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Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)

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A GOB IS A SLOB
KAFOOZELUM 2
TETERBORO TOWER


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BrooklynJay 30 Sep 16 - 11:43 PM
Desert Dancer 01 Oct 16 - 02:38 AM
Desert Dancer 01 Oct 16 - 02:41 AM
GUEST,Kenny B Sans Kuki 01 Oct 16 - 06:55 AM
GUEST,Bootleg 01 Oct 16 - 07:59 AM
Lighter 01 Oct 16 - 08:26 AM
Leadfingers 01 Oct 16 - 09:13 AM
Mrrzy 01 Oct 16 - 10:09 AM
GUEST,HiLo 01 Oct 16 - 10:31 AM
Acme 01 Oct 16 - 11:28 AM
Bill D 01 Oct 16 - 11:30 AM
John on the Sunset Coast 01 Oct 16 - 11:32 AM
voyager 01 Oct 16 - 12:37 PM
Donuel 01 Oct 16 - 12:52 PM
GUEST,keberoxu 01 Oct 16 - 02:24 PM
Thomas Stern 01 Oct 16 - 03:23 PM
GUEST,Larry the Radio Guy 01 Oct 16 - 09:07 PM
Charlie Baum 01 Oct 16 - 09:40 PM
oldhippie 02 Oct 16 - 04:54 PM
GUEST 03 Oct 16 - 08:30 AM
EBarnacle 04 Oct 16 - 07:53 PM
Phil Cooper 05 Oct 16 - 08:24 AM
Waddon Pete 06 Oct 16 - 12:03 PM
BrooklynJay 07 Oct 16 - 09:55 PM
BrooklynJay 08 Oct 16 - 03:26 PM
GUEST,Dan Aguiar 22 Dec 16 - 07:18 AM
Charley Noble 22 Dec 16 - 10:49 PM
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Subject: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920 - 2016)
From: BrooklynJay
Date: 30 Sep 16 - 11:43 PM

Another legend in the folk world passed away today. Oscar Brand was 96.

He and my late mother were college classmates at Brooklyn College, Class of 1942. He was also the inspiration for Sesame Street's "Oscar the Grouch." His radio show on WNYC-AM had been running since 1945.

An amazing career, to be sure.


Jay


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920 - 2016)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 02:38 AM

Oscar Brand, Folk Singer Whose Radio Show Twanged for Decades, Dies at 96

By Douglas Martin
The New York Times
OCT. 1, 2016

Oscar Brand, the lanky, affable, gravelly-voiced folk singer and songwriter whose weekly on-air hootenanny was the longest-running radio show in history with a single host, died on Friday at his home in Great Neck, N.Y. He was 96.

Doug Yeager, Mr. Brand's personal manager, confirmed his death. He said the cause was pneumonia.

In addition to performing and recording prolifically, Mr. Brand wrote books, articles and the scores for Broadway musicals and documentary films. He also hosted television shows. But it was his radio show, "Folksong Festival," for which he was best known.

Every week for more than 70 years, with the easy, familiar voice of a friend, Mr. Brand invited listeners of the New York public radio station WNYC to his quirky, informal combination of American music symposium, barn dance, cracker-barrel conversation, songwriting session and verbal horseplay. Mr. Brand's last show aired on Saturday, Mr. Yeager said.

Everyone who was anyone in folk music dropped by. Woody Guthrie — Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, as Mr. Brand called his rambling friend — was known to burst in unexpectedly to try out a new song. Bob Dylan told a riveting tale about his boyhood in a carnival, not a word of it true.

The music roamed hither and yon, and back again — from fiddlers to folk songs of the Appalachians to ethnic songs of the big cities. In the 1940s Mr. Brand played what were then known as "race records" by the likes of Memphis Minnie and Tampa Red, precursors of rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll.

He also established his own one-of-a-kind reputation. In 1959, The New York Times called him "one of radio's most genial fanatics."

His radio career began in December 1945, after he wrote a letter to New York stations offering to present a program of Christmas songs he claimed most people had never heard. WNYC, which at the time was owned by the city, accepted the challenge. His song about Santa's distinctive body odor proved his point.

At the show's end, WNYC's program director asked Mr. Brand what he was doing the next week. He boldly replied that he'd be right back in the same studio in the Municipal Building.

So began what Guinness World Records eventually verified as radio's longest-running show with a single host. (It beat out Alistair Cooke's "Letter From America," which ran for just under 58 years.)

Mr. Brand never had a contract, but he kept coming back. His employers particularly appreciated that he never asked for compensation — nor did he ever receive any.

His guests included the Weavers (who took their name from a listener's suggestion), Lead Belly, Judy Collins, Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Harry Chapin, Emmylou Harris, B.B. King and Woody Guthrie's son, Arlo, who as a teenager gave one of the earliest performances of his song "Alice's Restaurant" on Mr. Brand's show.

In 1995, Mr. Brand won a Peabody Award for "more than 50 years in service to the music and messages of folk performers and fans around the world."

Mr. Brand's own singing voice had an offhand (and sometimes off-key) authenticity, which he applied to old, new and sometimes deliberately mangled songs, both on and off the air. He was also an accomplished songwriter. Doris Day's version of his song "A Guy Is a Guy" reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1952.

He scored ballets for Agnes de Mille and commercials for Log Cabin Syrup and Cheerios. He wrote music for documentary films, published songbooks and hosted the children's television shows "The First Look" and "Spirit of '76" as well as, from 1963 to 1967, the Canadian television series "Let's Sing Out."

He also wrote, with Paul Nassau, the music and lyrics for two shows that made it to Broadway, although neither had a long run: "A Joyful Noise" (1966) and "The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N (1968), based on stories by Leo Rosten. He was curator of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and served on the advisory panel that helped develop "Sesame Street."

He was born on Feb. 7, 1920, on a wheat farm near Winnipeg, Manitoba. His father was an interpreter to Indians for the Hudson's Bay Company and later ran a theatrical supply company and a pawnshop.

Young Oscar fell in love with music while listening to player-piano rolls. His family moved to Minneapolis when he was 7, then to Chicago and finally to Brooklyn, where they sought treatment for Oscar, who had been born with a missing calf muscle.

He graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, then roamed the country with his banjo, working on farms along the way. He later graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in psychology.

In 1942 he joined the Army, where he worked in the psychology section of an induction center and edited a newspaper for psychiatric patients. After his discharge, he moved to Greenwich Village and tried to insinuate himself into the world of music. One of his first initiatives was writing a book called "How to Play the Guitar Better Than Me."

Few have sung and strummed more prolifically. The hundreds of songs he recorded include election songs, children's songs, vaudeville songs, sports car songs, drinking songs, outlaw songs and lascivious ditties about Nellie the Barmaid.

Mr. Yeager, Mr. Brand's manager for 40 years, described him "as one of the strongest, most indefatigable men I've ever known."

"At 90 years old, I'd call and I'd say, 'Oscar, where are you?'" According to Mr. Yeager, Mr. Brand replied, "'I'm up in the tree, cutting some limbs.'"

Mr. Brand is survived by his wife of 46 years, Karen, with whom he had a son, Jordan; three other children, Jeannie, Eric and James, from a previous marriage that ended in divorce; and nine grandchildren.

In 1950 Mr. Brand was listed in "Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television," a pamphlet that contained the names of artists who supposedly had Communist connections. Unlike some of his colleagues, he was never asked to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (he insisted that he never would have cooperated if he had been), and while he did lose some work, he continued to make money from his songwriting.

He also invited blacklisted performers like Pete Seeger to be on his show, with no opposition from WNYC. He invited Burl Ives, too, even though he had alienated many of his fellow folk singers by naming names to the House committee. The singer Dave Van Ronk, in his autobiography, "The Mayor of MacDougal Street" (2005), recalled taking Mr. Brand to task for this, only to be told, "Dave, we on the left do not blacklist" — a response that, Mr. Van Ronk recalled, "put me right in my place."

A few years before Mr. Brand was targeted by "Red Channels," he had been accused of playing Nazi music by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, whose third and last term was ending around the time Mr. Brand's radio career was beginning. Called to the mayor's office, Mr. Brand explained that the German songs he had played were actually centuries old.

As pleased as the mayor was to hear that Nazis had not infiltrated the municipal radio station, he was even more delighted to learn that Mr. Brand worked without pay.


~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920 - 2016)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 02:41 AM

Oodles on YouTube: Oscar Brand search results


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920 - 2016)
From: GUEST,Kenny B Sans Kuki
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 06:55 AM

Thank Becky for your post. Ive been a fan of Oscars since 1973


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920 - 2016)
From: GUEST,Bootleg
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 07:59 AM

R.I.P. Oscar. Another important figure has gone


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920 - 2016)
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 08:26 AM

I hate to admit it, but Brand's albums were a major youthful influence.

Did his voice really become "gravelly" in recent years. It used to be flawless.

He was still going strong at 96. That's the good news.

But the sad news is still sad.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920 - 2016)
From: Leadfingers
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 09:13 AM

I still do songs 'collected' from one of his 'Bawdy Songs' albums !


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: Mrrzy
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 10:09 AM

Grew up with his Bawdy Songs & Backroom Ballads... didn't encounter his political stuff till I went looking for those lyrics, when the Internets and the Google happened. He was such a talent, he will be missed. BrooklynJay, I would love to hear stories from your beloved late mom about his college days!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 10:31 AM

He did an awful lot for folk music. A sad loss indeed.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: Acme
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 11:28 AM

I met him back in the late 1970s, I was hoping to get the Park Service to work with him on collecting immigrant songs to use in a program or exhibits at Ellis Island (where I was working at the time). Brand was willing, but the NPS dragged their feet and I had to let that one go. Too bad, it would have been fascinating.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: Bill D
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 11:30 AM

Having heard his stuff (including the Bawdy Songs) for years, I was almost startled some years ago when he turned up at our (FSGW) monthly concert in full voice and feisty. He was 'old' then..

I guess I'll go down to the catacombs and dust off a couple of his LPs.....


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 11:32 AM

In the 1960s I used to listen to Brand's program in Los Angeles (by transcription, I surmise) on KPFK or some other now long defunct FM radio station that had the temerity to feature regular folk music programing back then.
I was beginning to think Mr Brand would defy the universe and live forever. In a sense he will.
RIP Oscar Brand.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: voyager
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 12:37 PM

Oscar Brand's -
Music of USA Elections

is a part of my collection.

Thank you for a life in music, well-lived.
voyager


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: Donuel
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 12:52 PM

A remarkable man with remarkable friends.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: GUEST,keberoxu
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 02:24 PM

Seventy-plus years without compensation! They broke the mold when they made this man.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: Thomas Stern
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 03:23 PM

RIP Oscar Brand.

In addition to the WNYC broadcast, he hosted a 15 min. transcribed
program THE WORLD OF FOLK MUSIC, sponsored by the US Dept of Health,
Education and Social Security. This program started with BURL IVES as host, but Oscar Brand assumed that position after a dozen shows. The 100th show was in May 1963 - there were at least 239 recordings.

In the 1970's DOUBLEDAY Media produced Oscar Brand in a 20-disc series CELEBRATE AMERICA-An American Folk Song Archive.
If anyone has details of the shows, please let us know. Thanks!

Myriad commercial recordings, starting in the 1940's. Information
about some of the early discs, and the Audio Fidelity Bawdy series
are addressed on other threads.

I believe his archive and papers are at the Library of Congress.

Thomas.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: GUEST,Larry the Radio Guy
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 09:07 PM

I used to watch "Let's Sing Out" on Canadian television in the 1960's, which he hosted. He introduced me to the likes of Josh White, Lonnie Johnson, Dave Van Ronk, and so many others. He was a major influence in getting me interested in folk music.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 01 Oct 16 - 09:40 PM

When Oscar Brand was in his eighties, he used to come to the Washington DC area regularly to visit his daughter Jeanne and his grandchildren. FSGW snagged him for several concerts during these visits. He always had interesting songs, great talk, and a bubbling personality.

I remember the first time I heard him--it was on Robert Sherman's "Woody's Children" program on WQXR (which ironically has merged with WNYC to become New York City's only remaining classical music station).

I remember also his long and close friendship with the late Jean Ritchie. Although most of us associate Jean with Kentucky and Appalachia, Jean and her husband George Pickow lived for many years in Port Washington, NY, not far from Oscar Brand's homes in Manhasset or Great Neck. Jean's son Jon Pickow was Oscar's producer/archivist for many years.

--Charlie Baum


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: oldhippie
Date: 02 Oct 16 - 04:54 PM

One of my all time favorites. One of my first LPs was Oscars' "Sports Car Songs For Big Wheels". His knowledge of music was unmatched. I had the pleasure of attending a concert of his at The Sounding Board. A one of a kind legend, he will be missed.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Oct 16 - 08:30 AM

Some of us first ran across Oscar Brand for his bawdy song recordings, back when no one was doing such recordings. Then we learned more about him for his work in jump-starting folk music after his service in World War 2. And then we grew to appreciate the decades in which he produced a folk music radio show out of NYC. He never bowed to political pressure during the McCarthy Period and he was a mentor to generations of younger singers. Respect!

Charlie Ipcar


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: EBarnacle
Date: 04 Oct 16 - 07:53 PM

WNYC ran a tribute hour to him this past weekend.

Oscar Brand tribute


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 05 Oct 16 - 08:24 AM

I recall some public television shows he hosted in the 1970's. I think there were three that I saw on the Chicago station. One was sea songs, one was about mining, and I forget the topic of the third show. His guests on the shows included BB king, playing an acoustic guitar, Tom Paxton, Jean Richie, The Beers Family (fist time I heard Dumbarton's Drums), Dave Van Ronk, Leon Bibb, and the rock band, McKendree Spring. I wonder if the shows were archived. I know PBS filmed some Philadelphia Folk festival programs from around the same time, and heard that the tapes were destroyed after the second re-broadcast by contractual obligation. I hope that wasn't the case with the Brand shows.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 06 Oct 16 - 12:03 PM

A great loss. An amazing guy and a one-off. I have added his name to the "In Memoriam" thread.

My condolences to family and friends.

RIP

Peter


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: BrooklynJay
Date: 07 Oct 16 - 09:55 PM

It seems very few of Oscar Brand's songs are in the DT. Pity. There are some nice ones out there.

One of my favorites would have to be Appendectomy, Country Style (The McBurney Square), a rollicking square-dance number where the lyrics tell you how to perform - that's right - an appendectomy! It's named for Dr. Charles McBurney and is on the 1960 album For Doctors Only. He used to play it on his radio show from time to time and would mention how he heard the song once guided someone through this life-saving operation!

Anyway, the entire album is on YouTube, and is definitely worth a listen:

Oscar Brand - For Doctors Only

Track List:

1. How To Be A Doctor
2. Appendectomy, Country-Style (The McBurney Square)
3. The Ob-Gyn
4. Charming White Caps
5. Television Doctors
6. Miracle Drugs
7. My First Day at Med School
8. The Old GP
9. Here Comes the AMA
10. Conventional Behavior
11. Surgery
12. Doctor's Wife
13. Medical Life Calypso
14. Conquest of Disease

A note to Mrrzy (who posted earlier in this thread): Sadly, my mother had no real stories to tell about their days at Brooklyn College; she said that they knew each other only casually and were not close, personal friends. I believe she said they may have had one or two discussions about music (she was a folkie), but nothing much more than that. She told me this over 40 years ago, and it was at a time when folk music had receded a bit from my life, so I didn't question her any further (she died in 1987). Oh, I could kick myself in retrospect for not following up on this, because I remember her also mentioning in passing, "Oh, and I saw The Almanac Singers, too..." Aaaargh!!

I still have her college yearbook. Several years ago, I contacted Oscar Brand via email, related the above story and sent scans of the pages with my mom's picture and his. His response was quite cordial and he said he had many happy memories of that time in his life.


Jay


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: BrooklynJay
Date: 08 Oct 16 - 03:26 PM

A footnote (and warning) to my previous post: While the album mentioned above can indeed be heard at that link, it's presented as a "tribute" by a guy who inserts himself between each song and is, IMHO, just plain annoying.


Jay


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: GUEST,Dan Aguiar
Date: 22 Dec 16 - 07:18 AM

I remember how Oscar shared his talent, contacts and experiences with so many other performers. As a member of the X-Seaman's Institute we joined with him in presenting a television special recounting the history and appeal of the South St. Seaport when few New Yorkers were even aware of the site. Of course we presented Oscar in several concerts at the Seaport and in turn he invited us to some of his special presentations.

John Townley and I got some timely extra income backing up Oscar and some of his many friends on albums he generously invited when opportunities presented. I especially remember two days of hectic studio work with Oscar and John recording every song version found in his book "Songs of 76."

Always a pleasure to talk with and a true gentleman in my memories.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Oscar Brand (1920-2016)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 22 Dec 16 - 10:49 PM

Becky-

Thanks for your comprehensive introduction to this thread.

Charlie Ipcar


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