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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Frank Hamilton Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene) (112* d) RE: Merlin Banjo (and the Chicago Folk Scene) 26 Mar 06


Thanks Art and Guy for bringing back memories of The Gate of Horn and the early Chi folkscene.

Bob Gibson is the reason I came to Chicago. I stayed at his apartment on (can't remember but think it was on Wells Street). He and I were a duo at the old Gate of Horn and I was playing 12 string guitar. Jo Mapes joined us later. We were Gibson and Hamilton. Al Grossman discovered Bob Camp in the Village and put him together with Gibson. Al was a prescient marketer.

The Dearborn and Chicago location of the old Gate was quite a place.
I worked for Alan Ribback (later to become Moses Moon in the Bay area) as house musician for the Gate. I accompanied many acts such as Bud and Travis, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Brother John Sellers, Martha Schlamme, Bob Gibson, Alan Mills and the phenomenal fiddler, "Ti Jean" Carignan, Shoshanna Damari and Barbara Dane. One night we had a jam session with Peggy Seeger and Big Bill Broonzy.
We worked with bassists Herb Brown, Spike Lee's father, Bill Lee and the be bop legend, (can't remember his name but he used to hit on us for pennies to support his habit.) It was dope city in those days jazz guys and the folkies all were into it. Even the gangsters showed up to dig Bud and Travis.

Gibson started the Sunday afternoon "hoots" at the old Gate. The entire Chicago music folk community showed up at one time or another.

Osborne Smith, Bob Atcher, Ella Jenkins, and maybe Fleming Brown but that I can't verify. Guy, I believe you were there as well as "Spanky" MacFarland, Johnny Carbo and Ginny Clemens. it was quite a scene. Wonder what ever happened to Elaine MacFarland? I met her in California many years ago but lost track.

Gibson was an extraordinary entertainer who referred to himself as a "saloon singer".

Does anyone remember Mike Bloomfield's (blues guitarist) coffeehouse, The Fickle Pickle? Gibson used to come down to see me and two other guys on Monday nights. One time our trio played opposite Dick Gregory who did a guest shot there while he was being featured at Roberts Show Lounge.

The Gate of Horn was closed down when it moved to it's new quarters by noneother than Lenny Bruce. Down the street Lenny used to appear at the Trade Winds, a mafia-owned joint often in the nude. But at the Gate he aroused the ire of the cops and city fathers by appearing in a priest's outfit. Catholic Chicago couldn't take that. That shut down the joint. I saw Mortimer Adler of the Great Books Club slinking out of the final Lenny Bruce show. ( A little intellectual slummming pehaps?)

Re Merlin: I always thought that they had too many overtones. They were loud though. They loooked kinda' neat.

Frank Hamilton


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