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Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson

Jacob Bloom 06 Dec 99 - 06:02 PM
Dick Waterman 06 Dec 99 - 01:45 AM
Seamus Kennedy 06 Dec 99 - 01:19 AM
Suzy Rothfield Thompson 05 Dec 99 - 10:36 PM
Liam's Brother 05 Dec 99 - 01:01 PM
Barry Finn 04 Dec 99 - 11:15 PM
Susanne (skw) 04 Dec 99 - 08:56 PM
Lisa Null 04 Dec 99 - 05:59 PM
Barry Finn 03 Dec 99 - 10:58 PM
RiGGy 03 Dec 99 - 10:52 PM
RiGGy 03 Dec 99 - 08:19 PM
Seamus Kennedy 03 Dec 99 - 12:22 AM
Sourdough 02 Dec 99 - 11:32 PM
Liam's Brother 02 Dec 99 - 10:20 PM
Liam's Brother 26 Oct 99 - 02:03 PM
Sandy Paton 26 Oct 99 - 01:55 PM
Songster Bob 26 Oct 99 - 01:10 PM
JedMarum 26 Oct 99 - 11:21 AM
kendall 26 Oct 99 - 10:36 AM
Liam's Brother 26 Oct 99 - 02:40 AM
Barry Finn 25 Oct 99 - 11:58 PM
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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Jacob Bloom
Date: 06 Dec 99 - 06:02 PM

As an audience member, I found the best thing about Peter Johnson concerts, after the music, was how easy it was to make friends at them. This was especially true at the concerts at the Joy of Movement center, where you sat on the floor. If you saw people you knew when you walked in the door, it was no problem to squeeze in next to them, but if you didn't, you sat down anywhere and joined in one of the conversations going on around you. The informality of sitting on the floor made it possible to start talking to people without seeming intrusive. I made many friends at those concerts, and at the singing parties that always followed them at one house in Cambridge or another. (There was also the woman I met at one of those parties - but that's not Peter's fault.)

Peter also sent out a newsletter describing the upcoming concerts. It contained some truly inspired typos. The best one was the time the band named "How To Change A Flat Tire" somehow became "How To Fix A Flat Trio".

Say hello to him for me!


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Dick Waterman
Date: 06 Dec 99 - 01:45 AM

We seem to have lost touch with each other over the years. I am now living in Oxford, Mississippi, and get to see Paul Rishell a few times a year at festivals.

I see Bonnie pretty often and she often asks about you as we say how much we miss Reeve . . .


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 06 Dec 99 - 01:19 AM

RiGGy, you must be the one and only Rick Rackin, concertina player extraordinaire. Too many big box players and not enough weebox players these days if you ask me. On the subject of Peter Johnson, do you remember the full story of Peter getting the Battering Ram a gig in Passim opening for Aztec Two-Step ( I think it was)? Anyway, one of the members of the Battering Ram, who shall remain nameless, had to take a wicked leak, so he left his bandmates on the stage and went behind the curtain where he found what he thought was a suitable empty vessel into which he could relieve himself. When he heard the sound of his widdling coming through the P.A. system, he realized he was actually peeing into one of Aztec Two-Step's conga drums which had been miked for sound. The lads on stage thought there was a phantom bodhranist who couldn't quite find the tempo. On the subject of Hamish Imlach and Peter Johnson, I was present at a great session one night with Peter, Hamish, the Sands family after their gig in the old Harp & Bard Pub in Norwood, MA. We pulled an all-nighter and finally passed out about 8:00a.m, and we woke at about 11:30 to the sounds and smell of Hamish Imlach making one of his famous hot Indian curries for breakfast.A hangover had no chance against one of Hamish's curries!


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Suzy Rothfield Thompson
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 10:36 PM

Wow! I always wondered what became of Peter Johnson. I am sure he doesn't remember me but I remember him vividly. I met him when I was in my late teens and was touring with the British ballad singer Frankie Armstrong. She made a wonderful connection with Peter when we were in the Boston area. This would have been in 1974, probably. It's great to hear that he is coming back into "the scene". I live in Berkeley Calif. so I will not be able to make it to Peter Johnson night, but I am sure it will be great! If you think of it, please give Peter my regards even though I know he won't remember me.


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 01:01 PM

Fact, folklore, fiction and mystery. How distinct are these?

I used to know the story of the Barry-Johnson nuputals years ago but the details have completely slipped from my mind. However, I'm inclined to be a disbeliever.

Why? Because Margaret was already married to an American.

Margaret stayed with me for 3 months and then again for another month in 1973-4. I negotiated for her with some pretty tough NYC bar owners and did a few opening spots at folk clubs like Lena's in Saratoga.

Another thing we did together was to record an interview of 6 or 8 hours in length which was bascially her life story. About 1982, I passed the tape on to Mick Moloney and asked him to find an archive for it. Sometime afterwards, I was staying at Mick's when we heard a (false) report of Margaret's passing. He got the tape out and played it from start to finish. Possibly on the tape but, more likely as a side comment when the wheels weren't rolling, Margaret made a statement that she would give up the music when her husband was finished with Hollywood.

Hollywood? Yes, Margaret confided in me that she was secretly married to the movie actor Robert Mitchum. Things, she said, were not going well for Robert and that she hoped he would soon come to his senses, leave Hollywood and return to her.

Not too long afterwards, Robert's career took off again when he appeared in a tv mini-series and, as far as I know, this long hoped-for reuniting of the lovers never did take place.

There, folks, you have it! I ask only that, if any of you meet Peter Johnson, that you do not reveal this story. Who knows what it could do to the man?

All the best,
Dan Milner


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Barry Finn
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 11:15 PM

Hi Lisa & others, I'll most likely be going to Peter's shindig on Tues. Dec 21(as posted above by Liam's Brother) & I'll bring along this thread for him. My singing partner Neil Downey also tells stories of Peter & Maggie trying to get boots for her in downtown Boston in the mist of a snowstorm trying, Peter trying to convince the salesperson to let her try them on barefooted the way she walked in & then trying to convince her to try them on.
Hi Songster Bob suprising enough Peter mentioned he still has tapes from yrs ago that he'd still like to record, but don't make book on it & please realize Peter's intention is only & always selfless & good, no grand, he just gets sidetracked through the years.
Yes Susanne you could say he was husbanded to Ms. Barry. And if Hamish Imlach devoted page to him you can bet there's a book that can be written.
During one of the Peter J. nights at Passim's (Peter MC'ing) after bring up Peter Kiro (sp?) he sat back on stage after probably going his usuall non stop 24-7, he fell asleep & started snoring so loud that Peter K had to stop performing to wake him but you had to see the love that he was woken by & that he woke up to. Barry


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 08:56 PM

I knew the name was familiar! Never met Peter, but Hamish Imlach devoted a whole page to him in his memoirs, including picture with chicken suit. Hamish also claims young Peter married Margaret Barry, then in her seventies, when she was threatened with deportation from the US because she didn't have a work permit. He does sound like one of life's gentlemen. - Susanne


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Lisa Null
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 05:59 PM

If Peter is out there, pass on my affection and fond memories of almost forty years standing. Does anyone remember his wonderful escapades with Margaret Barry--leading an escape over windowsills of tall buildings from an exploitive musical partner? Gallantry! I remember how much fun it was to play at Joy of Movement Center. Mostly I remember long talks by the Charles River.

--Lisa Null


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Barry Finn
Date: 03 Dec 99 - 10:58 PM

RiGGy, how could you? Peter aways dressed in style, even a bit outlandish at times but he'd never scare off anyone. I guess Kate wasn't used to seeing a dream man.
Hi Seamus, you were quite the bar band, you left Boston for the southard's & the Ol Village Coach House went belly up. Henry forgives you though. From an old Coach House regular. Barry


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: RiGGy
Date: 03 Dec 99 - 10:52 PM

BTW- the "other" Peter Johnson was the leading man in my 1976 production "THE WHALE SHOW", a semi-historical musical that married authentic ship's logs to traditional whaling songs. Born out of Cambridge's Proposition Theatre, it went on to tour hot spots like Mamaroneck[sp?], NY. Several other concertina players took over when I left, notably Jerry Epstein and Sandy Davis. The original musicians included Eliott Ribner, Steve Woodruff & me 'umble self. RiGGy


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: RiGGy
Date: 03 Dec 99 - 08:19 PM

Hello Seamus !! I last saw YOU in Monterey with my deaf son !! I miss the other Seami, Walker & Connelly, my old Boston Budi. The Battering Ram was the Plow Session group that used to play for Peter's occassional concerts. Peter used to use my tiny "pad" above Discount Records, at the very apex of Hahvahd Squayah, for the after-concert parties. Long, steep stairway up from the street. After the McGarrigles [sp?] concert, Kate was climing those stairs & met Peter coming down naked with toothpaste on his nipples and genitals..... she turned around and never came up...


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 03 Dec 99 - 12:22 AM

I used to sit in at sessions in the Plough with Johnny Beggan, Shay Walker, Declan Hunt and Clive Collins back in the '70's with my partner at the time, Tom O' Carroll. Peter Johnson was responsible for a lot of us getting gigs, and we were really grateful for them. he helped Tom and me get our first gig at Passim, even though we were a 'bar-band." Peter is one of nature's gentlemen, and I'm delighted to hear that he's back. God bless him. Seamus Kennedy


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Sourdough
Date: 02 Dec 99 - 11:32 PM

Kendall -

Your mention of Marshall Dodge reminded me his wonderful "Bert and I" albums. When I moved to Cambridge in 1963, I took a room in a house on Hilliard Street. We used to receive mail for Marshall Dodge (I was the only one who knew who he was). THey were requests, orders, for "Bert and I" but I had no idea how to reach him so presumably the orders never got filled.

His name came up the other day on NPR. THere was an interview with a monologist who's name refuses to run up to my fingers as I type but I recall that his most famous monolog was "Swimming to Cambodia" and that he is a sporadic regular on Prairie Home Companion. He credits Marshall Dodge with setting him on the route that became his profession.

I did know a Peter Johnson in Boston but he was a writer/actor for a children's program on Channel Five called Jabberwocky. I wonder if he is the same person you are talking about.

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 02 Dec 99 - 10:20 PM

Hi!

I'm very pleased to tell all of Peter's many friends that there was a sighting of him last night at the weekly Boston Folk & Traditional Singers' Club. I was busy doing a few clerical things when Shay Walker called to me and asked whether I knew Peter. He was sitting next to me. Overcome with sheer joy at seeing this unconventional wonderman for the first time in 20 or so years, I gave him a big bear hug and a kiss on the cheek. Peter had not shaved recently; I now understand and will be more considerate to Liam's Sister-in-Law in future.

Peter handed me a flyer (not a surprise, really) that advertizes a "Family Gathering with Xmas Carols, Spirituals, Folk Songs and Popular Antiquities" on Tuesday, 21DEC, 7 - 9PM at the First Congregational Church, 11 Garden Street, Cambridge. I hope all his Greater Boston friends can join him. Songster Bob should know that Peter intends to record a CD that night!

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 26 Oct 99 - 02:03 PM

Yes, Sandy. I remember the chicken suit.

Songster Bob, your master tape is sitting next to my master tape.

All the best,
DAn Milner


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 26 Oct 99 - 01:55 PM

After meeting Peter, probabl;y at Fox Hollow, he sent us a photograph of himself wearing a chicken suit and passing out advertising materials on the streets of Boston. Later we did a concert for him and partied in his basement apartment with other musicians. Great time! But what really impressed me was the impromptu dramatic recitation Peter did on the street before we went into the apartment. Absolutely brilliant! We've often wondered what happened to him. Glad to hear he's back and doing okay. Kooky? Sure, and truly wonderful.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Songster Bob
Date: 26 Oct 99 - 01:10 PM

Pleasant and Delightful, vols 1 & 2, were just one of Peter's projects. These were sampler records of local and not-so-local folks that were issued in the late 60s and early 70s. I went up to Boston and recorded some tracks for what would have been vol. 4 had it ever seen the light of day. Peter heard me sing a song at a Fox Hollow campfire and asked me to record it for the collection. Of course, if I'm going to Boston to record, it's going to be more than one song, even if he only uses that one, so I spent a Saturday mid-day singing and playing guitar and banjo, including a little home-made original banjo tune that I can't even remember how it goes. Whatever became of those master tapes, I wonder?

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: JedMarum
Date: 26 Oct 99 - 11:21 AM

I never ran across Peter, that I recall, but I do remember Passims and the Boston Folk Song Society. There was another club I played in Cambridge from time-to-time in the 80's called the Idler. Is that still around?

There was a bit of a folk drought in those days, most of the paying gigs were in the local gin mills. Folkies would have to apss themselves off as Pub singers! I played a few Happy Hours at Jonathan Swift's in Cambridge; is that place still there? I moved to Texas in '86 and lost touch with all these places.


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: kendall
Date: 26 Oct 99 - 10:36 AM

If you see him, tell him kendall morse remembers the evening at the Joy of Movement Center with my friend Marshall Dodge. Peter is one of the good guys.


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Subject: RE: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 26 Oct 99 - 02:40 AM

Amen. Peter is a gem.

He did more for folk music is Boston than anyone and he has always had a broad taste so everyone benefited. I met him through Margaret Barry who stayed with both of us when she came to the States.

He put me on in concert a few times as a solo and with my band, The Flying Cloud. This was in the mid-'70s when, in order to describle a group like The Bothy Band to virtually anyone, you would have to say something like "imagine if the Clancy Brothers and the Chieftains combined." I'm not kidding.

Peter was always good to the local singers and musicians. A lot of people who put on bigger names like to put down locals. Not Peter. He had no ego in that sense. He saw value in everyone.

The kookiness (and I'm not being unkind) Peter brought to the business of folk music allowed him to do things other people wouldn't touch. He would just go out and rent a hall, print up some flyers and take to the streets putting one in every coffee shop in Cambridge and one in the hand of everyone he met enroute... and it worked!

I'm going to be in Boston on 1DEC and I hope to run into him. It's great to hear he's back.

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: Boston's folk music man Peter Johnson
From: Barry Finn
Date: 25 Oct 99 - 11:58 PM

On another thread I mentioned Peter Johnson. Boston during the 70's & early 80's was experincing a folk music slump. There were a few coffeehouses, Passim's being probably the top of the crop & the Boston Folk Song Society these were organizations, there was one person who may have done more, on his own, than any of the other groups (maybe combined). This was Peter, he wasn't a hustler (quite the oppisite) he just loved to bring what he considered great music to the public because that's the music he loved to hear. He had no backing & made very little money. Kind of sad he was heir to the Johnson & Johnson kingdom & was disowned because of his unproductive life style. He was forever finding & bring over people like Maggie Barry, Sean Tyrell (who in a radio interview recently thanked Boston for the likes of Peter). There's not many of the early super groups from across the pond that hadn't been hosted by Peter. Peter hosted parties for any visitor & found a spot on stage to help them kick off what hopefully would be a tour. Always was putting on benifits at Passim's that became known as Peter Johnson night, all the local talent would turn out for these. After the slump ended Peter disappeared (maybe 15 yrs ago). I don't think that there's an old coffeehouse around here that if you listen hard enough doesn't speak his name in whispered tones. Part of why I'm posting this is that when I get together with old friends Peter name pops up more ofter than not & sometimes just the memory of some of those long ago concerts or parties envokes thoughts of him. The next reason is that a couple of weeks ago I walked into our local singers session & Peter was there ready to sing, he said that he might be thinking of getting back to music maybe by coming through the back door (he's a bit shy & wouldn't think himself more than a long ago stranger in from the cold). I felt awful that he thought he'd have to sneak back to the music he helped to keep to alive & IMHO helped Boston to be the folk mecca it is today. And I quess the last reason was to let some of those that knew him, know that he's OK & he's finally come home. Barry


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