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GUEST,Songster Bob Obit: Dick Rodgers, FSGW Institution (May 2008) (124* d) Obit: Dick Rodgers, FSGW Institution 07 May 08

FSGW stalwart and folk music enthusiast Dick Rodgers died at age 70 of a heart attack on Tuesday, May 6. Dick may be considered "FSGW member number one,” joining the Society as soon as it was founded. Though he was not one of the crew that met in Chuck Perdue’s kitchen to found the Society in 1964, Dick has been there ever since. Famed for his enthusiasm and friendliness, as well as his often slightly off-key performances and his penchant for seeking the oddest, most obscure ballad or broadside, Dick has been a regular at every Open Sing, WFF, mini-festival, “pick-nik” (yes, we used to have those) and program for the entire 44 years of the Society’s existence.

Born and raised in Ohio, Dick finished his military service and came to Washington in the early ‘60s. He was a regular at various coffee houses, including one he ran, and a member of the Washington Folk Music Guild, a precursor to the Society. He used to publish a small folksong newsletter, “Washington Folk Strums,” with news, performer interviews, recording reviews, and a full-page ad on the back for Dale Music (in payment for which he got the Martin classical guitar he always played). Dick’s other regular instrument was a homemade hurdy-gurdy, which he could regularly be seen playing in the picnic area at Washington Folk Festivals and at the Getaway.

In recent times, Dick limited himself to Open Sings and FSGW festivals, though he presented a nice workshop on “Washington in the ‘60s” at this year’s Minifestival, in which I joined him to present a few of the songs we were singing “back in the day.” That was Dick’s last “public” performance, and his presentation was well-received.

Sometimes annoying (at a long-ago FSGW Getaway, his performance of a long, turgid and obscure broadsheet ballad was enough to cause Nan Goland to light his word-sheet afire) and sometimes inspiring (Dick knew lots of songs, and even if he didn’t perform them so well, he could make you think “What a great song! I’ve got to learn that!”), Dick Rodgers will be remembered.

Bob Clayton

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