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Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?

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PHJim 27 Jul 09 - 11:55 AM
Folknacious 27 Jul 09 - 12:02 PM
Peace 27 Jul 09 - 12:03 PM
Mzee Simba 27 Jul 09 - 12:14 PM
Uncle_DaveO 27 Jul 09 - 12:15 PM
Uncle_DaveO 27 Jul 09 - 12:17 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Jul 09 - 12:22 PM
GUEST,Elmore 27 Jul 09 - 12:25 PM
Mzee Simba 27 Jul 09 - 12:37 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 27 Jul 09 - 12:39 PM
Mzee Simba 27 Jul 09 - 12:40 PM
Cool Beans 27 Jul 09 - 01:10 PM
GUEST,Ken Brock 27 Jul 09 - 02:25 PM
Amos 27 Jul 09 - 03:19 PM
Don Firth 27 Jul 09 - 03:31 PM
open mike 27 Jul 09 - 04:18 PM
Mzee Simba 27 Jul 09 - 04:49 PM
dick greenhaus 27 Jul 09 - 05:19 PM
GUEST,lacroix 27 Jul 09 - 06:19 PM
GUEST,John from "Elsie`s Band" 27 Jul 09 - 06:42 PM
GUEST 27 Jul 09 - 06:51 PM
GUEST,Stringsinger 27 Jul 09 - 06:52 PM
Deckman 27 Jul 09 - 06:54 PM
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Darowyn 26 Mar 11 - 04:44 AM
JohnH 26 Mar 11 - 04:57 AM
Mr Red 26 Mar 11 - 07:18 AM
GUEST,Folkiedave 26 Mar 11 - 07:43 AM
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Subject: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: PHJim
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 11:55 AM

Last night I heard a rebroadcast of Music That Changed The World on CBC radio. Michael Enwright and Robert Harris were talking about Bob Dylan's electric debut at Newport and Robert said that it was a true story that Pete Seeger was carrying an axe backstage and looking for the power wires to chop in order to stop the music. I don't doubt that Pete was pissed off, but I'd always assumed that the "axe" story was an urban legend. Anyone know for sure?


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Folknacious
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 12:02 PM

It's folklore, a "myth" according to Joe Boyd who was there, as reported in Chapter 12 of his excellent book White Bicycles.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Peace
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 12:03 PM

Short thread.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Mzee Simba
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 12:14 PM

Pete Seeger's axe is a long necked 5 string Vega banjo. I have one just like it. Pete once borrowed mine and played This Land is Your Land on it, when called upon to perform in the absence of his axe. It's a really great axe.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 12:15 PM

As I understand it, Pete was VERY critical of the sound system setup and management at that time, and "threatened" to take his axe, which he DID have for his own act, to the sound controls. But he was, as I've heard, qualifiedly approving of Dylan.

I can't remember where I heard this. Maybe even here on Mudcat, and we all know that if it's on Mudcat it must be right!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 12:17 PM

Mzee Simba, the "axe" in this case is not his instrument but a woodsman's tree-cutting tool, a literal axe, which Seeger used in demonstrating work songs.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 12:22 PM

Nearest I heard of it was when he appeared onstage at The Albert Hall in London with a log, which he proceeded to cut his way through with an axe while singing - (If I Had A Hammer????).
Always preferred the idea that he took the axe to Dylan!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST,Elmore
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 12:25 PM

I saw Pete use that axe on a big log,on stage a couple of times in the sixties.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Mzee Simba
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 12:37 PM

Hey, the axe as banjo bit was a joke! The song Pete sang with an axe, chopping wood, was "Didn't Ol' John" a wood-chopping work song. Sometimes he would start with hand-claps, and then, a little way in to the song, he would stop, and say, "Well, that's not quite the right sound..." Then he'd walk off stage, and come back with the log and axe, to laughter from the audience. Then he would finish the song right. He really knew how to wield an axe, too, having built his family log cabin by hand, chopping down the trees himself with an axe.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 12:39 PM

Pete explained his side of the story on a tv show broadcast in the UK a while back. He said that when Dylan's electric set began, there was so much distortion coming from the speakers that the words couldn't be heard. Pete, then went to the person in charge of the sound and asked them to get rid of the distortion, to which the sound guy said that the performers wanted it that way. Pete then shouted at the sound men that if he had an axe that he would cut the cable. Now, I know, rock history ridicules Pete's stance on this, but I'm with him 100%. What is the point of Dylan if you can't hear what he's singing! And, this is from a big Mike Bloomfield fan!


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Mzee Simba
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 12:40 PM

As for the Axe and Bob Dylan, my understanding of that story is that Pete said something like, "If I had my axe, I would cut that cable" not that he actually had one and tried to do the deed.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Cool Beans
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 01:10 PM

Don't axe, don't tell.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST,Ken Brock
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 02:25 PM

Pete's woodchopping can be heard on a 1970's Tomato label tribute to Leadbelly, on which Arlo Guthrie also appears.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Amos
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 03:19 PM

SO much of the world turns on a single axel...



A


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 03:31 PM

Pete didn't actually use the axe (as some folks wish he had). He just made a cutting remark about the sound quality.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: open mike
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 04:18 PM

i think his axe (banjo) has an enscription around the outside like this
banjo will "surround hate and force it to surrender." or something.

I think Woody Guthrie had a similar message on his instrument..
"this machine rolls over fascists"...or "this machine kills fascists.."


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Mzee Simba
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 04:49 PM

Woody's: "This machine kills fascists" preceeded Pete's "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender" by many years. Pete's was sort of a tribute to Woody.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 05:19 PM

My first wife was a professional dancer, and used to descibe the experience of taking the stage after Pete had finished a set (including his log chopping). Splinters on the stage left her company a good deal less than enthusiastic.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST,lacroix
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 06:19 PM

I'm no expert, but wouldn't it be dangerous to cut a live cable with an ax?


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST,John from "Elsie`s Band"
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 06:42 PM

Jim Carroll,
             You are spot on. I was at his Abert Hall concert in my youth when he did "Take This Hammer" sung with a tree felling axe and a huge log on stage.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 06:51 PM

Theo Bikel said something about Pete wanting to take an axe to
Dylan's electrified band. It's mostly myth. Pete's annoyance was that the sound system distorted Dylan's voice and Pete's father,
Charlie was in the audience, a bit hard of hearing. Pete wanted
Charlie to hear the words to Dylan's songs. Pete would never do
anything like that to a fellow performer. Theo may have said that Pete suggested the idea but Theo should know that Pete would never
do that. Sometimes these things get blown out of proportion.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST,Stringsinger
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 06:52 PM

The reason I'm "guest" is because I'm on vacation on a different computer.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Deckman
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 06:54 PM

In 1957, or 1958, Pete gave a concert at the Moore Theater in Seattle. He also brought along Sonny Terry and J C burris. At that concert, the stage crew brought a decent sized log on stage and an axe. Pete started chopping to "Didn't Old John ... CHOP ... Cross the Water ... CHOP" It brought down the house. Bob (deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 07:29 PM

Doesn't Art Thieme's banjo say, "This machine kills time"?


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Jul 09 - 07:35 PM

Sounds like a sound guy was making excuses for not doing his job right. Dylan might have wanted the music louder than people were used to, but I don't believe he'd have wanted the sound distorted. His words matter to him.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST,AlasdairB
Date: 25 Mar 11 - 12:56 PM

And I was with him when he bought the axe he used at the Albert hall. He was staying at our house in Glasgow for a week before doing a concert there. i was 14 years old and had the job of guiding him as he visited the sites in Glsgowgow and the West Of Scotland (my parents ahd day jobs. One day he said he needed to buy an axe. I assume he meant the hatchet we chopped wood for lighting coal fires. - every house in Glasgow had one. I couldn't believe it when he came out with a huge bloody great axe with a four foot long handle.I still remember the look of horror on the face of the caretaker of the venerated St Andrews Halls when he realised that Pete was going to chop the log right there on the stage where Gigli and Nellie Melba had sung. But he did and very expertly too, never touched the stage once. Brought the house down.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: The Sandman
Date: 25 Mar 11 - 01:54 PM

sounds like someone has an axe to grind.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Don Firth
Date: 25 Mar 11 - 02:23 PM

Now, a couple of people in this thread have said that when Pete did his thing with the axe, "he brought the house down!"

If I were the owner of a concert hall where Pete was scheduled to sing, that might worry me a bit. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST,schlimmerkerl
Date: 25 Mar 11 - 02:58 PM

Tinay Seeger, Pete's daughter, used to run a pottery sale out of her house in Beacon, NY. The first time we pulled up, there was Pete in the yard chopping firewood. In the snow. He was probably about 86 at the time.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: JohnH
Date: 25 Mar 11 - 06:59 PM

Re: Jim Carroll. Entirely true. I was there! There was a log on the stage and he took a felling axe from his guitar case to accompany a song! The most amazing night's performance I have ever enjoyed!! He divided the (Full) Albert Hall into choir sections and gave them parts... He even sang a version of Frog and Mouse from a crib sheet as he said he had heard it the day before and hadn't learnt it yet.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: kendall
Date: 25 Mar 11 - 07:26 PM

The Pete Seeger I know would never do that.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Jeri
Date: 25 Mar 11 - 07:40 PM

What? Sing from a crib sheet?


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Bobert
Date: 25 Mar 11 - 07:59 PM

I'm with Kendall on this one... Pete might have had some issues with the sound guy but not with Dylan... He's always been a live and let live kinda guy with folks on his side of the political divide... And to be honest, respectful of the knotheads, too...

B~


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 25 Mar 11 - 10:44 PM

Re Pete's woodchopping--
My ex-wife was a dancer in a troupe that once performed immediately after Seeger's set. I'm told that modern dance on a stage full of woodchips is no fun.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Darowyn
Date: 26 Mar 11 - 04:44 AM

It would be an interesting addition to the "What's in your Gig Bag" thread.
"Guitar, Spare strings, Plectrum, Capo, Axe, Log....."
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: JohnH
Date: 26 Mar 11 - 04:57 AM

It was the version with the chorus "Here's to Cheshire, Here's to cheese, Here's to the pears and the apple trees.."


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Mr Red
Date: 26 Mar 11 - 07:18 AM

Well now!

In a BBC documentary he was interviewed and he said "If I had got an axe I would have chopped the damn cables"

But he was referring to the volume, not the instrument. He claimed he couldn't "hear" the tune.

So the story has suffered the folk process. Enough verbiage in there to hang a myth on.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST,Folkiedave
Date: 26 Mar 11 - 07:43 AM

There was a bootleg recording of him made at the Free Trade Hall doing the rounds around 1962.

The axe-chopping was in there but the mike must have been under the stage - there was a distinctive "boing" on each axe chop.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: GUEST,banjopicker
Date: 27 Nov 11 - 05:36 PM

I dont think pete would use his axe on anything other than his firewood or cutting some kind of wood. I watched a little film of bob dylan called Im not there. I felt that when they re acted the part of the newport " axe scene" they made Pete Look like a crazed lunatic .


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Anne Neilson
Date: 27 Nov 11 - 06:12 PM

To follow on from AlasdairB on 25/3/11 -- I was present at the concert in Glasgow when Pete brought his axe on stage and chopped his way through a log whilst singing "Go down, Old Hannah".
(I was tempted to collect one of the chips from the log -- I was sitting in the front row -- but persuaded myself that it wouldn't be 'cool'. Regret it to this day!)


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Axe- fact or urban legend?
From: Bert
Date: 28 Nov 11 - 05:17 AM

He was on TV once, way back, Early or Mid Sixties I think and he had his big log on stage with him but he was using a sledge hammer not an axe.

As I once made my living swinging a hammer, it is my opinion that he made a complete fool of himself. By stopping in the middle of swinging his hammer to sing he both destroyed the rhythm of his hammering and that of his singing.


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