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William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000

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Liam's Brother 24 Dec 00 - 04:18 PM
Peter Kasin 24 Dec 00 - 05:44 PM
raredance 25 Dec 00 - 08:55 AM
Dave (the ancient mariner) 25 Dec 00 - 09:05 AM
Sandy Paton 25 Dec 00 - 09:43 AM
Barry Finn 25 Dec 00 - 12:05 PM
lamarca 26 Dec 00 - 11:34 AM
Melani 26 Dec 00 - 10:10 PM
GUEST,Lou Killen 27 Dec 00 - 12:18 AM
GUEST,yornoc Bob Conroy 27 Dec 00 - 11:40 PM
Peter Kasin 28 Dec 00 - 02:26 AM
Elise 28 Dec 00 - 02:36 AM
Bullytanana 28 Dec 00 - 11:33 AM
Liam's Brother 31 Dec 00 - 02:47 PM
GUEST,David Jones 31 Dec 00 - 06:14 PM
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Subject: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 24 Dec 00 - 04:18 PM

William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000

It's with great sorrow that I pass on the word that William Main Doerflinger, folk song collector and author-compiler of Shantymen and Shantyboys (later reissued as Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman) died at 6:45AM on December 23rd at his home in New Jersey. Bill died after a stroke which followed a recent operation. He was 91.

Bill told me that he started collecting folk songs as a student at Princeton University. His first field trip was to Nova Scotia and his first informant was the bus driver who drove him to his first night's accommodation. Bill's specialty was, of course, the songs he found in coastal New England and the Canadian Maritimes, and in New York at Sailors' Snug Harbor and other places. They were the repertoire of deepwater mariners and offshore fishermen, and lumbermen who felled trees in northern forests.

Bill and my wife, Bonnie, befriended each other 20 years ago. It was through her that I had the good fortune to meet him. Bill was courtly, kind and witty, yet he could be a "no-nonsense" man when it was appropriate. He was, by profession, a book editor and, consequently, someone familiar with both truth and fiction. After I asked him to look over the notes of my CD, Irish Ballads & Songs of the Sea, I became the beneficiary of his great knowledge and simple frankness when clearly set me straight on a few points. We were just about to embark on another project. Bonnie and I had dinner with him last month and enjoyed a delightful evening filled with talk about folk songs and world travel.

Bill Doerflinger was the dean of sea music and on of America's great folk song collectors and scholars, an irreplaceable person who sought out and found the true songs of maritime workers and, fortunately for us, recorded them for our enjoyment. We will be forever in his debt.

Dan Milner

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: Peter Kasin
Date: 24 Dec 00 - 05:44 PM

Thank you for letting us know about his passing, Dan. I had the pleasure of meeting him on two occasions. The first time was around 1992 or '93, when he walked into the maritime museum in San Francisco while I was working my shift at the museum desk. He asked how to contact the giftstore, because his book on chanteys was recently reprinted. After I asked him what book that was, I was astounded by his answer, that he was William Main Doerflinger. I knew that book as a classic source of chanteys, but had no idea the author was still alive. His manner was courteous and genuinely modest. In 1998 his daughter, who lives in the bay area, contacted me about having him come to one of the monthly chantey sings at the Hyde Street Pier. We arranged for a book signing and lecture at the chantey sing. It was arranged that three of our local singers would perform a few songs of Mr. Doerflinger's choosing, at different points during his program. What a great night it was, with a turnout of about 150 people. Bill Doerflinger lectured on the background to several songs. Dick Holdstock sung "Off To Sea Once More" and "Roll, Julia, Roll," Shay Black sung "The Leaving Of Liverpool," and Skip Henderson sang "Paddy West." Revell Carr, Jr., who hosted the chantey sings from 1992-1996, came up from Santa Barbara for the program, and many other local singers turned out for this night. Mr. Doerflinger then signed books, and stayed for much of the open chantey sing part of the evening. He was a truly gracious and modest man, and it was a great honor to have met him, and to have had him at our chantey sing.


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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: raredance
Date: 25 Dec 00 - 08:55 AM

I never met him nor heard him sing, but his book and thus some of his wealth of knowledge made it out here to the prairie. There has to have been so much more that he knew that never made it into the books. It is a loss to us all. There are so few of the 20th Century song collectors left.

rich r

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)
Date: 25 Dec 00 - 09:05 AM

Sad indeed. Slipped yer cable and underway to heaven. Luck to ye Bill mate. Yours, Aye. Dave

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 25 Dec 00 - 09:43 AM

One of the first printed collections I ever bought was Doerflinger's Shantymen and Shantyboys, and about 45 or 50 years later, he signed it for me at one of the Pinewoods gatherings in Falls Village, CT. He then encouraged me to get the new (paperback) edition, as he had made some significant changes. That will explain, JoeClone, why you found two copies of the book in the guest room shelves when you were here. He was a remarkable scholar and, perhaps even more important, a classic gentleman. His work enlightened and enriched us all.


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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: Barry Finn
Date: 25 Dec 00 - 12:05 PM

Thanks Dan, he must've been quite the guy. We folkies were all blessed to have such a man as Bill among us. I only saw him a few times walking about at Mystic during the festivals taping, doing what he has always done, collecting music. Hugill must've thought the world of him, in his intro to his Shanties From The Seven Seas, Bill's gets referenced to almost every 3rd or 4th page. I've read (& don't remember where) that most of the modern day scholars considered him to be one of the best & most accurate of the folk music researchers/collectors. I guess he can now take his place with the rest of the Titians, he's probably one of the last. Barry

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: lamarca
Date: 26 Dec 00 - 11:34 AM

Thank you, Dan, for passing along the news. I found the new edition of Mr. Doerflinger's collection at the Smithsonian American History bookshop a number of years ago, and snapped it up. I then kept finding good copies of it in used bookstores, buying them and giving them to friends as gifts. He gave us singers of traditional work songs a true treasure. I am sorry for his passing, but glad for his long and rich life, and for the gifts his scholarship gave to us.

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: Melani
Date: 26 Dec 00 - 10:10 PM

As one of many people standing in line with a book to be signed at the 1998 chantey sing, I assumed he would just scribble his name in the front. Instead, he took the time to find out my name and write a personal message. I'm really grateful to have been there, and for all his years of work collecting songs I would never have heard otherwise.

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: GUEST,Lou Killen
Date: 27 Dec 00 - 12:18 AM

Thank's Dan, for the personal post. It's good to see the tributes here at Mudcat. Sandy Paton is very right, he was a true and gentle man. At one of the NY Pinewoods Week-ends some year's ago I had some CD's for sale, among them "Sailors, Ships & Chanteys" on which is "The Leaving of Liverpool". Bill was there and I had to apologise profusely for my sleeve notes regarding the song. I had stated that it had been collected by Alan Lomax, from a Captain Tayleur (who, by chance, was also living in Sailor's Snug Harbor on Staten Island). I realized my error immediately I read the sleeve notes AFTER they had been printed and the CD's duplicated. He just smiled and said, " long as you sing the words I collected, then I'll know where you got it from." A true and generous gentleman. May he rest in peace.

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: GUEST,yornoc Bob Conroy
Date: 27 Dec 00 - 11:40 PM

Back in the Spring of 1975 the folk quartet Stout(comprised at that time of Bill Grau, Geoff Kaufman, Frank Hendricks and myself) was in need of learning a large number of sea songs in short order. Our crash course consisted of studing Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman by William Main Doerflinger. Mr Doerflinger,s collection of shanties and fo'c'sle songs pulled us through several nautical gigs that we obtained as a result of singing our entire (eight song) repitoire of sea songs on a fine May morning on pier 15 at the South Street Seaport. A few years past, and Stout was appearing at the kick off of National Maritime book week at Rockafeller Center. We finished our part of the program with Leave Her, Johnnie. As we were packing up our instruments a gentleman walked up to Frank Hendricks and said 'I enjoyed your singing of my arrangement of Leave Her, Johnnie.' Frank said "I'm sorry sir, that was William Doerflinger's arrangement.' 'I'm Bill Doerflinger' replied the gentleman. The members of Stout then joined Bill Doerflinger for lunch at the Rainbow Room. You see, he had been invited as the keynote speaker for the N.M. bookweek event. We were fortunate to work with Mr. Doerflinger on a number of occasions during the following fifteen years. He was also kind enough to write the liner notes for our album Deep Water Shanties and Fo'c'sle Songs. Bill Doerflinger was truly a gentleman and a scholar. On New Years eve Bill Grau, Frank Hendricks and I will be singing for First Night at Sailors Snug Harbor on Staten Island. The evening will close with Leave Her Johnnie.

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: Peter Kasin
Date: 28 Dec 00 - 02:26 AM

Please keep us posted as soon as anyone finds out when and where the memorial service will be. Thanks.

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: Elise
Date: 28 Dec 00 - 02:36 AM

I think it's a fitting tribute that a large number of people hung out for the '98 Chantey sing and listened to this amazing man! It was cold as a witch's naughty bits, and the Eureka was packed nonetheless. I felt honored at the time to hear this man speak, and I continue to feel lucky to have met him.

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: Bullytanana
Date: 28 Dec 00 - 11:33 AM

'Fair Winds' to you Bill. We are all outward bound towards Fiddlers Green, some now some later but we will all meet for a great 'Gam' and won't that be a happy meeting.

Farewell Dear Friend Frank E. Woerner

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 02:47 PM

The New York Times of December 31st contained an obituary of Bill Doerflinger. Knowing that today is the actual end of the 20th Century, the timing is fitting. With Bill's passing, this truly is the end of an era for maritime music. Here is an extract:

DOERFLINGER – William M. Died on Saturday, December 23, 2000, at Fellowship Village in Basking Ridge, NJ. He was 90. Born in New York City, he was a longtime resident of Convent Station before moving to Fellowship Village in 1999. In World War II he served in North Africa and Italy in the Office of War Information. During a long career as an editor at MacMillan and E. P. Dutton, he edited hundred of books, including works by Woody Guthrie, Francois Sagan and Sir Edmund Hillary. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard, Mr. Doerflinger wrote Shantymen and Shantyboys: Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman (1951), an important collection of folk songs collected mainly on New York's waterfront and in Nova Scotia… A memorial service will be held January 20, 2001 at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, 21 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, NJ at 11 AM.

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Subject: RE: William Main Doerflinger 1909-2000
From: GUEST,David Jones
Date: 31 Dec 00 - 06:14 PM

During the 1970s, Bill Doerflinger spent some summers in Gloucester Massachusetts, a town full of heroic and amazing stories of old time and modern day,( The Perfect Storm ), fishermen. Bill would turn up at The Winds of Change folk club, which I was involved with in those days, along w/ Peter Marston and Charles O'Hegarty, and we would ask him to say a few words related to Gloucester folklore. It was sometimes a mistake to ask Bill to say a "few" words, because he became very involved w/ his subject, however. his story of the Ghostly Crew was always spellbinding. The song is in his book and as for the story, Peter Marston still tells it w/ full local color. Bill gave me a signed copy of his great book, which I will always treasure. We were all lucky to know him. David Jones.

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