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Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time

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THE FIRST TIME


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: The First Time (Ever) - MacColl (34)
Ewan MacColl in the new Private Eye (5)
(origins) Origins: First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (71)
Lyr Req: First time ever I saw your face (32)
Lyr/Chords Req: The First Time Ever I...(MacColl) (18)
Lyr Req: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (22)


GUEST,Richtradition 23 Feb 10 - 04:55 PM
Lox 23 Feb 10 - 04:57 PM
GUEST,Gerry 23 Feb 10 - 05:07 PM
GUEST 23 Feb 10 - 05:08 PM
Jacob B 23 Feb 10 - 05:17 PM
GUEST 23 Feb 10 - 05:17 PM
GUEST,Derek Schofield 23 Feb 10 - 05:24 PM
GUEST 23 Feb 10 - 05:38 PM
PoppaGator 23 Feb 10 - 05:45 PM
GUEST,Richtradition 23 Feb 10 - 05:53 PM
Joe Offer 23 Feb 10 - 05:57 PM
The Borchester Echo 23 Feb 10 - 06:21 PM
Paul Reade 23 Feb 10 - 06:28 PM
GUEST,folkiedave - not sure whu I am cookieless 23 Feb 10 - 06:35 PM
Joe Offer 23 Feb 10 - 06:38 PM
Jim Carroll 23 Feb 10 - 07:14 PM
The Borchester Echo 23 Feb 10 - 07:21 PM
Jim Carroll 23 Feb 10 - 07:39 PM
GUEST,Gerry 23 Feb 10 - 07:48 PM
Jim Carroll 24 Feb 10 - 10:35 AM
GUEST,Steamin' Willie 24 Feb 10 - 11:15 AM
GUEST 24 Feb 10 - 05:18 PM
GUEST 24 Feb 10 - 05:48 PM
GUEST,Gerry 24 Feb 10 - 09:12 PM
GUEST,henryp 25 Feb 10 - 12:39 PM
Jim Carroll 25 Feb 10 - 03:14 PM
GUEST,henryp 26 Feb 10 - 10:47 AM
Fred McCormick 26 Feb 10 - 10:58 AM
Newport Boy 26 Feb 10 - 11:03 AM
mikesamwild 26 Feb 10 - 11:09 AM
Jim Carroll 27 Feb 10 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,Mr Red 22 Nov 10 - 06:28 AM
John MacKenzie 22 Nov 10 - 09:10 AM
sheila 22 Nov 10 - 09:48 AM
GUEST,Silas 22 Nov 10 - 10:13 AM
pdq 22 Nov 10 - 10:41 AM
Jim Carroll 22 Nov 10 - 12:58 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 22 Nov 10 - 04:55 PM
raymond greenoaken 23 Nov 10 - 11:49 AM
DonMeixner 23 Nov 10 - 11:52 AM
GUEST,Silas 23 Nov 10 - 12:25 PM
GUEST,SteveGardham 23 Nov 10 - 12:54 PM
Jim Carroll 23 Nov 10 - 01:26 PM
GUEST,Peggy Seeger 24 Nov 10 - 01:22 PM
Gurney 24 Nov 10 - 01:37 PM
The Sandman 24 Nov 10 - 02:18 PM
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Subject: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Richtradition
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 04:55 PM

I am sure this is probably hidden in the archives somewhere but I can't find it
I am trying to find a recording of Ewan Maccoll singing The First Time I ever Saw Your Face. All the recorded versions I have are of Peggy Seager singing it.
Any help gratefully received

Pete


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Lox
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 04:57 PM

I'd like to hear that too.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:07 PM

This won't help you any, but legend has it that he sang it to her over the phone when he wrote it. You might say it was the first time anyone sang The First Time.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:08 PM

Ewan McColl wrote 'The First Time' for Peggy Seeger


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Jacob B
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:17 PM

I saw Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger in concert many years ago, and he told the story of how it came to be written.

Peggy was working on a TV special. He called her at the studio, and when she came to the phone, she said, "This may sound funny, but I need a love song that's a minute and three quarters long."

He said, "All right, there's a melody that's been going through my head." He hummed it to her, then wrote the words to go with it while on the phone. When sung at the tempo it was originally written for, it took exactly a minute and three quarters to sing.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:17 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_First_Time_Ever_I_Saw_Your_Face

It's on Black and white - the definitive collection


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:24 PM

yes, it's on Black and White, sung by Peggy. The story is that he never sang it after that 'first time' over the phone .. it was Peggy's song to sing.
Derek


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:38 PM

I agree with Derek - as far as I know there is no known recording of him singing it.

I am happy t stand corrected - of course.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: PoppaGator
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:45 PM

Kinda weird that he wrote it, but only let it be sung by Peggy (and of course others). If it was written "for" her, you'd think he would sing it "to" her. When she sang it, it would be understood as being in praise of HIM!


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Richtradition
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:53 PM

Thanks very much for confirming my own search.

Pete


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 05:57 PM

In The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook, Peggy Seeger says, "Ewan never sang 'The First Time Ever' himself after that phone call. It became my song."

HOWEVER in the other threads (crosslinked above), you will see messages from Mudcatters who swear they heard MacColl sing this song occasionally in UK folk clubs.

So, to my mind, the mystery remains unresolved.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 06:21 PM

It's not a mystery. I heard him sing it but infrequently. The occasion I remember clearly was in the Singers' at the Union Tavern. Peggy was onstage with one or two others shifting stuff about. Ewan sat in customary fashion backwards on a chair and sang it to fill the gap. I have a vaguer recollection of him doing it at New Merlin's Cave at a Festival Of Fools.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Paul Reade
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 06:28 PM

Ben Harker's biography of Ewan MacColl ("Class Act") quotes him as saying that The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" was " … dashed off in a warm glow of lovesickness and whisky in 1957 …"


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,folkiedave - not sure whu I am cookieless
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 06:35 PM

I have no doubt the story of the composition is true.

As for other singing it..................


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 06:38 PM

Ah, Borchester Echo, there  is  a mystery. Was Peggy not aware he occasionally sang it in public?

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 07:14 PM

Can't remember hearing him ever singing it in public - but I was staying with them while I was rewiring their lighting system and they sang it together while driving home from The Singers Club in the car.
The story of him composing it over the phone was the one I understood to be true; Peggy was in America at the time and needed a song of a certain length - he obliged with FTE.
I was given a tape by Peggy of as many of the commercial recordings of it she was aware of, which included: herself, Mary Travers, Harry Belafonte, Johnny Mathis, Vickie Carter; Roberta Flack; Andy Williams; Kitty White; The Smothers Brothers; The Kingston Trio and Elvis Presley - (no Ewan).
Can't remember which one he once described as sounding like somebody on ground level serenading his intended on the top floor of a tower block (might have been Presley).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 07:21 PM

As I said, Peggy certainly was there on one occasion, but probably not taking a great deal of notice as she was shifting props for the next item. FTE financed the production of their daughter Kitty when the Flack royalties rolled in.

Jim: according to Wiki Ewan thought Elvis was at the bottom of the Post Office Tower.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 07:39 PM

B.E. (still prefer Countess Di) - you -and Wiki (for once) are right - thanks.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 07:48 PM

Add the Chad Mitchell Trio to the list of recordings. I'm a little surprised this wasn't on the tape Peggy Seeger gave to Jim Carroll.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 10:35 AM

Gerry - is there a link to the Chad Miller Trio recording - would love to add it
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 11:15 AM

The story about the transatlantic phone call rings true enough, and they both told the story when I interviewed them in 1984 for a syndicated hospital radio show I was involved in.

As the thread has included names of others singing it, I would like to add the version by the Stereophonics with Jools Holland & his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra as being absolutely wonderful, and on so many levels.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 05:18 PM

Jim, it's Mitchell, not Miller. I don't know of any link to it. It was track 10 on their 1964 album, Reflecting. I don't know whether it has made its way to CD. At http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=441 it is alleged that Roberta Flack learned it from Morgan Ames, who learned it from Ron White, who learned it from the Chad Mitchell Trio recording.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 05:48 PM

Hi Jim,
Gordon Lightfoot also recorded a version of FTE, and may have done so before the main posse. Many artists looked to Gordon Lightfoot for songs. I should have a copy somewhere if you want it.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 24 Feb 10 - 09:12 PM

Sorry, anonymous guest at 5:18 PM was me. The Chad Mitchell Trio recording seems to be available at the last.fm website.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 25 Feb 10 - 12:39 PM

Like every topic on Ewan MacColl, things always become more puzzling than clearer.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Feb 10 - 03:14 PM

"Like every topic on Ewan MacColl, things always become more puzzling than clearer."
Only if you want them to - what's not to understand?
Guest - thanks for the offer; might take you up on it if I may.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 26 Feb 10 - 10:47 AM

It makes a wonderful story but do you really think that he was able to make up the words and music for a love song lasting exactly one minute forty-five seconds during a trans-Atlantic phone call in 1957?

Anyway, by 1969 the song had grown to five minutes twenty-two seconds.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 26 Feb 10 - 10:58 AM

According to Ben Harker, MacColl's biographer, he composed the song, words and music, before ringing Peggy up and singing it to her over the phone.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Newport Boy
Date: 26 Feb 10 - 11:03 AM

I'm sure I heard Ewan sing this at Soho Square in 1959/60. The version I sing (unaccompanied) I certainly remember in his voice. I've just tried it at the speed I still hear it, and one verse comes out at 34 sec. So 1m 45s sounds about right.

And if he had the melody in his head, instant composition is possible. A friend of mine, Spike Woods, wrote words and music for a 3 min song for my wife. From the time of her request to him delivering a tape with 2 different takes 2 miles away was less than an hour. All he had was the topic - 'Noise'.

Phil


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: mikesamwild
Date: 26 Feb 10 - 11:09 AM

Was the tune going through his head The Water is Wide or Waters of of Tyne or something like it?
I wonder if Dylan had The Water is Wide in mind when he composed Lay Down Your Weary Tune ?


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Feb 10 - 09:01 AM

"It makes a wonderful story...."
I was present when he was writing the script for the 1968 Festival of Fools - he could work at incredible speeds, particularly under pressure.
The following year he wrote a whole sketch for FOF which, on rehersal night, he couldn't get to work - those of us selected to do it couldn't. By the following day he had replaced it with an entirely new one and had completed several more as well.
I was told by somebody who was around at the time that The Ballad of Jimmy Wilson was conceived and almost completed during a car journey on the way to a party.
"Was the tune going through his head"
Often MacColl's practice with tunes was to take an existing one and hum it about the house, (often much to the irritation of the other occupants) constantly making small adaptation, until it had become something else.
Shoals of Herring and several others were based on the Greig Duncan 'Famous Flower of Serving Men' (Sweet William), which he learned (and recorded) from 'Last Leaves'.
Tunnel Tigers was an adaptation of the Irish version of William Taylor which he heard from London/Irish singer Paul Lenihan.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Mr Red
Date: 22 Nov 10 - 06:28 AM

Just to clarify a few points.

In a recent radio programme of Peggy remeniscing she said (approx) "Oh he always said he wrote it over the telephone, but I never believed that" and she also said "He stopped singing it when I started singing it". Nothing was said about him recoding it, though they played snippets of her ver version.

OK I heard it from the horses groom's mouth (er I meant bride).


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 22 Nov 10 - 09:10 AM

As I recall Mr Red, she said, he sang it to her over the phone, which was the first time she heard it. She also said he never recorded it, and/or, he never sang it in public.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: sheila
Date: 22 Nov 10 - 09:48 AM

In 1964 or 65, at a folk seminar in Glasgow, I saw and heard him sing it, to Peggy.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Silas
Date: 22 Nov 10 - 10:13 AM

I well remembner him singing it at a folk club in the late seventies. He said (as I recall) that he wrote it and forgot all about it till he heard it on the radio being sung by Roberta Flack. But then, its not always easy to believe everything the man said...


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: pdq
Date: 22 Nov 10 - 10:41 AM

The Chad Mitchell Trio version is sung by Mike Kobluk, the baritone.

It is slow-paced and very powerful.

Gordon Lightfoot recorded it a couple of years later, but it was early in his career and his voice was rather high and had a fast vibrato. He would have done better by the song in the late 1970s when his voice and delivery had matured.

Roberta Flak did a preey nice version, perhaps better than Lightfoot's.

Vikki Carr, Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis are not always taken seriously by dedicated folkies.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Nov 10 - 12:58 PM

"But then, its not always easy to believe everything the man said... "
But he must have said something worthwhile for prats to be still having a pop at him twenty-odd years after his death - not much RIP there!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 22 Nov 10 - 04:55 PM

With the best will in the world - I don't see how you could forget about it. It was widely acclaimed before the hit. anthologised in god knows how many Oak publications.

I was aware of the song even before I'd heard it.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: raymond greenoaken
Date: 23 Nov 10 - 11:49 AM

Strikes me "forgotten about it" could mean no more than "It wasn't in the repertoire any more and rarely came up in conversation".

But to muddy the waters further, in a review of the Flack and Presley versions for Folk Review in 1972, Karl Dallas asserted: "[it's a long time] since he wrote First Time Ever as an illustration of the fact that it ought to be possible to write a commercial lovesong without descending into drippy inanities".

Which suggests (if KD has his facts right) that it wasn't so much a spontaneous outpouring of ardour (cf. lovesickness and whiskey) as a conscious, even intellectual, act of creation. Whether he managed to avoid drippy inanities is, of course, an open question.

And for what it's worth, I love the song.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: DonMeixner
Date: 23 Nov 10 - 11:52 AM

I would swear I have a recording of him singing it.

D


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Silas
Date: 23 Nov 10 - 12:25 PM

Ah Jim lad, I agree.
(and I think it is a wonderful song)


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,SteveGardham
Date: 23 Nov 10 - 12:54 PM

FWIW I only saw Ewan probably no more than half a dozen times, but clearly in my head I can picture him singing this. I therefore presume I have heard and seen him sing it on an archive film somewhere, probably one of Doc Rowe's films.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Nov 10 - 01:26 PM

"I don't see how you could forget about it."
As an avid MacColl/Seeger follower, I have to confess I hardly heard the song until its totally unexpected popularity (which embarrased him enormously, though it did finance their 'Blackthorn' albums, which, they said, gave them the freedom to record what they wanted rather than be answerable to the record companies as what they could record). I think the only time I heard it sung was on the New Briton Gazette and Lover's Garland albums (may be mistaken about the latter), sung by Peggy. She confirmed the 'over-the-phone' story, and said he made it on the spot because she needed a contemporary love song for the gig she was doing.
I heard Ewan send it up once in their car on the way home from the Singers Club when I was living with them for a short time - he never recorde it to my knowledge and I never heard him sing it in a club.
Peggy gave me a tape of recorded versions she was aware of, which were: Mary Travers, Harry Belafonte, Johnny Mathis, Vikki Carr, Roberta Flack, Andy Williams, The Smothers Brothers, The Brothers Four, The Kingston Trio, and Elvis Presley.
More recently a friend has added: Gordon Lightfoot, Acker Bilk, Dexter Gordon, Mantovani Orchestra, St Christopher Gregorian Chant.
It was also used by the Irish charity Trocaire for a television appeal.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: GUEST,Peggy Seeger
Date: 24 Nov 10 - 01:22 PM

Several people have informed me that they've heard a recording of Ewan singing FIRST TIME EVER but I've yet to have such a rendition reach my ears. If anyone actually has a recording of the auld fella singing it, please send it to me care of my website.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: Gurney
Date: 24 Nov 10 - 01:37 PM

I have a recording of Johnny Cash singing it, possibly in his later years. It sounds like someone strolling down a gravel path.


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Subject: RE: Did Ewan Maccoll sing The First Time
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Nov 10 - 02:18 PM

Dexter Gordon that might be interesting.


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