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the US folk revival and the CIA

Jack Campin 29 Dec 10 - 01:05 PM
The Sandman 29 Dec 10 - 01:28 PM
PoppaGator 29 Dec 10 - 01:41 PM
Deckman 29 Dec 10 - 03:30 PM
PoppaGator 29 Dec 10 - 04:29 PM
Deckman 29 Dec 10 - 04:33 PM
Jim Carroll 30 Dec 10 - 03:43 AM
doc.tom 30 Dec 10 - 06:13 AM
Sandra in Sydney 30 Dec 10 - 06:37 AM
Charley Noble 30 Dec 10 - 08:44 AM
GUEST,Doug Saum 30 Dec 10 - 12:12 PM
The Sandman 30 Dec 10 - 12:48 PM
GUEST,frogprince, at the library 30 Dec 10 - 04:01 PM
Jack Campin 30 Dec 10 - 05:24 PM
brezhnev 30 Dec 10 - 06:04 PM
Deckman 31 Dec 10 - 08:37 AM
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Subject: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 Dec 10 - 01:05 PM

This was put into my head by the thread on skiffle and the US folk revival but it's a bit too tangential to fit.

I was in New Zealand in the 60s and early 70s. When I was at university in Auckland, one of the few folk venues was, of all places, the United States Information Service, which ran something like a US "coffeehouse" every so often in its downstairs room. I don't think there were ever any American performers, or any featured performers at all: the USIS staff simply hosted it, and the participants played the standard stuff of the period, like Joan Baez and Judy Collins. I only went a few times and I don't know how long it lasted; think I brought my flute along.

Anybody encounter anything paralleling this elsewhere? Remember, this was at the height of the Vietnam War.

Was this just an eccentric project by a USIS staffer who happened to like that kind of music, or a small tentacle of a very large octopus, with the CIA trying to keep tabs on and manipulate something they saw as a potentially disruptive cultural trend?


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: The Sandman
Date: 29 Dec 10 - 01:28 PM

Bill Clifton is worth checking out.


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: PoppaGator
Date: 29 Dec 10 - 01:41 PM

I really doubt that the CIA (or any other US intelligence agency) would have set up such a venue, but it's quite plausible that, once that "eccentric USIS staffer" got it up and running, some right-wing zealot and/or CIA "asset" at the embassy would have started reporting on the regular habituees.

I suppose I'd be surprised if the USIS staffer(s) who started the coffeehouse project didn't have some kind of CIA file...


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: Deckman
Date: 29 Dec 10 - 03:30 PM

I don't know if this will add ... or subtract ... from your very interesting question:

When I volunteered for the american Army in 1955, the FBI already had a file on me because of my "folksinging activities" in Seattle. When I joined the service, I had to ponder a three page list of area organizations and check them if I'd had any contact with them. I checked six. The Captain freaked out, and three days later I was visited, again, by the FBI.

They finally decided thatI was no threat to anyone and could safely become an Army medic. After a few months in, I was stationed at Fort Sam Houstin, Texas. On Sundays, I used to volunteer with USO club and play and sing my songs.

One morning I was hauled into my company headquarters and asked to "explain myself." One of the cadre spoke up for me and soon after I was invited to perform at the officer's club.

Those mid fifites were terrible times for my country and the constitution. bob(deckman)nelson ... and YES ... I'm still singing my songs!


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: PoppaGator
Date: 29 Dec 10 - 04:29 PM

Bob ~ Did they pay you to sing at the Officers Club, or just order you? (The idea of being "invited" to do anything in the military seems a bit ambiguous to me...)


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: Deckman
Date: 29 Dec 10 - 04:33 PM

My "pay" was a free dinner ... two beers ... and no KP for a week! bob


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 03:43 AM

No doubt that 'them indoors' keep their eye on what's happening in the art world......
http://bilderberg.org/mi5bbc.htm
.....and always have done.
This is a cutting from British Sunday newspaper, The People, November 17th 1963.
The cutting is very tatty - have done my best to repair the text.
Jim Carroll


SOME STRANGE FACTS ABOUT THE LATEST CRAZE??
JUST HOW INNOCENT ARE SIGNS LIKE THIS
By PETER BISHOP

A NEW TEENAGE CRAZE IS SWEEPING BRITAIN?FOLK MUSIC. BEARDED, DUFFLE-COATED YOUNGSTERS SQUAT ON THE FLOOR OF CELLAR CLUBS LISTENING TO FOLK SONGS TELLING OF LOVE, OF DEATH, OF OPPRESSION.
There are more than 200 of these clubs in Britain, with 250,000 members. More clubs open every week.
But this boom has some people very worried. For many of the movement's big names?singers, agents or record sellers?are either Communists or they hold extreme left-wing views.
And it is feared that, with folk music attracting more and more young people, there is a danger of their being wooed by Red propaganda. Just how great is that danger? Last week I took a close look at the folk music world.
There is no doubt that the Communist and left-wing element among its leading personalities is powerful.
For example, Topic Records, Ltd., of Hampstead, London, the leading company specialising in folk music, is controlled by a top intellectual Communist.'
He is 62-year-old Alan Bush, a rugged, bearded composer of serious music. His work is familiar and well liked in Russia. He has been there many times as a composer, conductor and as a fraternal; representative at the congress of Communist Composers.
Folk music fans who want to buy the latest records can go to a shop in New Oxford Street specialising in folk songs. It is owned and run by Collet's Holdings, Ltd. Collet's also run several book shops selling left-wing publications.
The company was once described in the Communist "Daily Worker" as a "commercial firm, but not a capitalist one," with its directors taking neither dividends nor profits.
The Folksong Agency, in Paddington, London, represents such top artists in the folk field as Ewan MacColl, Dominic Behan and Peggy Seeger.

'REVOLUTIONARY'
It is run by Bruce Dunnett, a Communist. He told me: "I have been a member of the Communist Party for many years.
"But I can assure you that politics and folk music don't mix.
"There are left revolutionary songs, of course. But then there are also traditional songs, songs of love and songs of protest.
"I am interested only in promoting and developing interest in folk music.
"If I or any other Communist, or Tory for that matter, tried to trot out dogma at a folk music club or concert they would soon tell me to shut up."
Mr. Dunnett agreed that folk music circles have a definite left-wing atmo¬sphere.
"That is because most folk songs have been, and are even now being, created by ordinary working people," he said.
The biggest name among folk singers in Britain is Ewan MacColl, a. bearded ex- playwright from Salford, Lancs, and a Communist,   
He sings in clubs up and down the country on such themes as the sad Irish workmen who laboured on the Ml, and on Timothy. Evans, the man hanged for a murder which some people; believe he did not commit.

CANDLELIGHT
MacColl, aged 45, told me: "Of course there are Communists and left-wing people who go to folk-song clubs.
"But then there are also Tories, Socialists, and Liberals. They go to listen to the music, not politics.
"They are inclined to tie in¬dividualistic, who would make known their objections if they thought attempts were being made to organise them politically or any other way."
Another folk singer is Karl Dallas. He specialises in the guitar and contributes articles to the "Daily Worker."
Now let's take a look at one of the clubs. The 200-strong Swindon Folksingers Club is run by, Ted Poole, aged 37, and his wife, Ivy. Mr. Poole is a Communist. He told me:
"The music we sing is left-wing because it comes from the workers.
"Most of the songs reflect the thoughts, emotions, oppres¬sions, passions and struggles of the working peoples."
The club meets on Friday nights in a candle-lit room at the rear of the Greyhound, Hotel, Swindon. It costs 2s. 6d. to join and admission to sessions is 3s.?non-members 4s
Mr. Poole added: "There is no sinister political motive in the background."
Finally, I talked to 42-year-old Eric Winter, folk singer, journalist, authority on folk music, and editor of a lively folk song magazine called "Sing."    .
He told me: "It's true to say that folk music and the clubs have a strong left-wing atmosphere.
"Many people who enjoy folk music are anti-Bomb, anti-apartheid, anti most things
"They're not sure what they are for- but they would resent any attempt to introduce politics of any sort."
So even if the Communist Party is contemplating a planned program to recruit from the folk-singing fans, it seems they will be out of luck.
BUT CLEARLY, IT IS A SITUATION WHICH NEEDS WATCHING


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: doc.tom
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 06:13 AM

U.K. - mid-sixties: I seem to remember one probationary copper who attended Ted & Ivy Poole's club in Swindon and was warned off by his senior officers along the lines of 'there will be no future in the Police if you keep going.' And then there was an electronics engineer at R.A.F. Chivenor, who always came to the local folk club, and therefore was a communist risk, and so not allowed to work on the planes without a military policemen watching him all the time - not that they had the slightest idea what he was doing, of course. There's military intelligence for you. (He now plays english concertina at Faslane!)


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 06:37 AM

here in Oz many of the founders of the folk revival were either Communists or left-leaning & naturally attracted official attention of ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) & other organisations

I was listening to a program on John Manifold last week Listen or download audio - Fri 24th Dec Every concert he attended, every meeting of a folk club, everything he did was observed by ASIO operatives - my favourite bit was the note by the bloke following him that his dentures had broken so he wouldn't be going out for a few days!

ASIO files are available from Australian Archives but some bits are still blacked out! according to those who have seen them.

sandra


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: Charley Noble
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 08:44 AM

It's CIA and AID,
What's good for you is good for me --
Doing the tenure tango!


A verse from a ditty we used to sing at Michigan State University, back in the 1960's when they had a contract to train Diem's secret police in South Vietnam.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble (not my real name!)


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: GUEST,Doug Saum
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 12:12 PM

Very interesting thread. As far as the Communism/Folk Song link is concerned it is useful to look at Charles Seeger (Pete's father) and Ruth Crawford Seeger (Michael, Peggy, and Barbara's mother - and Pete's step-mother). Both these two were leaders in the Modern Classical Music movements of the 19-teens and twenties specializing in dissonant counterpoint (about as far from folk music as you can get). When the Great Depression hit they were radicalized by the sight of the suffering citizens to the point that they actively and intentionally adopted folk music as the medium of best reaching the people (only after realizing that the stark modern music was not up to the task). Charles was part of a Communist group to produce and advance music that would help empower the people (or "turn them into communists" from some right-wing perspectives). He eventually found his way to the FDR New Deal bureaucracy promoting folk music esp. AMERICAN folk music and folklore. Eleanor R. was a supporter of the Seeger's work. Ruth Crawford Seeger (along with Alan and John Lomax) supplied the foundation for the folk movement of the 50's and 60's in that she transcribed and published several popular books of American folk songs which found there way into the U. S. schools. (My first exposure to folk music.)
And, of course, Pete carries this torch with his emphasis on the worldwide universality of the people's music. The thrill of my life was meeting Pete and being part of a session where he "taught" us how to lead groups in singing. (IMHO)We who love folk music owe a great debt to these dedicated people.
Doug Saum


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 12:48 PM

was Bill Clifton a watcher?


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: GUEST,frogprince, at the library
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 04:01 PM

Meanwhile, down at the grass roots: In Flint, Michigan, in the 60's, a local coffeehouse was under constant survelience/harassment from local police and officials. They maintained a strict drug-free policy, but eventually a sting was staged on the street in their area, and they were hounded out of operation. During the court farce, someone referred to the regulars as "a bunch of coffee sipping lizards". The venue opened briefly afterward as "The Sippin' Lizard Coffee House". A few months back the Flint Music Society revived the Sippin' Lizard name for their regular concert series.


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: Jack Campin
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 05:24 PM

I just looked up Bill Clifton on GSS's suggestion. I don't see any obvious intelligence connections, but jesus frog, it looks like that guy must have played with my brother, as he was playing bluegrass mandolin in Hamilton (NZ) when Clifton was spending time there.


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: brezhnev
Date: 30 Dec 10 - 06:04 PM

Communists, folk-singers...ah, bless


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Subject: RE: the US folk revival and the CIA
From: Deckman
Date: 31 Dec 10 - 08:37 AM

I well remember when I was grilled by a Captain at Fort, Lawton, Washington, as to why I "sang those communist songs." I answered ... "It's because they've got THE BEST SONGS!" bob(deckman)nelson


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