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Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Herring)[April 2004]

Related thread:
Merritt Herring: What do you know? (29) (closed)


Barbara 06 Apr 04 - 04:21 PM
mg 06 Apr 04 - 04:29 PM
Joe Offer 06 Apr 04 - 04:36 PM
harpgirl 06 Apr 04 - 04:38 PM
Barbara 06 Apr 04 - 04:41 PM
RoyH (Burl) 06 Apr 04 - 04:50 PM
Deckman 06 Apr 04 - 05:23 PM
mg 06 Apr 04 - 05:25 PM
Allan C. 06 Apr 04 - 05:43 PM
mg 06 Apr 04 - 05:46 PM
open mike 06 Apr 04 - 05:50 PM
Don Firth 06 Apr 04 - 07:06 PM
GUEST,emily rain 06 Apr 04 - 07:10 PM
David Ingerson 06 Apr 04 - 07:52 PM
GUEST,Barbara from Lorna's 06 Apr 04 - 07:56 PM
Sorcha 06 Apr 04 - 08:29 PM
Don Firth 06 Apr 04 - 08:41 PM
GUEST, Dick Holdstock 06 Apr 04 - 09:03 PM
katlaughing 06 Apr 04 - 09:12 PM
Deckman 06 Apr 04 - 10:19 PM
Stilly River Sage 07 Apr 04 - 01:24 AM
katlaughing 07 Apr 04 - 01:38 AM
Stilly River Sage 07 Apr 04 - 01:51 AM
Peter Kasin 07 Apr 04 - 02:58 AM
MAG 07 Apr 04 - 10:44 AM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 07 Apr 04 - 02:43 PM
Stewart 07 Apr 04 - 03:55 PM
Stewart 07 Apr 04 - 04:06 PM
Stewart 07 Apr 04 - 04:07 PM
David Ingerson 07 Apr 04 - 05:14 PM
Stilly River Sage 07 Apr 04 - 05:21 PM
Barbara 07 Apr 04 - 09:35 PM
Barbara 07 Apr 04 - 09:41 PM
Deckman 07 Apr 04 - 09:52 PM
Fresno 08 Apr 04 - 01:27 AM
Joe Offer 08 Apr 04 - 02:56 AM
Deckman 08 Apr 04 - 05:29 AM
Barbara 14 Apr 04 - 10:02 PM
Deckman 14 Apr 04 - 10:23 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 14 Apr 04 - 11:41 PM
Barbara 15 Apr 04 - 12:46 AM
Mudjack 15 Apr 04 - 12:58 AM
GUEST,quietly 18 Apr 04 - 02:44 AM
Barbara 18 Apr 04 - 05:28 PM
GUEST,Alan Oakes 21 Apr 04 - 01:48 AM
Barbara 25 Apr 04 - 07:37 PM
Deckman 25 Apr 04 - 07:39 PM
Thomas the Rhymer 25 Apr 04 - 08:06 PM
Barbara 27 Apr 04 - 05:46 PM
Deckman 27 Apr 04 - 06:24 PM
Lorna Doone 29 Apr 04 - 06:34 PM
Deckman 29 Apr 04 - 07:47 PM
GUEST,syren 30 Apr 04 - 01:52 AM
Lorna Doone 03 May 04 - 12:29 AM
Mr Happy 03 May 04 - 07:10 AM
katlaughing 03 May 04 - 10:27 AM
Thomas the Rhymer 03 May 04 - 10:53 AM
Barbara 03 May 04 - 02:23 PM
Deckman 03 May 04 - 06:26 PM
David Ingerson 03 May 04 - 07:02 PM
Deckman 03 May 04 - 07:03 PM
GUEST,Ted 26 Aug 04 - 02:29 PM
Deckman 26 Aug 04 - 06:58 PM
David Ingerson 27 Aug 04 - 05:30 PM
Deckman 27 Aug 04 - 05:40 PM
GUEST,GUEST--Kit 05 Oct 04 - 08:45 PM
Francy 05 Oct 04 - 09:27 PM
mg 05 Oct 04 - 09:39 PM
Deckman 05 Oct 04 - 10:49 PM
GUEST,Wende morgan 17 Jan 20 - 08:53 PM
Joe Offer 17 Jan 20 - 09:13 PM
GUEST 20 Jan 20 - 06:37 PM
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Subject: Obit: Goodbye, Merritt
From: Barbara
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 04:21 PM

Well, we've lost him. Last night about 8:45 PST, after a day of smiles, my email says. There will be a memorial in the Bay Area, and another in Portland OR in May, I believe.
Goodbye, good friend, and godspeed.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: mg
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 04:29 PM

May he rest in peace. Adios. mg


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 04:36 PM

He sang songs with a twinkle in his eye, and he was always so gracious. I'm glad I had the pleasure of his acquaintance.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: harpgirl
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 04:38 PM

My deepest sympathy to his family. I wish I could have made his acquaintence. He has many admirers.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Barbara
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 04:41 PM

Some of us will be singing him on through at the Laurelhurst in Portland tonight, 40th and Sandy. Join us if you want.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 04:50 PM

Elaine and I are saddened to hear of the Merritt's passing. We didn't know him for long but were so pleased that we were able to call this fine man a friend. Thanks for the songs Merritt. Rest in Peace. Burl


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Deckman
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 05:23 PM

"Oft times singing with my friends,
When death's dark form I see,
I often wonder who,
Oh who will sing for me."

My notes tell me that Merritt this final verse:

"When you're singing for your friends,
Who's lives on earth are through,
They'll be gathered up above,
Where they're singing songs for you."

Mina rakkistaan sinua. Bob


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: mg
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 05:25 PM

He sang this with great gusto at Rainycamp...it was quite moving, because we knew the end was coming. mg


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Allan C.
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 05:43 PM

I am so sorry to hear of this. He was a very interesting man whom I knew only through what he wrote here. I had hoped to meet him someday. Perhaps I will.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: mg
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 05:46 PM

I think there is a mixup in names here. This is another Merritt, who presumably is still alive and well. mg


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Subject: RE: Merritt Herring: What do you know?
From: open mike
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 05:50 PM

does anyone have a picture of Merritt?
I seem to remember seeing one of him singing at a gathering..


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 07:06 PM

Don't know where we go from here;
Come to that, I just don't care.
Maybe we'll go to a better place
And the minstrel show'll be there. . . .

See you later, Merritt. Save me a place.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: GUEST,emily rain
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 07:10 PM

i loved what little time i had with merritt, and i'll miss his presence in the world. godspeed, good man.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: David Ingerson
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 07:52 PM

I had the good luck to have spent about half an hour with him yesterday and the day before. His handshake was still strong and firm on Sunday and he smiled and greeted me by name on both days. He had watched one of the NCAA semifinals the night before and said that the Georga Tech team sure was a scrappy and hard-working bunch and deserved to win it all. (He was into sports in a big way (unbeknownst to many in the folk club, I think) and he and I had watched many a football and basketball game on the tube together.) Both days he was in bed and not moving much--eyes closed most of the time, but when I sang Rosin the Beau yesterday and got to the line "I know that good quarters are waiting", he smiled.

He was a strong and a gentle man and his songs came out as if resonating from the center of his heart (which I'm sure they were). We will miss him.

David


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: GUEST,Barbara from Lorna's
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 07:56 PM

Oops, I meant the Laurelwood. If they don't want us to sing there, we'll go to someone's home.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Sorcha
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 08:29 PM

And, for those of us not in the know, just who was Merrit?


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 08:41 PM

Some info HERE, Sorcha.

A marvelous singer. His voice was a sort of strong, husky tenor, and he had a real feel for the songs he sang. And he was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. A kind, gentle, generous soul. The world is diminished now that he is gone, but it is much the better for his having been here.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: GUEST, Dick Holdstock
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 09:03 PM

Back in the early 60's I used to love to go to see Merritt at "Banjo Alley" in Charmichael, near Sacramento. Since then we have been close friends, especially during the last 15 years. Carol and I will miss him greatly... his friendship has meant so much to us, and we are better people having known him.

I am sure I have a fairly recent picture of Merritt, but don't know how to add it to this Mudcat note. I will definetly sing for Merritt tonight and for as long as I can.

Dick Holdstock


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: katlaughing
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 09:12 PM

Sorry to hear of his passing. David, thanks for sharing his last few days with us. From what you and others have said and what he posted here, he sounds like he was a really nice person.

kat


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Deckman
Date: 06 Apr 04 - 10:19 PM

At the risk of becoming maudlin, I would like to tell the story of how and when I first met Merritt. I'm guessing that it was late 1979, or early 1980. The late Walt Robertson had recently returned to Washington state from Texas. He urged me to go with him to a weekend gathering on one of the Islands here, Whidbey I think. The occasion was a weekend workshop and he was looking forward to meeting and singing with Merrit Herring again. Where they first met I do not know, but I certainly listened when he spoke of Merritt's skills not only as a singer, but also as a fine person.

I well remember they're greeting of each other. They both were obviously very pleased to see each other and were ready for music. I remember standing off to one side watching the two of them together. They were very intense in their conversation, and it was like a love fest, if you will. They would not be interrupted by anyone. Many people were comming up to them and trying to get their attention, but they would not be distracted.

As the weekend went on, these two guys participated in a series of workshops and concerts. They were often not in the same room, yet throughout the gathering, I would sometimes see Walt standing in the back of the room listening intently to Merritt sing. And, later on, I would catch Merritt doing the same, as Walt was on stage.

That weekend was quite an introduction for me. Merritt is well missed. Bob


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 01:24 AM

Merritt Who? There seem to be a couple around the Mudcat.

It should have been in the first post or in the name of the thread. Maybe once this is answered a Joe Clone can fix it? Thanks!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: katlaughing
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 01:38 AM

There is only one membership in the name of "Merritt" from what I can see. Did you follow the couple of links people posted, SRS? They tell a bit about him, too.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 01:51 AM

I did follow one link, but I was wondering about Mary's remarks that there might be some confusion about who this Merritt is.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Peter Kasin
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 02:58 AM

I didn't know him, but Dick Holdstock has always spoken exremely well of him. I can only imagine how hard this is for his family and close friends. My deepest condolences.

Chanteyranger


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: MAG
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 10:44 AM

Merritt Herring. My condolences to his many friends and family.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 02:43 PM

The old Berkeley Festivals wouldn't have been the same without Merritt. I enjoyed singing with him, and being in his company. George (my spouse) always photographed those gatherings- I remember that we have, somewhere, a fine picture of Merritt performing at the Campfire Sing. Goodby to a good friend.    Jean


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Stewart
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 03:55 PM

What sad news! I met Merritt at Rainy Camp about 7 years ago, and saw him last at Rainy Camp a couple of months ago. His voice was still strong and his spirit high. Just a wonderful person. Here is a song that he always asked me to sing. I think it's about him.

Up and away like the dew of the morning,
Soaring from earth to its home in the sun,
Thus would I pass from the earth and its toiling,
Only remembered for what I have done.

Only remembered, only remembered,
Only remembered for what I have done.

And he has done quite a lot for music and for other people. I'll miss him.

S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Stewart
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 04:06 PM

Here's a picture of Merritt - CLICK HERE - Merritt is on the left in a white sweat shirt playing guitar

S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Stewart
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 04:07 PM

Oops, scroll down to the picture of 2001 jam

S.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: David Ingerson
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 05:14 PM

Merritt wasn't much into computers so he wasn't a member of Mudcat; just known to, and beloved of, many of us.

David


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 05:21 PM

Thanks, Stewart!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Barbara
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 09:35 PM

I first noticed Merritt at Singtime (the Portland OR folklore spring gathering)when he praised something I sang -- that'll always get your attention, yes? Told me how he liked my style, and invited me to come sing with a bunch of folks in his trailer that night, which I did. And I noticed he had a kind encouraging word for practically everyone, especially those of us who lacked confidence.
Later, at his invite, when I joined the pub singing sessions, I discovered he had a great fondness for those really long, gory traditional American and English ballads that have no chorus or refrain and end badly, you know -- everyone dies in various grim ways.
One night he'd just sung one when Dick, another of our regulars, remarked "That was well sung, Merritt; you'll have to do that one again."
"Okay," said Merritt, and sang it again. Right then. All 27 grim verses.
Afterwards, thinking maybe he was drunk, I said to him, "Merritt, you know Dick didn't mean for you to do that twice in a row, don't you?"
He leaned forward and dropped his voice, his eyes sparkling. "Well, now, I guess he won't say that to me again, will he?", he said.

Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Barbara
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 09:41 PM

Actually, David, he did post here a bit, for a while, and I think he may have a membership. I think perhaps Merritt wasn't particularly fond of the written word. He preferred his oral.
I know he came here and read about the songs, and before he had the stroke, he would keep up with some of the discussions.
If I asked him for a song, rather than writing it out, he would give me a tape with it on it, and likely a lot of other things that he thought I might enjoy listening to and/or learning. I still have a pile that I mean to get to soon.

I'll post more stories later.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Deckman
Date: 07 Apr 04 - 09:52 PM

Thank you Barbara,

Remeberences of a man well spent. Bob


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Fresno
Date: 08 Apr 04 - 01:27 AM

Hello. Merritt lived and sang among us for many years. I'm prez of the Fresno Folklore Society; Merritt was our bookie for our concerts before he moved to Portland. I'm a photographer and did the photos for his "Jug of Punch" cd with Kenny Hall. I traveled to Scotland with him. I have many many photos of him. Besides being a wonderful singer, he was the dearest most loving man I've ever known. Pat Wolk   www.fresnofolklore.org


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Apr 04 - 02:56 AM

Sorry if there was confusion. I thought of changing the thread title, but I thought Barbara's "Goodbye Merritt" sounded better. Merritt Herring did have a Mudcat membership, but he didn't post here often. His membership lapsed when we changed the system a few years ago. I guess we could have retired his member name, but we didn't.

I hope the other Merritt doesn't mind.

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Apr 04 - 05:29 AM

Thanks for clearing that up Joe. Bob


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Barbara
Date: 14 Apr 04 - 10:02 PM

As promised, some more Merritt stories.

The first time Merritt showed up for our summer campout, I think it might have been 1998 or 99, he asked beforehand if we were going to do the Sunday gospel sing. "Sure, if you want, we'll sing, " I said. We're pretty loose about what happens when, here. Just so there's lots of music.
So, come Sunday morning, here comes Merritt, lugging two file boxes of Stanley Brothers gospel and bluegrass songs. They're all alphabetized, and there are multiple copies of each, so he can lead and we can all sing along.

Went down better with some folks than others, but he sure did love the Carter and Ralph Stanley repertoire, and he was worried that their songs were dying out. He wanted all of us to know the joy he found in singing the Stanley Brothers tunes.
                        * * * * *

Merritt always had something nice to say about the song you just sang, especially if you were lacking confidence. "Oh, that was great," he'd say. "That's a perfect song for your voice." And even if he couldn't find anything else to say, he'd compliment you on the key.
My lack of confidence came out in singing too loudly, and too often on songs and harmonies I didn't quite know, and Merritt once said to me, "One thing I have to admire about you, Barbara, is that you are absolutely fearless."   I'm not entirely sure that was a compliment, but it was graciously said, and I've had time to reflect on it since.

Once, at Rainy Camp (the Seattle club's outing), I asked him after a circle about a song I had sung. He, of course, praised it. "But, somehow, I don't quite think it worked, " I said. "How can I improve it?" He demurred. It was fine, he said.

I persisted. "You're a performer, surely you know some things to make the song go better. What can I do?"

"Well," he said, "sometimes it helps make a song flow if you keep the pulse going all the way through. You don't want to break the rhythm between the verse and chorus, or pause in other places. But you did great!"
                        * * * * *

Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Deckman
Date: 14 Apr 04 - 10:23 PM

Barbara ... Thank you, so much, for continuing this thread on the course you have ... "Merritt stories." It's postings like these that make the person real and tangible to strangers.

While my personal contact with Merritt was far too limited, there was/is one moment that keeps coming to my mind. It was not ONE occasion when I heard hin sing a song, but rather EVERY occasion that I heard him sing a song.

Everytime I was pleasured by listening to him, I simply marveled at his tones. "Tones" is a poor word now, as it really doesn't describe the depth of feeling he evoked. This is a case where words, vocabulary, writing skills fail me. Suffice it to say, that he caused the hair to rise on my neck, everytime he sang.

It had to do with the qualities of his voice, his pitch, his verve, but I suppose most of all, his incredible warmth and affection for not just the music, but for the listener as well.

I cannot imagine a more perfect compliment than to have said of you: "You sang that song as Merritt Herring sang it!" Blessings, Bob

Am I making any sense to anyone? Bob


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 14 Apr 04 - 11:41 PM

Yes, Bob... you are making perfect sense to me.

We did a lot of road trips when I was a kid... and the songs he sang while driving sure made the time fly! His presentation was flawless... though somewhat informal on the open road... and his left foot was keeping time (windshield wipers are over rated in the 'keeping time' dept.) while we all sang with him...

After dinner, he'd often get his guitar out and walk back into the kitchen playing and singing with the guitar body up against his cheek...

He learned all his music by ear, and that old record player sure came in handy...
ttr


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Barbara
Date: 15 Apr 04 - 12:46 AM

Absolutely, Bob, Tom.
I was listening to his CD in the car yesterday, and I was struck again by the enthusiasm and joy he brought to even the silliest songs. He clearly loved singing and sharing the thing, whatever it was. Like the bear that picked a possum for a bride, or the cowboy fireman or "...all the baby chickens in the garden."
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Mudjack
Date: 15 Apr 04 - 12:58 AM

Nothing but fond memories and respect, we all have lost his being, but his spirit will be in every song we sing and hear.
One of my all time favorite singers has a place in the choir.
We had a good visit at Rainy Camp, I am grateful to "say good bye" in hearing his voice sing a fine gospel song.
Mudjack


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: GUEST,quietly
Date: 18 Apr 04 - 02:44 AM

I've almost reached my heavenly home
My spirit loudly sings
The holy ones behold they come
I hear the rush of wings.

    Oh come Angel Band
    Come and around me stand
    Bear me away on your snow white wings
    To my immortal home
    Bear me away on your snow white wings
    To my immortal home


Farewell, kind man. How many of you new singers
out there began with printouts of this very song
(and many others) from Merritt’s old box as he
scattered music like Johnny Appleseed along
his way in this world, nourishing the seeds with
praise and encouragement?


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Barbara
Date: 18 Apr 04 - 05:28 PM

There will be a memorial celebration of Merritt's life here
in Portland, OR on May 16, from 4-6 at Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, 1535 N.E. 17th.
The one in the Bay Area will be June 19th, the location and time are not yet available.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: GUEST,Alan Oakes
Date: 21 Apr 04 - 01:48 AM

I first knew Merritt forty years ago when I lived in Berkeley and Merritt lived in Orinda. He and I and our wives would occasionally do things together and we saw each other often at the wonderful folk camps we used to have in the West: Rock Haven, Sweets Mill, Mt. Diablo, Marin County under the Golden Gate Bridge (what was that camp?). Thinking of these names brings back magic memories.

What a wonderful voice he had. Whenever I could get him to, I would put him on in the after-hours concerts I used to run at the Berkeley Folk Festival.

Does anyone else remember that Merritt made a movie back then? Somehow a film maker got him to put on a little troubadour outfit and filmed him singing several songs out in the woods. He was profoundly embarrassed about the film, but I showed it in a workshop at the festival one year anyway.

I lost track of him when he moved North at the end of the sixties. I didn't see him again until he came to Indian Neck a few years ago. I had no idea that he would be there. "Merritt Herring!? Here!?" I said, as I jumped up when Dick Levine mentioned his name. Dick laughed and said that Merritt had had the same reaction when he told Merritt that I was there.

He stayed with Marnie and me later that year before and after Pinewoods where he was on the staff. It was so good to have him back in my life. I was looking forward to what I hoped would be many future visits.

He was a good man. He, and his singing, touched many people during his life.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Barbara
Date: 25 Apr 04 - 07:37 PM

Kirby Cove, Alan?

Here's a link to the song I wrote for Merritt's passing -- and others, too the Unclaimed Pint . Seems like we lost a lot of good people this last couple months.

Here's another Merritt story. I've been selling his CDs for him while he was sick, and I took a batch to Singtime Frolics (the Portland club's spring gathering) where I managed to sell almost $200 worth. When I told Merritt about it, he expressed surprise. They hadn't been moving all that fast before. I said something about maybe it was because of his illness, and he said, "Yes! Just like a fire sale, or maybe a going-out-of-business sale."
We sang at Kit's house this morning, bringing our many gifts from and for Merritt and his memory. Pass the tissues, please. It was sad, it was lovely. We carry on.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Deckman
Date: 25 Apr 04 - 07:39 PM

Thank you for your continuing postings. With love and respect ... Bob


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 25 Apr 04 - 08:06 PM

Yep... Kirby Cove, amoungst the fennel and the bunkers... under the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin. BTW... We moved 'up north' in the summer of '76... right after I graduated from High School. I imagine that the 'gentleman farm' we took on in '72 in Auburn... an every weekend kind of endeavor... was the reason you saw so much less of him then... but his singing never stopped!

All the best! ttr


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Barbara
Date: 27 Apr 04 - 05:46 PM

Here's Dick Lewis' reminiscence about Merritt from the Portland Folklore Society newsletter:

THE REAL McCOY
Merritt Y. Herring, December 17, 1932 – April 5, 2004
"I can't imagine a life without singing"

On Monday, April 5th, getting on toward 9:00 PM, Merritt Herring, this large and inspiring friend, came to that place by the silent sea he sometimes sang about. He was 71 years getting there, from December 17, 1932, to that quiet April evening.

We wouldn't have missed him for the world. He didn't arrive in Portland until 1997, but he was quick to find us. How easily he fit in--we know a special singer when we hear one—for he'd brought with him fifty years of singing British and American songs, performed at some of the biggest and best folk festivals and some of the smallest and best local gatherings. He was a mother lode of ballads, cowboy songs, gospel songs, old time songs, and songs of hard times, sometimes sung with his strong guitar backup, often just in that rich voice, singing from the heart.

Merritt was bound to sing this music. He'd first heard older ballads and songs from his grandparents. In his words, "My involvement in traditional music started at the age of 13 with singing grandmothers." In an interview with Jane Keefer, he said he'd first heard several songs from them, including "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" and "The Fox," and he loved those kinds of songs because they weren't about how the singer felt but about how the larger world lived and felt. His mother also sang, although, according to Merritt's longtime friend, Barry Olivier, she was more of an art song singer. Maybe that's where he got that forthright singing style.

By high school he was ready for the folksong revival that would take off in the 1950's, fueled by Woodie Guthrie, The Weavers, Josh White, Pete Seeger, Richard Dyer-Bennett, Roscoe Holcomb, John Jacob Niles, and others. They would be his heroes. He already had his guitar and that strong beat and was known as a good singer when he met Barry at a high school dance. The two of them quickly became singing friends, performing on a radio program Barry hosted on KBFA in the early 1950's. They were listening to every singer they could find on records and scouring publications for songs, like Carl Sandburg's American Songbag and The Fireside Book of Folksongs.   Soon they were performing locally together. Barry began the Berkeley Folk Festival in 1958, and Merritt became a featured performer and workshop leader in 1959, '60, '62, and '65.

Barry says that when he first met Merritt he knew he was "in the presence of a special person and singer," and he tells this story. In the 1960's U Cal Berkeley hosted a large variety show, for which people auditioned and which presented performers who sang mostly songs of the day or show tunes. This was to an audience of 3,500. Merritt was accepted, which was impressive, but, says Barry, it was what he sang that was so arresting: "The Parable of the Sinful Rich Man," an old French folksong about Jesus, in rags, going door to door asking for food. It was like no other song in the show. And Merritt had changed it slightly; he'd made "the savior" into "the stranger," instantly universalizing it. The audience was rapt. Barry says, "This wasn't entertainment. This was drama, something timeless, something of a different magnitude."
Merritt wasn't drawn to modern composed folksongs, even tended to dislike many protest songs, which he often found naïve and self-indulgent. His politics were left of center but he kept them separate from the songs in the tradition, songs he called "the gift of the culture." He did write a few songs, proving that when the tradition gets inside you it sometimes makes you contribute. One of his songs was "Talking Anti-Protest Blues." Another is "Most People Worry Most of the Time," a satire about our penchant for making our lives worse by worrying. The few times he wrote, it was in a humorous vein. He was struck by the way that in many ballads, the woman is so easily drowned or done away with. So he wrote "The Elizabethan Misfit," about a woman who fights back. It's short enough to quote :

A sweet young girl with long, blonde hair
And eyes of an azure blue
Learned one day to her dismay
That her lover was being untrue.
She straight way took across the moor
Where her feet and the briars were tanglin'.
She tripped up to her true love's door,
Got a rope, walked in, and strangled'im.

Merritt graduated from U Cal Berkeley in geology, which wasn't exactly a career springboard.   Eventually he got an entry level office job at Container Corporation. He worked for them until he retired, rising to General Manager of the Seattle office. Now here's something we may have a little trouble fitting into our picture of him: a senior corporate officer singing "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife," let alone "The Parable of the Sinful Rich Man." The picture gets even stranger when we learn that after his ROTC days at Berkeley and before joining corporate America, he was a Strategic Air Command bomber pilot, flying B 47s. And he valued these parts of his life highly: his military service in defense of his country and his successful business career. But throughout, he kept singing, appearing at festivals and continuing to find the folksinging people among whom he most fully lived.

He retired in 1994, and a few years later moved to Portland to be closer to his grown children. And so he began again to find the local singers. He joined the Board of the Portland Folklore Society (he'd been on the Board of the Fresno Folklore Society before moving to Portland) and helped in organizing weekend programs and concerts by itinerant performers. Ira Frankel says, "He threw himself into the spread of the music he loved, singing at open markets, song circles, pubs, and festivals."   Those in the Tuesday night pubsings welcomed him as a kindred spirit, loving every song he sang. Paul Parker captured his part in those evenings well: "It was always a joy to listen to Merritt, because he breathed life into each song as he sung it—every word was given its due weight and time, each line sung to tell the listener what was really going on… Watching him was a part of the pleasure: his deep chest drawing in the air, his chin swinging round to draw in every member of the circle, and his eyes twinkling beneath those bushy eyebrows."


It would be too long to report here all the heartfelt comments that have come from many of his friends, trying to capture what it was that endeared him to them. But their flavor is unmistakable. Pat Wolk: "Merritt was the dearest, most loving man I've ever known. From the moment I met him I knew he was someone I wanted to know better." Jean Ritchie: "The old Berkeley Festivals wouldn't have been the same without Merritt. I enjoyed singing with him, and being in his company…Goodby to a good friend." Dick
Holdstock: "Above all else Merritt was a heck of a nice guy whose love of music was so infectious that it will be carried on by all of us who knew and loved him." Jane Voss: "The way he would cut loose and just beam when he sang was just so beautiful." Lorna Fossand: "With his fine voice, clear, confident presentation, and wealth of songs, Merritt could easily have held center stage at any gathering. Instead, he let the songs and their stories have the spotlight." David Ingerson: "His songs came out as if resonating from the center of his heart." Barbara Milikan: "Many of us came to know and love him for his enthusiasm for traditional music. He was unstinting in his kindness and encouragement for others who enjoyed the same." Anitra Cameron: "He sang the grainy black and white scrapbooks of song, and they sprang into your mind in full, living, rollicking color."

Of course, no summary of Merritt's life is complete without mentioning his marriage to Kit Siegel toward its end. The discovery of this loving partner was quite a blessing, especially when they subsequently found his time would be so short. Kit was someone to love and to sing with and they rarely missed a chance to do that. Here is Kit's own picture of how they came together.

"Want to go hear some Irish music?" That was the question that began Merritt's and my friendship, love, and marriage. We courted at the Moon and Sixpence, listening to Johnny Connolley play his squeeze box. Soon we were walking our dogs, then going up to Folklife, and falling in love."
        "We spent many hours singing together. He was overjoyed that I could keep a steady tune, while he harmonized, and I loved learning some of the songs he wanted us to sing. My voice became stronger so he wouldn't drown me out."
His humor was with us until the very last. He hoped that if he held my hand real tight when he died, he could take me with him. Then we considered having him stuffed, but decided on cremation instead. Of course, he is with me always.
Kit


Merritt was a rare one, wonderful to hear sing, great to spend time with, a "minor folk legend" in the words of Joe Offer. He was the genuine article, devoted to singing as much as you can, and always from the heart.

Dick Lewis

A Celebration of Merritt Herring's life will be held in the Fellowship Hall of Grace Memorial Episcopal Church (1535 NE 17th , Portland) at 4:00 PM on Sunday, May 16th. There'll be some talk, some food, lots of songs, and much love. There will be a Book of Remembrance and anyone wanting to add to it—a comment, a memory, an anecdote, a criticism of his singing—is invited to send via personal message to Barbara. It will also be possible to add to the book at the event.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Deckman
Date: 27 Apr 04 - 06:24 PM

Dick Lewis. I don't know you, but we obviously knew someone in common, but perhaps "uncommon" would be a better word. I want to thank you for your fine and careful writing. I have to tell you that I got goosebumps as I read it. CHEERS, Bob Nelson (Everett, Washington)


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Lorna Doone
Date: 29 Apr 04 - 06:34 PM

Tom, thank you so much for that wonderful image of Merritt "walk[ing] back into the kitchen playing and singing with the guitar body up against his cheek...." It went right into my heart and stayed there. I've been thinking of you a lot.

Bob Deckman, I loved your words, too--I don't know you, but thank you for saying what you did.

When I first started trying to write down memories of Merritt to give Dick Lewis for his PFS article, I didn't get very far. I just kept bursting into tears. I cried for Merritt because he had lost the world, and for the world because it had lost Merritt; for myself, and for anyone else who felt bereft.

Thoughts, photos, and songs are still catching me off guard, and that will probably go on for a while. (Craig Brandis played "There's a Gold Mine in the Sky" during the sing at Kit's last Sunday, and it unraveled me: "Take your time, old mule, I know you're growing lame/ But you'll pasture in the stars when we strike that claim....")

What I've found, though, is that the whole, friendly feel of Merritt is still here, everywhere I turn, warming me like a steady sunbeam, and it feels like a comfort that will endure. So does the music.

I keep having an image of Merritt on a (clover-seeded?) cloud with that mule, as they "sit up there and watch the world roll by...." Merritt looks amused, his guitar is still to hand, and he's singing.

Love,
Lorna "Doone" (Fossand)

* * *
[Below is what I finally sent Dick. It came out sounding more formal than I'd meant it to, but the love and thanks are there.]

MEMORIES OF MERRITT HERRING

I love my first memories of Merritt, because they are shot through with qualities that are at the heart of why I celebrated his presence then, have cherished his friendship, and mourn his loss so deeply. I remember him first at Singtime Frolics, the Portland Folklore Society's annual singing weekend. It was probably 1998, when Larry Hanks was weaving his magic as the featured artist. (I'm guessing we had Merritt to thank for Larry's presence that year, as they'd been friends for a long time.)

What I noticed first about Merritt was his gift for putting even the most tentative, beginning singers at ease and making them feel welcome. He did that often throughout the weekend, and it was lovely to watch person after person bloom under his encouragement. Accomplished singers, too, glowed more brightly when caught in a warm beam of Merritt's praise. I know he cheered Barbara Millikan, and I can still see the pleased, "Aw, shucks" look on Larry's face the evening several of us gathered in Merritt's camper. Merritt coaxed one fine song after another out of Larry, complimenting him all the while and encouraging the rest of us to share in the pleasure: "I just love that wonderful bass voice of his in that song," he'd say. "Isn't it great? I never get tired of hearing it."

At another Singtime gathering a year or two later, I came across Merritt leafing through his song binders in the cafeteria. I joined him and, to my delight, we spent about an hour and a half swapping songs while the rest of the camp swirled on without us. I can still remember the heady feeling of managing to offer at least two songs he hadn't heard. (That experience may be old hat to some of you, but I am a piker in your midst and I was thrilled.)

Later at lunch, he came by my table and said, "Come with me--there's someone I want you to meet." He introduced me to Dick Holstock, saying, "This is the girl I was telling you about. She can really SING!" I nearly looked over my shoulder. That astonishing comment glows within me still, as does all his subsequent encouragement. I doubt I'd ever have had the temerity to try for my first solo gig without Merritt's kind words, and that would have been a shame, as I might never have discovered that the best cure for stage fright is the joy of sharing songs.

With his fine voice, clear, confident presentation, and wealth of songs, Merritt could easily have held center stage at any gathering. Instead, he let the songs and their stories have the spotlight and created a space where each person with a song to share felt worthy. His death has torn such a hole in the fabric of our community. But we shall take the music he loved and weave bright strands to mend it as best we can, and his generous spirit will live on in every strand.

--LSF


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Deckman
Date: 29 Apr 04 - 07:47 PM

To Joe Offer, and all the other shakers and movers: I'm going to suggest that this thread become "archieved" in the bowels of mudcat. I've noticed several things within this thread, and "lorna doones" posting just above, is a clear example. Merritt touched so many lives in so many ways. Look at the "poetry" that is being written. Quite grand.

And again, I also appreciate and enjoy everyone's kind and thoughtful comments.

Merrit's life, as a folksinger, represents something that is unique, as mudcat is unique. As the "Tales of Walt Robertson" thread was saved, I recommend this thread also. CHEERS to all. Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: GUEST,syren
Date: 30 Apr 04 - 01:52 AM

I first met Merritt in San Franciso in the 80's when we were both singing at the Maritime Festivals at the Hyde Street Pier. What a lovely and kind man he was! I was delighted when he moved to Portland and we got to sing together at sea chanty concerts and at Singtime Folics and at song circles...he was a joy to know. But my life drifted away from those lovely times and as my bands got busy and my home life got complcated, I saw him less often. It was only this spring I learned he was ill and then all too soon he was gone. I never got to say goodbye. Yes, there is a hole in the fabric....too big to mend. I will always miss him and that gentle smile.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Lorna Doone
Date: 03 May 04 - 12:29 AM

Bob (deckman) Nelson, thank you, and I'm sorry I got your name wrong in my posting. (Given my own mudcat name, you'd think I'd know better than to hurtle to conclusions!)

Cheers,
Lorna (Doone) Fossand


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Mr Happy
Date: 03 May 04 - 07:10 AM

I don't wish to appear insensitive on someone's passing, but I'm puzzled by the orinal poster on this thread. Are there other m/c's with same name?

thread.cfm?threadid=69382&messages=3


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: katlaughing
Date: 03 May 04 - 10:27 AM

I agree with you, Deckman. This needs to be archived just as the Tales of Walt Robinson thread.

Thanks so much, folks, for sharing with us, painful as it might be. Wish we'd had the chance to know more of Merritt; learning more through your memories gives us a grateful glimpse of the man who posted among us.

Thanks, again,

kat


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Thomas the Rhymer
Date: 03 May 04 - 10:53 AM

Sorry for the confusion... Merritt Herring did not post to the 'cat, but he inspired and encouraged many who do love singing folk and traditional music. His deep and abiding love for the singer in all of us was always genuine and forthcoming. Thank you all for remembering him to me. With all kindness, and true sadness... please be well, and sing out with confidence and love.
ttr


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Barbara
Date: 03 May 04 - 02:23 PM

Let me say again, Mr. Happy and all, Mudcat has a currently enrolled "Merritt" who is alive and well. Merritt Herring, alas, is gone.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Deckman
Date: 03 May 04 - 06:26 PM

I'd like to post an open problem/question to the mudcat directors. As I suggested that you consider archiving this thread, I'm also a valid person to question that same thought. Everyone here knows my respect and admiration for late Merrit Herring, so I need not fear stepping on toes by raising these thoughts.

As mudcat is still somewhat new, and growing constantly in depth and scope, mudcat can continue to expect new challenges every week. I'm wondering, out loud, if mudcat really should be careful about establishing a "precident", if you will, by archiving this thread.

I hasten to add that these are MY thoughts alone, I've talked with no one else about them. But, seeing the number of "obit postings" that happen, I would suggest that the question of "to archive or not" be given a lot of serious thought.

Better heads than mine should prevail here. CHEERS and hugs to all. Bob(deckman)Nelson
    Please somebody send me a personal message if I'm misunderstanding the request. ALL threads are archived and available for review, from the very beginning of Mudcat.
    Since there has been some confusion, I changed the name of this thread so everybody will know which Merritt we're talking about.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: David Ingerson
Date: 03 May 04 - 07:02 PM

The frankness with which Merritt approached life is another aspect of his personality that was so refreshing and inspiring. I happened to be there about ten hours before he died, just as the nurse was leaving. The nurse told Kit, Merritt's wife, it would be just a few days at most before he died. A few minutes later, as Kit was leaving, she told Merritt what the nurse had said. He nodded.

Several days after he died, I mentioned, in an email to Kit, being impressed at the openness of that exchange. Here is part of what Kit answered:

I certainly couldn't have done it without Merritt's honesty. When he decided not to have transfusions anymore, and we knew it would be only a couple of weeks before he passed, I asked him, "what shall we call this? 'Buying the farm, checking out?'" He said, "let's just call it death." and we did.

He had a clear eye and an honest heart.

David


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt
From: Deckman
Date: 03 May 04 - 07:03 PM

Very moving. Thank You. Bob


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Merritt Herring)
From: GUEST,Ted
Date: 26 Aug 04 - 02:29 PM

I realize no one has posted to this board for quite some time now, but I just wanted to let everyone who contributed to the memories of Merritt (my dad) that it means a lot to read. I'm now living in New York and stumbled upon this, it's nice to hear everyone's memories.
Thanks
Ted


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Merritt Herring)
From: Deckman
Date: 26 Aug 04 - 06:58 PM

Thank you for re-freshing this thread, Ted.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Merritt Herring)
From: David Ingerson
Date: 27 Aug 04 - 05:30 PM

Ted,

You'll be pleased to know that at many song circles one of his songs is sung or he is at least remembered. We often sing "The Unclaimed Pint," too, written in his memory by Barbara.

He is remembered and he is missed.

David


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Merritt Herring)
From: Deckman
Date: 27 Aug 04 - 05:40 PM

In all my years of singing, and listening very carefully to singers, I believe it was Merritt's voice and presentation that REALLY focused me. I will never be able to deliver a song as he could. I would that I could. He had an inner glow that shone through. CHEERS, and very pleasant memories, Bob


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Merritt Herring)
From: GUEST,GUEST--Kit
Date: 05 Oct 04 - 08:45 PM

Howdy, all. I just finished reading all of your comments about Merritt. He died 6 months ago today, and this is the first time I have read your comments. We were married a year and four months before he died, and his voice, his presence, comes to me often. He left his Washburn guitar to his son, Ted. Ted is now in NYC and I have been keeping the guitar. I had it set up for acustic with silk/steel strings, and have been playing it every day. I am singing songs he and I sang together, "Columbus Stockade Blues, All the Baby Chickens", and some that I sing alone. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be holding his guitar and playing. He encouraged me to sing, and I am feeling so close to him as I do. I'm only sorry I didn't know him longer, we met in 2001 and he passed in 2004. When I think of him, "How Can I Keep From Singing?" Kit


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Merritt Herring)
From: Francy
Date: 05 Oct 04 - 09:27 PM

I remember when you both sang on stage at our Toledo Folk Music Festival and the many times we all sang together in Portland..in Sheridan...At Camp Adams in the springtime and when you both came down and Merritt opened for Holdstock & MacLeod.....I sing many of the songs we both had in common and think of him often...So glad you're singing and playing Kit......Frank of Toledo


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Merritt Herring)
From: mg
Date: 05 Oct 04 - 09:39 PM

Amen. He is undoubtedly leading the angel band now and then. I think of him often and I'm so glad you and he got married, even though he was taken from you. Please do come to Sunnycamp if you can..I am sure we will do some of his songs.. mg


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Merritt Herring)
From: Deckman
Date: 05 Oct 04 - 10:49 PM

Blessings to you. Bob


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Herring)[April 2004]
From: GUEST,Wende morgan
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 08:53 PM

It’s a long time’s gone by for a post. I met Merritt when I was in 5th grade and my folks were taking guitar at the live oak center in Berkeley. I know the words to every song we sang then. And I think if him when I hear them now. He showed me what music has to say and he still come up in family conversations. A profound influence and a very precious memory


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Herring)[April 2004]
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Jan 20 - 09:13 PM

Thanks for the memories, Wende. He was such a nice man, and such a wonderful singer.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Obit: Goodbye Merritt (Herring)[April 2004]
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Jan 20 - 06:37 PM

So very nice to re-read these posts and remember Merritt Herring. He was such a great encourager of young people, too. I'm going to try to be more like him.


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