The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #12490   Message #2487791
Posted By: bobad
07-Nov-08 - 01:51 PM
Thread Name: Peter LaFarge
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
Peter LaFarge was born in New York City, April 30th, 1931, the son of Pulitzer Prize winner Oliver LaFarge and heiress Wanden Mathews LaFarge. He was named Oliver Albee LaFarge, but the 'Oliver' never stuck. Despite the story being told many times, geneological research has shown that likely Peter nor his father were Native American, though his family's association, work and compassionate writings on the subject made people believe they were. He changed his name to Peter when his mother divorced in 1935, moved the family to Colorado and remarried rancher Andy Kane in 1940. Peter and his younger sister Povy grew up on a sprawling ranch in Fountain, CO.
He went to Fountain Valley High School, but became bitten by the rodeo bug and left school before graduation. He rode bareback, then graduated to saddle broncs and rode at all the big shows in the country.
He spent three years in the Navy aboard the aircraft carrier Boxer during the Korean war. The Boxer had a terrible explosion and although Pete escaped physical injury, it messed with his mind. He was also forced to spy on his ship mates, and he showed the first signs of mental illness. The Navy brass had him sent to a psychiatric hospital for experimental treatments.
After the hospital stay he rodeoed, was injured repeatedly, and made his way to the Goodman School of Theater in Chicago where he studied acting. He spent two years there and went on to summer stock getting supporting parts, mostly in Shakespeare plays. He married a young girl from Michigan named Suzan Becker in 1958, they toured with the theater company, but she later had a mental breakdown and remained institutionalized until 10 years after his death. Suzan was killed in a car accident in 1977.
In the late 50's he got a part on Broadway and moved to New York City, but he tired of waiting for parts which were few and far between for young actors and grew frustrated with his unappreciated playwriting. He turned to singing in the clubs of Greenwich Village. He and pal Bob Dylan often visited their ailing hero Woody Guthrie.
With the help of Cisco Houston he wrote songs, got a one album deal with Columbia Records in 1962 (the first in the folk scene to get such a contract), and then released five albums on Folkways Records from 1962 to 1965. He painted well, though he was truly a poet, a writer, a striking real-life Lone Ranger and Tonto in the beat mecca of Greenwich Village. Johnny Cash made him famous with the Ballad of Ira Hayes from his album Bitter Tears in 1964.
He had a daughter, Karen Wanden, with Playboy Bunny turned singer Inger Neilsen in August, 1965. But his excesses, pressures, and hyper NYC life caught up with him, Peter died from a probable stroke related overdose on October 27th, 1965, though the death certificate reads "pending further study".
He is buried on a lonely, windswept hill at the beautiful, former Kane ranch in Colorado. He is survived by his sister Povy, brother Pen, daughter Karen, and granddaughter Alexandra.