were very active in the campaign.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 05:32 PM

Franz ... WOW! WASHINGTON HALL!! Does that place ever bring back memories. I wonder if it is still there? I just P.M.'d a note to you. I'm being overly busy right now, but I hope to get more time later this evening to respond in more detail. Hmmmm? Washington Hall. Do you perhaps remember the name of the old man that lived in the basement and kept an eye on the place? Did you ever hear the GLORIOUS music coming from the Black church next door? Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 06:42 PM

Deckman.. Sorry, my memory isn't that good. I was only 10 when we moved away, and I never went back to Washington Hall after 1951 or so. My dad, who stayed in Seattle with his second family, wasn't that interested in the music except for its political content, so I didn't have much contact with the music scene (except for the New Years' Eve parties at the Hulls') until 1959-60 or thereabouts.   I was closer to the stuff going on in Portland in the middle and late 50s, both political and musical. I did do some of the Kress - Woolworth picket lines i Seattleduring the civil rights sitin time...another case where the music mattered and the Weavers were seminal.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 07:00 PM

Quite the interesting thread. Franz---in re: to the mention of the Weavers's 78s. They did record Tzena Tzena---I recall that Goodnight Irene was the flip---which made Decca not too happy since they had 2 hits on one recording. This, after Decca was not thrilled to have them in the first place.

As to Terry Gilkyson. He was on the On Top of Old Smoky recording. Much to the chagrin of The Weavers---mostly Pete Seeger who resented having a "pop" singer included in the recording. Gilkyson was, of course, a major writer of "pop" hits---Cry Of The Wild Goose, Memories Are made Of This, etc; He also recorded with a group known as The Easy Riders. Interestingly he also did some recordings with Cisco Houston (who his daughter tells me also had an operatic voice). Sadly those recordings are long gone---wish I could find one.

I have had the pleasure of interviewing his daughter Eliza (who has a great new CD out) for my program (TRADITIONS-WFDU). It wall air on April 11---will post more on that later. Lots of music. Hers and Terry's. She will verify a lot of these anecdotes that I have mentioned.

Quite the intersting thread, as I said----now since it has diverged a bit---no one mentioned the "sore on the face of broadcasting" known as Walter Winchell that I had mentioned earlier. Probably best for another thread.

Bill Hahn


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 07:06 PM

As you say, "a very interesting thread." Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 04:41 AM

O.K. folks, I'm making a little time to post another thought. I'm quite sure that my comments might be viewed as a serious thread creep. And yet, they really are NOT.

The subject as started by the original poster, was focused on "the Weavers and the McCarthy era." And we have all be addressing that issue. However, things to NOT happen in a vacuum.

It's just about impossible for me to separate the original subject from what else was happening to me, and also Seattle, during that same time. I'm talking about the 'rise,' for lack of a better term, of the integration movement.

It was at this same time that I met a man who became very pivotel to me. He was black, I was white. He was a schoolteacher, I used to sing songs to his students. He was a well trained stage actor. He formed an amateur theater company. We connected. Up until the time that I married and moved to California, I was very active with him. We wrote plays together, I acted on stage in several productions. I sang songs in his productions. I became the token "white" in an all black company.

Why does this fit here? It fits because what was happening to me was also happening to Seattle.

As we've noted before, many of the popular political issues of those times attracted "communists." And it was very logical.

The "communists" needed social issues, and the black movement was a HUGE issue in Seattle then. Unfortunatly, it still is.

So, to more complete the story, I think we need to bring the nationwide aspects the the black movement here.

Am I wrong? CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 12:43 PM

Bob, the original thread request was about how the Weavers affected the general public. At the risk ofalmost hijacking the thread, I think the the questioner needs to understand more context.

I was aware at a very early age that I and my family were not the "general public". Couldn't have told you how I knew that, but it was something I understood, like I knew which alleys not to walk through on the way to school. Among my family and their friends were a great many "activists", as they are now called. A few were Communists, whose almost sole loyalty was to the Party and who were alsways looking for ways to advance the Party's intersts. They of course used folk music and Jim Crow and the CIO and the peace movement and whatever else was handy. They were pretty obvious in their activities, but they wer hard workers, often good organizers, and they had the same values as others.   Most people I knew were just people who wanted some justice and wanted to have a good time getting it. They were attracted to the whole range of left-wing activities, associations, causes, even churches (a high percentage were Quakers and Unitarians, but pretty much all faiths were represented. So people who were interested in integration were also interested in folk music( to a greater or lesser degree), unions, peace, social justice, etc., etc. They varied in where they put their personal energies, and they could argue fine points of doctrine or tactics for years,   But it wasn't the commies on one side and the folkies on another and the civil rights people on another. As I saw it then and still do, they were all the same people, just different emphases. And where would the CIO and the Civil Rights movements have been without the songs?

Is this too long a post?


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 04:27 PM

Franz: I do not think your post was too long by any means. And I'm very pleased that you said what you said. It does help to put the times in context of what else was going on at the time.

The other night I watched, again, the TV production of "Scandalize My Name," which included live interviews with Fredrick O'Neil, Canada Lee, Harry Belefonte, etc. That show is such a "time trip" for me. While I don't remember meeting any of them personally, what was happenning in Seattle at the same time was the same thing.

It made my blood boil ... all over again! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 05:48 PM

It ain't the Weavers, but here's a story about how the music affected the politics.
Back in 1953 (note: this was before either the Army-McCarthy hearings or the Spureme Court decision in Brown v. Bd. of Education)a family friend had a barber shop in Portland, OR. At this time our life was mostly in the Negro community because me stepfather of the time was black, and so was his friend the barber. Anyhow, a guy from Lionel Hampton's band came in for a haircut, mentioned that the band would be playing New Years Eve 1954 at the Jantzen Beach Ballroom and that he'd get the local some tickets. Long silence ensued. The barber let him know that Negroes were not allowed at Jantzen Beach, at least not in the ballroom or swimming pool.
So they cooked up a plan. The band member arranged for tickets for 3 couple to be available (maybe 4) on New Years Eve. One of the band would hang out in the lobby, and when my folks and the other couples showed up he'd get word backstage that they were there. When the time came and the couples were in the lobby being refused admittance (even though they had tickets), Hampton stopped his band and announced to the management that they weren't playing any more until their guests were admitted.   There was quite a hooraw, my folks told me, but in the end the management gave in. And not only did Jantzen Beach get integrated, but (my mother insists) the band's playing improved greatly. Better audience feedback.

Direct Action gets the goods.

See, there were hundreds if not thousands of actions like that being taken all over the country in those days, by people who generally were never heard of. And those actions laid the groundwork for the big breakthroughs that everyone heard about. And people sang and danced and played or listened to jazz


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Art Thieme
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 06:01 PM

,,,and I was on the coast---1967-'68----started a place called THE FOLK ART SHOP ---highway 101 in Depoe Bay, Oregon. We picked D.B 'case we fell in love with it. Had everything we owned (books and music--dog and cat) in a VW bus fresh from Chicago where I'd been asst. manager of the Old Town Folklore Center. Had a ball squandering a small inheritance and pissing off parents. Since there was no folk scene we could find (maybe we didn't look in the right places), we wound up back in Chicago in '69. Our son was born in '70----and now we are here.

Sorry I missed meeting you folks back then.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 06:03 PM

Franz:

What a terrific story, man!!

Thanks.



A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 07:22 PM

Franz ... Thanks again for your story. I well remember Janzten Beach. As I remember, it was just across the bridge over the Columbia River.

Your story reminds me of all the 'little' things that we all did every day. I was on the receiving end of some of these actions. As I mentioned previously, at the tender age of 18 and 19, I was the only white member of an all black theater group. As we spent many, many hours together in rehersals, we also became friends. Came the time that my fellow thespians wanted to go out and party at the "all black" clubs, they wanted to bring me along. I well remember the confrontations at the door as they tried to get me in. Sometimes I was welcomed, often as not, I was not admitted. I DO belive that every white person in America today should be forced to have the experience of being made NOT WELCOME. It will keep us humble. And we need humility today (sorry, another thread creep).

Franz, please keep these postings going, I'm learning and remembering and enjoying a lot! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 07:45 PM

Art ... I came SOOOOO close to probably meeting you. I was driving and moving my family up the coast from San Francisco back to the Seattle area at that time. Oh well, at least we've met, and become friends, here. CHEERS and best wishes, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 08:41 PM

And I was in Colombia with my wife trying to learn to play the tiple (it's a musical instrument something like a small 12-string, but with four groups of 3 strings-very nice sound) and to justify all the money I was getting paid by you taxpayers. Was I there because of the Weavers' songs? Who knows. But I'm sure the same impulse led me to both places.

And my friends were writing me letters saying, "Don't come home. This country is falling apart." Plus ca change... (Can't do cedilly under c for some reason.)

Art, Depoe Bay is one of the world's most beautiful places, that is, if the weather be good.   In the winter it makes Maine look positively cheerful.. Never been in Chicago in the winter.

Got home from Colombia halfway between the King and Kennedy assasinations. This country still looked better than Colombia.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 08:52 PM

One needs to remember that racial discrimination worked (works) both ways. And whenever these very strong social issues (conflicts) come to focus, agitators (communists?) rose to exploite those opportunities. Right? Wrong" Are we better off today than we were in the 1930's, 1940's, 1950's, 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's?

You tell me? Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 09:00 PM

You have 1 message
        
Go

Franz Schneider's Private Messages
------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the 70's sometime, my dad was a 3rd engineer on a freighter
that came into SF Bay, Since that was near where my home now
is, I picked him up at his ship on the Embarcadero just south of
the Bay Bridge. After a very pleasant day's visit, he had to be
back on board by midnight, so about 8pm we (he, myself, and a
brother-in-law, all very white) headed down to the waterfront
thinking to have a final drink in a waterfront bar.

There weren't any.

We drove south past his ship's moorage and just kept on going,
looking for a small neighborhood-type place. We didn't see
anything until we were more than halfway to Hunter's Point
(Rainier Valley-type neighborhood). Finallt we saw a bar,
stopped, and went to the door. As we opened it, the clientele, all
black, became suddenly silent. The bartender looked at us and
without missing a beat said, "You boys with the band?"

We shared a good laugh with everyone and went on our
way--without thedrinks.

I guess that's music-related.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 09:14 PM

Deckman,

Yeah, discrimination works both ways, but what matters is who has the power. There were many more bars in SF in the 70s where I would have been welcomed than there were where that bartender would have been welcomed. See, I'm white. I can always go back to my power base. He didn't have that option, or at least the base he could go back to didn't have much power.

And yeah, the "agitators" can "exploit" these situations,but unless there is a real issue and no one's dealing with it they don't get far if exploitation is all they want. People aren't stupid. They know when they're being used. And if they don't think that what they get out of the transaction is worth it, they won't allow it. Case in point, last Saturday's march in SF. The whole panoply of left "fractions" was there, and they all spoke their pieces and passed out their leaflets, but most people pretty much tolerated or ignored them and marched for their own reasons. Many others felt the "exploitation" and stayed home.

Yeah, most of us are better off. I haven't seen any signs that people are responding to Ashcroft, etc., the way they responded to HUAC and McCarthy. We have a sense of entitlement now that we didn't have then.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 09:27 PM

Franz ... well said! Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 24 Mar 04 - 09:00 AM

Here's some more thread drift but who cares!

Sometimes appealing to someone in higher authority works if you can figure out the way to get access, if you're persistent, and if they're inclined to listen. I'm thinking back to one of my father's stories which goes back to the issues of racism and social justice within our armed forces in WW II.

One of our summer neighbors in Maine employed a Black man as a chauffeur and handyman. When Jabbo was drafted into the army, after basic training, he was assigned for further training as a cook. All the cook trainees were Black and during the training there was a special event at the base and the Black trainees were not invited and they were not pleased. Well, I'm not sure what went on between the trainees at that point, but later that night Jabbo and his brothers broke into the armory, armed themselves with rifles and forced their way into the party. No one was seriously injured but when the military police were called in, all the Blacks were hauled off to the brig and subsequently tried for mutiny. Jobbo was identified as a ringleader and perhaps he was. But he was also over 6 feet tall and weighed over 250 pounds. It's also rumored that the principal person who testified against him owed him money from gambling. Jabbo was convicted and sentenced to be shot. Our family finally got news of this from Jabbo's former employers by phone one evening and father began to consider if there was anything he could do to help. Now father at that point was a dairy farmer, not exactly one of the political or economic elite. However, he had been a teacher in the 1930's at an experimental progressive school in West Virginia, known as the Arthurdale Project, set up by Eleanor Roosevelt and some of her friends for unemployed coal miners. Father drafted a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, asking her to personally look into the facts of this case. He was disappointed to receive in a couple of weeks a form response with no recognition that they had even met. He decided to send a longer letter and this time received a handwritten letter from Eleanor with an apology and assurance that the incident would be looked into. She did follow through with her investigation and Jobbo was cleared of the most serious charges but was dishonorably discharged from the army. However, at that point he was a very happy man! Father was very pleased too. I have fond memories of listening to Jabbo's stories when he'd come up every year with our summer neighbors but I never heard this story till years later.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 03 Jan 09 - 09:20 PM

It has been nearly 5 years since this thread closed. But today I played a compilation record put out by Decca in the 1960s. It contains Goodnight Irene sung by the Weavers with full orchestra by Gordon Jenkins. A few years ago, I heard Tzena, Tzena and Old Smokey similarly orchestrated, on a radio show raising money for the local PBS station. I told them I'd pledge if they promised never to play those versions again. They didn't honor their promise.

Which leads to the old adage, every cloud has a silver lining. If Pete had not faced HUAC, and the ensuing blacklisting, the Weavers, may have gone on to sing I Left my Heart in San Francisco, or become 3 Lads and a Lass! Alas!

Question. Did the Weavers actually perform with the orchestra, or did Jenkins just overlay the basic Weavers' tracks?


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Mark Ross
Date: 03 Jan 09 - 11:14 PM

They recorded with the Jenkins Orchestra. Overdubbing was relatively unknown at that time,

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Stringsinger
Date: 04 Jan 09 - 03:27 PM

The people who were subjected to the persecution of the era were not officially members of the Communist Party but those who had been former members or what they called "Fellow Travelers". The idea that these people who I knew well were taking orders from the Kremlin is ridiculous. McCarthy was wrong and an alcoholic bully. He was a power-hungry politician who like Rush Limbaugh found a way to capitalize on his persecution.

Ron Cohen and Dave Samuelson has covered this period and the one preceding pretty well. Check out the role of Harvey Matisow.


I remember that many of the people who were associated with the Left Wing were enamored of the issues of social justice,civil rights,labor, anti-war and other now mainstream issues that have always been reviled by Republicans. The corporate media has replaced the HUAC and McCarthy and the Weavers would have as much trouble today as they had in their heyday. They would find little support from the contemporary Senate and House today. They would find negative airtime on Fox News. As now, the Republicans were responsible for the McCarthyism of the time.

In many ways, what is going on today is worse than what happened under McCarthy.
Pre-emptive war, destruction of the labor movement, persecution of detainees at Guantanamo, open admission and encouragement of torture, Wall Street crooks, cronies robbing the American taxpayer, the rise of the Corporatocracy, endless skirmishes in the Middle-East, and open season on the US Constitution though wire-tapping. J Edgar
would be proud. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If a group like the Weavers emerged today with a sense of appealing to the public on issues of social justice etc. they would again be blacklisted and not given media exposure.
The reason for this is simple. There is still a Right-Wing cabal who is interested in suppressing free speech and controversial ideas.

Look at what happened to Amy Goodman in Minneapolis. That's right out of the McCarthy playbook. McCarthy has morphed into Karl Rove. (Check out the Siegelman story).

Nowadays, it's not "communist" but it has now been changed to "terrorist". (Again by Republicans).

The idea behind Pete wanting to reach out to the public's conscience by the Weavers
becoming "pop" was not about making money or being big stars. Pete saw this as
an inroad to reaching the public. The public liked the sincerity. The schism in the Weavers occurred when Lee and Freddie started to like getting the commericial gigs. Erik also. Pete wanted out. He arranged with Paul Endicott of Detroit to open a college market.

The raison d'etre behind the Weavers were to speak out publicly against McCarthy and
his ilk. Pete Cameron who was their first manager was afraid of the McCarthy publicity and put the kibosh on doing anything controversial. By that time, Red Channels had taken place and the horses escaped after the barn door was closed. I met the Weavers originally at the home of Will Geer when they were picketed at Ciros, the Hollywood nightclub.
Harold Leventhal eventually rescued their career from the trepidation of Pete Cameron. I think it might have been a surprise (as it usually is) when an alternative-style act finds its way into the pop field.

There is no chance that the Weavers would become a standard pop group. They had a chance to "sell-out" but there was a split in the group. Pete would never have gone for it though ironically a couple of Pete's songs became popular all over the world.

There were certain songs that were Weaver's songs and they did not include the standard pop fare. Many of these songs that were deemed to be commercially acceptable by the music merchants of the time were rejected by at least Pete if not Lee.

The rationale for being the Weavers under McCarthy was to fight back against the Republican ideology responsible for undermining social issues of the time. That would never be corrupted with Pete in the group. The Weavers would have had to eventually call it a day on the pop circuit.

The style of singing was a "militant" one, not the smooth gloss of the pop crooners of the time. This was the singing on picket lines, labor rallies and the Henry Wallace campaign.
It was a carryover from the Alamanc singers and the Weaver's former name, The Priority Ramblers. This singing style would be offensive to the interests of the popular music moguls of the time who had Republican leanings and corporate sympathies. Ironically,
the public liked it and bought the recordings.

I think that Gordon Jenkins was a fine musician who actually helped the sales of Weaver's recordings by tasteful arrangements that folk-snobs will undoubtably find offensive.
There was no way at that time that a straight version of folk music by untrained voices
was going to find a way onto the pop charts. It had to be made "acceptable". Remember that Burl Ives had a trained voice.

If it wasn't for the Weavers, there would not have been a Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary. They blazed the trail for the "folk scare".

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Big Mick
Date: 04 Jan 09 - 03:35 PM

For all its bumps, bruises and warts, what you have just read, folks, is one of the reasons that this village we call Mudcat is a precious gem. Frank Hamilton was there, and on the front lines. Where else do you get the likes of him, Jean Ritchie, Sandy and Caroline Paton, Mark Ross, and Art Thieme.

Thanks, once again, Friend Frank. This is one 30 year Union Organizer and lifetime folkie, who can't find enough ways to express his gratitude for your "real deal" insights on the times.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 04 Jan 09 - 03:35 PM

Frank ... a fine analysis by one who was there. Thanks, Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Jan 09 - 03:49 PM

I thought it was interesting that that one Richard Nixon was (I believe) the Secretary of HUAC in its heyday - a fact not publicised at the time of his presidential election campaigning...

Another spin-off from the HUAC days was that many of the Hollywood scriptwriters and film-makers who were blacklisted came to Europe and helped enrich the film arts scene over here - an ironic "plus" for us!


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 04 Jan 09 - 09:19 PM

Nice to see this thread revived.

It's certainly one of the more thoughtful ones, with a wealth of experience embedded in it.

It's one of the few reasons I hang around here.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Stringsinger
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 12:24 PM

Thank you Mick and Bob for your kind words. I am totally a union supporter. I know that
Pete has always been one. He cut his teeth on picket lines. I have never crossed a line
and would always prefer to join one.

I know that Lee was a union man too.

Will, I sat next to Dalton Trumbo (One of the Hollywood Ten) the night before he was to be sent to jail. He wrote a masterful "Johnny Get Your Gun" (the title based on the George M. Cohan song, "Over There").It is a necessary read in my opinion about the futility of war. It was at a meeting by the Left Wing Arts Sciences and Professions in Hollywood.

We lost some great talent in the movie business during that period thanks to the drunk Senator from Wisconsin and Jack Tenney (who wrote the song Mexicali Rose) and formed the Tenney Commision in California to investigate Communist Activities in the movies and TV.

The casualities included Morris Kornofsky (a marvelous actor who ran the Actor's Lab Theater Group in Hollywood), Will Geer, a great actor who was forced to give up acting and supported himself as a landscaper and botanist but came back in the media as Grandpa Walton, Don Murray, another fine actor, who was forced to run a laundromat, Jeff Corey ,actor extraordinaire, acting teacher and director who went back to school to get a degree in speech as a teacher since he couldn't find work in Hollywood, Gail Sondegard, an impressive actress, Waldo Salt (Hollywood Ten) who penned the notable and memorable "Midnight Cowboy" who was very encouraging to me in the early days, Earl Robinson, who tried to get into the Hollywood composer scene but was unable to, Howard Da Silva, a fine actor who also suffered under McCarthy, Hershel Bernardi and so many other fine and talented folks. It was a heartbreaking time.

Josh White was threatened by the FBI. He had those "phone calls". Pete has forgiven him
for his cooperation with HUAAC. Burl Ives and Elia Kazan were unabashed informants.

So you see, the Weavers really didn't have a chance on the pop market scene. The local papers in Hollywood such as the L.A. Examiner ran headlines about "Reds invading Topanga Canyon". Will Geer, Bess Hawes, Rich Dehr all lived there.

It was a terrible time for talented people. I can't describe it accurately because it was such
a vicious attempt by hysterical officials. Today, Steve Earle, as I understand it has problems with Right Wingnuts as did the Dixie Chicks.

The Weavers represent courage in the face of the corruption in the 50's. This is an important part of American History that they won't teach kids in high school. This, and
the legacy of the battles of the labor movement to succeed for the working people of this country as well.

The US didn't officially torture anyone during that period, though, as they do today.

We need more groups like the Weavers to release the American Conscience from its prison by corrupt Right Wing ideologues. The Weavers remind us of how far we need to go to preserve American democracy. I'm off my soap box now but I just didn't realize how emotional I was on this subject until now.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Big Mick
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 12:52 PM

Frank, it is a theme I have been spouting for some time here. I believe that every so often, in the course of history, there comes a time for the bards, singers, social activist folkie songwriters,.... whatever you want to call us ....... to step forward. It doesn't happen often, but we are at the beginning of such a period now. During the mid 60's was the last time I remember. Your recounting of the HUAC days is so critical because it gives us the fodder we need to write the songs that can cause folks to leave the lockstep "traditional values" group think that is such a pervasive evil. The HUAC times show us, within our memory, that we must be so vigilant if we are to continue on a progressive path. The election of Obama, while being a sign for extreme hope, won't be much more than an interesting bit of history if we don't use the opportunity presented by the minds that have flashed open to progressive ideas. Folks need to rest assured that the McCarthyites are alive and well and plotting as we speak to hamstring this young man, and to re-establish themselves. We have the leader we need, but he needs the help of those of us with gifts, those of us who can use our twin talents of music and message to awaken that which is great in our country. I believe the American melting pot has produced a people with a great capacity to do the right thing, but who are easily swayed by cliche driven "American Dream" rhetoric that has little to do with the real dreams of those that live on the American continent. Those spin meisters will be working overtime, and it is up to us to counter them using our gifts, and the marvelous resource of wisdom we have from folks like you, Jean, Pete, Art, Mark, Utah, and the whole host of wonderful progressive performers who survived that time. We only have a short window to get in, and your writing of that time demonstrates that.

So stay the path, sir. I need you, and so do any number of us that believe that failing to recognize what happened in the past dooms us to repeat it. Could there be any more graphic proof than the Bush Presidency.

And thanks for your emotion.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 01:45 PM

Frank - I doff my hat to you. To have known those brave people must have been a life-enhancing, and probably a life-changing experience. I do believe that Dalton Trumbo was one of the scriptwriters for the UK ATV television series "Robin Hood" - a story of the little men against the oppressors... Trumbo was an incredible writer, and made his mark on films in spite of HUAC and the whole McCarthy thing.

And we shouldn't get smug in this country and say things like "only in America" - we have our own illiberal élite over here at the moment.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: PoppaGator
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 03:22 PM

I've got a lump in my throat.

Thanks to Frank and Mick for their inspirational contributions, and to JotSC for reviving this wonderful old discussion.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 04:18 PM

I can only speak to the U.S. experience. I watched some of the Army- McCarthy hearings when I was around 10 years of age. I recall the original broadcast, watched with my parents on our old RCA black and white TV, when Edward R. Murrow finally challenged Joseph McCarthy when no other journalist dared. It was a time of great paranoia when "duck and cover" meant diving under your school desk when you saw the white flash in the window. I guess it would have been better to get fried there than while standing or sitting.

People in power who should have known better did some very stupid, and often self-serving things. We were deprived of the talents of many creative people who happened to have an alternative point of view - or were merely accused of it. It was just as grotesque as incarcerating people of Japanese ancestry during early WWII simply for being who they were. I am anything but proud of those times, during which I also became aware of The Weavers, Pete Seeger and Josh White, among many others. I have not always shared their political views, but I think I understand their roots and I absolutely defend their right to express their thoughts.

What worries me now is that I see a resurgence of attempts to stifle free speech, or shout it down, when it offends or is contrary to the views of certain political or religious groups or powerful individuals. I pray we see this for what it means to all of us and lend our artistic and musical talents, whenever needed, to defend the freedom to speak, publish, perform and believe freely.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Domo
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 04:48 PM

Do any of you guys have details fo what evidence Burl Ives gave to McCarthy's gang or who he pointed the finger at? I have no doubt he would would be remembered as one of the great folkies of all time if he had not turned "traitor". Interesting that Counry and Western welcomed him with open arms.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Mark Ross
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 06:25 PM

Tony Kraber was one of the names that Ives gave to the committee. I worked with Tony in 1975 in a revival of the Sophie Maslow dance piece FOLKSAY. Pete later re-connected with Ives. As Dalton Trumbo(I think said, "There were only victims").

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 08:56 PM

At the time, Pete believed Ives was protecting his own lucrative connections. Ives' own biographers say that he was strongly motivated by a realization of the destructive nature of Communism and a deep love for America.

I think Mark Ross hit the nail on the head.

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 10:09 PM

Just a couple of comments regarding the last ten or so threads.
1) Many of the folks brought before HUAC were or had been members of the Communist Party. Woody was--I've seen a copy of his card in a biography of some 25 years ago. Pete, I think, has admitted he was, Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan were. The CPA was, I believe, a legal political party.

2) Few of them, if any, were hard-core, wanting to overthrow the US by force, members, and most had left the Party long before the hearings.

3) The remainder of those called because they had supported causes spearheaded by or supported by the CPA, but were not, themselves, Communists.

4) Although the House hearings had nothing to do with Tail-Gunner Joe, in fact the 1947 hearings, preceded his Senate hearings by three or four years, McCarthy has become the eponym for the entire period.

5) Contrary to popular belief (and a poorly written essay I read on the internet) the government, HUAC, did not Blacklist anyone. Blacklisting was done by the studios, TV networks and sponsors. They were egged on by pressure groups threatening boycotts, and some threats of governmental regulation...this is the same type of threat that had been the impetus for the Hayes and Breen offices to enforce the motion picture decency codes.

The actor, Robert Vaughn, wrote a doctoral dissertation at USC about the blacklist. I read a book about 40 years ago entitled 'Only Victims'...this may have be by a fellow named Navsky or by Vaughn himself; I disremember.

With the onset of the Cold War, these travesties occurred, not unlike the internment of Japanese aliens and Japanese-American citizens during WWI. The irony of HUAC was that whatever affiliations the actors, directors and writers had with CPA had, for the most, part long passed.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 10:21 PM

Hey Mark-
Whose part did you take in "Folksay"? I did Woody's in nineteen fifty-something revival.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Mark Ross
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 10:36 PM

I did Woody's, on the reccomendation of Marjorie Guthrie.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 08:19 AM

Burl Ives also named folk singer/balladeer Richard Dyer-Bennet, severely undercutting his performing career. There is a line between denouncing "communism" and naming "communists" and "fellow travelers" and in my opinion Ives crossed that line.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Stringsinger
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 11:51 AM

"5) Contrary to popular belief (and a poorly written essay I read on the internet) the government, HUAC, did not Blacklist anyone. Blacklisting was done by the studios, TV networks and sponsors. They were egged on by pressure groups threatening boycotts, and some threats of governmental regulation...this is the same type of threat that had been the impetus for the Hayes and Breen offices to enforce the motion picture decency codes."

The HUAC knew very well what they were doing. McCarthy and the House deliberately set
out to make it difficult for those being blacklisted to work. They, themselves, were ideological pressure groups fostering their own political agenda. They were as culpable as
any of the media, corporate sponsorship or academic institutions of the time.

The decency codes were not made to eliminate talent on the basis of their political conscience. This analogy does not hold water. it was a dark period in American history analogous to Guantanamo, wire-tapping and the present subversion of Constitutional protections.

The idea that HUAC and McCarthy were immune to their motives for their scurrilous attacks is risible.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 04:15 PM

Ah yes, the bad ol' days. Sometime in the very early 60s, I was out of work, and was supporting myself by being a paid accompaniast for a couple of folksingers. At the time, I was living in a loft on W. 17 St. in NY, just above Greenwich Village.

One evening, the doorbell rang, and I opened to see two clean-cut youngish men in suits with dark knit ties --(very suspicious in that neighborhood at that point in time. They identified themselves as FBI and asked me if I knew I was working with some subversive singers. I explained that I just played the guitar; had nothing to do with the words. They then asked me if I would be willing to serve my country by, er, observing and reporting on these singers.

I explained that that kind of behavior would make it very difficult for me to continue to earn a living. They looked disappointed, and went downstairs to their dark blue Chevy (a car that stood out like a neon sore thumb in that milieu.

Next thing I knew, I was being followed around when I went out. THis turned out to be much more of a problem for them than it did for me--I was riding a motorcycle at the time, and tended to avoid traffic lights by detouring through dome narrow alleys.

After a while, I began to feel sorry for them, so I'd drive aound the block, pull up to their car and tell them where I was going next. This seemed to embarrass them. They gave up after a few days.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Big Mick
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 04:30 PM

Dick is another in my pantheon of heroic members of the times. I have the additional good fortune of counting him among my personal friends. I hadn't heard that one before, Dick. But I can just see you doing it, especially the part of circling around and pulling up beside him.

Mick


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 05:54 PM

Good grief, Dick! I had almost the identical experience in the mid-1950s. Two men in grey suits. I politely declined and they politely thanked me for my time and went away.

At least I thought they went away. I would have very easy to follow at the time, without my being aware of it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 08:29 PM

I never did find much in my FBI "Red File" other than my request for whatever they had. Well, they did take notes on some of the meetings I attended at Michigan State University during the late 1960's and early 1970's. There were lengthy discussions of whether one of our members should or should not cut his hair and trim his beard if he was going to represent the Coalition for Human Survival in the City Council race. My god, I do wonder who that long-suffering informant was; maybe he was our candidate!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 03:19 PM

The worst part about the McCarthy era wasn't it's effect on the famous; it was the pervasive cloud of fear and suspicion that enveloped everyone. I recall my cousin trying to get neighbors to sign a petition that would have designated the one-block long street on which she lived as a play ares for the kids. Everyone on the block was in favor of this, but, with one exception, everyone was afraid to sign a petition.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 07:20 PM

Exactly so, Dick!

In 1953, several people including Walt Robertson and myself formed the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society. It was to be primarily an academic association, dedicated to getting what folklore had been collected in this area, and what was yet to be collected, into some kind of reasonable and accessible order. It was also formed to sponsor concerts by various folk singers, both well-known performers and locals. And the organization was completely a-political.

The first well-known performer we sponsored was Pete Seeger.

Pete sang a most enjoyable concert, and aside from one or two labor songs, there was nothing political about it. Nevertheless, large numbers of the 200+ people we had on the PNWFS's mailing list started calling, asking that their names be taken off the list. Reasons given were things like, "I'm a year away from a degree in engineering, and when I go looking for a job, I may need to be able to get a security clearance. And I'm sorry, but I can't afford to take a chance. I mean, after all, Seeger's suspected of being a Communist."

We had no idea! People were scared spitless! In about a week, there were only about a dozen of us left. I remember someone commenting, "This is Kafkaesque!" So we abandoned the PNWFS as just unworkable at that time.

I'm happy to say that some 50 years later, Bob Nelson (Deckman), Stewart Hendrickson (Stewart), and I have reorganized the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society to fill what we still feel is a need in this area—once again, to try to provide an organized and accessible archive for the folklore of this area, and to make sure that performers of traditional material have venues in which to perform.

The PNWFS web site.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 07:25 PM

From the PNWFS web site, here is a more detail description of what happened. CLICKY.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,banjopicker
Date: 28 Nov 11 - 11:49 PM

Im a bit confused with what Frank said about The Weavers were first called " The Priority Ramblers" I always they thought they went under the name " The no-name quartet" and that the priority Ramblers were a group based out of Washington D.C


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