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Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs

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GEORGIE ON THE IRT (parody on Engine 143)
LUANG PRABANG
THIS LAND AIN'T YOUR LAND
THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND


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Edthefolkie 27 Dec 09 - 07:59 AM
Steve Hunt 27 Dec 09 - 08:22 AM
olddude 27 Dec 09 - 08:55 AM
NormanD 27 Dec 09 - 09:04 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 27 Dec 09 - 10:24 AM
Midchuck 27 Dec 09 - 11:33 AM
Acme 27 Dec 09 - 12:00 PM
Mark Ross 27 Dec 09 - 01:14 PM
dwditty 27 Dec 09 - 01:29 PM
Cool Beans 27 Dec 09 - 04:59 PM
GUEST 27 Dec 09 - 09:07 PM
olddude 27 Dec 09 - 09:48 PM
Martha Burns 28 Dec 09 - 01:00 AM
Edthefolkie 28 Dec 09 - 06:13 AM
Mike Regenstreif 28 Dec 09 - 11:43 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 28 Dec 09 - 03:20 PM
dwditty 29 Dec 09 - 10:51 AM
GUEST,hg 29 Dec 09 - 09:49 PM
PoppaGator 30 Dec 09 - 02:28 PM
olddude 06 Mar 10 - 09:41 PM
Joe_F 07 Mar 10 - 08:57 PM
Joe_F 08 Mar 10 - 06:39 PM
GUEST,Neil D 09 Mar 10 - 10:36 AM
PoppaGator 09 Mar 10 - 01:46 PM
Joe_F 09 Mar 10 - 06:14 PM
GUEST,John Thayer 10 Apr 10 - 03:17 PM
Joe_F 10 Apr 10 - 09:44 PM
GUEST,Tom F 10 Apr 10 - 11:39 PM
Joe_F 11 Apr 10 - 06:42 PM
dick greenhaus 12 Apr 10 - 02:53 PM
Joe_F 13 Apr 10 - 05:16 PM
Joe_F 18 Apr 10 - 09:18 PM
Cool Beans 19 Apr 10 - 09:58 AM
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Joe_F 19 Apr 10 - 06:46 PM
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Subject: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Edthefolkie
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 07:59 AM

My daughter came up with a really good Christmas present - "The Mayor of MacDougal Street" by Dave Van Ronk (with Elijah Wald).

I found it pretty engrossing and found myself agreeing with lots of Dave's opinions, such as the creepiness of the sycophants round Dylan (no names, just watch "Don't Look Back"). However I am a mere Brit who has only briefly visited Greenwich Village - any of you chaps from the fountainhead have an opinion on this book?


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Steve Hunt
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 08:22 AM

I got DVR's Blues and Ragtime Fingerstyle Guitar book for Christmas, so thanks for posting this Ed - that's another book added to my 'wish list'


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: olddude
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 08:55 AM

one of my music heros for sure


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: NormanD
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 09:04 AM

I've read the book, and really enjoyed it. I met Elijah Wald a couple of months back in London, at a launch of his latest book, and heard a few more stories about Dave Van Ronk. It was put together after his death, and so was incomplete - a great pity as you want the memoir to take you through the 70s and onwards.

I love the bit about how Peter Paul & Mary might just have been Dave, Paul and Mary (or Peter, Dave and Mary). So glad it wasn't.

Dave Van Ronk was very much on the far left, and his sectarian rows with other politicos are a fascinating part of the book. A great musician and a good man.

But, in answer to your query, I've no accounts to add, never having been to The Vilage, the only Greenwich I know being the one a couple of miles away from where I live in SE London.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 10:24 AM

I took lessons from Dave back in the early 60's and was a regular at the Monday night hoots at the Gaslight Cafe. The book rings true, but like all books, it only reflects part of Dave's personality. I remember Dave as Rumpledstiltskin. Maybe that's because when I arrived at his apartment when he was married to Terry, he always looked he'd just gotten out of bed when he came to the door. He was dressed, but there was something comically disheveled about him. Half of the lessons were listening to records. Dave would show me a couple of finger picking patterns and I'd run through them a few times to make sure I understood them. And then we'd listen to records. That was where I first heard the Carter Family, and was bone-chilled hearing Dark Was The Night and Cold Was The Ground by Blind Willie Johnson. I liked the way Dave taught. In later years I found myself teaching much the same way. He didn't show me how to copy his arrangements, and encouraged me to take on songs I liked, encorporating the picking styles he was teaching me. I had no desire to be Dave Van Ronk, musically or otherwise, although I liked him as a person and character. As far as I could tell, he had no desire to be me. After three months of lessons he felt he'd taught me all I needed to know and encouraged me to stop taking lessons. I respected that, too.

I'm heading out the door to church. I may add more when I come back.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Midchuck
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 11:33 AM

I got given this book not long before Christmas, by a friend who was cleaning out his Stuff.

I liked it so well that I ordered two copies for Christmas, one for my kids in Montana, who are better at Sharing now than they were 30 years ago, and one for my niece, an up-and-coming Sensitive Young Singer-Songwriter, who I thought needed to know more about how it really was back then.

Peter


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Acme
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 12:00 PM

Thanks for this note! A friend who lives in the Village is a professional tour guide and has been working on a tour of GV for a number of years, always adding new material. He is well aware of general folk history, but I'm sure he'll enjoy a closer look. I've just ordered a copy to send him.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Mark Ross
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 01:14 PM

This is a GREAT book. Dave was my first inspiration as guitar player(I still can play half the DAVE VAN RONK FOLKSINGER album), and I got to know him in the '60's. His 1st wife Terri was my manager for a short period of time. Having been there for the last of the Great Folk Music Scare of the '60's(which lasted about 'til '76)it really struck a chord. I reccomend this highly who really wants to know what it was like around there back when.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: dwditty
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 01:29 PM

I have lots of music heros, but Van Ronk and Oscar Brown, Jr. have ranked one and two since I was in junior high school (I am now 62). Of course, I am biased in favor of this book...I often pick it up and read a chapter here and there. Highly recommended.

Another fun book of this time is: Hoot! A Twenty-Five-Year History of the Greenwich Village Music Scene. This "history" is a collection of thoughts by many of the the people who were there. I passed it on to a friend, but it may be time to look for another copy on eBay.

Also, different topic, but David Honeyboy Edwards' book - The World Don't Owe Me Nothing - is a must for country blues fans, as he has first hand accounts of times spent with so many of the masters.

dw


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Cool Beans
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 04:59 PM

I love this book. I crossed paths with some of the people in it but never really knew DVR although I once interviewed him. Several Mudcatters are listed among the acknowledgments, including me. Van Ronk tells a hilarious story in there about the Folkways recording "Sounds of a South American Rain Forest."


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 09:07 PM

It's a great book. the stories are wonderful. If you want to hear Dave tell them, you must get his final cd, 'The Tin Pan Bended and the Music Ended.' Take an hour, pull up a comfortable chair with your favorite beverage and listen. It is a masterpiece. The stories are perfect, and the arrangements are genius. I'm almost done working out 'Ace in the Hole. Elijah Wald did the album notes also, and they are as good as the book

Mike


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: olddude
Date: 27 Dec 09 - 09:48 PM

Love to hear some more stories Jerry when you have some time

Dan


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Martha Burns
Date: 28 Dec 09 - 01:00 AM

Me, too.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Edthefolkie
Date: 28 Dec 09 - 06:13 AM

Me too Jerry - more please if you feel like it.... I too have met a few Rumpledestiltskins. The life and the music is more important than the age of the sweater!

Thanks to everybody else too.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Mike Regenstreif
Date: 28 Dec 09 - 11:43 AM

Here is my review published in The Montreal Gazette and Ottawa Citizen in 2005 when the book came out.

The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir
By Dave Van Ronk with Elijah Wald
Da Capo Press, 246 pages, $34.95

In Chronicles: Volume One, published last year, Bob Dylan recalled Dave Van Ronk, the influential Greenwich Village folk and blues singer he learned from - and often borrowed couch space from - in his first year or two on the New York folk scene: "Van Ronk could howl and whisper, turn blues into ballads and ballads into blues. I loved his style. He was what the city was all about. In Greenwich Village, Van Ronk was king of the street, he reigned supreme."

MacDougal, in the heart of Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan, is the street Dylan is referring to. In 1961, when Dylan landed in the Village, MacDougal St. was filled with coffeehouses like the Gaslight and the Commons, where the folksingers plied their trade, bars like the Kettle of Fish, where they drank and played cards all night, and Izzy Young's Folklore Centre, where they hung out all day. Sometime in the early 1960s, a bartender at the Kettle of Fish bestowed the title of Mayor of MacDougal Street on Van Ronk, and the appellation followed him for 40 years.

Van Ronk, who died in 2002, grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and arrived in Greenwich Village as a teenage musician in 1951. He started out playing in traditional jazz bands, discovered an affinity for rural blues and became one of the major players in the folk and blues revivals of the 1950s and '60s.

In this always engaging and frequently laugh-out-loud funny memoir, Van Ronk looks back at those groundbreaking years, telling his own story and giving us an insider's view of how the folk revival, particularly in Greenwich Village, developed, boomed and collapsed. While most accounts of this period, including Dylan's own, begin with Dylan's arrival in the Village in 1961, Van Ronk gives us an insightful description of the development of the scene that Dylan and countless others were drawn to and swept up in. I've read most of the books that have been written about that time and place. This one may well be the best, as a historical narrative, a critical analysis of the music and the musicians who made it - and as an altogether enjoyable read.

Van Ronk was a natural raconteur who honed his gift for storytelling at thousands of concerts and club shows over a career that lasted almost 50 years. He and blues scholar Elijah Wald had begun working on this book when Van Ronk was diagnosed with cancer in 2001. After Van Ronk died, Wald finished the project by drawing on recordings of Van Ronk in concert and an extensive collection of radio, television and documentary film interviews.

Wald has done a superb job of putting Van Ronk's words on paper. I knew Van Ronk and felt like I was hearing his voice as I read through these pages. In fact, one of Van Ronk's interviews used by Wald in completing this book was with me on Folk Roots/Folk Branches, my CKUT radio program, done at the time of Van Ronk's last trip to Montreal for two concerts at the jazz festival in 1998.

Van Ronk performed regularly in Montreal throughout his career. One of his live albums was recorded in 1967 at Sir George Williams University, and he played at local folk venues like the New Penelope and the Back Door. In the 1970s and '80s, he played at the Golem, the Stanley St. folk club that I ran then.

Van Ronk vividly recalls many of the musicians he shared the scene with, from legendary blues artists like Brownie McGhee, Mississippi John Hurt and Reverend Gary Davis to the young singer-songwriters like Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs and Joni Mitchell who came to the fore in the 1960s.

One particularly funny story recounts a night at the Kettle of Fish when Hurt, a small and gentle songster already in his 70s, beat Van Ronk and a succession of other musicians, bigger of size and 40 years younger, at arm wrestling.

Another hilarious story he tells is about Albert Grossman, Dylan's manager, out to prove how powerful he could be in the music business. Grossman offered to guarantee Van Ronk $100,000 for a year's worth of bookings if he'd perform wearing a helmet with horns and change his name to Olaf the Blues Singer. Van Ronk turned Grossman down but slyly confides he might have done it for $120,000.

Although Van Ronk's memoir ends as the 1960s fade away, he stayed in Greenwich Village for the rest of his life, making music that seemed to just get better as he aged and mentoring succeeding generations of young performers.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 28 Dec 09 - 03:20 PM

My memories of Dave are simple. One of many things I appreciated about Dave was that his musical taste was broader than he liked to admit. He was always irritated that people called him a folksinger, despite the fact that he did an album titled Dave Van Ronk: Folksinger. I understood that he had always wanted to be a jazz man, and as a second choice considered himself a blues man. The reality is that Dave loved the Carter Family, Clarence Ashley, Doc Boggs and all the denizens of The Anthology Of American Folk Music. He probably knew and sang a lot more folk music than he would ever admit to, and his picking style owed as much to Elizabeth Cotton and Merle Travis as it did to Mississippi John Hurt or Blind Blake.

Dave's appreciation of traditional, southern mountain folk music must have been sorely tested, running the Monday Night Hoontenannies at the Gaslight Cafe. I'm not sure he could even speak that word. He was the one who first encouraged me to get up and sing a couple of songs at the Gaslight, which was a terrifying experiences. Once I got my feet wet, Dave was always happy to see me at the Hoots (or anyone else for that matter, who was willing to get up and sing.) Dave really wanted to be sitting upstairs at the Kettle of Fish, nursing a drink and spinning tale tales. On occasion he'd sneak up to the Kettle and ask me to keep the Hoot going. That was fine with me. I don't think Dave was partial to Joan Baez wannabees, but to his credit, he was always friendly and welcoming to musicians whether he secretly couldn't stand their music. Maybe me included, although I think he did like my stuff. I was very honored one time when I was doing a two song set at Folk City, and Dave came up and sang harmony on Wayfaring Stranger. He probably encouraged more aspiring, and perspiring young folk singers than any other person in the Village.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: dwditty
Date: 29 Dec 09 - 10:51 AM

To avoid thread creep, please see the Niela Horn thread.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: GUEST,hg
Date: 29 Dec 09 - 09:49 PM

"In The Tradition" Dave Van Ronk Prestige Records 1963 is a jazz record. The Red Onion Jazz Band included Robert L Thomspson on drums;John Bucher on Coronet;Denus Brady on clarinet and soprano sax;Dick Dreiwitz on trombone;Eric Hassell on banjo;Steve McKnight on tuba, and Hank Ross on pinao.

Side A
1. Cake Walkin Babies from home
2. Ace in the hole
3. St Louis Tickle
4. Death Letter Blues
5. If I had it to do all over again I'd do it all over you
6. Whoa Back Buck

Side B
1. Sister kate
2. Kansas City Blues
3. Green rocky road
4. See See rider
5. Rocks and gravel
6. Hesitation blues

Great liner notes on the songs!


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: PoppaGator
Date: 30 Dec 09 - 02:28 PM

Jerry says, "I had no desire to be Dave Van Ronk, musically or otherwise, although I liked him as a person and character."

I, on the other hand, spent quite a few years wanting and trying to "be" Dave, although (unlke Jerry) I never met the man in person. I've always wanted (still do) to be able to present just that brand of blues/folk/trad-jazz/novelty-pop music as a vocalist and solo guitar player. And, while my own anarcho-pacifist left-wing political orientation is a little different from Dave's, I share his seeming inclination to express politics in song only indirectly and occasionally.

I love the book, and bought it as soon as possible upon publication. It's one several recent memoirs of that time and place that I've enjoyed. Can't remember the titles off the top of my head, but there was a more-commerically-successful book a few years ago about Richard Farina, Mimi Baez Farina, her sister Joan, and The Bob, and more recently, Suze Rotolo's autobiography. I ate 'em all up, quite indiscriminately.

I was just a little too young to be personally involved in that early-to-mid-sixties Greenwich Village scene, but I was very well aware of it as a high school kid in nearby New Jersey (all-boys Catholic high school, that is). All these many years later, it's nice to learn more about that tiny little folkie/beatnik world that I once regarded from a distance, as an outsider looking in.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: olddude
Date: 06 Mar 10 - 09:41 PM

Remembering Dave Van Ronk Tonight

I lost my wad playing seven card stud
I was playing for money,
They were playing for blood
On the way back home the big winner got mugged
Now he's just another loser like me.

Losers, losers, I got took
By my whoosis,
That sharp got crowned, he's [ ? not sure of word(s) here] bound
He's just another loser like me.

See that kid sitting back of the bar
He's picking up a storm on a( Martin} guitar
That poor fool thinks he's gonna be a star
He's just another loser like me.

Losers, losers, some are raggers, some are bluesers,
Making disco sounds in a HoJo lounge
With a bunch of other losers like me.

Love has busted up this cat for sure
He's crying like a baby at his baby's door
That poor fool don't know what he's crying for
He's just another loser like me.

Losers, losers, can't say no to cruisers,
When she says when, he'll be back again,
He's just another loser like me.

There's a hobo up in heaven
On the golden streets
He'll panhandle every angel that he meets
He'd hawk his (harp) for some sneaky pete
But he's just another loser like me.

Losers, losers, some are dopers, some are boozers,
All his muscatel is down in hell,
He's just another loser like me.

When God appeared to St. John Wayne,
He said, "Hey, Duke, I'm acomin' again.
Life ain't nothing but a wagon train.
I'm glad you're not a loser like me!"

Losers, losers, ten gallon bruisers,
From Ghengis Khan to the Fuller Brush Man
They're just a bunch of losers like me!


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Joe_F
Date: 07 Mar 10 - 08:57 PM

P. xiii: "'Why should I go anywhere?' Dave said of the Village. 'I'm already here.'"

%^)


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Joe_F
Date: 08 Mar 10 - 06:39 PM

Pp. xiv, 69: I am delighted to learn he had a hand in The Bosses' Songbook, which I happened on in 1958. It means we both belong(ed) to a special minority: crackpots with a sense of humor.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: GUEST,Neil D
Date: 09 Mar 10 - 10:36 AM

I don't know if it's included in the book, but I came across his interesting factoid in the Wikipedia article about the Stonewall Riots. The police, outnumbered by between 500 and 600 people, grabbed several people, including folk singer Dave Van Ronk—who had been attracted to the revolt from a bar two doors away from the Stonewall. Though Van Ronk was not gay, he had experienced police violence when he participated in antiwar demonstrations: "As far as I was concerned, anybody who'd stand against the cops was all right with me, and that's why I stayed in.... Every time you turned around the cops were pulling some outrage or another." I love that quote.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: PoppaGator
Date: 09 Mar 10 - 01:46 PM

Glad to see this discussion back in circulation. I was afraid I might have "thread-killed" it a few months ago.

So ~ Dave: back to the top of the page we go!

**refresh**


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Joe_F
Date: 09 Mar 10 - 06:14 PM

Another amusing revelation (p. 4): Bob Dylan reworked "Chimes of Freedom" (one of his best two songs, IMO) from "The Chimes of Trinity", a sentimental 19th-century song. Van Ronk liked the original (which he learned from his grandmother) better! I don't agree with him about that, but I do emphatically agree with his observation (p. 204) that Dylan was contemptuous of craftsmanship: "He always seemed to think that it was easier to write a new song than to fix an old one." I had long since written next to the author line of "Don't Think Twice", in my copy, "was never in danger of that".


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: GUEST,John Thayer
Date: 10 Apr 10 - 03:17 PM

The book was terrific.   Very true to the times

I remember well going to those Hoots Dave led at the Gaslight (Now we call them jam sessions).   I thought they were on Tuesday or Thursday night (this must have been in 66 or 67).   I went every week for several months and I always stayed for both sets.   The second set could be quite late or quite long depending on how much time Dave spent upstairs at the Kettle of Fish on his break.

He always had a bunch of people who wanted to learn his stuff (including me) and I recall him shouting out the chord changes to the people taking notes in the front. That made us feel quite conspicuous.

One night a woman walked in carrying a guitar and leading a skinny guy wearing sunglasses.   Dave introduced Jose Feliciano and after he began playing I knew that this guy was was going to be a star.   Everyone wanted to play with Dave and there were many fine artists sharing the stage with him.

I miss him.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Joe_F
Date: 10 Apr 10 - 09:44 PM

In the meantime, I have finished the book.

A repellent tho not surprising story appears on pp. 92-93. Several of Van Ronk's Folkways records had (to his observation) been selling pretty well, but resulted in only derisory royalty payments. He was bitching about that to his lawyer, who volunteered to fire off a nasty letter to Moe Asch, threatening to sue. Presently, sure enough, Van Ronk received a check representing at least a much larger fraction of what he was owed. He was afraid he might have offended Asch, but the next time they met, Asch merely said "So, you're finally getting smart".

So, the folkways of Folkways were the same as those of the rest of show business: lie & say "So I lied", cheat & say "Sue me". IMO, the maintenance of such a subculture is a high price to pay for what it produces.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: GUEST,Tom F
Date: 10 Apr 10 - 11:39 PM

Joe F, You may be overgeneralizing from the anecdote. Apparently Moe Asch and Folkways did function quite differently from the industry at large in many ways. A terrific documentary history of Folkways and Moe Asch is available here:

http://www.folkways.si.edu/explore_folkways/folkways_collection.aspx

It includes a great deal of wonderful music and includes an episode on the Village Scene of the 60s. This is not to say that Folkways was all enlightened. But Asch seems to have been as much a character in his own right as was DVR.

(sorry for the blank post above).


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Joe_F
Date: 11 Apr 10 - 06:42 PM

Tom F: Thank you for your temperate & informative reply. I will listen to the biography promptly, and (I suspect) to the rest of the recordings by & by.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 12 Apr 10 - 02:53 PM

Just to point out that Dave represented only one part of the Village folk scene.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Joe_F
Date: 13 Apr 10 - 05:16 PM

I have listened to the Smithsonian's page on Moe Asch, and also revisited Van Ronk's book. Both, IMO, confirm my belief that the folk scene in general & Folkways in particular adhered to the entertainment industry's lying, cheating, & stealing code of ethics. I did not like hearing Van Ronk excuse Asch on the ground that he was a soft touch for small loans. (I'll bet he wasn't terribly fussy about repayment either.) Be generous with the people you've swindled; with a little luck, they'll feel *they* owe *you* something. Reminds me a little of what I've read about the relationships between pimps & whores -- and also about the way professional poker players manage their suckers.

Likewise, earlier in the book (pp. 188-189) we read:

"John [Hurt] never had a bad word to say about anyone, not even people who really did deserve a few bad words. We were sitting around one night, and someone brought up [...] Tom Hoskins, the guy who had rediscovered him.[...] Hoskins had signed John to a contract where he earned a ridiculous percentage of John's wages, owned his publishing, and controlled all his business, and John actually had to go to court to get out from under his thumb. Naturally, we were filled with righteous indignation, and I was cursing Hoskins up hill and down dale, and John was just sitting there[...]. Finally, I paused[...]. And John said: 'Well, you know...if it weren't for Tom, I'd still be chopping cotton in Mississippi.' No way to argue with that."

No way to argue with it, in that the bargain was within what game theorists call the negotiation set: It was better than the status quo ante for both parties, and it was Pareto optimal (it could not be made still better for either without making it worse for the other). Nevertheless, there are ways to avoid approving of such bargains, and I am happy to know that Van Ronk & some judge happened on one or two of them.

Of course, if you are a communist, as Van Ronk & I used to be, you ought to argue that talents do not belong either to their possessor or to their discoverer, and *any* bargain over the division of their proceeds is illegitimate: They belong to the community (perhaps by the grace of God), and the possessor will be happiest, & the community best served, if they are exercised for fun. It is possible to take that attitude, and people who manage to do so are much to be admired; but there seems to be no way to institutionalize it or to teach it to children -- least of all with the instruments of government.

The video does, however, argue strongly against one favorite notion of mine, concerning the *origin* of the vileness of entertainment business relations (as described also in other books such as _What Makes Sammy Run?_ & _The Revolt of Mamie Stover_; essays such as Trilling's "You Don't Ask, You Don't Get"; and even movies such as _Ace in the Hole_, _A Face in the Crowd_, & _Once upon a Time_). I would like to blame it on *mass* entertainment, by which I mean entertainment in which the chief measure of success is the size of the audience. To maximize the audience (& thus sales, or ratings leading to advertising revenue), it is no doubt helpful, and perhaps even necessary, to produce something that large numbers of people will enjoy. But it is not sufficient. People have different tastes, and are in different moods at different times. In order to drive them into a huge demand herd while supply is short, extraneous motives are required. The most important of these, in our era, are peer pressure & intergenerational hostility, that is to say, fear & hate. Those are base motives, and the business of exploiting them is bound to attract bad people & make them worse. No wonder, etc., etc.

That, clearly, does not account for Moe Asch. Of course, he wanted to sell records, but that was only a means to an end, which was to record things he thought were worth recording. In that, he resembles, not a movie mogul, but a book publisher of the old, respectable sort. Get the stuff printed, and then, even if it sells very slowly, it will get its chance in the long run. People with that attitude can be immensely valuable in perverting the market system to mollify some of its vices. But one would think they would also be moved to do without lying, cheating, & stealing. Well, maybe Mr Asch was so moved, until the advent of the Folk Scare put visions of sugar plums in his head. Or maybe he had to make obeisance to the foul canons of his profession in order to preserve his self-respect. Stranger things have happened. But most likely, I am missing something, as I generally am when I try to think about human beings.


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Joe_F
Date: 18 Apr 10 - 09:18 PM

On a pleasanter note, I am charmed that a person of Van Ronk's eminence agrees with me in finding it ludicrous that singer-songwriters need a special word for the deviant act of singing a song written by somebody else: "I had a sudden vision of a CD titled _Pavarotti Covers Puccini_." (p. 196).


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Cool Beans
Date: 19 Apr 10 - 09:58 AM

Joe F.'s last comment reminds me of the time I heard Merle Travis, about 30 years ago at the original Ark in Ann Arbor. Of course, he sang "Sixteen Tons" and for the last line sang: "I owe my soul.....to Tennessee Ernie Ford!"


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: meself
Date: 19 Apr 10 - 10:51 AM

I always assumed that the term "cover" came not from the singer-songwriters but from the management part of the industry. Or from those journalists who infamously "can't write, writing for people who can't read", etc. The same ones who gave us the abominable "self-titled".


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Subject: RE: Dave Van Ronk's Memoirs
From: Joe_F
Date: 19 Apr 10 - 06:46 PM

youself: That may well be where the usage came from, but, according to Van Ronk (& in my limited experience) it is common in singer-songwriter circles, so called. (Van Ronk considers that term misleading, as do I, and suggests the substitute "new song", which seems to me impossibly vague. At any rate, it hasn't caught on.) In the footnote I cited, he says:

"Incidentally, the new song movement has so completely taken over the remains of the folk scene that I recently heard a friend say of someone who, like myself, is best known for interpreting material written by others, 'Oh, she only does "covers"!' I had a sudden vision...."


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