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Looking for info on The Almanac Singers

Joe Offer 19 May 04 - 03:00 PM
Mark Ross 19 May 04 - 03:15 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 May 04 - 03:25 PM
dick greenhaus 19 May 04 - 06:29 PM
GUEST 20 May 04 - 04:58 PM
Sandra in Sydney 21 May 04 - 08:38 AM
johnross 03 Dec 05 - 09:33 PM
GUEST,JMF 23 Feb 09 - 02:08 PM
Nancy King 23 Feb 09 - 02:13 PM
GUEST,JMF 23 Feb 09 - 07:49 PM
Amos 23 Feb 09 - 07:52 PM
dick greenhaus 23 Feb 09 - 10:37 PM
johnross 23 Feb 09 - 11:39 PM
GUEST,booklynrose 23 Feb 09 - 11:58 PM
GUEST,booklynrose 07 Mar 09 - 05:12 PM
oldhippie 07 Mar 09 - 07:29 PM
Joe Offer 07 Mar 09 - 08:33 PM
Charley Noble 07 Mar 09 - 08:51 PM
GUEST,Kegan Mahon 22 Sep 14 - 01:11 AM
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Subject: Almanac Singers Recordings
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 May 04 - 03:00 PM

Amazon has an import CD on the Prism label for $13.49 called Songs of Protest Here's the track listing:
    1. I Ride an Old Paint      
    2. Dodger Song      
    3. Golden Vanity      
    4. House of the Rising Sun      
    5. Blow Ye Winds, Heigh Ho      
    6. Haul Away, Joe      
    7. Blow the Man Down      
    8. Ground Hog      
    9. State of Arkansas      
    10. Coast of High Barbary      
    11. Hard, Ain't It Hard      
    12. Away, Rio      
    13. Billy Boy      
    14. Ballad of October 16      
    15. Plow Under      
    16. Get Thee Behind Me Satan      
    17. Strange Death of John Doe      
    18. Round and Round Hitler's Grave      
    19. Sinking of the Reuben James      
    20. Liza Jane      
    21. All I Want      
    22. Union Maid      
    23. Talking Union      
    24. Which Side Are You On?      
    25. Deliver the Goods      
    26. 'C' for Conscription      
    27. Washington Breakdown      
    28. Dear Mr. President      
    29. Round and Round Hitler's Grave [Radio Broadcast]

There's another Almanac Singers CD on MCA called Their Complete General Recordings. It doesn't contain any political songs, which seems really strange for an Almanac Singers recording. Here's the track list:

    1. Blow Ye Winds, Heigh Ho
    2. Away Rio
    3. Blow the Man Down
    4. House of the Rising Sun
    5. Ground Hog
    6. State of Arkansas         
    7. Weaver's Song         
    8. I Ride an Old Paint         
    9. Hard, Ain't It Hard         
    10. Dodger Song         
    11. Greenland Fishing         
    12. Golden Vanity         
    13. Coast of High Barbary         
    14. Haul Away Joe

The two Naxos CD's are Talkin Union, Vol 1 (21 cuts) and The Sea,The Soil, The Struggle, vol 2 (20 cuts). The Bear Family Songs for Political Action box set has 37 cuts from the Almanac Singers, enough to keep me happy. Oh, it also has six cuts by Seeger/Glazer/Hawes that are identified as "Almanac Singers" on Sea/Soil/Struggle, so I guess I have the entire Almanac collection.
-Joe Offer-

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Subject: RE: Almanac Singers Recordings
From: Mark Ross
Date: 19 May 04 - 03:15 PM

    I would say from the track listing, that THEIR COMPLETE GENERAL RECORDINGS is THE SEA AND THE SOIL. It's the album the Almanacs recorded to pay for their 1941 tour(it bought them the bulletproof gangsters limo they traveled in).

Mark Ross

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Subject: RE: Almanac Singers Recordings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 May 04 - 03:25 PM

The Sea, The Soil, and the Struggle (1941-1942)
1. Viva La Quince Brigada
2. The Golden vanity
3. The Dodger Song
4. State of Arkansas
5. Spanish Marching Song
6. Ouinto Regimiento
7. Quartermaster Song
8. Keep that Oil a-Rollin'
9. Jarama Valley
10. Ride an Old Paint
11. House of the Rising Sun
12. Haul Away, Joe
13. Hard, Ain't It Hard
14. Groundhog
15. Cookhouse; The Young Man From Alcala
16. Coast of High Barbary
17. Boontown Bill
18. Blow Ye Winds, High-O
19. Blow the Man Down
20. Away Rio

1. Which Side Are You On?
2. Washington breakdown
3. Union Train
4. Union Maid
5. The Strange Death of Joe Doe
6. The Sinking of the Rueben James
7. Talkin Union
8. Song For bridges
9. Side By Side
10. Round and Round Hitler's Grave
11. Plow Under
12. Liza Jane
13. Get Thee Behind Me, Satan
14. Deliver the Goods
15. Dear Mr. President
16. Billy Boy
17. Belt Line Girl
18. Ballad of October 16th
19. Babe O' Mine
20. All I Want
"C" For Conscription


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Subject: RE: Almanac Singers Recordings
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 May 04 - 06:29 PM

CAMSCO carries the Prism CD; I've just never heard the NAXOS one.

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Subject: RE: Almanac Singers Recordings
Date: 20 May 04 - 04:58 PM

I believe Talking Union was the more popular of the two.

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Subject: RE: Almanac Singers Recordings
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 21 May 04 - 08:38 AM

Today I visited my favourite CD shop & bought 'The Sea, The Soil & the Struggle' I also had a look at a review of the boxed set Joe mentioned. 296 tracks spread over 10 CDs. Naturally I want it. My friends forgot that they are the proprietor & employee of the best CD shop in Sydney & reminded me that 10 CDs would cost a fortune & very kindly took $2 off the price of the CD I was buying. But I still want the boxed set.

Maybe after I've bought the 10 CDs I want from Folk Legacy ...


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Subject: RE: Almanac Singers Recordings
From: johnross
Date: 03 Dec 05 - 09:33 PM

The 10-CD Bear Family box, "Songs For Political Action" is currently on sale at for about $80 off the usual price. I had been wanting that set for a long time, so that price was enough to convince me to spring for it.

It's even better than I expected. As you would expect, it contains a lot of material by the Almanac Singers and Josh White that's been relatively easy to find, but there are dozens of other tracks that haven't seen the light of day since the original 78s on obscure labels were released. And the 200-page hardcover book provides a coherent narrative that describes how the folk music revival emerged out of various left wing political movements -- anti-fascist, union organizing, civil rights and so forth. And it puts those familiar recordings from Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and the Weavers into a broader historical and social context.

This is an essential set for anybody who wants to understand how the modern folk revival got started.
    Threads combined. Messages below are from a new thread.
    -Joe Offer-

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Subject: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 02:08 PM

I've been listening to The Almanac Singers recently and really like what I'm hearing, but I'm confused as to how much they recorded. I see a collection on Amazon called Which Side Are You On? which has 31 tracks. It doesn't include things like Solidarity Forever of We Shall Not Be Moved including on Folkways' Talking Union album. It also doesn't include things like the Quartermaster's Song included on other comps. I've been using this site( as a guide. Does anyone have a comprehensive idea of what The Almanacs recorded?

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Subject: RE: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
From: Nancy King
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 02:13 PM

Well, Wikipedia has a list of their recordings here. Don't know how "comprehensive" it is, but maybe it's a start. Some interesting history, too.


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Subject: RE: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 07:49 PM

Thank you Nancy, first I hear of Songs Of The Lincoln Battalion. Does anyone know anything about this album?

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Subject: RE: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
From: Amos
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 07:52 PM

I suggest you PM Frank -- he knows a bit about it. Stringsinger, I mean.


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Subject: RE: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 10:37 PM

Just about all--if not all--of the Almanac's recordings are included in Bear Family's set "Songs for Political Action". Including their non-political "Sod Buster Ballads" and "Deep Sea Shanteys"

Pricey, though. Available from CAMSCO. Of course.

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Subject: RE: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
From: johnross
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 11:39 PM

About half of the Folkways "Talking Union" LP was recorded by a group assembled for that 1955 LP release. The cover is (probably intentionally) misleading:

             THE ORIGINAL
            TALKING UNION
          with the Almanac Singers
          & other UNION SONGS
          with Pete Seeger and Chorus

One member of the 1955 chorus was Mary Travers, later of Peter Paul & Mary.

The arrangements are similar enough that you have to listen closely to figure out which tracks are the Almanacs, and which were the later group. But that's why there are songs on the Folkways LP that aren't on the more recent CD reissues of Almanac Singers' old 78s.

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Subject: RE: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
From: GUEST,booklynrose
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 11:58 PM

If you would like to hear reflections of one of the members of the Almanac Singers and the wife of another member, Dottie Miller Gutenkauf and Ellen Hawes will be among the panelists at the Celebration of Urban Folk Music of the 1940s and 1950s on March 28 presented by the Folk Music Society of N.Y. It will be held at the Little Red School House - Elisabeth Irwin High School in Greenwich Village. Info at

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Subject: RE: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
From: GUEST,booklynrose
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 05:12 PM

Ellen Hawes just notified us that her doctor will not allow her to come to New York for our Celebration of the Urban Folk Music of the 1940s & 1950s on March 28. Dottie Miller Gutenkauf will represent the Almanac Singers. Other panelists will be singers Jean Ritchie and Lorie Holland, Rochelle Goldstein, widow of folklorist Ken Goldstein and friend of many of the Almanac Singers, Anna Lomax Wood and Anna Guthrie Canoni of the Alan Lomax Archive and Woody Guthrie Archive respectively. Also performing their music will be Tony Saletan and Roger Sprung accompanied by Richard Hawthorne and Hal Wylie. The program will be at Little Red Schoolhouse - Elisabeth Irwin High School in Greenwich Village, a center for folk music during the 1940s and 1950s. Info:

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Subject: RE: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
From: oldhippie
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 07:29 PM

iTunes has a Smithsonian Folkways "The Folkways Collection" program (among others) entitled "Music and the Winds of Change - Labor Movement" which contains recordings and dialogue of the Almanac Singers. It is a free download.

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Subject: RE: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 08:33 PM

The "Folkways Collection" podcasts are excellent - you can also get them free at


Here's what has to say about the Almanac Singers:
    Biography by Bruce Eder
    The Almanac Singers lasted for barely a year and only left behind three dozen songs, and their work was at least as controversial as it was popular. But they were among the very first folk music groups organized for political purposes to record, and their lineup — Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Woody Guthrie, and Millard Lampell — was a virtual "who's who" of topical and popular folk music for the next 20 years. They were the group where Seeger first hooked up officially with Hays, as well as the first direct link in the careers of Seeger, Hays, and Guthrie, and their influence lingers more than 50 years after they disbanded.

    The Almanac Singers had their start in 1940, when Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Millard Lampell first got together. Seeger and Hays had already been singing together at various left-wing political functions, and Lampell — who was Hays' roommate — began listening to them in their apartment, where Seeger frequently stayed. The trio started out informally, as Lampell joined the duo. The trio performed at fund-raising parties for different political groups, and their music proved extremely popular — they had an earthy, unpretentious approach to songs, and their deliberate "hillbilly" image fooled prospective audiences, who had no idea what they were in for. Following their rousing performance at the American Youth Congress meeting in Washington, D.C., in February of 1941, where they regaled the delegates — mostly pacifists and leftists — with anti-Roosevelt and anti-war songs, the Almanac Singers were a going concern.

    Seeger, Hays, and Lampell were not only master songsmiths, but were equally adept at modifying traditional songs, grafting on lyrics that referred to issues of the day, including the mistreatment of workers and the supposed neglect of the government in looking out for them. They would go into meetings of construction men or factory workers, who got restless upon seeing these "hillbillies" with guitars and banjos, but more often than not, hundreds of workers would be joining in on the choruses by the end of the performance, ready to hear and sign on for whatever the meeting organizers asked.

    The very name "the Almanac Singers" was intended to keep their image as simple and straightforward as possible. Seeger reasoned that most country people owned only two books, The Bible and The Farmer's Almanac, the former intended to get them to the next world and the latter to help them through this one.

    Woody Guthrie signed on in the spring of 1941, and eventually Sis Cunningham and Bess Hawes (the sister of Alan Lomax) came aboard as well, although the sextet never recorded as such. Others who got together with the trio or quartet informally on different occasions included bluesmen Leadbelly and Josh White, and folk singers Burl Ives and Richard Dyer-Bennett. Although the Communist Party — whose New York headquarters was only a few blocks from where Seeger, Hays, and Lampell lived — regarded the Almanacs as suspiciously free-thinking (especially their urban communal lifestyle) and humorous, they were happy to use the group to further their cause. The group became a popular fixture at union meetings and fund-raising events for various left-wing political groups.

    The Almanac Singers' music was closely tied to their politics, and it is impossible to tell of their history without going into their politics, which both inspired the group and also doomed it at the same time. All of the Almanacs were involved with leftist political organizations, including the Communist Party. Some of this can be ascribed to youthful naïveté and innocence, rather than any profound philosophical belief in Marx, Lenin, or Stalin. Additionally, it should be remembered that until the advent of Roosevelt's New Deal, it had seemed to many Americans as though the Communist Party offered the only political voice for poor and working-class Americans. Further, many Americans, especially among the intelligentsia, hadn't abandoned their respect for the Communist Party, especially after it proved to be the only political force in Europe that was firmly opposed to Hitler and the forces of fascism.

    Part of the Almanacs' function was to entice labor groups and their members into the fold. They were strongly anti-Roosevelt, owing to what they considered the president's weak support of workers' rights (ignoring the fact that Roosevelt was hated by the upper classes for being too sympathetic to the working class), and his signing of the country's first peace-time draft bill.

    In the spring of 1941, after some months without success, the Almanac Singers arranged for their first recording, entitled Songs for John Doe, which took the Communist Party's official isolationist line (Hitler and Stalin having signed a non-aggression pact the previous year), urging listeners to resist any American involvement in the war in Europe. Ironically, the album came out only a few weeks before Germany attacked the Soviet Union, and the Almanac Singers soon had reason to partly disown its content.

    That record was made with help from folk-song collector Alan Lomax, future film director Nicholas Ray, and NBC executive Joe Thompson, who convinced Eric Bernay, the owner of a midtown Manhattan record store and a tiny independent label called Keynote, that the Almanacs were a good prospect. Bernay had been involved with leftist politics and was musically open-minded — he'd played a key role in organizing sponsorship of the Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall a few years earlier, for which John Hammond had gone in search of Robert Johnson only to find that the blues legend had died, and instead returned with Big Bill Broonzy. He was wary of the politics behind their music, however, and issued Songs for John Doe on "Almanac Records," to prevent any repercussions against Keynote.

    The first record sold well enough for Bernay to have the group record a second album, Talking Union, made up of labor songs, this time on the Keynote label. The Almanacs remained strongly anti-Roosevelt, and at least one of their records aimed at the president got into the hands of his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, who thought it was in dubious taste, and reportedly angered the president himself. Still, the power of the group's music was undeniable. They weren't doing country or Western music, although they drew on those genres for repertory. In a sense, the Almanac Singers helped define folk music as a commercial category, as the first group to consciously try to sell this repertory to a mass public in this way.

    The group cut a new series of songs of a somewhat less political nature on July 7, 1941, in a hastily organized session produced by Alan Lomax, to raise 250 dollars to buy a car to make a trip to California. The core quartet was augmented on some of these songs by the presence of part-time Almanac members Pete Hawes (aka Joe Bowers) and his brother Butch (Bess Lomax's husband). The resulting songs later appeared in two albums, initially issued on 78 rpm disc and later as LPs, and finally on a single CD, entitled Sod Buster Ballads (which the members hated) and Sea Chanties. The group went off to California after doing the 18 songs and didn't know about the albums until they returned months later.

    The Almanac Singers' fortunes rose and fell rapidly. They attracted a fair amount of attention due to the success of their appearances at various rallies, especially on their trip out West. Once in California, however, friction began to appear between the members, as their differing goals and purposes became apparent — Lampell's political motivations were never as strong as those of Seeger, and the fact that he and Guthrie used the group and its music as a means of attracting fairer members of the opposite sex made him suspect, as well as an object of jealousy. Lampell and Guthrie left the fold, while Seeger and Hays continued to work together, augmented by others who sat in.

    They returned to the East Coast several months later, where Seeger and Hays began organizing what became known as "Almanac Houses," glorified communal crash pads where would-be singers could come to sit in, listen, and, if need be, to live. Their politics, which remained awkwardly pacifist as the situation in Europe worsened, coupled with the daily changes in American society, made it impossible for the Almanacs to find any lasting stability or success. For all of their leftist sympathies, the Almanac Singers now found themselves lumped together with an ever-shrinking handful of lingering pacifist idealists, disillusioned World War I veterans, and hardcore right-wing Republicans like Congressman Hamilton Fish in opposing American entry into World War II. The attack on Pearl Harbor finally made it possible (and necessary) for the group to break with its isolationist past.

    Three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, in one of the strangest ironies of the group's short history, the Almanac Singers (with Arthur Stern now replacing Lee Hays) were featured in a February 1942 special broadcast carried on all four radio networks entitled This Is War. Their performance was well received, and it looked as though a national radio contract and a recording deal with a major label would follow. But then newspapers began running stories about the group's political history, and the fact that until just a few months earlier they were echoing the Soviet party line and an isolationist position, and any radio or recording deals were forgotten.

    The members became scattered to the needs of the American war effort, and the Almanacs dissolved, although Seeger and Hays never seemed to be too far from each other. They later formed the Weavers, endured years of being blacklisted for their old leftist political ties, and still managed to influence another generation indirectly through the music of the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary, and even the Beach Boys ("Sloop John B"), among many others. Lampell was also blacklisted, but became a successful songwriter, screenwriter, and novelist. Ironically, despite his being crippled by Huntington's disease, which ended his career after the mid-'50s, Guthrie went on to have the greatest influence of all, with the help of self-proclaimed disciple Bob Dylan.

    Perhaps the great, final irony of all was that the Almanacs had popularized the word "hootenanny," meaning an informal gathering of folk singers and listeners, which became so familiar that it became the title of the 1960s ABC television folk music showcase. But because of his past political associations, Pete Seeger, co-founder of the Almanacs, was banned from appearing on Hootenanny. lists only two albuns for the group, both from 1941. Bear Family's Songs for Political Action lists five alkbums:
  • Songs for John Doe (Recorded March, 1941; Issued May, 1941, Almanac Records)
    1Ballad of October 16th Lampell
    2 Billy Boy Lampell
    3 'C' for Conscription Lampell, Seeger
    4 Liza Jane Lampell, Seeger
    5 Plow Under Hays, Seeger
    6 The Strange Death of John Doe Lampell
    7 Washington Breakdown Hays, Seeger

  • Talking Union (Recorded probably May, 1941; issued July, 1941, Keynote)
    1 All I Want Garland
    2 Get Thee Behind Me Satan Hays, Lampell, Seeger
    3 Talking Union Hays, Lampell, Seeger
    4 The Union Maid Guthrie, Lampell
    5 Union Train Hays
    6 Which Side Are You on? Reece
  • Deep Sea Chanties and Whaling Ballads and Sod Buster Ballads
    (recorded July 7, 1941, General Records release date not shown; released by Commodore Records in October, 1947, under the name "(lead singer's name) and the boys," with no reference to the Almanac singers.
    1. Blow Ye Winds, Heigh Ho
    2. Away Rio
    3. Blow the Man Down
    4. House of the Rising Sun
    5. Ground Hog
    6. State of Arkansas
    7. Weaver's Song
    8. I Ride an Old Paint
    9. Hard, Ain't It Hard
    10. Dodger Song
    11. Greenland Fishing
    12. Golden Vanity
    13. Coast of High Barbary
    14. Haul Away Joe

  • Dear Mr. President (Recorded January, 1942; released by Keynote, date unknown)
    1. Dear Mr. President
    2. Belt Line Girl
    3. Round, Round Hitler's Grave
    4. Side By Side
    5. Deliver The Goods
    6. Reuben James

  • Single, recorded June, 1941, with Woody Guthrie for Keynote
    Song for Bridges
    Babe O' Mine

  • Single, recorded June, 1942, with Woody Guthrie for Keynote
    Boomtown Bill
    Keep That Oil A Rollin'

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Subject: RE: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
From: Charley Noble
Date: 07 Mar 09 - 08:51 PM

Nice summary, Joe.

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Looking for info on The Almanac Singers
From: GUEST,Kegan Mahon
Date: 22 Sep 14 - 01:11 AM

So the complete output for the Almanac Singers are the SONGS OF SEA AND SOIL and TALKIN' UNION, both available through Naxos. Also, there's a radio broadcast of 'Round and Round Hitler's Grave, on the PRISM release.

Do these three albums ultimately make up the complete recorded output of the original group?

I had the music but lost it after an HDD failure and had sold the CDs, stupidly, so I'm looking to retrieve them before prices skyrocket if they ever go OOP. I 'think' the Naxos CDs cover the majority of the true Almanacs, so if anyone can point me to any further singles on compilation discs, please let me know.

Thanks for the clarification!

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