The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #121329   Message #2651487
Posted By: Don Firth
08-Jun-09 - 02:19 PM
Thread Name: To introduce songs, or not, and how?
Subject: RE: To introduce songs, or not, and how?

If you are the only singer and you are singing four or five sets a night three nights in the same place for eighteen weeks in a row, and you have a high percentage of repeat clientele, you'd jolly well better keep your "act" flexible and varied. Add to this that, after that eighteen week gig is over, your next one is in a place two miles away and most of your audience follows you, and—well, you see why versatility is essential.

In 1959, Bob Nelson and I were "barnstorming" in the San Francisco Bay area, and while we were there, we saw some of the "big name acts," the ones that were responsible for the "Great Folk Scare." We actually saw the first professional gig of The Smothers Brothers at The Purple Onion. They did the same songs with the same well-rehearsed intros every night they sang. But—they didn't have that much repeat business. The Purple Onion, like The Hungry i, and other North Beach clubs that were featuring "folk music" (actually, comedy acts using folk songs as a vehicle for their humor) were primarily tourist attractions. Tourists would go to The Purple Onion one evening to hear the Smothers Brothers, to the Hungry i the following evening to hear The Limeliters, then someplace else to hear stand-up comic Phyllis Diller.   Little repeat business, new audiences every night.

Later, when the Smothers Brothers records started coming out, they did the same routines that Bob and I had heard word for word. Then, a few years later, when they got their own television show—yep, the exact same stuff.

That's what people expected from them and that's what they wanted.

I was not a comedy act. In fact, I had a small reputation as being something of an academic as well as an entertainer; yes, an "entertainer," but I don't think that made me any less a singer of folk songs and ballads. But reputation as a bit of a scholar notwithstanding, I kept my intros (it any) short, informative, and varied.

So—what do your audiences want? What do they expect from you?

(By the way, these comments are general, not addressed to any specific person here)

Don Firth