Mudcat Café message #864733 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #55436   Message #864733
Posted By: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
11-Jan-03 - 05:56 PM
Thread Name: Washington Square Memories
Subject: RE: Washington Square Memories
I see that none of you remember that I was there- but the reason is that I was almost always too shy to sing then- George would urge me to, but I thought no one would hear my quiet voice so I was content with listening. You may remember that sort of pushy redhead with the big baby-carriage (our first son Peter Pickow, now ed-in chief at Music Sales), trying to get the babe in close to the music! It seemed to have worked, as he went on to become a fine guitar player, and did The Hammered Dulcimer, a book many players & teachers use, and has since written dozens of How-to-Play books for Oak, etc.

We lived in our first real apartment, corner of Bleeker and 7th Ave. South, on the top floor up two LONG flights of marble stairs (try that with a big baby-carriage). We got the apartment in 1951 through Frank Kleinholz the artist who had both pads on the top floor- one he kept for his studio; he let us have the one above the 7th Ave. Lafayette Bakery (YUM! The cookies baking used to kill me). Wonderful apartment with a huge skylight in the big livingroom, a large bedroom, a kitchen, bath and tiny foyer. The middle floor was the home of the Tamawa Club (only noisy on meeting nights), and the street walkthrough was a beautiful drugstore (The Village Drug?).

No children yet, (Pete was born in 1954), we went to little coffee houses near us,and to the Village Vanguard to hear Leadbelly, and Cynthia Gooding among others. Or sometimes, rent parties in Alan Block's loft. Alan and his wife gave me my first guitar, a small one they weren't using, because I had learned FOUR chords and they thought I ought to have a guitar as well as that strange instrument the dulcimer which no one had seen before (or very few). And other times, Sunday afternoon sings at Pete and Toshi's apartment (Toshi's Mom minded the baby upstairs), with fifteen or twenty of us would-be musicians crowded in.

In 1952 I had my Fulbright year abroad, collecting in England, Scotland and Ireland (another story). We rented out 88 7th Ave. So. to Jac Holzman, a young boy who was recording my singing as his first folk record for Elektra. He had a tiny music shop on 10th St., around the corner from us. I completed the recordings, George did the logo for Elektra, and photographed me for the cover (and did all of Elektra's covers for years afterward), and we left for England. The album came out while we were there, and Jac wrote to say he was thrilled with the sales- that he expected it to sell maybe 2000 copies!

Mid-1953, we came back home and soon after began with Lou Gordon to run the midnight folk concerts at Cherry Lane Theatre where two Irish actors were struggling to keep afloat, presenting Irish plays- they were Tom and Paddy Clancy, and after several concerts we pursuaded them to sing a song or two on one of the concerts (they kept insisting they didn't know any songs and weren't really singers). And that's another story...

And THEN the Washington Square sings began. So now you know a bit of the musical background (it IS personal, and only a very small part of what was going on in the Village then), and can see a corner of the stage that was set for the Washington Square revels!

With fond affection for those and these times and friends, Jean R.