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GUEST,Sandy Paton Anyone knew John Greenway? (28) RE: Anyone knew John Greenway? 09 Feb 06


Yes, Nancy, I knew him when Caroline and I lived in Boulder - academic year of 1959-60. I did a small concert/festival with him and a couple of local folks at the University, where John, of course, was a professor of anthropology. While some of the other performers were doing their thing, John and I talked and swapped verses to "The Ball at Kerrie Muir" (spelling optional), and, since I knew even more outrageously filthy verses than he did (we traded verses until he ran out, and I was still going), he decided I was a genuine folksinger. I didn't tell him how many of the ones he sang were new to me! I doubt that such a classification appears in his "American Folksongs of Protest" definition.
    Having dinner at his home one evening, we discovered that his son and ours shared a birthday. "But mine is smarter!" he opined. I declined the implied challenge, he being the PhD and me being a high-school drop-out. He did write a most flattering review, in some obscure folk publication, of a concert I gave, but that was really profoundly influenced, I think, by our "Ball" competition, not by my performance.
    Reading his books, I found myself often heading for the big dictionary. He was irrascible (where's the dictionary when I need it?), but brilliant. The Western Folklore book is only an editor's selection of articles that appeared in the Western Folklore Journal that he was then editing. "The Inevitable American" and "Down Among the Wild Men" will show you his brilliance and, alas, his sharp turn to the right, politically.
    During the protests against the Vietnam War, he deliberately became a Deputy Sheriff so he could go about with a weighted billy-club (and maybe other armaments). When a day of protest was announced by the students, John announced that he would give an impromptu test that day, and any student of his who failed to take it would automatically fail his course. I believe he meant it, too.
    Much of his early distemper might have been attributable to his ulcer. He carried a quart of milk with him all the time before going to Australia, drinking it to ease his discomfort. Out in the outback, he found milk to be unobtainable, so he was forced to drink lemonade and, possibly, beer. Lo! his ulcer nearly disappeared! I think he discusses this in one or another of his post-Australia books.
    Yes, he went wildly right-wing. It was almost an illness that took over his life, and certainly dominated his thinking. When I first read "American Folksongs of Protest," I looked forward to meeting him. When I did, I was able to accept his quite obvious intellectual arrogance, but I could never accept the political philosophy he embraced in his later years.
      Sandy Paton


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