The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #44088   Message #647241
Posted By: Peter T.
11-Feb-02 - 09:38 AM
Thread Name: OBIT: RIP Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002)
Subject: RE: OBIT: RIP Dave Van Ronk
From a Sing Out interview in the 1970s, reproduced at

By the time I started collecting you could get quite a good selection of jazz on LP. I still have RL 101, the very first Riverside ten-inch record, a thing called "Louis Armstrong Plays the Blues." At first I was very annoyed to find out it wasn't Louis Armstrong alone but Louis Armstrong backing blues singers like Chippie Hill and Ma Rainey. I started to listen and liked it very much. But there was no country blues available on Lps. For that you had to go to the 78s. A ten-inch record called "Listen to Our Story" had ballads of all kinds. Just two things on it might be taken for blues -- one was "Staggerlee" by Furry Lewis and the other was "True Religion" by Reverend Edward Clayburn, bith finger-picking guitar. I heard "Staggerlee" on that thing and I thought it was two guitars -- one playing the bass line and the other playing the melody.

INTERVIEWER: I used to think that too.

It was obvious! When someone told me it was one guitarist using three fingers I really went berserk trying to figure out how it could be done. I practically tied my fingers in a knot. It wasn't until I went down to Washington Square one Sunday...I believe it was Tom Paley I saw ingerpicking and I remember saying, "That's how it's done!" From then on my descent was gradual but sure. I met Barry Kornfeld, and he was already picking like a sonofabitch. I learned a lot from watching Tom and Barry. Barry was hanging out with Reverend Gary Davis, so I met Gary.

INTERVIEWER: When and where did you start performing solo?

I think my first solo performance was on Third Street, at the Cafe Bizzare, in 1958 or `59. Barry was there. We all used to hang around. They would shut down the Square around seven o'clock, so everybody would troop over to the American Youth Hostel on Eighth Street where Barry Kornfeld was running a hoot a la Pete Seeger every Sunday night. That would knock off about ten and we'd go over to Roger Abram's place -- an old building at 190 Spring Street. It was a rat's nest of folk singers, and the music would go on until three, four, five o'clock in the morning. The person who lived there couldn't stand it and finally threw us all out. Then the landlord opened acoffeehouse on Third Street and saw the opportunity for some cheap or free talent, and that became the Cafe Bizzarre. As far as I know, it was the first coffeehouse in the Village that had folk music. It was over a year ahead of the Gaslight and other places.

From Singout! Issue 27/5, late 1970's