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Chicken Charlie Folk History: The Scare Revisited (32) RE: BS: Folkhistory: The Scare Revisited 01 Jun 01


When asking people to reconstruct the past, ya gotta know that you're going to get their perspective. Nietzsche said that first, but I thought I'd repeat it. Here's what I recall as a kid growing up in S. California late 1940's, thru 50's etc.

Frankie Laine and Johnny Mercer need to be tossed into the mix. As I recall, Mercer recorded "Ol' 97" etc. on the 78's; Frankie Laine did some newly-minted singer-songwriter 'western' songs like Mule Train; I think he covered the High Noon theme too. I wouldn't say either was truly "Folk" but neither were they always just mainstream pop.

Belafonte, it seems to me, was big before the Kingston Trio, to answer the banana question. (I hope Mousethief is just being droll.) First Kingston songs that hit my consciousness were Banua Jail, Sloop John B. and Tom Dooley. Weavers were earlier, but I didn't pay them as much attention until I "discovered" them later, which is what I mean by perspective.

I think it was Bob Dylan's "Ashville Junction" that corrected the pronunciation: "If I could gamble just like Tom Dula, I'd make my fortune and never roam."

Belafonte, BTW, was also doing the occasional blues (Weepin' Willow) and ersatz-folk ("Mark Twain") piece as well.

In the LA area, there was a radio program on Saturday afternoon called Hootenanny. You got three hours of Kingston Trio, Limelighters, Jean Ritchie, New Christie Minstrels, Belafonte, Ian & Sylvia, Burl Ives, High-Low Brown (?), and whole bunches of other long defunct groups. The Canadian Michael Jackson was the DJ.

As far as major epiphanies in the pop world--page turners for culture periods (strictly without regard for musical worth or lack thereof), I would nominate Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song" for calypso, KT's "Tom Dooley" for folkoid, Rooftop Singers' "Walk Right In" for the 12-string guitar, and much later, "Behind Closed Doors" (Charley Rich?) as a landmark in CW.

Funny, I can't remember when/where I encountered more nearly true folk. John Jacob Niles?? Maybe, but whatever evil things you say about KT and the Weavers, if I were trapped in an elevator with JJN music, I would vow to burn every dulcimer on this planet. Twice.

CC


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