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US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?

Big Ballad Singer 27 Jun 11 - 10:29 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 27 Jun 11 - 10:37 PM
Phil Cooper 27 Jun 11 - 10:38 PM
Deckman 27 Jun 11 - 10:46 PM
dick greenhaus 28 Jun 11 - 08:26 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 29 Jun 11 - 01:49 PM
BanjoRay 30 Jun 11 - 03:43 AM
Arkie 30 Jun 11 - 10:15 AM
The Sandman 30 Jun 11 - 10:34 AM
GUEST,Seonaid 30 Jun 11 - 02:44 PM
GUEST 30 Jun 11 - 02:51 PM
Don Firth 30 Jun 11 - 05:07 PM
Creede 30 Jun 11 - 05:23 PM
Creede 30 Jun 11 - 05:26 PM
Mark Ross 30 Jun 11 - 07:12 PM
GUEST,kendall 30 Jun 11 - 07:32 PM
GUEST,Big Ballad Singer 30 Jun 11 - 07:55 PM
Michael S 05 Jul 11 - 04:37 PM
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Subject: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: Big Ballad Singer
Date: 27 Jun 11 - 10:29 PM

OK, so I'm a little confused. Was the so-called "revival" of folk music in the '50s and '60s here in the US...

... an aberration/a commercial endeavor that was almost all watered-down,

OR

... a legitimate revival of interest in folk music that was later co-opted by the aforementioned commercial recording outfits,

OR

... a temporary "moment in the sun", commercially speaking, but not a revival that has somehow died? Is it fair to say that there are still effects of that 'revival' being felt in the music world today?

I know this kind of thread has probably been started many times before, but I just want to get my bearings as to how to understand this period in both American popular music and within the larger context of folk music in general.

Which, if any, "traditional" or more heavily trad-leaning, artists, had any commercial success? Were the commercially lucrative and viable artists known as "folk" really just climbing on the backs of relatively unknown and unheralded creative geniuses that came before them?

Or, is the opposite correct? Did (or does) legitimate, traditional folk music BENEFIT from the fact that watered-down commercial stuff was called "folk", thus sending many young people to the music stores and record shops to try to find "folk" instruments and recordings, thus exposing them to the works of the earlier artists?

Help me put this thing into some kind of perspective, if you can.


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 27 Jun 11 - 10:37 PM

All of the above, to an extent.


To get a few perspectives, I recommend reading Ron Cohen's "Rainbow Quest" and Dick Weisman's "Which Side Are You On".

Your questions can be answered in many ways, and the answers can be skewed to reach a conclusion that is not necessarily "fact".

First of all, how does one describe "legitimate, traditional folk music"?   That can also be answered several ways, and the "revival" that was started can be viewed as A folk music unto itself, depending on your perspective and your definition of community and tradition.


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 27 Jun 11 - 10:38 PM

You could vaguely say yes to your questions. There were good and bad aspects of the folk revival. However, it should be noted, there are more people performing and putting out folk recordings now than there were then. On one hand not all of it is the best. On the other, it's available and people can pick what they want to hear. Commercial success may not always be on the cards. But that's another issue.


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: Deckman
Date: 27 Jun 11 - 10:46 PM

I've always felt that the moment that "commercial interests" (profit) entered the picture, "folk music' dissapeared. bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 28 Jun 11 - 08:26 PM

The driving force in the 50s were the Weavers. Burl Ives in the 40s


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 29 Jun 11 - 01:49 PM

Buy and read the book "Singing Out" by Dunaway & Beer published by the Oxford University Press in 2010. It's all there straight from the horses' mouths.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: BanjoRay
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 03:43 AM

And then go and watch "A Mighty Wind" by the Spinal Tap team.....

Ray


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: Arkie
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 10:15 AM

Lots of good and valid questions. This opinion may be open for debate as well, but I would say the greatest value of the "Folk Revival" was and is that authentic folk music became a greater inspiration and influence on on song creators and artists and that has had a positive effect on music.


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: The Sandman
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 10:34 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-GN-BP_Qlkaint nothing watered down about this guy


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: GUEST,Seonaid
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 02:44 PM

Old folkies in my neck of the woods refer to the 60's folk epoch as "The Great Folk Scare" -- afraid, I guess, that it might become too popular.
Altho, of course, trad *was* the original "popular"!


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 02:51 PM

this time we need to make sure that essays like those one can be the proper one to talk it all over and oer again


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 05:07 PM

I heard Burl Ives on the radio in the mid to late 1940s (on a weekly program he talked about American history and sang songs related to the incidents he was discussing), and I had also heard Susan Reed on the radio, and she appeared in a movie called "Glamor Girl" (about a young mountain girl brought to New York to sing in a night club) in 1948.

In my third year at the University of Washington (1951-52), I met a young woman whom I subsequently dated for over a year. She had inherited a fine old parlor guitar from her grandmother and was busily learning to accompany the folk songs she was learning from "A Treasury of Folk Songs" by John and Syliva Kolb, and later, Lomax's "Folk Songs U.S.A." I got myself a cheap guitar, a copy of both books along with a copy of Carl Sandburg's "The American Songbag" (sometimes called "Songburg's Sandbag"), and Claire taught me my first chords.

One evening we went to an informal concert by a fellow named Walt Robertson. He sang for a couple of hours, and I was totally enthralled by the songs he was singing. Listening to him showed me a new direction for my life. I knew there were people who were making a living doing what he was doing—singing traditional songs and ballads—such as the aforementioned Burl Ives and Susan Reed, but also Richard Dyer Bennet, Pete Seeger, a group called the Weavers, Josh White, Cynthia Gooding, and others. . . .

I wanted to do that too.

I subsequently met others in Seattle. Sandy Paton (who lived here then), Dick Landberg, Rae Creevey, Bob Clark, Ken Manus, a number of others, and we started getting together in peoples' living rooms on weekends for song fests.

This was a genuine interest in traditional folk songs and ballads. We all bought records and song books and loaned them to each other, or freely taught each other songs we had just learned. Open exchange.

Then, some of use found ourselves getting hired to sing at one place or another, and in the late 1950s, coffeehouses started opening around Seattle, and they started hiring those of us who wanted to sing for wider audiences and maybe even earn a buck or two at it.

But none of us assumed that we were going to become rich and famous. It was interest in the songs themselves and introducing them to others that motivated us.

Then, in November of 1958, the Kingston Trio had a hit song with "Tom Dooley." Suddenly pop-folk groups started springing up like mushrooms.

I would say that early on, it was a genuine interest in the music itself, with a few people having ambitions to sing it professionally, but many just wanting to sing for fun. Then suddenly, after the Kingston Trio's commercial success with a folk song, everybody and his brother's pet chicken wanted to form a "folk group" and repeat their commercial success

That's when the "Great Folk Scare" started.

But prior to that, it was primarily a genuine interest in the songs themselves

Don Firth

P. S.   Apart from being one of those who inspired it, the folk music revival, and especially the "Great Folk Scare" seemed to pass Susan Reed by. But she, herself, didn't like the commercial direction it was taking, retired from singing, and opened an antique shop, first in Greenwich Village, then on Long Island.   Photo.

This fellow had been singing since infancy and earned his first dollar at the age of four by singing the entire "Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor" in front of a group. As he moved through childhood, he learned a lot of songs from his grandmother (about 250 he estimates) and people kept telling him he had a nice singing voice and he should do something with it. So he went to a music conservatory in New York City where he took singing lessons, and labored away at learning art songs, Schubert lieder, and such.

His fellow music students at the boarding house poked fun at the folk songs he would sing occasionally when he felt homesick. To avoid the snide remarks, one Sunday afternoon he took his guitar to Central Park, sat on a park bench, and started singing some of the old songs he had learned from his grandmother. Not busking or anything like that, he was just singing for the birds and the squirrels. But people started gathering around. Soon, he was singing to a substantial crowd and getting enthusiast applause after each song.

After his impromptu concert, he went back to the boarding house and thought about it a lot. "Why," he asked himself, "am I working so hard to learn a bunch of songs that, nice as they are, are completely foreign to me, including the languages I'm learning to sing them in? I already have a big repertoire I learned from my grandmother!" So he quit school, spent some time traveling around the country (hopping freights and by thumb), singing for his supper, and learning songs from people. Later on, he went back to New York and started auditioning, and soon had a regular singing job at The Village Vanguard.

Here's Burl Ives when he was young. Photo taken in 1928 (Age 19).

Ain't that a snort!??


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: Creede
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 05:23 PM

That looks a lot like a baritone ukulele (or maybe a tenor guitar) he's holding . . .

-- Creede (also from the general Seattle area)


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: Creede
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 05:26 PM

I grew up listening to the commercial folk groups like the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary, the Serendipity Singers and some of the lesser known acts like the Womenfolk, and eventually I started singing and playing and searching out some of the trad stuff. So yeah, the commercial music of the 60s, or the Great Folk Scare if you will, had an effect on at least one person.


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 07:12 PM

It's a Gibson 4 string Plectrum guitar.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: GUEST,kendall
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 07:32 PM

Burl Ives was my first intro to folk music when I was about 10. I have one of his song books right in front of me as I type.
Then came the Weavers and I was hooked.


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: GUEST,Big Ballad Singer
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 07:55 PM

The first books I read about anything folk-related were about blues singers from the Mississippi Delta and Piedmont regions of the Southern U.S. Those books almost all referenced the Carter family and/or Jimmie Rodgers. Researching them, esp. the Carters, ultimately led me to discover Woody Guthrie, as did my early appreciation for Bob Dylan's catalog.

I generally stayed away from the more 'commercial' folk artists (ironic, though, because the Carters, such bastions of down-home traditionalism, were HUGE recording stars of their day), but it wasn't because I knew any better... it was because I worked at a bookstore with a good music section. They always had the Smithsonian/Folkways recordings, and we were allowed to take home the "in-store play" copies after they had been broadcast in the store. I got hold of Woody, Roscoe Holcomb and a ton of others.

These days, I see a book about "folk music", and anymore, they've got pictures of Simon/Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and a lot of other decidedly non-trad people on the cover or in the index.

I'm guessing it won't be long 'till there's a new "rediscovery" of old-time music, just like what happened with the "O, Brother..." phenomenon.

Ukulele craze, anyone? ;)


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Subject: RE: US Folk Revival of '50s and '60s...?
From: Michael S
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 04:37 PM

Big Ballad Singer -- I believe the answer to your question is "all of the above." As fellow catters suggest, the musical tumult of the 50s and 60s was many things at once. Dylan was labeled "folksinger" to the dismay of many, and went on to become a rock legend - one who, I believe, has always promoted the roots. The Newport festival pushed Doc Boggs and Dewey Balfa and John Hurt to prominence, and they remain legends. In my view, interest in vernacular culture is ongoing in American life. Sometimes it lurks in the shadows. At other times, it rises into the mainstream (a "revival"). This rise gives it publicity, while it also twists the source material around a bit. Then, back to the shadows. Afterwards, some new devotees help maintain the source material, while others take what they learned and do something unexpected and interesting. It goes on and on.

~Michael Scully


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