The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #101506   Message #2047840
Posted By: GUEST,Bob Coltman
10-May-07 - 07:21 AM
Thread Name: What got you hooked on folk music?
Subject: RE: What got you hooked on folk music?
My babysitter Althea Grass, around 1942-4 -- she sang me "Billy Boy," "Lavender's Blue," "Polly Wolly Doodle," and a few other things I'd no previous idea of.

A man who visited my grandfather when I was about seven and to my startlement sang me "The Cork Leg."

My grandfather also had a few Carl Sandburg Musicraft 78s: "I Don't Want to Be Buried in the Storm," "I'm Goin' Away," "I Ride an Old Paint," and especially "Jesus Won't You Come By'm By." The religious message missed me entirely but the strange horse Macedoni and Sandburg's brooding way of singing became part of my imagination.

My parents, who had a fund of silly pop and not-quite-folk songs, usually in bits and pieces sung around the house, like "Where Do Mosquitoes Go," "Mairsy Doats," "Yes, We Have No Bananas," ""Where Do You Work-a John," "Quartermaster's Store" (sic) and the "In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia" cow parody.

Then, about 1949, a skiing/partying friend of my parents', Harrison Taylor. She was from the New York area and sang quite a lot of Burl Ives-type songs. "Blue Tail Fly," "Barbara Allen," "The Fox," "The Foggy, Foggy Dew," "Molly Malone," above all "Buckeye Jim," which (along with a few John Jacob Niles songs like "Venezuela") opened up to me the mystery that makes folk songs infinite.

This led me to a few of Burl Ives' early recordings. I was hooked. I started on my father's old college ukulele and mother's college mandolin, and after a year pestered for a guitar.

Bill Bonyun, mentor and friend, about 1950 sang a concert in the neighborhood and later one at my school. He was kind enough to visit my house, taught me chords, told me about his mentor Dick Dyer-Bennett and taught me some of his songs, sang "Three Craws" and a lot of other things.

That, and the Weavers' "Tzena Tzena Tzena" and Pete Seeger's debut LP "Darling Corey" that same year, finished the job. I was no longer fit for normal civilized suburban music forever. Before long I was scarfing up ballads and songs from books and listening to Library of Congress field recordings and finding people who knew obscure ditties, and ... The rest is definitely not history.