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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Sandy Paton Folklore: The Gate of Horn (22) RE: Folklore: The Gate of Horn 04 Mar 06


Okay, Mary, I'll get it rolling:
    1did three engagements at the "old" Gate of Horn, before it moved to fancier digs on nightclub row. It was a fine place to play. If anyone was being noisy in the music room, the management would politely move them into the bar area. Bob Gibson was the prime performer there for a long time. Frank Hamilton was the union-required house musician.
    My first gig at the Gate was as the opening act for Odetta. We got along wonderfully well although her audience was not mine at all. I learned not to try to match her power, but always opened as quietly as I could with something like "Dear Companion" or "Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies." Caroline and I were invited to and happily attended her wedding to Danny Gordon (I hope I'm remembering his name correctly we never met him again), but the marriage, apparently was not destined to last.
    My second week at the Gate was with Martha Schlamme. Her audiences were much better for me, but the bar receipts dropped dramatically, I'm told. She brought in a quiet, attentive, appreciative crowd, but they came to hear the music, not to drink. Good for us, but bad for business.
    My third engagement started off with Carolyn Hester. I think it may have been her first significant engagement. She did a sort of Susan Reed thing -- very pretty girl in a pinafore, singing sweetly while perched on a stool. They let her go after a few evenings, to tell you the truth, and brought in Char Daniels as a replacement, at my suggestion. Char had been a guitar student of mine in Toledo when I was working the cocktail lounge at the Park Lane Hotel Lord, that must have been back about 1954 or 1955 (I'm terrible with dates). Char had a delightfully bawdy sense of humor and her singing style had a real country twang. I remember her adjusting herself to her first guitar and asking "Don't they make these in a D-cup?" (She was amply endowed.) We had a ball for those final few evenings. I never saw Carolyn again, but she went on to an impressive career in folk music, a brief marriage to Richard Farina, and now she seems to be the dearly loved "folk godmother" of the Texas Kerrville crowd. Good for her! Pictures I've seen recently indicate that she is still a very lovely woman. An amusing memory: one of the young owner/partners/managers at the Gate (not Al Grossman) suggesting to Carolyn that she sang like a damned virgin and offering to assist her, somehow, in counteracting that impression. We were left to interpret his treatment as we might. As I think about it now, that exchange may well have been a primary factor in her early departure.
    I've met up with Odetta on numerous occasions since we worked together. At the 50th Anniversary get together honoring the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Odetta gave me a hug that like to broke my back! Left me gasping for breath! It's not only her performances that are powerful. Take it from me, that's one very strong woman!
    It was at a special Sunday afternoon program at the old Gate that I first met Bob and Evelyne Beers. Bob did a superb entrance bit, alone, in costume & makeup, as an old country fiddler. Pantomimed the role beautifully, then fiddled up a storm before removing the gray wig and hat, the scruffy old coat, and introducing himself and his wife to sing and play a regular set of Beers family songs. A very effective bit of acting, that. Later, of course, they started the wonderful Fox Hollow Folk Festival in Petersburg, New York, where so many of us met every year and sang our hearts out all night long.
    After the Gate moved uptown (or down, or over, I'm not good with Chicago directions), I was there only for one afternoon program, sharing the bill with none other than Memphis Slim. Memorable! I will never forget his dynamic rendition of "If You See Kay." But nightclub row was not for me, and I guess the Gate had to become a bit less folksy to attract the uptown drinking crowd. The new room was all polished and fancy, but it just wasn't the same joint that I had known and enjoyed. I did see Bob Gibson and Hamilton (then known as Bob) Camp in the new place one night. The less polite refer to the recording (menrioned above) from that evening as "The Bobbsey Twins at the Gate of Horn." I recall that they did a hyper-effeminate send-up of "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" that the nightclub audience loved. I didn't.
    I had known Gibson a bit when I was working the Limelite in Aspen, Colorado, in the summer of 1959. Bob was practically a fixture at the Jerome Hotel there, as he was at the Gate during the rest of the year. Then, when Caroline and I moved Folk-Legacy to Sharon, Connecticut, some ten years later, I was surprised to meet him in the local drug store. (No wise cracks, guys!) It seems that he and his wife, Rose, were living in Kent, first town to the south of us. She was working as a waitress, their daughters were in elementary school here, and he was supposed to be writing songs for his publisher, but confessed that he was stuck in a terrible dry spell. He'd blown the advance and was having a hard time. He offered to build some bookcases for me. Brought in a lot of fancy power equipment (table saw, etc.), worked for hours getting it all carefully leveled and set up in the garage, then he and I sat in the kitchen and talked "old times" all night. This happened a few times, and then, well, he sort of disappeared. A couple of months later, Rose came up with a strong teen-ager to help, and took all the power gear back to Kent. That was the last I ever saw of Bob.
    Gate of Horn memories? Lots of 'em. Now it's Art's turn to contribute.


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