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Peter LaFarge

24 Jul 99 - 01:34 AM (#98775)
Subject: Peter LaFarge
From: Frank of Toledo

A friend and I have been playing and sharing songs for the last three hours, Plenty of Woody, Pete, Tom Paxton and we get into the Ballad of Ira Hays. I've been sitting here for the past 30 minutes unwinding and I can't get the Late Peter LaFarge out of my mind. Does anybody out there know much about his life in music. I would like very much to know more about him. Thanks

24 Jul 99 - 02:09 AM (#98793)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: Sourdough

I remember him from Gerde's Folk City in New York around 1959-60. He sang a lot of Native American related songs. I always wondered if he was related to Oliver La Farge. That writer of Crazy Autumn, a book I read as a kid about two Indian children. I don't remember him singing traditional songs. I may be wrong but I always think of him as singing his own music.

Not much information but maybe it will get someone else's memory going.


24 Jul 99 - 02:30 AM (#98796)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: Dale Rose This is the best site I could find. Note that he was the adopted son of Oliver LaFarge.

24 Jul 99 - 04:30 AM (#98804)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: Sourdough

Dale Rose:

That was a terrific reference.

Thanks for the pointer. I spent a lot of time going through it, dredging up memories of NY nights.

I was not central to what was going on, I guess I was one of the people who made up the audiences during the folk music glory days in Greenwich Village. It is trip to go back through those old hangouts. The odd thing, to me anyway, is that I have abosulutely no recollection of Bob Dylan. I remember the Clancy's from that time, Mark Spoelstra, Ralph Rinzler, Izzy Young and his store, Mike Seeger but no Bob Dylan. I saw from the pages that he was at the Indian Neck Folk Festival in 1961. I'm pretty sure I was there that year. I was actually on the Board of Indian Neck but I am not positive I was there that year.

Thanks again.


24 Jul 99 - 10:49 AM (#98836)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: Art Thieme

Peter came through Chicago when I was working at the Old Town Folklore Center--about '65. Did a nice inpromptu set for the students--laid back yet passionate. Seemed to feel the songs and the points of view he was expressing. He wasn't a great singer, but he did seem to want to let the story in his songs make their own points. I do recall him doing "AS LONG AS THE GRASS SHALL GROW". Disregard for tribal treaty rights and provisions was a major theme of his songs. If he wasn't genetically related to Oliver LaFarge (won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel LAUGHING BOY) you sure felt that he had become a Native-American as far as his devotion to their causes, rights and sympathies were concerned. There's the old nurture vs. nature thing again.


24 Jul 99 - 02:02 PM (#98863)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: Frank of Toledo

I spent the winter of 62 and spring of 63 in Boston, with many A night at the Club 47 in Cambridge; saw Dylan, Ed McCurdy, Oscar Brand and others.Heard lots about Peter LaFarge but never saw him. Thanks to everyone for a great thread...Keep it going please....

25 Jul 99 - 07:28 PM (#99122)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: MAG (inactive)

I dug out my copy of "Peter La Farge sings Women Blues." (Folkways, 1964 -- one of 4 Folkways albums, it says.)

The liner notes on the website above leave out a bit about him: that he was born a member of the Narrqaganestt tribe which was going out of existence; he and his sister were adopted at birth; there was a lot about his first career as a rodeo rider, which busted him up quite a bit.

When he left the rodeo for good he was under the influence of Cisco Houston who seems to have been a mentor. He also worked with Big Bill Broonzy and others. The liner notes go on to say that he started the songs which became "as long as the grass shall grow" after building a rock something with Pete Seeger one afternoon. (Seeger does have a reputation for getting people to sing their own songs.)

and yes, the album is all original songs and pretty uneven. He also did a stint in Korea.

If you want the exact wording on the liner notes, let me know if it's legal to quote them word for word.


25 Jul 99 - 09:02 PM (#99145)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: catspaw49

Awhile back we were running a thread on undiscovered performers and most of the posts were the folks who are out there today. I thought then of the many like Peter LaFarge and Patrick Sky from years gone by. They had some exposure/success but for me, not enough. I don't know what makes some "hit" and others not...if I did I'd be the hottest promoter going. So many wonderful performers, songsmiths.......and yet they are famous only to a few.

Some of our own, like Art, Rick, Sandy, Caroline, and Dan (to name just a few) are certainly worthy of far more notoriety than they've had, but they are happy with the music and each goes right along enjoying the life dedicated to something they believe in. It's the rest of the world who's missing out and for that, I'm sorry for the rest of the world. And I wonder if we ever tell these fellow 'Catters just how much we do enjoy and thank them for carrying on the great tradition of folk. Yeah, I know we all do our small bits on that too, but we owe a little more to them. Thanks.


06 Mar 01 - 10:56 PM (#412493)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: MAG (inactive)

I am pulling this up, as I have put the abovementioned LP into the auction -- "Peter LaFarge Sings Women Blues."

We want all you obscure performer lovers to have a chance to bid it up!

06 Mar 01 - 11:36 PM (#412504)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: DonMeixner

My first experience and pretty much only experience with Petert La Farge was after his death. "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" showing up on a Pat Sky album. Johnny Cash's recording being about the same time. And then Buffy Ste. Marie doing "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow". Both songs always had foot notes with The Late Peter La Farge, author. I remeber thinking her was a writer with a clearly defined mission, that of Indian Rights.

As Spaw says there are so many we hear about but never hear. Michael Strange and Will McLean come immediately to mind for me. Beyond Mc Lean's "Osceola's Last Words" I know nothing of his music but would love to know more.


07 Mar 01 - 03:32 AM (#412571)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: Stewie

Smithsonian/Folkways will make custom CDs of any of the Folkways albums and supply the original insert. I have the 'As Long As the Grass Shall Grow' album somewhere, but it's not where it is supposed to be in my collection. However, I have located the insert in one of my lyrics files. If anyone wants lyrics to a specific song, I am happy to post them. The track listing is available via the link that Dale posted.


07 Mar 01 - 05:11 PM (#412979)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: Giac

The link above says he died in 1964. However, Peter LaFarge's photo was on the cover of the January 1966 issue of Sing Out, and the inside article says he died October 27, 1965.

In the article, by Julius Lester, the author quoted one of LaFarge's poems:

Excerpt from "Epitaph" -

Cisco Houston passed this way
Sang a song and was gone next day
We loved and we mourned him
But he's gone away
And the morning rises
On the people who stay.

In the same issue is an article by Hedy West's dad, Don West, about Kentucky coal mining.

07 Mar 01 - 11:10 PM (#413133)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: simon-pierre


19 Jan 03 - 03:29 PM (#870039)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: Stefan Wirz

Peter La Farge discography online !

07 Nov 08 - 01:51 PM (#2487791)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: bobad

Peter LaFarge was born in New York City, April 30th, 1931, the son of Pulitzer Prize winner Oliver LaFarge and heiress Wanden Mathews LaFarge. He was named Oliver Albee LaFarge, but the 'Oliver' never stuck. Despite the story being told many times, geneological research has shown that likely Peter nor his father were Native American, though his family's association, work and compassionate writings on the subject made people believe they were. He changed his name to Peter when his mother divorced in 1935, moved the family to Colorado and remarried rancher Andy Kane in 1940. Peter and his younger sister Povy grew up on a sprawling ranch in Fountain, CO.
He went to Fountain Valley High School, but became bitten by the rodeo bug and left school before graduation. He rode bareback, then graduated to saddle broncs and rode at all the big shows in the country.
He spent three years in the Navy aboard the aircraft carrier Boxer during the Korean war. The Boxer had a terrible explosion and although Pete escaped physical injury, it messed with his mind. He was also forced to spy on his ship mates, and he showed the first signs of mental illness. The Navy brass had him sent to a psychiatric hospital for experimental treatments.
After the hospital stay he rodeoed, was injured repeatedly, and made his way to the Goodman School of Theater in Chicago where he studied acting. He spent two years there and went on to summer stock getting supporting parts, mostly in Shakespeare plays. He married a young girl from Michigan named Suzan Becker in 1958, they toured with the theater company, but she later had a mental breakdown and remained institutionalized until 10 years after his death. Suzan was killed in a car accident in 1977.
In the late 50's he got a part on Broadway and moved to New York City, but he tired of waiting for parts which were few and far between for young actors and grew frustrated with his unappreciated playwriting. He turned to singing in the clubs of Greenwich Village. He and pal Bob Dylan often visited their ailing hero Woody Guthrie.
With the help of Cisco Houston he wrote songs, got a one album deal with Columbia Records in 1962 (the first in the folk scene to get such a contract), and then released five albums on Folkways Records from 1962 to 1965. He painted well, though he was truly a poet, a writer, a striking real-life Lone Ranger and Tonto in the beat mecca of Greenwich Village. Johnny Cash made him famous with the Ballad of Ira Hayes from his album Bitter Tears in 1964.
He had a daughter, Karen Wanden, with Playboy Bunny turned singer Inger Neilsen in August, 1965. But his excesses, pressures, and hyper NYC life caught up with him, Peter died from a probable stroke related overdose on October 27th, 1965, though the death certificate reads "pending further study".
He is buried on a lonely, windswept hill at the beautiful, former Kane ranch in Colorado. He is survived by his sister Povy, brother Pen, daughter Karen, and granddaughter Alexandra.

07 Nov 08 - 02:29 PM (#2487823)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: Rog Peek

Pete Seeger sings Peter La Farge:

Coyote My Little Brother


07 Nov 08 - 02:43 PM (#2487839)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: John MacKenzie

I used to do Ira Hayes, and in days long gone by, I was keeping company with a nice girl whose father had a title, and an American social climbing snob of a Mother. I was invited to the house for dinner, and asked to bring my guitar. After the Phillipina house maid had cleared the table, I was asked to perform, in the billiard room. So I sang Ira Hayes to this silly American woman and her Mother who was a 'Grand Dame' of amazing attitude. The silence that followed was palpable, and for some reason, I was never invited again.
I don't think they enjoyed it, but I sure as hell did.


07 Nov 08 - 02:45 PM (#2487841)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: Rog Peek

Ha ha. I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall there John.


07 Nov 08 - 04:34 PM (#2487922)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: GUEST,Tunesmith

I used to sing Peter's "White Girl". I learned it from the music printed in a copy of Sing Out magazine. Year's later I heard Johnny Cash's version and I was amazed how fast he sang it.

07 Nov 08 - 07:47 PM (#2488055)
Subject: RE: Peter LaFarge
From: GUEST,Bill the sound

I too found a negative reaction to Ira Hayes but I have also sung his song I WILL BRING YOU FLOWERS
I often get someone asking about the song and also requesting a copy of it.