My Old Kentucky Home, Ben Sollee

May 6, 2016

Yes, it’s a form of advertisement, for Woodford Reserve. But it’s timely, with the 2016 Kentucky Derby just hours away.

And, it’s beautiful. Ben Sollee’s arrangement of this old chesnut of a tune is wonderful, performed with elan on a cello, which is hardly a folk staple. The video appears to have been shot in ambient light (check the reflections on Ben’s glasses).

Just, wow. Give a listen!

Found it on Twitter.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Joan Combs Durso.


Ben Sollee captured by photographer Kory Johnson in a very special moment at a house concert in 2011.

Ben Sollee captured by photographer Kory Johnson in a very special moment at a house concert in 2011.


Typewriter of the moment: Pete Seeger

February 15, 2014

Photo found at the blog of the good Robert Messenger at OzTypewriter:

I can find no identifying information on the photo.  It looks, to me, to have been taken in the 1950s, judging by Pete’s hair and no beard.

Pete Seeger at his typewriter, probably in the 1950s.

Pete Seeger at a typewriter, probably in the 1950s.

It’s an electric typewriter, I think, seeing a cord coming out of the back.  Probably a Royal (I’m not great at identifying typewriters, you know).   Was this taken at Pete’s home in Beacon?  Perhaps.

Can you help in identifying the time and place of this photo?


Tribute to Pete Seeger: Tish Hinojosa, “Festival of Flowers”

February 1, 2014

Somebody put a video collage of Pete together with Tish Hinojosa‘s cut off of a 1998 Pete Seeger tribute album, “Festival of Flowers,” just in the last few days.


From “Where Have All the Flowers Gone : The Songs of Pete Seeger” 1998
Tish Hinojosa – vocals
Marvin Dykhuis – gitarra de golpe (mariachi guitar)
Chip Dolan – accordion
Amy Ferris Tiven – violin
Glenn Kawamoto – bass
Paul Pearcy – drums

Tish Hinojosa’s voice constantly stuns me with its clarity; I think my first Tish album purchase is 20 years old now.

We should hear her more often.

Appreciating and remembering Pete Seeger

January 28, 2014

Interesting morning.  Is there anyone who does not have a Pete Seeger memory?

The Pete Seeger Appreciation page was set up many months ago — in fact founder Jim Capaldi died last December, with his family carrying it on.  A good place to start, maybe.

Classic Pete Seeger photo -- from the 1950s?  This and more at the Pete Seeger Appreciation Page, at

Classic Pete Seeger photo — from the 1950s? This and more at the Pete Seeger Appreciation Page, at

Read his biography, perhaps?

Learn to play the banjo:

This is the one that made me shed tears:

What great tributes have you seen to Pete today?  Give us a link in comments, share the good stuff.

Farewell, Pete Seeger

January 28, 2014

Just got the news that Pete Seeger died.  He was 94.

Such a loss for American music, to American music, and to history and art.

New York Times story here.

Pete Seeger at the Beacon Sloop Club in Beacon, N.Y., in 2010. Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times

Pete Seeger at the Beacon Sloop Club in Beacon, N.Y., in 2010. Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times

I love the Andrew Sullivan photo the New York Times used — it reminds me of the best way to hear Pete, in the out-of-doors, near the Hudson, in the summer, with a small audience who could be coerced to sing along.

Pete was an alumnus of Camp Rising Sun (of the L. A. Jonas Foundation) near Rhinebeck, New York, from the very early days.  In 1974, between concerts at large venues with Arlo Guthrie, and on his way back home to Beacon, Pete stopped and spent a day with us at the camp.  He was , as always, wonderfully gracious, other than outward appearances indistinguishable from the 14- and 15-year boys in excitement to be having fun, exploring nature, and then leading us all in songs.

My unfinished master’s thesis was to explore Pete’s use of different rhetorical devices to get his messages across, and make them popular.   (One of my everlasting regrets.)

But despite his down-home-everybody-welcome demeanor, Seeger drove great movements, and pushed the arcs of history in wonderful directions throughout his life.

  • Pete was an anchor for Woody Guthrie in New York, and sometimes a rival.  As Pete told it, everybody loved Woody and always came to a performance to hear Woody sing.  It was often Pete who pushed Woody out front; no mistake that Woody’s famous New Year’s resolutions from 1942 included “Love Pete” among them.
  • Having learned from the Lomaxes at the Library of Congress, Pete recorded history in songs, preserving old tunes, making foreign tunes popular, and re-arranging verses here and there.  Pete revealed, discovered, or pushed the music of a family domestic (“500 Miles”), Cuban revolutionary poets (“Guantanamera”), his engineer sister (“Going to be an Engineer”), and hymn books.
  • Pete taught a song to seminar attendees at the Highlands School in Kentucky, people who went on to do great things with that song.  The song was “We Shall Overcome,” and photos show that those Pete taught to sing included both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Blacklisted after refusing to give in to the civil liberties assault by the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), Pete created a series of records to teach how to play a guitar, a banjo, and a twelve-string.  One of the kids who learned some twelve-string licks included a guy who went on to play strings for the folk group, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and their new tenor, a guy named John Denver.  Roger McGuinn electrified that twelve-string, and leading the Byrds, turned some of Pete’s songs into rock and roll hits — like “Turn, Turn, Turn.”
  • I asked Pete about getting him to Salt Lake City for a concert in the 1970s — he demurred, saying he needed to spend some time locally.  He told a story about showing up at a PTA meeting in Beacon to talk on some issue, and some local guy told Pete that Beacon didn’t need outsiders telling them what to do.  This hurt Pete, since he’d been living in Beacon at that time for more than 30 years, in the house he built by hand.   Pete told me that he realized a world reputation doesn’t count for much if you can’t use it to make things better in your home town.The “local project?” He said he wanted to get an old sloop, and sail the Hudson River signing to get people to clean it up.  At the time, the Hudson was very much a sewer from Albany to New York City.  A short time later the Sloop Clearwater was refitted, and Pete started music festivals up and down the river.  The Hudson, Pete’s local river, runs much cleaner today for his work.
  • I saw Pete and Arlo in concert at Wolf Trap, the performance park near Washington, D.C., a couple of times; and some other venues — but nothing ever beat that open air concert at Rising Sun.
  • Bruce Springsteen did us all a favor with his album of Seeger tunes; I chafed at Ronald Reagan’s choices of performers at his inaugurals, and at many other choices over the years.  I often thought Pete Seeger’s music, and voice, would be a better choice.  Springsteen’s pre-inauguration concert in 2008, from the Lincoln Memorial, had my full attention.  The only thing more perfect, I told Kathryn, would be Pete singing his own tunes from those steps (I heard him tell the stories of King’s and Marian Anderson’s performances there more than once).  Within a few minutes, Springsteen pulled Pete out onstage, and at the age of 90 he led the crowd singing Woody’s “This Land is Your Land.”  A perfect capstone, I thought.

If  you would, pull out your collection of Pete Seeger music today, and give it a spin.  It will raise your spirits, I guarantee.

What wonderful gifts Pete left us!

So long, Pete, one of the best American citizens we’ll ever know.

Maybe we should just say, “So long! It’s Been Good to Know Ya!”


Union Maid: Folk story about a brave American woman

September 2, 2013

Description at the YouTube site:

From Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Concert (Clearwater Concert), Madison Square Garden, 5/3/09. Featuring Billy Bragg, Mike & Ruthy Merenda, Dar Williams, New York City Labor Chorus.


Tip of the old scrub brush to Pat Carrithers.

Two portraits of Pete Seeger (with Judy Collins)

July 2, 2013

A couple of photos I stumbled on recently.

The Seeger family in 1921; the youngest one is Pete, in his father’s lap:

Seeger family, 1921

The Seeger Family, 1921 Pete Seeger, the now-93 year-old folk singer, is sitting on his father’s lap.  Pete’s father was musicologist Charles Louis Seeger, Jr.; his mother was the violinist Constance de Clyver Edson.  The other two children are probably Pete’s older brothers Charles, III, and John.  This photo probably was taken while Charles and Constance toured the American south to teach music, after his having to leave UCLA because of his pacifist stance during World War I.

And 92 years later, with Judy Collins:

Judy Collins and Pete Seeger, photo by David Rocco, at the Clearwater Festival in Hudson, New York, June 15, 2013.

Judy Collins and Pete Seeger, photo by the preservationist David Rocco, at the Clearwater Festival in Hudson, New York, June 15, 2013. (We think that’s Pete’s wife, Toshi, on the far right edge of the photo.)



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