William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
It's with great sorrow that I pass on the word that William Main Doerflinger, folk song collector and author-compiler of Shantymen and Shantyboys (later reissued as Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman) died at 6:45AM on December 23rd at his home in New Jersey. Bill died after a stroke which followed a recent operation. He was 91.
Bill told me that he started collecting folk songs as a student at Princeton University. His first field trip was to Nova Scotia and his first informant was the bus driver who drove him to his first night's accommodation. Bill's specialty was, of course, the songs he found in coastal New England and the Canadian Maritimes, and in New York at Sailors' Snug Harbor and other places. They were the repertoire of deepwater mariners and offshore fishermen, and lumbermen who felled trees in northern forests.
Bill and my wife, Bonnie, befriended each other 20 years ago. It was through her that I had the good fortune to meet him. Bill was courtly, kind and witty, yet he could be a "no-nonsense" man when it was appropriate. He was, by profession, a book editor and, consequently, someone familiar with both truth and fiction. After I asked him to look over the notes of my CD, Irish Ballads & Songs of the Sea, I became the beneficiary of his great knowledge and simple frankness when clearly set me straight on a few points. We were just about to embark on another project. Bonnie and I had dinner with him last month and enjoyed a delightful evening filled with talk about folk songs and world travel.
Bill Doerflinger was the dean of sea music and on of America's great folk song collectors and scholars, an irreplaceable person who sought out and found the true songs of maritime workers and, fortunately for us, recorded them for our enjoyment. We will be forever in his debt.