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Michael S Boston's Club 47 - Where it started (35) RE: Boston's Club 47 - Where it started 12 Aug 08


I'm glad there's a thread on Club 47 (and "hippie" deserves a thread too). I'm passing this thread on to Millie Rahn, a folklorist and the archivist for Club Passim. Millie's very knowledgeable about the heritage of Club 47/Passim and may choose to pass this to others who can add lore. She's not, as far as I know, a Mudcatter herself.

I'm always interested in the ripple effects that things have. Most of you probably know of Rounder Records, the Massachusetts label with maybe 3500 rootsy albums to its credit. Rounder may not exist if it weren't for Club 47.

Ken Irwin and Bill Nowlin, two of the three Rounder founders, were Tufts students from '62 to '66, the height of the commercial folk boom. They got their musical education at 47. They always perceived the Club as having an impenetrable inner circle, so they tried to take in as much of the milieu as they could from the audience. While standing in line outside, Nowlin used to listen to people talk about trad and revival records, and was always struck by the knowledge of the crowd.

Between live sets, the Club would play recorded music. One day, enjoying the recorded fiddling they heard, they asked what was playing. It was a live Folkways LP recorded at the Old-Time Fiddlers Convention in Union Grove, NC. They had never heard of fiddlers conventions before, but later hitched down to NC numerous times to check out the show. Irwin says that Union Grove is "what really did it for me," with regard to his love of old-time music and bluegrass. Probably in 1967, they encountered banjoist George Pegram, who was competing at Union Grove that year. Nowlin took his photo. In 1970, a new Pegram album became Rounder's first release, with Nowlin's photo as the cover shot.

Influences are everywhere, but Rounder and its thousands of albums are clearly linked to the presence of Club 47.

Michael Scully
Austin, TX


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