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Mike Seeger Biography: Music from the True Vine

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Desert Dancer 16 Oct 11 - 02:59 PM
GUEST,Roger Knowles 15 Nov 11 - 08:16 AM
Desert Dancer 04 Apr 12 - 10:23 PM
Mark Ross 04 Apr 12 - 11:31 PM
Martha Burns 04 Apr 12 - 11:45 PM
GUEST,Roger Knowles 05 Apr 12 - 03:18 PM
open mike 05 Apr 12 - 04:29 PM
Desert Dancer 05 Apr 12 - 04:39 PM
Mark Ross 05 Apr 12 - 09:31 PM
Martha Burns 05 Apr 12 - 09:36 PM
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Subject: A biography of Mike Seeger
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 16 Oct 11 - 02:59 PM

A biography of Mike Seeger has just been released by the University of North Carolina Press:

Music from the True Vine, Mike Seeger's Life and Musical Journey, by Bill C. Malone

From that page:

A musician, documentarian, scholar, and one of the founding members of the influential folk revival group the New Lost City Ramblers, Mike Seeger (1933-2009) spent more than fifty years collecting, performing, and commemorating the culture and folk music of white and black southerners, which he called "music from the true vine." In this fascinating biography, Bill Malone explores the life and musical contributions of folk artist Seeger, son of musicologists Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger and brother of folksingers Pete and Peggy Seeger.

Malone argues that Seeger, while not as well known as his brother, may be more important to the history of American music through his work in identifying and giving voice to the people from whom the folk revival borrowed its songs. Seeger recorded and produced over forty albums, including the work of artists such as Libba Cotten, Tommy Jarrell, Dock Boggs, and Maybelle Carter. In 1958, with an ambition to recreate the southern string bands of the twenties, he formed the New Lost City Ramblers, helping to inspire the urban folk revival of the sixties. Music from the True Vine presents Seeger as a gatekeeper of American roots music and culture, showing why generations of musicians and fans of traditional music regard him as a mentor and an inspiration.

Bill Malone is professor of history emeritus at Tulane University.

(Thanks for the tip from the UNC Southern Folklife Collection via Facebook.)

~ Becky in Tucson

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Subject: Mike Seeger Biography
From: GUEST,Roger Knowles
Date: 15 Nov 11 - 08:16 AM

The new Mike Seeger biography by Bill C. Malone is a must for all with a serious interest in American old time & string band music.
Go out and buy now!!!!

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Subject: RE: Mike Seeger Biography: Music from the True Vine
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 10:23 PM

A Life Lived as the Other Seeger

Barry Mazor
Wall Street Journal
April 4, 2012

When Mike Seeger died in August 2009 at the age of 76, his musical accomplishments were clear enough. He was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, singer, documenter of early hillbilly music, promoter of bluegrass to broad audiences, and co-founder of the storied New Lost City Ramblers, the string band that, during the folk revival of the 1950s and '60s, invented the prebluegrass-oriented "Old Time Music" field that has flourished ever since.

Resistant to making his own life a central part of his legacy, he remained an enigma to many who'd long relished and built on his music. And since he was, after all, from the often very public Seeger family—son of celebrated musicologists Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, half-brother of legendary folksinger Pete—people regularly leapt to conclusions, often not well-founded, about his relation to their musical goals and radical politics. The more obscure parts of the story are clarified in Bill C. Malone's biography, "Music From the True Vine: Mike Seeger's Life & Musical Journey," published by the University of North Carolina Press.

"I think to really understand Mike, to really explain him," the author noted in an interview, "you have to know that, unconsciously, he was long rebelling against the Seeger family, and especially Pete. He loved and admired his big brother, but he was always aware that Pete was this icon of American culture and that he was going to have to come up with something different. I think that long before he ever explicitly recognized it, he was building his own niche."

The most overtly political decision of Mike Seeger's life—to register as a conscientious objector in 1952 and perform alternative service as an orderly at the Mount Wilson Tuberculosis Hospital in the Baltimore area—led not to a life as a political activist, but to his pivotal encounter with the miner family of down-home West Virginia singer-songwriter Hazel Dickens, to work with Dickens, and to deeper immersion into bluegrass and older Appalachian music.

"There were people who resented his not taking a more active part in politics," Mr. Malone continued. "Other times, as when, right after those Baltimore years, because he couldn't yet work in music full time, he tried to get a job to work with the Social Security agency, the Seeger name was enough for him to be asked questions about his political affiliations."

Mr. Malone's serious interest in the Mike Seeger story may itself strike some as puzzling. As a Texas-born and -raised scholar, singer and author of the definitive history of commercial country music, "Country Music, U.S.A." (first published in 1968), one of his central contentions has been how country music evolved from homegrown, inarguably Southern sources, though hardly exclusively Southeastern mountain sources—as Appalachian folk romanticizers, Seeger included, tended to lead people to believe. Mr. Malone, who will be 78 in August, started out no particular admirer of the Northern folk revival and unlikely to give much credit to outsider intellectuals who fiddled with down-home music.

"I can admit it now," he said with a laugh. "I always liked Mike Seeger's music a lot, and was impressed with him, but I wasn't quite certain what to make of him as a person. I thought he was aloof at best, arrogant at worst, and kind of hard to get to know. Now I think he was just shy—like I was. I had been thinking, 'Well, here's this Yankee who's dabbling with my music, and what does he know about it.' But all that time I was still borrowing everything he did, buying everything he and the New Lost City Ramblers put out, including their invaluable book of old-time songs, and that had just a tremendous impact on my scholarship."

Delving into the subject, Mr. Malone's view of this particular Seeger as some sort of New England via Greenwich Village musical dilettante altered entirely: "I found out that that's all ridiculous. He wasn't an interloper; Mike grew up with this music as early as I did. While I was listening to the Grand Ole Opry on our Philco battery radio, back in the late 1930s, he was sitting on the floor and listening to the field recordings that his mother was transcribing for John Lomax, and that his daddy's assistants had collected, and to Library of Congress records. I wouldn't call him 'a Southerner,' exactly, though he actually spent most of his adult life in the South, and our immersions in country music really went back to about the same time."

For Mr. Malone, Seeger's most important musical contribution came precisely from not layering ideology over the music or his characterization of the music-making people he encountered and presented to the world—certainly related to his being the Seeger who "rebelled against Seegers."

"He didn't just take the music and run with it for his own purposes; he made us aware of the people who had made this music in the first place—Dock Boggs and Buell Kazee and Charlie Poole. He did a lot to elevate and lend respect to the Southern folk culture that had produced the music, and he did it courageously, at a time when the South was at its lowest ebb in public esteem, against the stereotype of the dumb, bigoted redneck. He showed that alongside all of the bad stuff that went with the culture was music of great beauty and complexity, made by people who could have warmth and soul and humanity."

Mr. Mazor writes about country and roots music for the Journal.

~ Becky in Tucson
(thanks for the tip to the Southern Folklife Collection on Facebook)

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Subject: RE: Mike Seeger Biography: Music from the True Vine
From: Mark Ross
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 11:31 PM

Just read the book (twice). A great piece of work.

Mark Ross

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Subject: RE: Mike Seeger Biography: Music from the True Vine
From: Martha Burns
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 11:45 PM

And after you finish Bill Malone's book, read Ray Allen's GONE TO THE COUNTRY: THE NEW LOST CITY RAMBLERS AND THE FOLK MUSIC REVIVAL (2010), a really fascinating work that looks at the Ramblers', and Mike Seeger's, role in the larger folk revival.

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Subject: RE: Mike Seeger Biography: Music from the True Vine
From: GUEST,Roger Knowles
Date: 05 Apr 12 - 03:18 PM

Martha Burns,
As a Mike Seeger ( and the NLCR ) fan, thanks for drawing my attention to a book I was unaware of. I've just ordered it.
You are a new friend of mine.

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Subject: RE: Mike Seeger Biography: Music from the True Vine
From: open mike
Date: 05 Apr 12 - 04:29 PM

is there any mention of Tom Paley in this book?

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Subject: RE: Mike Seeger Biography: Music from the True Vine
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 05 Apr 12 - 04:39 PM

I've started the NLCR book -- if that's the one you mean, Open Mike -- and yes, of course Tom Paley's in there.

~ Becky in Tucson

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Subject: RE: Mike Seeger Biography: Music from the True Vine
From: Mark Ross
Date: 05 Apr 12 - 09:31 PM

Tom Paley is also mentioned in Malone's bio of Mike.

Mark Ross

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Subject: RE: Mike Seeger Biography: Music from the True Vine
From: Martha Burns
Date: 05 Apr 12 - 09:36 PM

Roger, I get so used to clicking "LIKE" on FaceBook, I'm at a loss here to know how to respond!

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