John Dwyer - Songs & Stories
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John Dwyer - Songs & Stories

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Lyr Add: Notice to Mariners (John M. Dwyer) (13)
Photos of John Dwyer and Friends (9)

Deckman 06 Jan 01 - 11:29 AM
Mark Cohen 06 Jan 01 - 01:43 AM
SandyBob 06 Jan 01 - 12:54 AM
GUEST,Maggie Dwyer 05 Jan 01 - 10:58 PM
Don Firth 05 Jan 01 - 09:00 PM
Deckman 05 Jan 01 - 07:56 PM
Deckman 05 Jan 01 - 07:15 PM
Don Firth 05 Jan 01 - 06:43 PM
Stewart 05 Jan 01 - 01:57 PM
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Subject: RE: John Dwyer - Songs&Stories
From: Deckman
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 11:29 AM

One of the many vivid memories I have of John was the passion with which he sang "The Good Boy."

"I have led a good life, full of peace and quiet, I shall have an old age, full of rum and riot, I have been a good boy, wed to peace and study, I shall have an old age, ribald, course and bloody.

I have never cut throats, even when I yearned to, Never sung dirty songs, that my fancy turned to, I have been a nice boy and done what was expected, I shall be an old bum, loved but unrespected."

Can't you just see that grin and the twinkle in his eye!

CHEERS, Bob Nelson (deckman)

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Subject: RE: John Dwyer - Songs&Stories
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 01:43 AM

In a previous life before I moved to Hawaii (1985-90)I was a faithful member of the Seattle Song Circle, and of course that means I remember John very well. I particularly remember him belting out "It's a Long Way From Amphioxus", which was always a favorite of mine, as I was both a parodist and a biology major.

One day John arranged for a few of us Seattle songsters to perform, as it were, at the San Juan Islands National Park (that's probably not the real name of the park, but that's ginkgo deficiency for you....something John never seemed to suffer from), which was either at English Camp or American Camp on San Juan Island. A fine time it was, educational (I learned more about the Pig War than I ever wanted to know), musical, and fun. As I recall, we were there because Maggie, who just checked in above, was a park ranger there that summer.

I also remember a delightful day at John's house on the water in Marysville, sharing music with Linda Allen, who was just starting to collect what became "Washington Songs and Lore," including John's "Notice to Mariners", with the immortal last line, "Don't navigate by cow!"

Thanks for starting this thread, Stewart. I hope Mary G. and other past and present Seattle Song Circlers will check in.


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Subject: RE: John Dwyer - Songs&Stories
From: SandyBob
Date: 06 Jan 01 - 12:54 AM

I liked John because he sang bawdy songs well and other politically out-of-favor songs and didn't care a fig about what others thought about it...he gave a lot of us permission to do the same. I also found him to be a gracious man. He heard a song I wrote sung at at a camp somewhere and went out of his way to look me up and tell me he liked it. Sing on where ever you are, John.

Sandy Bob

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Subject: RE: John Dwyer - Songs&Stories
From: GUEST,Maggie Dwyer
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 10:58 PM

Don and Bob,

Thanks for the heads up about this thread. Even after three-plus years, I often find myself with an outrageous pun on my hands, wishing I had Dad to send it to. As it happens, I do have many recordings of his on my hands, though they are in storage right now. I'd love to do something with them both academically and Song-Circle-wise. One of these days I'll be able to record some of his tapes onto CDs. And I do intend to make both the recordings and his books available to those interested in collecting folksongs.

As an adult I find I still have a child's response to some of the songs he sang during my childhood. Last year someone made a remark about the Ezra Pound parody "Winter is a Coomin In" (I may have misspelled this) and I made a remark about "egg you hath my ham" making no sense. But then, I learned that song when I was in my Dr. Suess days. Dad explained a lot of his songs to us, but that one got past me. A Shakespearean scholar friend nearly fell out of his chair laughing, then explained it was "ague hath my ham," an ENTIRELY different meaning. Many of Dad's songs were sung when we were supposedly out of earshot, but all it took was one hearing of some of them and we had them down. And usually sang them at the top of our lungs in the back yard as we played on the swingset. All of those hoots, when you were singing in the living room downstairs, we were sitting upstairs at the heater duct listening. ;-)

Don Firth wrote a wonderful article about Dad that appeared in _Sing Out!_ some months after his death. I work (not surprisingly) in a university library, and have been reading a fair amount about copyright issues. I can't say whether _Sing Out_ is copyrighted, but I would be willing to guess that Don didn't give away all rights to it when he submitted it. As the author it is his to give or sell, and I doubt he would encounter difficulties if he ran it here. And it might bring a few more readers to _Sing Out!_.

My two cents-- Maggie

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Subject: RE: John Dwyer - Songs&Stories
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 09:00 PM

Back in the late Seventies, shortly after the Seattle Song Circle got started, we were having a small (not song circle) party and songfest at Phoebe Smith's house. About a dozen people were there, including John Dwyer. Mary Wilson arrived late, and as she was taking off her coat, the following conversation took place:

Mary Wilson: "I had trouble finding this place. I wandered around so long I was beginning to feel like Sacajawea."

John Dwyer: "You were beginning to feel like a sack of what?"

Don Firth

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Subject: RE: John Dwyer - Songs&Stories
From: Deckman
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 07:56 PM

... by the way, I remember that Flip Breskin, of Bellingham was there at that concert! Where are you Flip? This is your chance to tell stories about John, or maybe get even! CHEERS, Bob Nelson

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Subject: RE: John Dwyer - Songs&Stories
From: Deckman
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 07:15 PM

Don, Was that word antidotes, or antic dotes? John Dwyer was famous for actions that produced both. Do you remember the famous 'sexist' wars he would start at sing-alongs? He and I sang a concert at Apple Jam in Chehalis, Wa, about 100 years ago. With no pryer warning on his part, and to goad Linda Allen, he started singing sexist war songs. At that point, I had to throw the planned program out the window and decide if I should join the new theme, referee, or call the cops. I don't remember exactly what I did, but I do know that I returned home with my manhood intact! CHEERS, Bob

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Subject: RE: John Dwyer - Songs&Stories
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 06:43 PM

I don't really know much about copyrights and such. Although I aspire to be a published writer (I am currently working on a memoir -- gad, that sounds pretentious -- about my bizarre adventures as a folksinger in and around the Pacific Northwest during the Fifties and Sixties, but oozing on to more recent things, like how the idea of the Seattle Song Circle got cooked up after a workshop at the 1977 Northwest Folklife Festival), my only published work so far is (sadly) the aforementioned article about John Dwyer in the Sing Out! Last Chorus column. If I own the article -- and I will probably have to check with Sing Out! about this -- I would be more than happy to post it here for those who don't have access to the magazine, provided anybody wants to read it. It runs about 700 words.

Although he never made any recordings and he didn't go on concert tours and such, from 1960 on, John Dwyer was a major figure in folk music in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. He was a pretty colorful guy in his own way, and lots of people knew him. There ought to be a lot of memories and anecdotes out there.

Don Firth

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Subject: John Dwyer - Songs&Stories
From: Stewart
Date: 05 Jan 01 - 01:57 PM

A recent thread on the song "Frozen Logger" drifted to a discussion of other songs about the Pacific Northwest. I posted "Notice to Mariners" by John Dwyer, a song about the Bremerton ferry running aground in the fog. I suggested a new thread on John Dwyer and Don Firth thought that would be a good idea, so here it is. By the way, Don wrote a nice article on John, who died in 1997, in SingOut! vol 42 # 4 p.29. I knew John for only about a year; there are many who knew him better and, I hope, can contribute to this thread. John was a founding member and regular participant in the Seattle Song Circle, which I joined in 1996. He was a crusty curmudgeon, but good friend, a consumate punster with a warped (off-the-wall) sense of humor, a writer of outrageous parodys and songs about historic events in the Pacific Northwest, and an authority on traditional ballads. He sang with a good and strong bass voice, mostly traditional traditional songs or songs with a humorous bent. He rarely missed our weekly song circle, and was always the first to arrive and the last to leave. I remember the Sunday evening in November 1997 when he did not appear at song circle. I had a strong feeling that something bad had happened. It turned out he had died suddenly and alone in his home in Marysville. I wish I had known him better. So, from those of you that did know him and his songs, it would be fun to hear some stories of John and some of his original songs.

Cheers, S. in Seattle

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