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The Weavers and the McCarthy Era

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GUEST 17 Mar 04 - 10:42 AM
greg stephens 17 Mar 04 - 10:46 AM
Acme 17 Mar 04 - 10:49 AM
Amos 17 Mar 04 - 10:53 AM
pavane 17 Mar 04 - 11:45 AM
Charley Noble 17 Mar 04 - 11:45 AM
greg stephens 17 Mar 04 - 11:48 AM
Backstage Manager(inactive) 17 Mar 04 - 11:52 AM
Steve-o 17 Mar 04 - 12:14 PM
Amos 17 Mar 04 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,Obie 17 Mar 04 - 12:42 PM
Allan C. 17 Mar 04 - 01:09 PM
Deckman 17 Mar 04 - 01:26 PM
GUEST,MAG at work 17 Mar 04 - 01:52 PM
Backstage Manager(inactive) 17 Mar 04 - 02:34 PM
Deckman 17 Mar 04 - 02:52 PM
Peace 17 Mar 04 - 03:02 PM
GUEST,Larry K 17 Mar 04 - 03:18 PM
Folkiedave 17 Mar 04 - 03:21 PM
Backstage Manager(inactive) 17 Mar 04 - 03:29 PM
Deckman 17 Mar 04 - 03:58 PM
GUEST,Mary Katherine 17 Mar 04 - 04:58 PM
greg stephens 17 Mar 04 - 05:03 PM
Don Firth 17 Mar 04 - 05:08 PM
Deckman 17 Mar 04 - 05:43 PM
Deckman 17 Mar 04 - 06:08 PM
Don Firth 17 Mar 04 - 07:15 PM
The Fooles Troupe 17 Mar 04 - 07:27 PM
Amos 17 Mar 04 - 08:00 PM
Deckman 17 Mar 04 - 08:00 PM
wanderhope 17 Mar 04 - 08:10 PM
Deckman 17 Mar 04 - 08:29 PM
The Fooles Troupe 17 Mar 04 - 08:30 PM
Deckman 17 Mar 04 - 08:45 PM
Amos 17 Mar 04 - 08:48 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Mar 04 - 10:59 PM
Joe Offer 17 Mar 04 - 11:52 PM
Deckman 18 Mar 04 - 12:03 AM
LadyJean 18 Mar 04 - 12:07 AM
Art Thieme 18 Mar 04 - 12:41 AM
The Fooles Troupe 18 Mar 04 - 12:48 AM
greg stephens 18 Mar 04 - 03:50 AM
Deckman 18 Mar 04 - 06:20 AM
GUEST,MAG from lab at work 18 Mar 04 - 12:44 PM
NH Dave 18 Mar 04 - 01:01 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Mar 04 - 01:19 PM
Don Firth 18 Mar 04 - 04:28 PM
Charley Noble 18 Mar 04 - 05:37 PM
Deckman 18 Mar 04 - 06:54 PM
Deckman 18 Mar 04 - 07:09 PM
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Subject: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 10:42 AM

I'm writing a paper on dissent during the McCarthy Era, and I am including the Weavers in the paper. What I'm wondering is how the Weavers (and their songs and reputation etc) affected the general public, you, and/or public opinion. I realize that most people here probably came after that time, but if you have any knowledge to share, that would be great (especially if you remember the 50s). Thanks a lot!


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: greg stephens
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 10:46 AM

"Most people here probably came after that time"...I shouldnt bet on it! I should say you'll find loads of people remembering the Weavers. Not me of course, Alma Cogan was more my thing.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Acme
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 10:49 AM

Exactly! I think a lot of Mudcatters remember that time perfectly. (Okay, I am too young to have been there, but my parents talked about it at length over the years).

SRS


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 10:53 AM

I remember the 50's, ok. I was a kid, and the Weavers had a couple of LPs out, which elevated them to the status of deities to those of us who were just starting the folkways trail. But we didn't know anything about McCarthyism or its impact on the Weavers -- I remember the McCarthy HUAC hearings running on our grainy black and white TV as my mother gasped over it, but it had little meaning to me, at the time. SOrry I can't offer more, but at that age what you concentrate on is baseball and peanut butter, usually.

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: pavane
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 11:45 AM

I do remember vaguely that their defence was along the lines of ' How can it be unAmerican to sing traditional American songs', but I don't believe such logic was acceptable!


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 11:45 AM

Guest-

You probably could pick up a lot of previous comments by doing a search for "McCarthy Weavers" in the "Lyrics and Knowledge Search box."

It would also be more courteous if you disclosed more about yourself and gave us at least a first name to address you.

I also remember that period as a youngster through listening to my parents' comments as they watched the various hearings on the TV. One of my uncles' musical careers was sadly derailed by the blacklisting that followed anyone being cited at the hearings.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: greg stephens
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 11:48 AM

GUEST: yes, do give us your name, and what you are writing this for. A load of us here are always glad to help students writing papers and all that stuff, but it is nice to know who you are talking to.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Backstage Manager(inactive)
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 11:52 AM

The best thing you can probably do in researching this topic is to read "How Can I Keep From Singing," a well-researched biography of Pete Seeger by David King Dunaway. It's available new from Amazon.com at $17.00 and used from $4.74.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Steve-o
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 12:14 PM

I must echo Amos' sentiments almost exactly. I had no clue what was going on, but my parents talked about it while reading the paper- they were basically outraged by McCarthy and his boys. And they bought all the Weavers albums and played them regularly, which was my introduction to folk music. There was also a lot of "subversive" jazz played, like "Strange Fruit" and "Fine Brown Frame". Oh, and for me it wasn't peanut butter and baseball, it was Cheese-its and soapbox derby racers.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 12:28 PM

Here's a brief page about Seeger and McCarthyism. Hope it helps.

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Obie
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 12:42 PM

Active socialism could not be distinguished from communism. Communism could not be distinguished from Stalinism. Therefore the political deduction was made, that anyone opposed to the right wing establishment of the day had to be actively planning for the Russian takeover of the USA. Anyone who would deduct otherwise was a communist traitor themselves, and subject to the same witch hunt .
What always amazed me was that these inquisitors professed to have Christ on their side. Anyone who suggest that the rich should be required to share with the less fortunate were branded a communist. Seems that in the Bible Christ gave that same direction to his followers. What a paradox! If Christ were alive at the time there is little doubt that he too, would have been branded as being a communist traitor.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Allan C.
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 01:09 PM

The PBS fundraiser that currently features Peter, Paul and Mary included an interview with one of the Weavers. I am sorry that I cannot recall the name. She spoke briefly of the problems the group had with McCarthy and his bunch. Check at PBS.org for your local listings. You may still be able to catch the show.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 01:26 PM

Well, I certainly don't mind admitting that I am old enough to remember the Weavers and their impact very well. I'm 66 (or is that 166?) and when I first heard them, it was like a huge earthquake hit me. I picked up a guitar when I was 13 and fell in love with the world of folk music then. By 14, I was living at the Seattle public library, devouring every book I could find on the subject. By the time I was 15, I probably had a repetoire of 1,000 songs.

The weavers were the FIRST group to hit the radio where I lived. They became very populiar very quickly. As the McCarthy era heated up, they did become somewhat controversial to the general public. But, NEVER to me. I was a HUGE fan.

When I was about 18, Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry and Sonny's cousin C.J. Burroughs, stayed at my home for a week, during which they performed several sell out concerts at Seattle's then biggest theater, "The Moore." I was instrumental (no pun intended) in getting Pete that gig and I was also very active in the publicity for it.

Even at my tender age, I was clearly able to see through the phonyness of the McCarthy era. And my Father, who was a republican businessman, was also a strong critic of what was happening at the time.

So, I don't know if this is the kind of information you're looking for? Let me know if there's anything further I can add. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,MAG at work
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 01:52 PM

Numerous documentaries have been done on the Weavers, starting with their sold out reunion concert at Carnegie Hall. The info. is there; tell us where you have already looked.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Backstage Manager(inactive)
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 02:34 PM

The PBS fundraiser that currently features Peter, Paul and Mary included an interview with one of the Weavers. I am sorry that I cannot recall the name.

Ronnie Gilbert.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 02:52 PM

Ronnie, THANK YOU for your years of wonderful music. HUGS, Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Peace
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 03:02 PM

I heard that Pete Seeger sang "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" in tthe HUAC meetings in the Congress buildings (Senate?). I do not know if he was allowed to finish it or not.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Larry K
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 03:18 PM

If you are going to do a paper on Joe McCarthy please do your research.   First- do not combine McCarthy and the HUAC.   McCarthy was in the Senate.    The HUAC was in the house and started 7 years before McCarthy ever got into the senate. 2. In 1995 (or so) the government relseased transcripts of intercepted Russian intelligence.   These were reported and confirmed by the New York Times.    The net result was that Joe McCarthy was correct.    The people he said were communists were actually communists and the CIA knew that at the time from the decoded messages.   3. The vice president of the US under Roosevelt resigned and joined the communist party.   That is a very scary thought- if Roosevelt had died two years earlier we would have had a communist president.   4.   Please research Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers.   You can't do a paper on McCarthy and not include these two.    The story of the Underwood typewriter is pricless.   (Hiss claimed in court that Chambers broke into his house and typed the letters to the Russians on his typewriter without him knowing it)   You gotta love it. 5.   The Weavers influence on American Folk Music has always been understated.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Folkiedave
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 03:21 PM

They produced a magazine and there is a copy for sale on ebay.

Item number:3595285271

Regards,

Dave
www.collectorsfolk.co.uk


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Backstage Manager(inactive)
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 03:29 PM

Deckman,

A clarification: I was naming Ronnie Gilbert as the Weaver who appeared in the Peter, Paul & Mary special. I was not signing her name.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 03:58 PM

Thank you for the clearification ... although I was NOT at all surprised to think that she might be posting. Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Mary Katherine
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 04:58 PM

In the book which accompanies the Bear Family Records Weavers box set (written, I think, by Dave Samuelson?) there is a long discussion of the political maelstrom in which the Weavers were caught up. A shorter mention can also be found in the booklet which accompanies the Vanguard Records box set "The Weavers: Wasn't That A Time." (Disclaimer: I produced and annotated the Vanguard set, but have no financial involvement, nor do I profit in any way from its sales.)

Mary Katherine


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: greg stephens
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 05:03 PM

Deckman: your reminiscences, and stuff like it, is why I frequent Mudcat. thank you
greg


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 05:08 PM

GUEST, I don't know if this will be of value to you, but I present it because I think it gives an idea of the effect that the whole HUAC and McCarthy phenomenon had in this neck of the woods (Seattle), and probably just about everyplace else in the country. This is a chapter from a book I am writing: reminiscences (a "memoir," if you will) of my journey through the world of folk music from my first involvement in 1952 to the present.

A bunch of us, including Walt Robertson, had got together in late 1952 or early 1953 and formed the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society. The fate of the organization is described below.

The material is copyrighted (I saw to that when I first began publishing bits of it on the internet), but if any of this is of value to you in preparing your paper, feel free to quote from it, but I do ask that you credit me, e.g., "from a forthcoming memoir by Seattle folk singer Don Firth," or something of that nature. The book is as yet unnamed (I'm open to suggestions).

Chapter 7
SPIRIT OF THE TIMES

        In fall of 1954 a major folk music event took place in Seattle. For the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society it proved to be more than a major event.
        Pete Seeger came to Seattle to give a concert.
        Under the aegis of the Folklore Society, Walt Robertson made the necessary arrangements and obtained the use of the basement auditorium of Wesley House, where several earlier Folklore Society events had been held.
         Seeger would be in Seattle on Monday and Tuesday, the fourth and fifth of October. Being weeknights, they were not ideal for drawing the largest possible crowd, but that would have to do. Walt made tentative arrangements and wrote to Seeger for his approval: the concert on Monday evening, and a party or gathering with Seattle's folksingers, Folklore Society members, and friends on Tuesday evening. Seeger responded, saying that he would not be free on Monday because a group of friends in Seattle had already arranged a reception for him that evening. But Tuesday would be okay. And although it would make it pretty late especially for a week night, if we were game for a private party and song swap after the concert, that would be fine with him.
        Tuesday afternoon before the concert, Dick Landberg and I were sitting in Howard's Restaurant when a Folklore Society member joined us. He was upset, and he seemed almost furtive.
        "I thought I'd better warn you guys, just in case," he said in hushed, confidential tones. "I just found out that the 'reception' that Seeger attended last night was actually a fund-raising concert for an outfit that calls itself 'Cafe Society.' It's a Communist front organization."
        Dick and I looked at each other, perplexed.
         "You know what this means, don't you?" he continued. "Seeger's been called up before the House Un-American Activities Committee. People are going to think the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society is putting on a public concert so Seeger can pay his way out here and do a free fund-raiser for the Communist Party.
         "Look," he said, leaning forward and practically whispering, "I'm studying aeronautical engineering. I plan to work for Boeing when I graduate. Now, that's probably going to involve my being able to get a security clearance. So I'm not going to Seeger's concert. And I want my name taken off the Folklore Society's mailing list!"
        This may seem bizarre and paranoid to us now. Yet, during the early Fifties, mention of the House Un-American Activities Committee evoked emotions similar to those that must have been evoked in the 15th and 16th centuries at the mention of the Spanish Inquisition. People glanced apprehensively over their shoulders, shuddered, and crossed themselves.
        There was not much Dick and I could do about it but pass the word to whoever maintained the mailing list. We talked it over and decided that this was probably an overreaction. No way were we going to miss Seeger's concert.
*    *    *
        That evening the Wesley House auditorium was packed. Rather that singing from the lighted stage with the rest of the auditorium dark, Seeger stood on a riser against the side wall of the auditorium. Folding chairs were arranged in concentric half-circles around the riser and the house lights were kept on. Seeger wanted to be able to see the audience and be among them.
        Tall and slender, dressed in his usual plaid shirt and tie with sleeves rolled up well above his elbows and with his long-necked 5 string banjo slung over his shoulder, he strode rapidly to the riser, surveyed the audience with a friendly grin, and launched into his first song.
        I've heard critical types say that Pete Seeger doesn't have the greatest singing voice in the world. He characterized his own voice as "a split tenor with a corn husk stuck in his throat." The same types also say that there are better banjo players or guitarists than he is. Okay, that may be. But one would have to search far and wide to find anyone as versatile, or who has the knack of engaging an audience as quickly and enthusiastically as he can. A couple songs, a story, a ballad or two, and he had the entire audience singing along with gusto. He is probably the world's greatest song leader.
        He is also a powerful advocate of "do it yourself" music. He urged everyone in the audience who felt at all inclined to go ahead and learn to play and sing. "Get yourself an instrument and don't be deadly serious about it. Don't say to yourself, 'Okay, every Tuesday night I'll practice for half an hour.' Just pick it up and have fun with it. Goof off. Anyone can do it." Then he grasped the banjo and launched into his "Goofing Off Suite," a musical goulash that included ingredients such as Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the Cowboy Yodel, and much more, all on the 5 string banjo, occasionally joined by his "split tenor." Amazing!
        For over two hours he took us from whimsy to high drama, from Cumberland Mountain bear chases to chain gang songs to tragic ballads to exploding frogs to riding the rods with hobos to love songs to sea chanteys, jokes, tall tales, and many, many sing-alongs. The place rocked.
        Anyone who has attended a Pete Seeger concert knows that it was not just a concert; it's a unique, unforgettable experience.
*    *    *
        After the concert, Dick and I headed directly to Carol Lee Waite's house a couple blocks south on 15th N. E. where the after-concert party was to be held.
        Within a few minutes the place was packed. Bob Clark brought several quarts of his home-brewed beer, and other beverages and comestibles appeared. Nancy-Lu Patterson who had done the mural-sized poster for the Folklore Society's Hobby Fair exhibit was there with her husband; Dick Landberg and I, of course; and . . . it's impossible to remember who all else. Most of the folksingers and folk music enthusiasts that I knew were in attendance. People sat on the furniture and on the floor and on window sills and there may have been a few people hanging from the picture molding.
        Walt Robertson and Pete Seeger arrived. Seeger accepted a glass of Bob Clark's home brew and opted to sit cross-legged on the floor. A lot of singing went on that night and Pete sang a bit himself, but mostly he wanted to hear other people. I sang some, as did Dick, Bob Clark, Nancy Lu, and many others.
        Walt reluctantly left early because he had to go to work in the morning (it was past midnight by now) and many others did the same, but as long as there were those who wanted to stay, Pete was game. It ended up with about a half-dozen of us sitting in a circle on the floor passing a guitar--my recently purchased Martin 00-18--back and forth.
        It had never occurred to me until then that Pete played anything but the 5-string banjo, but it was obvious that he really knew his way around the guitar as well. It wasn't like a class, workshop, or anything that formal, it was just a half dozen people sitting around trading guitar licks and tricks. Pete's enthusiasm was contagious and we all learned a lot from him that night. He talked about various singers he knew, how they would approach a song, and what they did on the guitar. Then he would demonstrate.
        For example, he told us how Leadbelly heard someone sing an Irish ballad about a dead cow. Intrigued by the modal melody, Leadbelly worked it out on his 12-string guitar in his own unique style and played it just as an instrumental. Normally it would have started and ended on an A minor chord, but Leadbelly played an A seventh instead. This made for a modal melody with a strong rhythm and some unusual and unexpected "lemon juice" in the harmony. Catchy. Lee Hays* of The Weavers heard Leadbelly play it, liked it, and wrote a new set of words to the tune. That's how one of The Weavers' signature songs, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, came about.
        I watched carefully while Pete demonstrated the way Leadbelly played it, and later incorporated it into my accompaniment when I learned the song. Whatever the source of the song might be ? the Irish ballad, Leadbelly's guitar arrangement, or Lee Hays' lyrics ? picking it up from Pete like I did, I felt very close to that source.
        We finally broke up, and I think I got home and to bed very shortly before the sun come up.
        That was a memorable event in my life. I learned an immeasurable amount from Pete that night. Some things were specific, such as guitar techniques and arrangements. But many things would be difficult to put into words: things like staying true to the spirit of a song, but exercising your own creativity at the same time.
        And that contagious enthusiasm. My interest in folk music and folksinging multiplied many times over.
*    *    *
        The aftermath of this event was less felicitous. The dark side manifested itself in a particularly sinister way.
        Several people were irked because Seeger had done two performances in Seattle for two different organizations on consecutive evenings. They maintained that this was a violation of performer's ethics. But worse than that ? as the person who buttonholed Dick and me in Howard's Restaurant had complained ? it made it appear that the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society conspired to arrange for Seeger to come to Seattle so he could do a fund-raising performance for what many insisted was a Communist front organization.
        After all, Seeger had been called up before the House Un-American Activities Committee and he and The Weavers had been blacklisted. Despite that, the first major performer the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society sponsors is Seeger. Never mind that the Folklore Society consisted of a loose-knit group of people, most of whom were apolitical and some even fairly conservative, who simply liked folk music and wanted to hear Pete Seeger sing. Truth? What did that have to do with it? What mattered was what it made the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society look like.
        It was Kafkaesque. Furtive calls came in from people who almost cringingly insisted their names be dissociated from the Folklore Society. It was like cattle stampeding in panic. By the end of week the membership list had dwindled to less than a dozen names.
        After what seemed to be such an auspicious beginning, the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society ceased to exist.
        They might not burn heretics at the stake anymore as they did in times past, but it appeared that the spirit of Tomás de Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition lived on in Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee.
        To be suspected was to be condemned.
-----------------------
*In Folksingers and Folksongs in America (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1965, 2nd Edition), Ray M. Lawless credits Fred Hellerman, another member of the Weavers, with writing Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." I would swear that Pete said it was Lee Hays. I've since heard a couple of variations on the story, but unless I hear something authoritative otherwise, I'll stick with my recollection of what Pete said.
I hope this may be of some interest.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 05:43 PM

And my appreciation back to you, Gregg!

By the way, and you MUST promise not to laugh here. I'm so olde that there is a Cub Scout troop in downtown Everett, where I live, that stations cub scouts on the street corner ... watching for ME. As soon as they see me coming, they rush to my side of the street, and offer to help me across. But, being the smart person that I am, I know what they really seek! They seek the merit badge for helping "olde phokes" across the street. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 06:08 PM

Don, to put your last posting, and my vintage, into perspective: the concert that you write about just above, was just before my time, by a year or so.

When I, with the help of many of the "Seattle Folk Song Society" members, sponsored Pete in his HUGE "Moore Theater" concert, it was a very important turnaround in his career. It was like the bursting of the dam.

To go on with the theme: shortly after that event, I volunteered to join the Army. At my intial interview, I was "asked" to sign a "loyalty oath." I was given a three page list of orginizations and asked if I had had any contact with them. I started checking them off: The Seattle Labor Council, The committee For The Protection Of The Foreign Born, The Committe To Repeal The Smith Act, on and on.

The Captain that had handed me the form almost fainted. He excused himself ("hisself", as Walt Robertson used to say) and returned with a Major. They then grilled me for a looooong time.

They asked me how and why I knew the "Seattle Labor Council?" I said it's "because I sang for them every Friday night." "They give me five bucks, a dinner, and all the beer I can drink." (I was 17 0r 18 and I couldn't drink much beer then ... but I have improved with age!).

On and on, I loved the "Committee For The Protection Of The Foreign Born," because Cecelia played a Clark Irish harp.

The next thing I knew, my parents neighbors called us, I was still living with my parents, and asked why they had been questioned by the FBI. It turned out that indeed, the FBI went all around our neighborhood inquiring as to what kind of a communist I was.

For reasons I only recently learned, my enterance into the Army was hurried up by a neighbor, who was a high ranking Officer in the medical unit I eventually joined. But even six years later, long after Sen.McCarthy died, I was still under some suspicion.

Don, do you suppose that my posting of my background might still cause the FBI to talk to all my neighbors?

CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 07:15 PM

The actions of the FBI sometimes remind me of the three dudes in this song. I figure that if you're not on somebody's list, you ain't got much to be proud of.

In my book, I have a brief piece (couple pages) about my war with the draft board back about then. I use a wheelchair now, but at the time, as a result of having had polio, I walked with the aid of a leg-brace and a pair of forearm crutches. I have never had a more thorough physical examination, and they still weren't convinced that I wasn't faking it. It's a bit of thread-drift, but if anybody's interested, I'll post it. It's kinda funny. Your tax dollars at work!

Just to avoid any possible confusion, the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society and the Seattle Folk Song Society that Bob speaks of were two different organizations. The PNFS got organized in late '52 or early '53, and imploded the day after the Seeger concert on Oct. 5th, 1954. Folk singers in this area were a bit leery of belonging to any organizations for some time afterwards, but a few years later ('57 or '58 if I remember correctly), a group got together and formed the Seattle Folk Song Society. As I recall they met on Saturday nights and the set-up was very similar to the current Seattle Song Circle. They needed a bit of guidance to keep from crashing into the wall, and that's when Bob (Deckman) came along and provided it. A few other attempts were made to form an actual, formal folklore society, but most of them fizzled until 1966 when the Seattle Folklore Society got organized. It's going strong and doing well.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 07:27 PM

Ridicule is the most effective way to fight that sort of harraser, Bob. Folk Music is good at that - which is why such people are feared and have to be silenced. We must never forget such lessons...

Robin


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:00 PM

My applause and thanks to both of you, gentlemen, for your rich tales and the lives behind them! Much appeciated.

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:00 PM

Foolestroope ... You are exactly right. However, when you're 17 or 18, it ain't easy to be brave. And I never thought so much that I was "brave" as I thought that I was right. Besides, as I told the Captain: "Of course I sing Communist songs. They've got the BEST songs!"

Sometime, we ought to start a thread on excatly which songs we did sing. I know that Sandy Paton and I, and others, have previously talked about this.

I cannot end this post without mentioning my concern that we now seem to have already entered another shameful period in america wherein we are agin, at the same point we were in 1949 - 50 - 51 etc. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: wanderhope
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:10 PM

RE: the Weavers. It took me a while to realize how textured was "Irene, Good Night." Also, I was really proud when I heard I had a file in my name at the FBI in the 60's. Thought I had a chip in the game. Then I discovered my membership was in the National Student Association, and that they were a front organization for the FBI. Sometimes you just can't get credentials.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:29 PM

Wanderhope ... How funny, and unfortunatly, how damned true!

A few years ago, I started the process of getting my FBI file through the freedom of information act! I was amazed to find that after six months of effort, I was still on stall. I really wanted those papers so that I could have interesting wall paper for our bathroom.

I suppose that I could start the process all over again ... my daughter is encouraging me. We have lots of bathroom walls that need wallpaper in our familes.

I 'dunno, maybe when I have more time, or interest, I will apply again! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:30 PM

Bob,

once the process starts it never ends, and you can't prove that you are innocent. "Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb", at least that is what Ned Kelly thought...

Robin


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:45 PM

Robin ... We must stop posting at the same time. I confuse myself. As for Ned Kelly, I'd rather sing about him than emulate him!

I've reached the AGE where I don't really give a damn any more. If some President, that I respected, asked me to go to some foreign place and give combat first aid to gunshot victims, I would do that without hesitation. And I could do that again, with a couple of weeks of training on the new meds and methods.

But today, the world is so strange that I have a very hard time understanding it. And, unless my previous FBI file catches up with me, I'm probably safe from President bush ... for now! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 08:48 PM

Well, Bob, that puts you in a happy minority!

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 10:59 PM

After leaving the Army in 1946,both my wife and I went to University under the "G. I. Bill," which paid our fees and provided a living of sorts. We were part of many; considered a disrupting influence by our younger classmates who had not been in the Military because we stayed above campus politics and campus life. We did not agitate, demonstrate, or cause ripples. Our aim was to become members of the professions. By the time McCarthy was riding high, most of us either were junior professionals or in graduate studies.
How did the Weavers (and the others) affect returning veterans and the general public? We were aware of the Weavers and other liberal performers, and listened to their music. Privately, over beer, we might agree with some of their statements. We considered McCarthy a ranter reaching for stardom, and mostly laughed at his 'disclosures.' Privately, blacklisting was deplored.

On the other hand, we were careful not to speak out or call attention to ourselves by espousing ideas that lay outside of the mainstream; we had to build our future. The future was a good home, a wife, two or more kids, and enough money to live comfortably.

How much did the Weavers (and the others) affect us- the general public? Very little. We were too busy with our own perceived problems, which did not extend to dissent or the rights of the oppressed. We felt sympathy for those who had run afoul of McCarthy and his ilk, but were not about to jeopardize our futures by giving them active support.

WW2 and the immediate post-war period brought prosperity, and we were a part of it. What else mattered?


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 11:52 PM

Deckman, I'm afraid your FBI file is long gone, just like the George Bush National Guard file. The government doesn't keep records forever any more. Most of those Commie-hunting practices were abandoned during or before the Jimmy Carter Administration, and even the Reagan people didn't do much to try to resurrect that sort of stuff. I spent 25 years knockng on doors an talking to the neighbors of those who held security clearances or law enforcement posiions. We had some vestiges of the McCarthy era in the mid-1970's, but it disappeared quickly after that.
I'd like to think that era won't come back but I have to admit that the USA Patriot Act scares me.
-Don and Bob, thank you so much for your stories. I sent every word of it to Headquarters [grin].
-Joe Offer-

(Actually, our managers knew I was a social democrat and pacifist, and they still lked me)


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 12:03 AM

"Q" ... What you just posted certainly rings true for those I knew who had been through the war. Yet I well remember two men who went through that time and experience and were very enthusiastic Weavers fans.

I think it's also to remember that the Weavers were a BIG name on the records. I don't recall the label, or labels, under which they recorded, but they certainly had an impact on "Tin Pan Alley." Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: LadyJean
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 12:07 AM

Mother worked at Chatham College, here in Pittsburgh, until 1952. She told me that during the McCarthy era the faculty were asked to sign loyalty oaths.
Several faculty members had come to this country as refugees from facist countries. They had every reason to be loyal to the U.S.A., and every reason to fear loyalty oaths.

My parents were staunch Republicans. But we watched "Hootenanny" every week.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Art Thieme
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 12:41 AM

Pete chose to take the 5th on some questions HUAC asked him, and then he chose to answer some of them. That, seemingly, was against the rules. If you take the 5th, you've got to take it for all the queries. So Congress found him in contempt. He was sentenced to a year---but that was overturned.

The blacklist was insideous because you couldn't fight it. It was sort of like being incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay. All the jobs dry up. Nobody'll hire you---and nobody'll come right out and say why.

Find a real fine Woody Allen film called THE FRONT. It's one of his best. About a guy (Woody) who is sanitized and clean so he puts his name on scripts by blacklisted writers. That way they can get some income --after they pay him. But it hits the guys hard. The scene where happy-go-lucky Zero Mostel goes out the window and kills himself because he's had enough, well, the blacklist did do that to some good people.

Art
Thieme

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 12:48 AM

Some went overseas and worked under different names. The British movie "Genevive" about 2 guys who do the Veteran Car run to Brighton had harmonica music written by such a guy - think the name was Larry Adler - he also worked for BBC on some of the Goon Shows. I think Chaplin left at about that time.

Robin


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 03:50 AM

Well, having seen what subversives like Deckman and Don Firth were up to in the fifties, it's a miracle that democracy survived at all in the USA. And what amazes me is these guys have no shame at all, they just come out with statements like "I went to a Pete Seeger concert" is if that was a normal thing to do.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 06:20 AM

Joe, I found your words very comforting, if dissapointing. We were looking forward to using my FBI file as bathroom wallpaer. Oh well. Maybe I can start over and create a new file! Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,MAG from lab at work
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 12:44 PM

(My home computer is in the shop, folks)

Art, The Front is about the only Woody Allen movie I can take any more. I used to be involved with a guy who would defend Woody Allen after his rather spectacular shenanigans, so I pulled out my tape of The Front. Funny, he didn't like it. The beginning of the end ...

MA (who can just remember those "Stand up ... syand up and be counted" anit-Communist ads on TV.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: NH Dave
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 01:01 PM

The Weavers did songs much like many other folk and non-folk groups did, then and later. As their public grew, many of their songs made it onto the US Hit Parade. They didn't publicize these songs as folks songs any more than the Kingston Trio did some years later, they seem to have fit into the Country genre before Country became electrified. From my own viewpoint then and much later, you couldn't pattern your life on the lyrics of Darling Cory, or Good Night Irene, but someone tipped McCarthy et alle onto the possibility that the Weavers might be Communist, either because someone said they were, because they sang Woodie Guthrie songs which somebody thought were Communist, or because some very desperate person said that he thought he saw one of more of their members at a Communist meeting.

This was the insidious nature of the whole investigation, once you were indicted, regardless of your "guilt" or innocence, you either told the interrogators the names of others you had "seen" at one of these meetings that you may never have attended or you became suspect in their eyes. This and the inevitable publicity of the hearings could scuttle the career of anyone who truthfully denied knowing any Communists, since he or she had never been Socialistically oriented or attended any meetings of this sort. It is interesting that the topic of Venn diagrams appeared just above this topic, as they could have been used to disprove these charges, were the accusers actually looking for the truth.

Since many of the hearings were held much later than the meetings which seemed to damned you, it would be difficult to remember who you saw at any meeting, especially as individual meetings you attended might not stick in your mind. Point of fact, the names of these suspected groups were so numerous and in some cases so similar to completely innocuous groups that small blacklist books were published so that "right thinking" Americans could instantly spot a potential traitor from the list of organizations he or she might inadvertently acknowledge being a member.

These hearings only served to aggrandize those holding them, did little to detect subversives, and ruined the lives and earning ability of many people who previously had entertained no notion of subversion or the dangerous power of a well known folk song. While it may have been popular for socialites to visit Socialist meetings just to be able to say that they had been to one, mere presence at one or more of these meetings should not have been enough to deny work or publication of their artistic works. Additionally since labor unions seemed to many as being Socialistic in nature, attending one of these meetings or even entertaining at these rallies as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie did, was enough to brand one as suspect.

Dave


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 01:19 PM

Looking back over those years, I think that at the time, Guthrie, Seeger and the other socially conscious singers of the 40s and 50s had little effect upon American thought. The effects came later, long after McCarthy was discredited, revitalized with the Vietnam War, the struggle for racial equality, unions at the bargaining table and the folk revival.
A delayed reaction but not historically atypical.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 04:28 PM

In the days of my misspent youth (well . . . I was more youthful than I am now, anyway), I spent many an hour sitting in the infamous Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle's University District, bending my elbow, wetting my nose, and arguing vociferously with guy named Stan Iverson, who was a genuine card-carrying member of the Communist Party. Stan wore work clothes, a hard-hat, and carried a lunch-pail. Actually, he worked four hours a day in a used book store (the hard hat was in case a book might fall off a shelf and bean him, I guess), and he carried a stack of paperback books in the lunch pail. Stan and I talked, we argued, we pounded the table, and we shouted a lot.

During this same period and in the same dark, dank smoke-filled bistro, I also bent my elbow, wet my nose, and argued vociferously with Jerry Pournelle. This was while he was going to the U. of W. and before he turned his hand to writing science fiction. Jerry was (is) a Southerner and a conservative. Very conservative (actually, I think he's a bit more mellow these days than he was back then). Jerry and I talked, we argued, we pounded the table, and we shouted a lot.

Judging on the basis of people I associated with (drinking buddies with both ends of the political spectrum), I wonder what slot they have me in?

Of course, there was my folk music connection. That's pretty bad! But then, Jerry used to come to hoots and hang out with folk singers, whereas Stan did not (I don't think he liked folk music much). It didn't keep Jerry from, among other things, serving as Advisor on Space Policy to the Republican congressional leadership.

Must be confusing, trying to separate the sheep from the goats . . . .

Don Firth.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 05:37 PM

Don and Bob-

Good job in making this grim period real, and even fun. It's the joy of singing that sustained a lot of people in this period, even if they were looking over their shoulders for the FBI infiltrators.

My grandparents were both well known modern artists in the 1930's, based in Greenwich Village. There was always someone circulating a "human rights" petition at neighborhood special events. When the hearings began in the late 1940's some of the "establishment artists" accused my grandfather of being a Communist. At one point he was almost deported to Lithuania, a country his family immigrated from when he was two years old. In the 1950's a major mural by my grandfather for a Texas bank was derailed by the accusations, although he ultimately won full payment in court and donated the completed mural to a liberal arts college. Well, my grandparents' art careers still flourished and I'm extremely proud of them for holding up under all that pressure.

Unfortunately, many other people saw their careers irrevocably ruined, leading to divorce and even suicide.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 06:54 PM

To "Q" ...I would like to think that the Weavers DID have a big impact on society from say 1949 through the 50's. My problem is that I was so very CLOSE to it, that I really can't judge that impact accuratly. I know they certainly impacted me, as I've already said. And more than that, they impacted my parents and most of my friends. But then, "most" of my friends were musicians, if not folk singers. So, I dunno? I'd sure like to hear some more opinions on this point. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Mar 04 - 07:09 PM

"Q" Another thought ... I'm somewhat bothered by your point, though it may well be valid, that their social impact came later, during the evolution of the protest of the struggle for equal rights and the Viet Nam mess.

I believe it was BECAUSE The Weavers sang the songs they did, and at the same time spoke out for the causes that they felt so strongly about, that gave social some acceptance to "protesting" per se. Certainly when Pete sang before the HUAC committee (I hope I'm accurate here) it caused a HUGE amount of attention.

Remember just who the Weavers were: Seeger, Gilbert, Hays, Hellerman. And don't forget Woody. Woody was closly associated with them all and he especially gave voice to his causes (issues). Now then, throw John Steinbeck into the mix, and you NOW have social impact, change, awareness, revolution.

Going on, in time, add Guy Carawan and his teaching of "We Shall Overcome," throught the country. Talk about giving a "voice" to a movement.

I guess my point is this: "The Weavers" started it all. This is not to say that there weren't folksingers previously who raised these issues (especially in the union movements), but for whatever reasons, I do believe they were the most successfull.

Good thread. Bob


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