This thread really got me thinking. What happened to folk music per se is that it was embraced by academic types and it tended toward analysis and dissection. The music still stands unencumbered by this.
I don't think that you could say that someone like Leadbelly was an intellectual although he might appeal to some who call themselves that. Woody was called an "intellectual" by Gordon Freisen (Sis Cunningham's husband) because he was never on the "business end of a steam hammer-drill". He did work as a merchant marine, though.
Pete Seeger is definitely an intellectual in that he is highly knowledgeable and reads a great deal. He also has a little Harvard in his background.
I think that there is another category. That of musician. This tends to overlap into all kinds of music. Here's an interesting thing. I like Disco (particularly early such as K.C. and the Sunshine Band) and I like Motown, Burt Bachrach, early Stanley Brothers, Texas Gladden, The Doobie Brothers, I like Earl Scruggs, Cisco Houston, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Judy Collins, Brownie and Sonny and Fela Anikapalo Kuti. I like Spike Jones and Homer and Jethro. I think Irving Berlin was one of America's greatest songwriters. I like Steve Sondheim, Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, Eddie Davis (the tenor banjo player) Elmer Snowden (the tenor banjo player) and Micheal Coleman, James Morrison, Margaret Barry and Jeannie Robertson. I like Gershwin, Porter, Kern and all the old musical theater cats and I like Jimmie Rodgers (The Singing Brakeman), the Carter Family, Bobby McFerrin, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Bunk Johnson, George Lewis, Art Tatum, Fats Waller, Blind Lemon Jefferson,Hank Williams, Alfred Apaka, Keola Beamer, Gabby Pahanui, Horton Barker, Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal, B.B. King, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Tony Bennett, Bela Bartok, Phillip Glass......and the list goes on and on.
What do you say about someone like me with a broad ecclectic taste?
One of the things about all the preceding artists on the list is that they are all excellent musicians in their respective fields.
I tend to reject stereotypes. Audiences can change from generation to generation and the people who go to folk music concerts are different than the ones that I grew up knowing.
Music merchants know how to market to certain audiences. They can create a "folk audience" (as did Al Grossman in the fifites and sixties). They can create a college audience which was originally done by a man by the name of Paul Endicott in the early Fifties who was booking college concerts of folk music before anyone else did.
Recording companies also have sophisticated marketing techniques as well.
Here's another unfortunate thing. The Audio library that I go to in Georgia used to have an extensive folk music collection. It has been entirely expunged. This is a form of negative marketing.
Here's another interesting thing. Jean Ritchie who is on this list is a brilliant lady who is highly educated (intellectual) but sings songs from her background of basically working-class people with an honesty and someone who is part of that rich heritage.
Would the bluegrass contigent dismiss her and her contributions to American traditional folk music? I know that Earl Scruggs or Ralph Stanley would not. She's also a great songwriter.
Jerry, bottom line. All kinds of music for all kinds of people and to hell with the stereotypes. That was what Pete Seeger meant when he talked about a "Hootenanny" which became something else rather quickly. he saw it as a pot pourri of all musical styles that could communicate with an audience who could participate, singing, clapping, or dancing.
Now where the "cheese gets binding" is what happens when academic types get ahold of music and put it under a test tube. They can kill it.
Amateur musicologists abound and they are the proverbial blind men stroking the elephant.
So I remain an "issues" person. I'll accept or reject each artist in any given field because I relate or don't. I refuse to tow any musical party line.