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Obit: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame) - 2013

Stefan Wirz 09 May 03 - 02:56 PM
Stefan Wirz 13 May 03 - 02:02 PM
Bill D 13 May 03 - 04:12 PM
fretless 13 May 03 - 04:53 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 13 May 03 - 05:04 PM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 13 May 03 - 07:20 PM
Padre 13 May 03 - 07:45 PM
Jeri 13 May 03 - 08:50 PM
JedMarum 14 May 03 - 01:10 AM
JedMarum 22 May 03 - 09:22 AM
Jeri 22 May 03 - 05:16 PM
JedMarum 22 May 03 - 05:35 PM
Jeri 22 May 03 - 05:39 PM
GUEST,Sourdough 23 May 03 - 03:41 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 23 May 03 - 06:06 AM
JedMarum 23 May 03 - 09:25 AM
fretless 23 May 03 - 09:45 AM
GUEST,Robin Greenstein 29 Jul 09 - 07:25 PM
GUEST,Kendall 29 Jul 09 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,fretless 29 Jul 09 - 10:11 PM
Art Thieme 29 Jul 09 - 11:55 PM
Ross Campbell 30 Jul 09 - 07:43 AM
Jeri 30 Jul 09 - 08:57 AM
GUEST,iancarterb 31 Jul 09 - 12:13 AM
Guy Wolff 31 Jul 09 - 09:37 PM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 01 Aug 09 - 08:43 PM
GUEST,Christopher Kox, San Francisco 16 Sep 09 - 11:16 PM
GUEST,Nancy McDowell, Allan's Partner & Co-Musicia 10 Jan 10 - 09:58 PM
Desert Dancer 11 Jan 10 - 09:03 AM
Desert Dancer 12 Jan 10 - 09:02 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 12 Jan 10 - 11:15 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 12 Jan 10 - 11:38 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 12 Jan 10 - 08:15 PM
Desert Dancer 12 Jan 10 - 08:26 PM
GUEST,Zephyr 12 Dec 10 - 04:53 PM
Martha Burns 14 Dec 10 - 01:07 AM
Mark Ross 14 Dec 10 - 02:53 PM
Martha Burns 14 Dec 10 - 03:24 PM
GUEST,Terri Thal 20 Feb 11 - 02:04 PM
GUEST 29 Jul 11 - 11:55 PM
GUEST,Anon 19 Sep 11 - 07:06 AM
GUEST,john f weldon 19 Sep 11 - 08:35 AM
GUEST,Dave in Michigan 20 Sep 11 - 02:16 PM
Bat Goddess 25 Oct 13 - 09:48 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 25 Oct 13 - 11:20 AM
Jeri 25 Oct 13 - 11:37 AM
Padre 25 Oct 13 - 05:30 PM
Thomas Stern 25 Oct 13 - 08:18 PM
Elmore 25 Oct 13 - 08:22 PM
Joe Offer 26 Oct 13 - 04:34 PM
Jeri 27 Oct 13 - 12:35 PM
Janie 03 Nov 13 - 05:42 PM
Elmore 03 Nov 13 - 08:18 PM
Mark Ross 03 Nov 13 - 09:09 PM
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Subject: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Stefan Wirz
Date: 09 May 03 - 02:56 PM

took the few facts I could find about the man and added an Allan Block discography to my site at http://www.wirz.de/music/block.htm

I know there are quite a few people out here who should be able to give additional info/stories about this fiddling icon of folk music!


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Stefan Wirz
Date: 13 May 03 - 02:02 PM

noticed that my postings on weekends always fall to the ground like lead - seems to me most of the mudcatters do their mudcatting during working week, huh ?! Can't imagine Allan Block's uninteresting to mudcatters ;-)
the long and the short of it: refresh


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Bill D
Date: 13 May 03 - 04:12 PM

I haven't seen Allan Block since 1978 or so, but I was give a belt made by him a few years ago.

My memory of his performance at The Red Fox Inn in Bethesda, MD is filled with awe at the sheer power of the man to hold an audience...but he doesn't seem to need to wander far from home anymore...sure wish he did!


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: fretless
Date: 13 May 03 - 04:53 PM

I have a nearly worn out pair of Block knock-off sandals at home, purchased on Cape Cod four or five years ago. Not nearly as good as the original, though, of which I got my first pair in '62 or '63. You could describe them as minimalist shoe art -- just enough leather atop to hold the soles and all the rest was feet and air.

The first time I heard Allan play was on WBAI, perhaps on Billy Faier's Saturday night program, Midnight Special. What a wonderful sound he could draw from a fiddle!


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 13 May 03 - 05:04 PM

I knew Allan back in his sandal shop days... it seemed like there were always informal jam sessions going on there. And then, there must be a ton of people who remember him fro mthe Eisteddfod in North Dartmouth, Mass. He'd have a table set up, but it seemed like a rude interruption to try to buy something because he was usually jamming with other musicians. When I was running a concert series at the Stamford Museum, in Connecticut, I booked him a couple of times and he did two of the most memorable concerts I offered there. Allan was an "aw shucks" type of person... never made much of a fuss about his talent as a fiddler, singer, or sandal maker... a truly enjoyable, generous person..

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 13 May 03 - 07:20 PM

Allan's still out there. He lives about 15 miles from here, though I mostly see him at festivals elsewhere! He's a fine man, still fiddling and still making sandals!


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Padre
Date: 13 May 03 - 07:45 PM

I ran into Allan Block in his 'winter' home in St. Augustine FL in about 1980, when I was at NAS Jacksonville. I heard this wonderful fiddle playing coming from the old city part (near the Old Jail, I think), and lo and behold, there was Allan, playing up a storm.

Padre


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Jeri
Date: 13 May 03 - 08:50 PM

He had a booth at NEFFA (Natick, MA) two weeks ago. I bought a pair of sandals from him at Old Songs in '92, and they're just getting broken in. Jerry, I know what you mean about not wanting to interrupt his playing to buy something.

He's usually at Old Songs, and there's usually a session at his booth. There HAS been in the past, but I haven't noticed the booth sessions in these later years. I probably just missed 'em.


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: JedMarum
Date: 14 May 03 - 01:10 AM

Well I'll be darned! I am happy to hear Allan is still out there fiddling and more. I played a coffeehouse with Allan many years ago in Maynard Massachusetts. He was struggling with his 5th string tuner and asked the audience if anyone had a small screw driver. I handed him my pocket knife, which did the trick - and before he handed it back he said, "Oh my. This is a Barlow knife. I know a song about a Barlow knife and I've never ever come across a real one before!" Well, I didn't think that odl pocket knife was so special to me, but since he found it so I was pleased to give it to him. You'd think I'd done th emost amazing and generous thing! He just went on about it. Played his song, and told the story.

Years later I was at a festival in New Hampshire and was just coming into the park as Allan was on-stage. He was telling the Barlow knife story - and how this fella out in Maynard MA gave him a real Barlow knife, and he was still caryying it! LOL - what a trip. I told my friend, "hey he's talking about me!" but friend wasn't impressed.

Anyway - that's my Alan Block story.

If ya see him, please remember me to him. I only saw/heard that one night and a bit of the festival. I surely enjoyed him!


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: JedMarum
Date: 22 May 03 - 09:22 AM

Where IS Allan, these days? I tried to find a location for him, but all I found is his daughter and her apparently extensive carreer.


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Jeri
Date: 22 May 03 - 05:16 PM

I'm not sure exactly where he's living, but if he's at Old Songs this year, I'll be sure to say "howdy" from the guy who gave him the Barlow knife! (And so, probably, will at least 10 other Mudcatters.)


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: JedMarum
Date: 22 May 03 - 05:35 PM

Thanks Jeri - please do. And please get a mailing address from him, if you could.


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Jeri
Date: 22 May 03 - 05:39 PM

Will do, Jed.


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,Sourdough
Date: 23 May 03 - 03:41 AM

In the summer of 1959, I think it was, I was working inz New York at the Living Theater. I don't remember where Allan Block's sandal shop was but I used to go by there often. It probably was in what came to be called the east Village. He and several others would often be set up in chairs on the sidewalk playing wonderful music while soaking in the sunshine.

It was explained to me that he was an excellent sandal maker but because of his passion for music, there was an extremely long waiting list to have a pair made.

It was a time when there were a lot of terrific musicians around. John Yellin of the Greenbrier Boys used to show up at a lot of the hoots. Roger Sprung with a friend who had a Brownie Bass with him was another. (I think he was "Brownie".) Every Saturday in a loft somewhaere i Manhattan, 50-200 people would gather to sing, drink a little and smoke. Songs that had marinated for generations in Appalachia were unfurled in Gotham. The dissonances were a part of the charm of that moment.

The Sunday's in Washington Square Park were something to look forward to all week. Earnest young women wearing a brand new Martin played side by side with equally earnest social critics and refrmers who expressed themselves in music and verse. I would run into the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makhem at the White Horse Tavern singing just because they felt like singing.


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 23 May 03 - 06:06 AM

Allan's still in Francestown, NH 03043 It's a small enough place that that should be enough for an address. I just got the local Monadnock Folklore Society schedule- he's listed as playing at the Francestown contra dance in June or July.


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: JedMarum
Date: 23 May 03 - 09:25 AM

Thanks for the addy info. I'll give it a try.


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: fretless
Date: 23 May 03 - 09:45 AM

"I don't remember where Allan Block's sandal shop was but I used to go by there often. It probably was in what came to be called the east Village"

It was in the West Village on the north side of West 4th Street, about half a block off 6th Avenue (AKA The Avenue of the Americas). If Sourdough was in the neighborhood in 1959, that was before the East Village came into its own.


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,Robin Greenstein
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 07:25 PM

If anyone knows how to reach him, I'd be grateful. I have a banjo strap he made and the metal hook broke. Apparently these hooks are very hard to find.   I got a number for him, but when I called it and asked the man who answered if he was Allan Block, he said "no", and hung up.

Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,Kendall
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 07:35 PM

Ask George Ward. Allen often goes to Old Songs.I believe Rory Block is his daughter?


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,fretless
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 10:11 PM

Yes, Rory is his daughter.


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 11:55 PM

Mr. Wirz,

I have a photo I took of Allan Block surrounded by adoring disciples at a Chelsea House festival in Brattleboro, Vermont in the late 1970s. It can be seen in the "PEOPLE" section of my photo website at:

http://rudegnu.com/art_thieme.html

When you are asked for a 'user name' and a 'password' just put in the word 'mudcat' for both of those. That will get you in.

Stefan, Feel free to use any of my photos on your amazing site -- or any way you wish to.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Ross Campbell
Date: 30 Jul 09 - 07:43 AM

Alan Block played Blackpool Folk Club at the Raikes Hall Hotel (Lancashire, NW England) along with Nancy McDowell sometime in the late '70s. I still have the LP I bought from them, and I remember the Barlow knife song from then. Good story, Jed.

A couple of weeks ago I heard another reference to Barlow knives (and Bowie knives in passing). Cherrington & Ward, a duo from the Sheffield area sing songs relating to the industrial history of their home town, formerly a major centre for steel and particularly cutlery production.

One of their songs suggested that both the Bowie and Barlow knives originated in Sheffield, which seemed unlikely to me at the time. I had always assumed that Barlow was an American maker, and that if Jim Bowie wanted a knife to a specific design, he would have asked a local smith to forge one on the spot.

A little research on the internet (so reliable!) indicates that a member of the Barlow family emigrated from Sheffield, leaving several descendants to argue over which of them was the originator of the "Barlow knife". Sheffield companies at the time would have taken commissions from all over the world, and would have had access to all sorts of specialist steels unavailable to small-town smiths - so the possibility is there for Jim Bowie to have commissioned a Sheffield cutler to make his special blade. No documentation for this , of course!

Ross


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Jeri
Date: 30 Jul 09 - 08:57 AM

6 year old thread, re-opened to ask a new question.

He hasn't been at Old Song for a couple of years, and the last time I saw him there, his son(?) was running interference because they were trying to pack out.

I don't know if George has kept up with him, but if he's still living close to Animaterra (see above), she might be able to get you contact info.


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Subject: RE: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,iancarterb
Date: 31 Jul 09 - 12:13 AM

Just having a half-interest in the production of Rory Block would convey on an ordinary man a high degree of favor!


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Guy Wolff
Date: 31 Jul 09 - 09:37 PM

Fun to find this . I met Allen at the Sunapee Craft fair just after coming back from a summer at Jugtown Pottery in North Carolina and all the music one would hear there in the wake of the waves left behind by Ralph Rindzler ><><> And then a year in Wales with the music of that wonderful country . It was so exciting to see a group of craftsmen in my own New England have the same passion for what I think of as "Home Made Music ". Allen had a batch of musicians around him in his booth at the fair .He was so cordial and the music so inviting ; That day really pushed me forward towards my efforts to find real music in my life . I saw him again years later while playing a weekend at the Folkway in Peterborgh . I had played for years with a great Connecticut musician named Gordon Titcomb who was married to Rory years ago . I think as many stories as we can get about the music around the sandal shop in the village would be a who's who of what was going on in folk music at the time .   All the best Guy


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 01 Aug 09 - 08:43 PM

As far as I know he's still living in Francestown, NH, about 25 miles from me. My local phone book doesn't quite reach that far, but Robin, if you join Mudcat and PM me, I'll find out for you. He hasn't played around here in years.


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,Christopher Kox, San Francisco
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 11:16 PM

I will agree with the last post: fun to find this. I've wanted to write to Allen Block to let him know what a tremendous influence he'd been on my own sandal making and leather work in the late late 60s and early 70s. I worked for Cecil Burke, Cecil's Sandals, and Joe Jackson, Joe's House of Sandals, in Madison, Wisconsin from early 1969 through 1976 (and brief consults with Cecil Kelly, of Ho Chi Minh's Leather Den, and JD Dalton of Outrageous Ties). We certainly saw our share of Allen's sandals coming through for repairs, and they gave me a chance to study them, learning a great deal from both his and Fred Braun's sandals. I am not sure if Joe actually had worked with Allen, and I don't know where Joe is today, but Joe left Madison in the late 70s to establish a similar business in the Village, where he was on Leonard Street in the mid-1980s. In any case, the Block sandal was a thing of beauty, no less than craft and ingenuity, impressing a sensuous shape into them (rather than leaving them flat) supported by crepe arches cemented below the soles, and much invested into their finish qualities. Joe copied such a shape, but inserted leather "kidneys" between the upper and lower soles. The Allen Block sandal was a mark of distinction, associated with University students native to New York. I was surprised to read elsewhere, though cannot confirm, that Block too had originally hailed from Wisconsin. God bless you Allen Block, may we all meet someday in sandal heaven.


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,Nancy McDowell, Allan's Partner & Co-Musicia
Date: 10 Jan 10 - 09:58 PM

I met Allan in 1975 and we were together as a couple, as well as performing and recording together for many years, both in the U.S. and abroad. "Barlow Knife" was one of our most requested songs, with Allan and me singing and playing double fiddle with guitar back-up. I'm trying to find out if Allan is still living - he'd be about 85 now. The last time I saw him, about 15 years ago, his health was not too good and he wasn't doing much touring anymore, mainly local gigs in NH and Mass. He was still living in the NH farmhouse we shared for many years where he continued his sandal and belt making. I've tried reaching him with no success. If anyone has any information regarding Allan's health, please send me a note at seashellpoint@gmail.com

Thanks, Nancy McDowell, Fort Myers, FL


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 11 Jan 10 - 09:03 AM

How odd. This morning my browser shows I've visited this thread -- I haven't, but Allen's name came up in a conversation Saturday night about contra dance history in reference to the Canterbury Country Orchestra.

So, refreshing this for Nancy, above.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 12 Jan 10 - 09:02 AM

I've sent a PM to Animaterra to see if she can send contact information.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 12 Jan 10 - 11:15 AM

I've just sent an email to a local who should know. He's good at responding, so I'll let you know as soon as I can.

Nancy, I've sent you an email.

Allison-who-wishes-she-had-gotten-a-pair-of-Allan's-sandals-while-there-was-time

(but who has one of his belts, and it's her favorite!)


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 12 Jan 10 - 11:38 AM

Quick work- just got a response from my friend Gordon:

I believe Allan is still with us in body, but my understanding is that he's fairly out of it with Alzheimer's. As far as I know he's still living at his place in Francestown, and his son Paul is living with him.


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 12 Jan 10 - 08:15 PM

I have heard back from Nancy, who is now emailing with Gordon, whom she knew long ago. It's so good to see how Mudcat can help in so many ways, including helping good folks in finding good folks.


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 12 Jan 10 - 08:26 PM

Thanks for your part, Allison!


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,Zephyr
Date: 12 Dec 10 - 04:53 PM

Allen Block's sandal shop was on the north side of West 4th Street just west of 6th Avenue between 6th Ave & Sheridan Square. Not sure what the street number was


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Martha Burns
Date: 14 Dec 10 - 01:07 AM

Allan and I performed together extensively for a period during the mid-1980s. As it happens, I've just posted to YouTube ten videos of our concert set at the New Hampshire Folk Festival in 1986. Allan's in top form.
Here's the list of links:

"Yellow Barber"
"Handsome Molly"
"Calico"
"Red Mountain Wine"
"Goin' 'Round This World, Baby Mine"
Ain't No Bugs On Me"
"Wedding Dress Song"
"Big Sciota"
"John Henry"
"Goin' Back to Dixie" and "White Rose Waltz"


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Mark Ross
Date: 14 Dec 10 - 02:53 PM

Watched your youtube video this morning. Wonderful stuff!


Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Martha Burns
Date: 14 Dec 10 - 03:24 PM

Thanks, Mark!


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,Terri Thal
Date: 20 Feb 11 - 02:04 PM

Late 50s, early 60s, I wanted Alan Block sandals -- for a long time, they were too expensive. Finally, I splurged!!! They were the most comfortable sandals (and one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes)I've every had, and lasted for a zillion years. Thanks to Christopher Kox for the information on that excellent arch support.

Watch Martha Burns' youtube video. Wonderful music.


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Subject: RE:Info: Joe Jackson of Joe's House of Sandals
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jul 11 - 11:55 PM

Does anyone know what happened to Joe Jackson of Joe's House of Sandals in Madison, WI?


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,Anon
Date: 19 Sep 11 - 07:06 AM

Back in Atlantic City, NJ


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,john f weldon
Date: 19 Sep 11 - 08:35 AM

Allan was the "secret weapon" of the Champlain Valley Festival for many years; not officially performing but sitting in his crafts booth, playing, usually jamming with several other musicians who happened by. Whenever I was in doubt about what performance to see next, I would always wander over to Allan's corner and listen in.


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: GUEST,Dave in Michigan
Date: 20 Sep 11 - 02:16 PM

Thanks for posting the links to those videos, Martha. I hadn't seen/heard Allan in 12 years (or Martha in 2). Good stuff.


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 25 Oct 13 - 09:48 AM

I've just heard (as of yesterday) via Howard Stith that Allan has just passed away.

I haven't been able to locate any details or an obituary.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 25 Oct 13 - 11:20 AM

I just came in to de-lurk to give basically the same info. My husband got the word from Dudley Laufman, and I'll try to get the details from him and post them here. There is as of yet no obituary, and even local friends (such as Alouette Iselin) hadn't heard the news.
He was a treasure. I never got a pair of his sandals, but I have a belt of his that I love. And of course, he was one of the local fiddlers who kept the music alive when it was in danger of dying out. Go well, Allan.


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Jeri
Date: 25 Oct 13 - 11:37 AM

I've heard the news from a few people on Facebook whom I trust.


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Padre
Date: 25 Oct 13 - 05:30 PM

NPR's All Things Considered just had a piece about Allan Block's passing. May he rest in peace. A great part of folk tradition.


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Thomas Stern
Date: 25 Oct 13 - 08:18 PM

http://www.npr.org/2013/10/25/240823242/remembering-uncle-allan-and-his-folk-filled-sandal-shop


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Subject: RE: Info: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Elmore
Date: 25 Oct 13 - 08:22 PM

Always a pleasure to watch Allan play fiddle, because it was obvious that he loved to play. He was a pretty good banjo player as well. RIP Allan.


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Subject: RE: 2013 Obit: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 Oct 13 - 04:34 PM

Be sure to take a listen to the NPR Program that Thomas Stern linked to above. It's a wonderful remembrance by Allan Block's niece, NPR host Melissa Block.

    Melissa Block remembers her Uncle Allan. He died this week at the age of 90. Allan Block was a self-taught leather worker and old-time fiddle player who owned a small sandal shop in Greenwich Village during the heyday of the folk music scene in the 1950s and 60s. Folk musicians such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan were known to stop by. Business would stop, as Allan and other musicians would have a free-wheeling folk music jam. As the late folksinger Dave Van Ronk once told a writer: "God help you, if you wanted to buy a pair of sandals."

    Transcript:
    ELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

    A remembrance now, and this time it's a personal one. Allan Block, my uncle, died this week at the age of 90. Now, I mention this because I'll bet there are people listening who will hear that name and they'll remember vividly the Allan Block Sandal Shop on West Fourth Street in Greenwich Village. They'll remember, as I do, the earthy rich smell of leather embedded in that shop, and they'll remember the music that filled the space, as the New York folk scene bubbled into its heyday in the 1950s and the '60s.

    (SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

    BLOCK: Allan was an old time fiddle player and a self-taught craftsman as a leather worker. His sandal shop doubled as a magnet for folk musicians in the city. Joan Baez came by and bought sandals for her family. Dylan hung around on the fringes before he was Dylan. The way I've heard it, banjos and guitars and mandolins would appear, and music would spill out onto the street with Allan fiddling away in the middle. As late folk singer Dave Van Ronk once told a writer, God help you if you wanted to buy a pair of sandals.

    And if you were lucky enough to have bought a pair of Allan Block's handmade sandals, chances are you still have them. They're pretty much indestructible and custom-made. He'd have you stand on two pieces of cardboard, trace the outline of your feet with a pen - it tickled - you'd choose from a couple of dozen simple, original designs. And eventually, you'd get your sandals. With his spidery signature inked on the sole, your feet would be happy.

    (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WISH TO THE LORD I'D NEVER BEEN BORN")

    BLOCK: Allan left New York City in the late '60s and moved to a farmhouse in New Hampshire. He kept on fiddling at square dances and folk festivals and crafts fairs across New England, a slender man in a flannel shirt and worn corduroy pants, his legs stomping out the beat.

    (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WISH TO THE LORD I'D NEVER BEEN BORN")

    BLOCK: He'd hold his fiddle low so he could sing and play at the same time, his right hand balanced high up on the bow, elbow flying. For years, in the wintertime, Allan could be found out basking on the streets of St. Augustine, Florida, up to the time he was 80. He was a kid from Oshkosh, Wisconsin who somehow found his roots in the folk songs and mountain music of Appalachia. Allan Block is survived by his brother, Dan, my father, by his three children, Mona, Rory and Paul, and of course, by his sandals and his music.

    (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WISH TO THE LORD I'D NEVER BEEN BORN")

    AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

    This is NPR.



Nice to see Martha Burns with him in those 1986 videos. They're wonderful. You folks who know Martha, you need to see these 27-year-old videos.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame) - 2013
From: Jeri
Date: 27 Oct 13 - 12:35 PM

Obituary in Sing Out!


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Subject: Obit: Allan Block
From: Janie
Date: 03 Nov 13 - 05:42 PM

NYT Obituary, which is also copy and pasted below.

Allan Block, Whose Sandal Shop Was Folk Music Hub, Dies at 90
By BRUCE WEBER (New York Times)
Published: November 2, 2013


Allan Block, a leather craftsman and fiddler who made sandals and music in his Greenwich Village shop — which became a bubbling hub of folk music during the 1950s and '60s; a showcase for talented pickers and singers like Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Doc Watson and Maria Muldaur; and a destination for aspiring musicians like John Sebastian and Bob Dylan — died on Oct. 23 at his home in Francestown, N.H. He was 90.
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Mr. Block seated with a fiddle during a 1961 jam session at his store that drew Ramblin' Jack Elliott, in the cowboy hat.

The death was confirmed by his family.

Mr. Block, who studied classical violin growing up in Oshkosh, Wis., was a self-taught sandal maker who helped popularize open-toed footwear. But he was prone to setting aside his leather samples and his awl to pick up a fiddle and jam with the folkies, mountain music makers and acoustic blues players who were wont to drop in with their banjos, guitars, mandolins and other instruments.

The store, the Allan Block Sandal Shop at 171 West Fourth Street, was just a few minutes' walk from Washington Square Park and from the Folklore Center on Macdougal Street, where perpetual musical performances, both impromptu and planned, made Greenwich Village the red-hot center of the so-called folk revival.

Many evenings and weekend afternoons, the jams migrated to Mr. Block's store, where the crowds often spilled out the door and onto the sidewalk. According to Mr. Block's daughter Rory, a blues singer who worked with her father and ran the store after he decamped for New Hampshire in the late 1960s, Bob Dylan dropped by more than once just to chat with her father.

"He'd be sitting in a chair and my dad would be working and they'd be talking," Ms. Block said about Mr. Dylan in an interview. "And my dad said to me: 'You see that young man? He's a poet first and foremost. He values his art above all else. He's been signed by a label, but he really doesn't care about the business side of things.' "

Mr. Sebastian recalled in an interview on Wednesday that in 1960, when he was 16 and living with his parents on the perimeter of Washington Square Park, soaking up what he called "the folk scene, the doo-wop scene, the beatnik scene, the blues scene," that he often found himself at the sandal shop.

"This was a place that was an energy power point for the folk music movement," he said, adding that many of those who played there were his heroes, old-time musicians who were featured on the influential 1952 set of recordings known as the "Anthology of American Folk Music."

"That particular album was very important for folk singers and people learning guitar in that era," Mr. Sebastian recalled. "And here were living examples, the people who had been on that anthology, and you could sit in a small wooden kind of room and be with them. It was unbelievable. I saw Son House, Bukka White, John Hurt, and those were just the guys in my part of the bag. I saw Doc Watson. Every guitar player should be discouraged after seeing Doc Watson."

Allan Forrest Block was born in Oshkosh on Oct. 6, 1923. His father, Isadore, ran a scrap metal business that later expanded into building supplies. After high school, he studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin but never graduated, leaving during World War II to join the American Field Service, which he served as an ambulance driver in India. Afterward, he moved to New York City — where, his brother Daniel said, he first became interested in folk music — and then, for a while, to the woods of New Jersey, near Princeton, where, his brother said, he began making sandals.

Back in New York, his first shop was a tiny hole in the wall on Macdougal Street. According to "Positively Fourth Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña," by David Hajdu, the West Fourth Street store opened in 1950.

There, Mr. Block's daughter Mona Young said, he perfected his method of making custom-tailored sandals, complete with arch supports. Customers would choose a style from one of 20 drawings posted on the wall, stand on a piece of cardboard to have their feet traced and then return two or three weeks later for a fitting.

"Whatever weird shape the person's foot was, that's the shape the sandal would be," she said.

Mr. Block's sandals, famous in their day — the actress Faye Dunaway and musicians including Ms. Baez, Ms. Fariña and members of the band Sha Na Na bought them, Mr. Block's daughters said, and Suze Rotolo, Mr. Dylan's onetime girlfriend, lionized them in her memoir of the era, "A Freewheelin' Time" — were groundbreaking footwear, fashionwise.

"In the beginning, most people saw sandals as something very European or feminine," Mr. Block told Mr. Hajdu. "White men wouldn't buy them at all — only black men. Then, I think, people started relating the idea of exposed feet and natural leather and something handmade with folk music and crafts."

In New Hampshire, Mr. Block continued his leather work; in addition to sandals, he made belts, handbags, guitar straps and other items. He also performed on the fiddle at folk festivals and dances.

In addition to his daughters, Mr. Block, who was married several times, is survived by a son, Paul; a brother, Daniel; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

By some measures, from the mid-1950s through the early '60s, the frenzy of the folk music revival, an important factor in the emergence of a fervid counterculture, was symbolized by the Allan Block Sandal Shop, where music often trumped capitalism. Sometimes on Saturday afternoons, the store was so crowded with musicians and listeners that business was impossible.

"God help you," the singer Dave Van Ronk told Mr. Hajdu, "if you wanted to buy a pair of sandals."


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Subject: RE: Obit: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame) - 2013
From: Elmore
Date: 03 Nov 13 - 08:18 PM

Thank you Janie.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Allan Block (of Sandal Shop fame) - 2013
From: Mark Ross
Date: 03 Nov 13 - 09:09 PM

Had the pleasure of sitting down with Alan some years ago at Old Songs in front of his booth and playing some tunes with him. Never made it to the sandal shop back in the day, but I had listened to his recordings with great pleasure.

Mark Ross


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