Mudcat Café message #3628046 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #106264   Message #3628046
Posted By: Don Firth
24-May-14 - 05:31 PM
Thread Name: Folk singers with longest career
Subject: RE: Folk singers with longest career
Tom Robbins (Another Roadside Attraction, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Still Life with Woodpecker, others) refers to his career as his "careen."

I like that. I'm hardly world famous, but I think I'm reasonably well-known in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle and environs).

I became acquainted with folk music in the 1940s when I listened to Burl Ives Sunday afternoon radio program, "The Wayfaring Stranger" and saw the movie "Glamor Girl" (1948) featuring Susan Reed. A friend of mine had an album by Richard Dyer-Bennet. Then, in my third year at the University of Washington I started going with a young lady who was into folk music in a big way, teaching herself to play the fine old parlor guitar her grandmother gave her and learning songs from a small paperback that was around at the time, A Treasury of Folk Songs compiled by John and Sylvia Kolb. Looked like fun, so I bought a cheap guitar ($9.95 plus a $5.00 fiberboard case) and a copy of the book, and started learning along with her.

One evening she and I went to an informal concert by Walt Robertson. I was completely enthralled by the variety of songs he sang, and it hit me. I wanted to do that! And I went at it in a big way, hit Walt up for lessons, then studied classical guitar (fast way to learn to use your right hand fingers), took a few voice lessons, and practiced up a storm.

I'd been at it for about three years when I got hired for my first gig. This would have been about 1955. A group of about 250 people. I was scared spitless, but when I finished (they really seemed to enjoy it and let me escape with my life!), I was exhilarated!   And I sang just about everywhere they would let me. In 1959, I was asked to do a series of television programs on Seattle' new educational station, KCTS-TV called "Ballads and Books," funded by the Seattle Public Library. This led to all kinds of jobs, regular coffee house engagements, college concerts, arts festivals. . . .   I was busy.

The most recent concert was with Bob (Deckman) Nelson, in 2007. But since then, I've pretty well hung it up. Within recent years, I've had to haul my carcass around in a wheelchair and it's getting tougher to get places.

But I still practice. Why practice you ask? Because I enjoy it!

Never made any records, but I'd like to. We'll see. . . .

But I think Bob Nelson has me beat. I'd been at it for a year maybe when I met Bob. He was sixteen at the time and had been at it since he was thirteen. He'd met a fellow named Bill Higley (Willowah Willie), who knew Haywire Mac, and Bob started learning the guitar and every song he could gleep off of Bill Higley, and from a big stack of Burl Ives records.

Bob and I worked together, singing concerts and coffee house gigs, off and on, for well over fifty years.

Don (*creak*) Firth