The year is 1961 or 62. The place is Gerdi’s Folk City just off Washington Square in the NYC Village. My girlfriend and I have driven over from New Jersey and are sipping a couple brews (I think at 0.25/glass) listening to Mike Seeger and the New Lost City Ramblers. It’s a college vacation, she goes to the University of Iowa and I to Amherst College. Great bluegrass…and Sharon says,
“Doug, isn’t that Pete Seeger who just walked in?”
I look and yes, it’s Pete and then Ronny Gilbert, Lee Hay’s and, I think, Burl Ives. That is, the Weavers. Well, they said hello, and brother Mike asked them to come up and play with the Ramblers. Wow! If you knew Folk City, it was an old bar with the bar removed, so the performers could play, and a few tables. If I remember correctly (I’m 72y now, as is Sharon, but she married somebody else and lives just outside Boston…but we still keep in touch.) Well, I think we had another beer or two, I’m sure I did, but maybe she just had one. In any event, it was an unusual event, totally unexpected, yet we both remember to this day. I’ve heard Pete in other venues, but that was a very special evening with a very special young lady.
We went to college at the time of the so-called ‘Folk Revival’ and I learned to play guitar and 100’s of folk songs. Buffy St. Marie went to UMASS in Amherst and would often come to our fraternity late at night to play and sing with a group of us who always stayed around late to sing and, yup, kill the keg. My wife, Dotty, grew up on a dairy farm in western PA not very far from the Kinzua Dam that Buffy sang about often.
Sharon and I would go to the Square on Sunday afternoons and several times listened to Peter and Mary before Noel Paul Stokey joined them. We also went to PP&M’s first big concert at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium when they opened for the Limeliters who almost got boo’ed off the stage after PP&M sang.
Paul played in the Boothbay Harbor, ME, Opera House this summer, and when I mentioned hearing them at that concert, he said he remembered it well as something that really was at the beginning of their career. So many good memories, so many good songs, and oh so many old friends…
Doug Reilly, Los Alamos, NM, Natural Philosopher (physicist) LAS/NL. EURATOM, USDOE, IAEA…nuclear safeguards, nonproliferation, and arms control…oh yes, folk singer…