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Life of Burl Ives

DigiTrad:
LOLLIPOP TREE
THE LITTLE WHITE DUCK


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Don Firth 26 Oct 12 - 02:30 PM
Don Firth 26 Oct 12 - 02:25 PM
GUEST,Big Al Whittle 26 Oct 12 - 02:06 PM
Stringsinger 26 Oct 12 - 11:56 AM
GUEST 26 Oct 12 - 01:58 AM
Don Firth 25 Oct 12 - 04:19 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 25 Oct 12 - 12:06 PM
Stringsinger 25 Oct 12 - 11:53 AM
Amos 25 Oct 12 - 09:07 AM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 25 Oct 12 - 03:56 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 25 Oct 12 - 02:39 AM
meself 24 Oct 12 - 10:38 PM
pdq 24 Oct 12 - 10:11 PM
Don Firth 24 Oct 12 - 09:05 PM
Mark Ross 24 Oct 12 - 08:56 PM
Stringsinger 24 Oct 12 - 06:56 PM
MGM·Lion 24 Oct 12 - 05:30 PM
MGM·Lion 24 Oct 12 - 04:59 PM
Don Firth 24 Oct 12 - 03:55 PM
Vic Smith 24 Oct 12 - 03:39 PM
Vic Smith 24 Oct 12 - 03:16 PM
Stringsinger 24 Oct 12 - 02:09 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 24 Oct 12 - 08:30 AM
GUEST,Beachcomber 24 Oct 12 - 07:01 AM
GUEST,999 24 Oct 12 - 12:25 AM
MGM·Lion 23 Oct 12 - 11:58 PM
Don Firth 23 Oct 12 - 06:07 PM
MGM·Lion 23 Oct 12 - 05:10 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 23 Oct 12 - 04:35 PM
Don Firth 23 Oct 12 - 04:29 PM
Don Firth 23 Oct 12 - 03:06 PM
Stringsinger 23 Oct 12 - 12:12 PM
Don Firth 22 Oct 12 - 01:49 PM
dick greenhaus 22 Oct 12 - 12:05 PM
Stringsinger 22 Oct 12 - 11:17 AM
GUEST,Don Stevens 22 Oct 12 - 11:00 AM
Don Firth 21 Oct 12 - 08:29 PM
GUEST 21 Oct 12 - 02:46 PM
dick greenhaus 21 Oct 12 - 12:11 PM
GUEST,Desi C 21 Oct 12 - 08:29 AM
GUEST,Page Stephens 20 Oct 12 - 07:53 PM
GUEST,warren fahey 18 May 11 - 10:34 PM
GUEST,too scared 18 May 11 - 09:27 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 18 May 11 - 08:27 AM
Charley Noble 18 May 11 - 08:08 AM
John on the Sunset Coast 17 May 11 - 10:28 PM
Charley Noble 17 May 11 - 09:59 PM
Don Firth 17 May 11 - 05:24 PM
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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Don Firth
Date: 26 Oct 12 - 02:30 PM

In short, Dyer-Bennet is not saying that one should not use "regional mannerisms or colloquialisms." He is saying that the song should be "articulated clearly."

The two are not mutually exclusive.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Don Firth
Date: 26 Oct 12 - 02:25 PM

GUEST, re:   accents and dialect.

Richard Dyer-Bennet was cognizant of the need for regional accents and dialect in songs that call for it. He does a creditable Scottish accent in songs like "Bonnie Dundee" and "The Bonnie Earl of Moray," and Irish in "Molly Brannigan" and "The Kerry Recruit" and others. And as far as anything Lightnin' Hopkins did, Dyer-Bennet didn't touch blues. He knew his limitations (which, unfortunately, can't be said for all singers!).

It's a matter of TASTE. And mainly, making sure that the audience can hear the words, which is especially important in ballads, which are songs that tell a story. And for that matter, non-ballad folk songs usually imply a story.

Even when he used accents or sang in dialect, you never had any problem hearing the words Dyer-Bennet was singing.   

I've heard singers in coffee houses and at open mikes who spoke perfectly crisp, clear English go all "mush-mouthed," or put on some kind of indefinite semi-southern accent when they sang—only because it was a folk song. Trying to make out what's happening in a song when the singer is singing like he's got his mouth stuffed with hominy grits is, in a word, phony.

Dave Van Ronk had a voice like a rusty hinge. And Bob Dylan's school mates in Minnesota (when he was still Bob Zimmerman) said that when he was doing rock in high school, he had a smooth, clear voice, similar to Buddy Holly's. But when he got into folk, he did his damnedest to sound like he was eighty years old and had been inhaling coal-dust all his life.

But with Dave Van Ronk (who could really put a song across), and even with Bob Dylan doing his thing, you never had any problem hearing the words!

Taste is important. Even if it IS "just" a folk song. Really!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,Big Al Whittle
Date: 26 Oct 12 - 02:06 PM

Artists have always made the deals they have had to.

Look at all the people on this thread who have said The Big Country was magnificent. perhaps Burl wouldn't have got the chance to make that if he hadn't gone along with the HUAC.

Do you think Michelangelo wanted to do business with homophobic bastards like the Catholic church? He wanted to be an artist - he did what he had to.

It wasn't just Robert Johnson that sold his soul at the crossroads. that's the meaning of the metaphor - every artist does.

Only very minor talents keep themselves 'pure'.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Stringsinger
Date: 26 Oct 12 - 11:56 AM

Regarding "giving the devil his due" my final point about Burl's appearance before the HUAC is that he acknowledged them in an attempt to cooperate with them, even by his comment "ask them" because the them were those who were implicated by his testimony and many lost their careers because of it. Burl should have done what responsible Americans did during that period and take either the Fifth or as Pete did, the First Amendment and not given McCarthy anything. There is no moral defense for Burl's cooperation with that infamous committee.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Oct 12 - 01:58 AM

'The value lies inherent in the song, not in the regional mannerisms or colloquialisms.'

Can-t say I totally go along with that. Can you imagine a cut glass accent doing anything except detrsct from the song versions of Ronnie Drew, Lightning Hopkins, Sam Larner......

The accent has a role to play.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Don Firth
Date: 25 Oct 12 - 04:19 PM

Richard Dyer-Bennet once made the following statement, with which I wholeheartedly agree:
The value lies inherent in the song, not in the regional mannerisms or colloquialisms. No song is ever harmed by being articulated clearly, on pitch, with sufficient control of phrase and dynamics to make the most of the poetry and melody, and with an instrumental accompaniment designed to enrich the whole effect.
I often watch the Classic Arts Showcase channel on the tube, which is sort of MTV for adults. It shows video clips from concerts by both singers and instrumentalist, scenes from opera and ballet, scenes from old classic movies, and such.

Recently on Classic Arts Showcase, I saw operatic bass-baritone George London do "Lord Randal" as part of a recital. Now, George London had one of THE great voices of all time. And vocally, his rendition of "Lord Randal" was marvelous. BUT--he gave it the full operatic treatment, and it sounded like the last scene in Lucia di Lammermoor, in which Edgardo, dying from a self-inflicted knife wound because he just learned that Lucia, the love of his life is dead, is gasping his last.

Sorry, George. Gawdawful!!

But on the same channel, I recently saw Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfyl do "Shenandoah." No hystrionics. He sang it straight, with crisp, clear diction and a marvelously rich voice.

Thanks, Bryn! Full marks!!   

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 25 Oct 12 - 12:06 PM

Ronnie told the story herself - it was an interview in a programme about Woody that was on over here a few years ago. She said she rexpected and revered Woody as a song writer, but as a man - she didn't like him.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Stringsinger
Date: 25 Oct 12 - 11:53 AM

Never heard that story about Woody making Ronnie cry, Alan, but I agree with you that Burl had a beautiful voice and I never cared if it was trained. I think too many folkies work hard at sounding like vocal sandpaper. Leadbelly was a fan of Richard Dyer-Bennet.

I don't see how a well trained voice hurt any folk song. I love Jo Stafford's recording of folk songs. I learned "Red Rosy Bush" from her and my former singing partner Guy Carawan when he performed with Miranda Marais's daughter. They sang nicely together.

John Charles Thomas did a version of "The Water Is Wide" and Pete Seeger sort of copied the piano accompaniment, it was so good.

Where is it writ that you have to sound like a scratchy 78 to be musically authentic?


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Amos
Date: 25 Oct 12 - 09:07 AM

Sam was a gem. I shared the privilege of singing to the crowd at his last-but-one birthday party. He was wheelchair bound by then, but he loved being sung to, and shaking to the music. He knew every song I had ever heard and then some.

A


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 25 Oct 12 - 03:56 AM

Trouble is, no one sings folksongs to kids. Maybe Liza Carthy got sung folksongs to her, but no one else. Whereas we learned a lot of folksongs. people like Elton Hayes and Burl and BBC's Singing Together programme did great work for our geberation.

I heard all the nasty things people said about Burl. But I don't judge him, any more than I do John Dillinger for robbing banks in depression America. Judge not lest ye be judged - the hardest injunction from the Sermon on the Mount.

I also heard the stuff about him singing like he wore silk drawers, Woody also said Pete seeger playing guitar was like someone dressing the songs up in lace pants. As a devotee of the lingerie section in every catalogue that comes through the door - I don't really like my folksongs smelling of fart and sweat. I suspect its down to individual sensiblities.

I worship Woody as a songwriter, but if he'd talked that way about my singing or guitar playing - I would probably have told him to fuck off. I hear he used to make Ronnie Gilbert cry - no excuse for that stuff.

Personally i always liked that rich buttery voice that Burl perfected. I also thought it sounded like butter on a scone, just perfect. I remember wishing that he's have a go at Blues Run the Game. The desolation of the words actually need a richer voice to lift it. Someone like Bert Jansch singing it made it sound like clinical depression - rather than the Byronic loneliness of that all young people occasionally enjoy indulging in - and what really drew us youngsters to the song.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 25 Oct 12 - 02:39 AM

Performing children's songs to children is fine!
But the practice of performing children's songs to adults is rather questionable!


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: meself
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 10:38 PM

Not to mention Woody Guthrie.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: pdq
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 10:11 PM

Somebody here was trying to knock Burl Ives for doing children's songs.

Other great Folkies who did children's songs include Pete Seeger, Doc Watson and Sam Hinton.

Perhaps it takes a grownup to do children's songs.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 09:05 PM

Now, THERE is one of those wild-eyed coincidences, Frank, that you should mention Sam Hinton!

I first met Sam Hinton at the first Berkeley Folk Festival I attended in 1960, where he MCed pretty much the whole thing. I heard, and had a chance to meet and talk with, some great people—Peggy Seeger and Ewan McColl, John Lomax Jr., Lightnin' Hopkins, and several others, including running into Sandy Paton again. He'd been a busy lad since I last saw him in Seattle in 1954. And Sam Hinton. The concerts were great and the workshops were a real learning experience. I attended several more Berkeley festivals, and Sam was MCing most of the events, along with doing a lot of singing.

But—What makes this a surprising coincidence is that a few days ago, I got one of those notices from Amazon that said, "Our records show that in the past you bought this, this, and this. So we thought you might be interested in this." And the item was a CD of some forty-five songs sung by Sam Hinton.

The mail just came, the CD arrived, and I just opened it. I wanted to do a quick check of Mudcat, then listen to the CD.

And there you are, talking about Sam Hinton!

What a blast!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Mark Ross
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 08:56 PM

Frank, You are so right, Sam Hinton is vastly underrated, and not as well known as he should be. He wasn't a bad cross harp player either.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Stringsinger
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 06:56 PM

Don, what you said about simplicity apropos of folk song accompaniment is right on.
Anything that's played should enhance and not subtract from the melody, words and feeling.

One person who is not mentioned too much who played lovely accompaniments to his songs is the late Sam Hinton, from La Jolla, California whose recordings were done by the Library of Congress Folkarts Division and through the aegis of my friend, Adam Miller,
showing Sam's incredible harmonica playing, the best straight style harp I've ever heard.

I suspect that Sam had heard Burl sing many times and carried the sense of the story/song as Burl would have done. Sam's voice was plain and honest, with a lilt in his rhythm.

The songs reflect his Texas background. I think that a thread on Sam would be in order, the most likely person to start it would be Adam Miller who knew Sam intimately.
Sam started me off in a concert in 1952 at San Diego State College, the first full length
concert I did. I was about seventeen or so.

When I think of the simplicity of Burl and the appropriate accompaniments on guitar,
I often think of Sam and how he was not well known outside of California, a shame.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 05:30 PM

In fact, to clarify ~~ Burl was standing at the back with Fred on the Saturday night; I saw him & spoke to him, but he was there only as an observer and it is possible that when the announcement was made about the "important person", the person making it didn't even know he was there; so no joke or insult intended. Colin & I then interviewed him on the Sun afternoon, as I said, when he was perfectly cheerful. His actual set was sung, as I said, to a packed hall as the final climax to the Festival on the Sunday night ~~ not, as you appear erroneously to recollect, 'later on the [Saturday] night', which was climaxed by IIRC The Chieftains ~~ at least, I certainly remember talking to Paddy Moloney & Derek Bell, who were in same hotel arranged by Fred, at breakfast on the Sunday morning. My interview with him was in The Guardian on, I think, the Tuesday of the following week, as I had to send it by 1st class Sunday mail for some reason as phone copytakers were not available; can't recall why.

I am pretty sure I have got my recollections accurately together this time; and particularly that anything about Burl singing to 'few people in a cavernous space' were just not the case.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 04:59 PM

Vic Smith ~~ Romantic tale, about Burl singing in 'cavernous hall to not many people' at Brighton 1977. Were you there? I recall standing-room only. Colin Irwin & I interviewed Burl next day at the Grand Hotel [then still standing, before the IRA had their bit of fun a few years later], Colin for Melody Maker & I for The Guardian; he was perfectly happy with the arrangements and the reception he had got.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 03:55 PM

MtheGM, no, I knew how to transpose early on. But I was trying to read the notation Dyer-Bennet had written for the accompaniment he used for "Greensleeves." I knew right off I couldn't sing it in the key he did (Em). I was trying to figure out how to do what he was doing, but in a different key, Am. Due to the layout of the guitar fingerboard, I'd have to completely rework it if I wanted to do the kind of fiddly bits that he was doing. I eventually did after taking some classical guitar lessons and educating my fingers at bit. I managed to come up with a pretty good arrangement which was all my own. It sounds kind of lute-like, which is what I was after.

####

GUEST,Tunesmith:   " . . . I must admit that apart from Careless Love I consider the other songs [The Fox, Aunt Rhody, Careless Love, Blue Tail Fly] only fit for the under 10s!"

Well, I've been singing for audiences off and on now for somewhat over fifty years, and in addition to the ten-year-olds, adults seem to thoroughly enjoy those songs as much as the kids do.

Except, of course, for some folkies who seem to regard themselves as too serious and sophisticated to get a kick out of children's songs. Not saying that this necessarily applies to you, Tunesmith, but—hey, think about it a bit.

And by the way, "The Blue-Tail Fly" is not exactly a children's song. It has a bit of serious history to it. Have you actually listened to it? It's kinda dark, really.

####

And Frank's comment just above, in his second paragraph regarding Burl Ives' guitar accompaniments:   a friend of mine, also a singer-guitarist, and I were sitting over coffee one day and talking about guitars and guitar accompaniments. We were rattling on when another fellow at the table, who'd just been listening up to that point, interrupted us and asked, "Do you two regard yourselves primarily as singers? Or primarily guitarists?"

Damned good question! I thought about that quite a lot.

I melded this question with a comment made by another friend, who was a picture framer by trade. "If people look at a painting hanging on the wall and go away saying, 'Gee, isn't that a wonderful frame?' then the picture framer blew it! The frame is supposed to set the painting off in space, not overwhelm it!"

It occurred to me that the same principle applies to song accompaniments. If your accompaniment overwhelms the song—you blew it!

KISS*.

Burl Ives may not be a flashy guitarist, but his accompaniments do the job and do it well.

Don Firth

*For those who don't recognize the acronym, it's a good one:   Keep It Simple, Stupid!"

Just because you CAN do something, it doesn't mean you HAVE to.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 03:39 PM

Sorry - wrong date in previous post! It was September 1977 not 1978 as you can read by clicking here


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Vic Smith
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 03:16 PM

The Brighton Centre was opened in 1977 and the following September hosted the first and only Brighton Folk Festival with Fred Woods brought in by the Brighton council as the main organiser. The event was a huge financial flop which was paid for out the Brighton rates.
Burl Ives was one of the top names booked for the festival. The outcry by Brighton ratepayers at the amount of money that the festival had cost them was heightened when it was revealed the one of the riders on the Burl Ives contract was that he should travel to Europe for the festival by Concorde.
One of the few events of the festival that was well attended was the dance which I think was in the early evening of the Saturday. Eddie Upton was calling.... would the band have been The Etchinghams or was in the Albion Dance Band by 1978?
Fred Woods was standing at the back of the dance hall with Burl Ives when Eddie started an announcement:-
There's a very important person in the hall today, one of the most important names in folk music.....
Fred starts to push Burl forward towards the stage.
So, I'd like you all to welcome....
Fred starts clapping loudly and Burl walks towards the stage waving to either side.
...... Shirley Collins!
Burl turns around and looks with a hurt and confused expression at Fred.

Later that evening, Burl gives a performance to not many people in the cavernous main auditorium.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Stringsinger
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 02:09 PM

"Whatever his politics and moral fiber (or lack of same) Burl Ives was probably personally responsible for the Folk Revival."

I would agree with you, Dick. He was probably my first introduction to folk music.
Maybe next was Josh White and Richard Dyer-Bennet.

As far as his guitar playing being "adequate" that says a lot considering all the guitar hotshots who over arrange their accompaniments. Burl's guitar was appropriate so that the words could come through, his diction being impeccable.

But we have to give Pete Seeger his due as a one man publicity agent for the rise of the Folk Revival, introducing and promoting so many such as Sonny Terry, Leadbelly, along with Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Odetta (yes Pete was there), and many songwriters such as Tom Paxton et. al.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 08:30 AM

MtheGM mentioned that he was turned on to Burl Ives by songs such as "The Fox, Aunt Rhody, Careless Love, Blue Tail Fly".
Well, I must admit that apart from Careless Love I consider the other songs only fit for the under 10s!

Thinking about that, I've always admired - in amazement - Pete Seeger's ability/desire to sing anything and everything that comes under the heading "folk".

I've always had lots of trouble finding material that I would want to sing, but Pete ... and Burl, probably - were happy to sing the A to Z of folksongs.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,Beachcomber
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 07:01 AM

It must have been difficult for a man like Frank Hamilton to observe that Burl Ives' career thrived over the years while that of the Weavers, Seeger et al., was virtually halted by the machinations of the HUAC. But I don't think it matters anymore, as regards appreciation of their value to society, not to people like those who populate Mudcat anyway. The songs of the Weavers and their ilk are there on record for all to hear and they will never be forgotten, and neither will Burl Ives.
I, for one, have been listening for some 60 years, on and off..


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,999
Date: 24 Oct 12 - 12:25 AM

Little Bitty Tear was a song of his I liked. There was a heart-felt presence on that record. I saved money from my paper route to buy it in the days when 45 rpm's were fifty cents or so. I paid more than 10% of my weekly pay to buy that.

Today, I figure that if Pete Seeger could forgive him, who am I to complain.

When we are all gone--as we shall be--how will we be remembered? Did froggy go a-courtin' or are we waist deep in the big muddy?

HUAC was an abomination. Today, we face much the same thing: the remaining question is one of personal choice. If our music is not beyond that, well, that's a choice. I hope I'll side with the big muddy, but I've made stupid decisions before and the good lord willing I'll make s'more again.

As a btw, it is great to read two masters of their craft parlaying. Now, I'll return to lurking once again.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 23 Oct 12 - 11:58 PM

Oh, no, Don; my mileage doesn't vary. Burl's did! I love opera; in my early teens, would go to the matinée at Sadlers Wells every Saturday, having risen v early for tube ride Golders Green to Angel, to get front of queue when box office opened for amphitheatre seats only bookable on day, then back again for 2.30, till I had heard whole repertoire.

Re your trouble with keys, had nobody taught you the 3-chord trick for transposal of tonic, subdom, dominant, to adjust any song to your own key?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Don Firth
Date: 23 Oct 12 - 06:07 PM

Right, M. It was from those early records that I learned the first songs I learned. The first song, "The Fox." This was in 1952.

Then the next song I took a shot at was "Greensleeves," from a Richard Dyer-Bennet record. I also had Dyer-Bennet's folio of twenty songs with the guitar accompaniments written out. Way to hell and gone beyond me, and I quickly discovered that I couldn't sing it in the same key. So back to the Burl Ives records.

And my copy of A Treasury of Folk Songs, compiled by John and Sylvia Kolb (Bantam Books, 35¢).

Then "The Golden Vanity" from Dyer-Bennet, and back to "The Bold Soldier" from The Burl Ives Song Book, followed by "High Barbaree" from the same source.

Lotsa good songs!!

I eventually got "Greensleeves," but I worked out my own accompaniment for it, as ornate as Dyer-Bennet's, but in a different key. But this was after I had taken some classical guitar lessons.

Burl Ives' records were sort of "basic repertoire" early on. And not just for me.

Don Firth

P. S. I can't really agree with Ives about opera. In my middle teens, a friend of mine (actually, one of my fencing instructors) was smitten with opera, then discovered that he had a pretty nice tenor voice. He decided to take singing lessons. He and I and a couple of others used to listen to recordings of operas, and I decided to take some singing lessons from the same teacher. She diagnosed my voice as a low bass-baritone (frog in a rain barrel). But I developed a real liking for opera, and my wife and I are season ticket holders at Seattle Opera.

If I were to try to sing operatic stuff, I'd really smell at it, but I seem to be able to do folk songs and ballads well enough so that some benighted souls are willing to pay to listen to me, and I love the songs, so. . . .

Wagner is pretty heavy going if you're not familiar with opera to begin with, but rather than "stinks," some of it is bloody magnificent!!

Your mileage may vary. . . .


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 23 Oct 12 - 05:10 PM

Tunesmith, those were his later records, where his company had, most mistakenly IMO, tried to make him more MOR popular by singing songs which his father had earlier in his career described as 'kinda soupy'. His earlier, traditionally-based, records ~~ The Fox, Aunt Rhody, Careless Love, Blue Tail Fly ... ~~ far more acceptable; and, for that matter, rather more successful. He relates this in his Wayfaring Stranger autobiog; together, as I think I mentioned in an earlier post, with his lack of success in trying to appreciate grand opera ---
in one of his dutiful visits to the Met Opera during his early days in NY: "One day while standing through a Wagnerian opera, the Almighty sent a ray of light through my skull, and I realised, 'This stinks'."

~M~


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 23 Oct 12 - 04:35 PM

Here in the UK, Burl had a number of hits ( Ugly Bug Ball, Little Bitty Tear, for example )some 50 years ago but I was never tempted to "check him out" further.
I'm not at all sure why he didn't catch my imagination.
On the other hand, from the moment that I heard Pete Seeger, I went out of my way to search out his material.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Don Firth
Date: 23 Oct 12 - 04:29 PM

Burl Ives probably had a more legitimate claim to being a folk singer than most of those city-born singers who learned all of their songs from records (often Burl Ives' records) and song books, who looked down their noses at him.

He was born in a rural town in Jasper County, Illinois. His father was a farmer, later a contractor, and Burl learned his first songs—and ballads—from his grandmother, not from records or song books. And he spent some time wandering the country, making his way by singing (a la Woodie Guthrie), and learning songs from other people as he went.

When he settled down and decided he'd better make a legitimate living, he enrolled in a teachers' college for a short time, then on the advice of others (commenting on his singing voice), he went to New York to study singing at a music conservatory there. I'm quoting myself from something I posted above, here:
Burl Ives' early autobiography, The Wayfaring Stranger (1948), is well worth a read. It's been awhile since I read it, but I particularly remember where he says that he was in New York studying music at a music conservatory and living with a number of other music students. He was studying to be a singer of lieder (art songs), but when he got homesick, he'd take out his guitar and sing some of the songs he had learned from his grandmother. The other students made fun of the songs and mocked him. So one afternoon, he took his guitar to a nearby park. He wasn't thinking of busking or anything like that, he just wanted to sing a bit with no one around but a few pigeons.

It wasn't long before a few children stopped to listen, then more and more people drifted in. Before long he was doing an impromptu concert for a sizable and very appreciative crowd.

He made a decision then. "Why am I killing myself trying to develop a repertoire of songs that are really foreign to me, language and all, when I already have a large repertoire of songs that I've been singing all my life?"

He dropped out of the conservatory and started singing folk songs, and the rest is history.
His singing voice (a light tenor, not unlike Richard Dyer-Bennet's) was cultivated, but he didn't make a fetish of it, and many of the songs he sang he had "tidied up," polishing off some rough edges, which occasionally made some of them a bit "wimpy," and as a guitarist, his playing was dead simple. He was no Segovia, by any means. But his accompaniments, if simple, were at least adequate.

But he was out there, one of the very first to introduce folk music, presented in a simple, straightforward manner, to the general public! And he got a lot of people interested in folk music early on.

If he is, indeed, the Devil, then let's at least give the Devil his due.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Don Firth
Date: 23 Oct 12 - 03:06 PM

Well, mebbe so, Frank, but right from the start (my first active interest in folk music, circa 1952) I've heard some folk music enthusiasts who seemed to feel impelled to take shots at Burl Ives—for no apparent reason other than just because he was well-known, and he was there.

And then, of course, the strangely gleeful trashing of Ives after the Congressional hearings. "Burl Ives 'ratted' on his friends in order to further his own career." But little information on what Ives actually said at those hearings.

The actual transcripts of the hearings tells a story that is considerably different from the one that's so popular with those who seem to take delight in dumping on "Big Daddy."

If you have some authoritative information beyond the usual brief but unsubstantiated accusations, I'm certainly willing to listen.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Stringsinger
Date: 23 Oct 12 - 12:12 PM

sorry Skivee, the real victims were the ones who lost their jobs because they had the integrity to stand up to this Committee. Burl was a sell-out here and even named names to victimize people he knew. You can't white wash this.

Don, he cooperated with the HUAC and that's enough to charge him. He wasn't hurt in his career like so many others such as The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Josh White, and so many actors and writers. I don't understand how you can call this abuse "rubber stamping" and give Burl a pass. I don't care what Mountainbanjo has posted, Burl cooperated and was let off otherwise his career would have taken a nose dive along with so many others who were truly victimized.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Oct 12 - 01:49 PM

"This 'wonderful man' ratted on his friends in front of the House of UnAmerican Activities Committee in order to save his career."

I rarely disagree with you on most things, Frank, but this is the stock, rubber-stamp rant against Burl Ives. I suggest that you scroll up to

Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From:GUEST,Mountainbanjo - PM
Date: 09 May 11 - 07:32 PM

And read what Mountainbanjo has posted, which, he informs us, was taken from the transcript of Burl Ives' testimony.

That's hardly "ratting on his friends." He didn't tell the committee anything they didn't already know. And when asked if the people in question were Communists, he responded, "You know who my friends are. Ask them."

Sounds fair enough to me.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 22 Oct 12 - 12:05 PM

THe deification (and the demonization) of prominent folks is a favorite pastime of the public, whether the subject be Ives, MacColl or Guthrie.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Stringsinger
Date: 22 Oct 12 - 11:17 AM

This "wonderful man" ratted on his friends in front of the House of UnAmerican Activities Committee in order to save his career.

That said, I also was greatly influenced by his artistry which I find not in dispute.

Not all artists are "wonderful" people in spite of the artistic achievement. What is "crap" is to give them their due as humanitarians or socially aware individuals despite their despicable acts. By contrast, Pete Seeger is both an artist and humanitarian with a highly developed social conscience built on his courage and integrity as a person.

Burl Ives was unquestionably a great singer and performer but I don't know how he could live with himself after jeopardizing other's careers before the chopping block of McCarthyism.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,Don Stevens
Date: 22 Oct 12 - 11:00 AM

To me, Burl Ives was the Greatest Folk Singer, of all. I only got to meet him once, at Pete Seegers', in 1948 (Although I corresponded with him many times, over the years, until he 'passed'). My wife purchased my first Album, in 1949, for my Birthday. It was Burl Ives 'The Wayfaring Stranger'. We have since collected 188 of his Albums, and Videos (many of these in multiple styles, i.e., LP & CD, Cassette & CD , VHS & DVD, etc.)

I think all this political 'crap', is just that. None of that has anything to do with this Wonderful Man - or his Music. There have been many wonderful Music Artists, that I have heard 'bad-mouthed' - usually by some 'no-talented' Jerk. This is the case in many of these 'comments'

Don Stevens


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Oct 12 - 08:29 PM

Hmm! As indicated at the bottom of the post directly above, that was from me. I did a general shovelling out of extraneous stuff from my computer, and apparently tossed my cookies at the same time.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Oct 12 - 02:46 PM

Prior to the folk music revival that began to accelerate in the 1950s, I can't think of any other singer of folk songs who was better known to the general public than Burl Ives.

Well before I became actively interested in singing folk songs myself, I was aware of Burl Ives. As a kid, I used to listen to his radio program, "The Wayfaring Stranger," on which he talked about American history and sang songs relating to the historical events he was talking about. The program started in 1940. I was not aware that it had started that early. But I remember listening to it regularly.

Then, when he began appearing in movies, e.g. "Smoky" in 1946, and "The Green Grass of Wyoming" and "So Dear to My Heart" in 1948, as the portly, likeable guitar strumming singer, everybody knew who he was.

In 1952, when I bought my first guitar ($9.95, and it sounded like an apple crate, but it played easily enough) and went looking for records to learn songs from, the folk music bin in Campus Music and Gallery was pretty sparse pickings. But I got one Pete Seeger record, one Richard Dyer-Bennet, one Susan Reed, and three Burl Ives records, all 10" LPs.

I think the folk music revival would have happened anyway, but Burl Ives gave it one helluva jump-start!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 21 Oct 12 - 12:11 PM

Whatever his politics and moral fiber (or lack of same) Burl Ives was probably personally responsible for the Folk Revival.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 21 Oct 12 - 08:29 AM

I wonder DID ives say he hated children? I only question it because having read Val Doonican's auto biography, who was a huge fan of Ives and when he invited I'ves onto his 70's TV show. Tells how Ives visited his home. Va''s children were fans of Ives songs and Val asked if he'd just pop up and say hello before they went to sleep. half hour later Ivs hadn't returned, val went upstairs onl to find Ives at the foo of the bed singing Ugly Bug ball to the children. So you never kn ow with these quotes, after all Jimmy saville also said the same thing! ;)


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,Page Stephens
Date: 20 Oct 12 - 07:53 PM

You had to have lived through it to understand how accepted anticommunism was in the 1950s and 1960s. Today we tend to look on it as quaint but there was real fear in the air and it took a lot of guts to even work for civil rights. And don't think it's disappeared.
Just look at the tea party signs.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,warren fahey
Date: 18 May 11 - 10:34 PM

Burl toured Australia in the 1950s and was a significant influence on the development of the revival in Australia. To his immense credit he championed Australians looking at their own folk traditions and it seemed to work. He was a big hit in Australia - and big in other ways for he demanded two airplane seats to fit his immense behind. He was the first to popularise Click Go The Shears. I remember hearing him for the first time and still love that fruity old voice.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,too scared
Date: 18 May 11 - 09:27 PM

Of course Ives was wrong to name names, but listen to what Charlie is saying above. It was not just McCarthy. There were investigations all over. New York City required that teachers and other employees sign loyalty oaths. People lost their jobs and were blacklisted because of rumors and false accusations. I only learned later how frightened my parents had been. They had friends who were falsly accused and also friends who really were communists (idealists). It was dangerous to speak of this in front of children. In the 1970's my mother finally told me about their experiences in the late 1940's and early fifties.
    Lets also remember that the Communist Party actively promoted the singing of folk songs as a way of interesting people in social issues and communism. An interesting recent book is Reds, Whites, and Blues: Social Movements, Folk Music, and Race in the United States, by William G. Roy.
    I dare say that Burl Ives was more influential than the Communist Party in introducing people to folk music, but the Communists did what they could. As a child in the 1940's and fifties I remember "everyone" knew the songs sung by Burl Ives that were cited above.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 18 May 11 - 08:27 AM

very weird business!

You only really get it in fragments over here in England. i've come across references to it in biogs of Humphrey bogart, Josh White, Zero mostel, Paul Robeson, Larry Adler - but i guess a lot of less famous people were involved and suffered as well.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Charley Noble
Date: 18 May 11 - 08:08 AM

John-

You're certainly correct. Sen. McCarthy managed to gain most of the credit for this sorry phase of our history. There were several chairs of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC):

John Stephens Wood, 1949–53
Harold Himmel Velde, 1953–55
Francis Walter, 1955–65

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 17 May 11 - 10:28 PM

In the interest of historical accuracy, neither Ives, nor Seeger were victims of McCarthy. Both Ives and Seeger were called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities...the same committee that had investigated alleged (and real) Communists in Hollywood.

But they never had any truck with McCarthy. Tail Gunner Joe was a senator whose primary targets were alleged (and real) Communists in government service, and his downfall was going after army personnel.

It is interesting, but erroneous, that although these committees had their genesis prior to McCarthy's tenure, the entire 10 year or so period...separate Senate and House hearings...have become known as the McCarthy Era.

Next to Benedict Arnold, McCarthy is probably the most vilified American personality...not without good reason.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Charley Noble
Date: 17 May 11 - 09:59 PM

GEC-

We may be getting closer to closure on this one. It's still hard for me not to be bitter on behalf of the people I knew who were truly hurt by this witch hunt. I was only ten or so at the time and was just puzzled by what was happening all around to people I knew and respected. It's unsettling when grown-ups appear to be frightened by what their "government" is doing. It wasn't until I got to college that I learned just how this whole witch hunt happened.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 May 11 - 05:24 PM

Amen, GEC.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST,GEC
Date: 17 May 11 - 04:28 PM

In regard to Burl's testimony at the Un-American Activities hearings, I lived through the McCarthy era and here is my opinion.   

Burl was just a true-blue American who was reluctantly, but truthfully -- as a Christian publicly swearing before his leaders -- trying to respond to an official inquiry made by what were in reality much-less-than-true-blue Americans. The problem was that small truths about people were warped into big lies by the government.

The liers were not in the witness stand, they were sitting as the judges.   

Was Burl a snitch? In a prison sense, yes: not because he accused people of illegal activities, but because the process considered the legal activities he described to be somehow worthy of government sanctions. Were some of the other artists around him seriously or not-so-seriously flirting with America's 'potential' enemies, yes -- but it was the Senators and others behind the witch hunt who were the reprehensible ones, and without their errors none of the others would have been so villified. What Ives did and what Seeger did would have been non-news if Senator McCarthy had not been so far off the reservation and in charge of a shameful process. It was really an unbelievable tornado of raw, government-sanctioned, media-hyped injustice.

So, as we look back, let's keep the names of McCarthy's poor victims straight. Burl Ives, the so-called "snitch," and Pete Seeger, the so-called "Communist sympathizer," were both among them, in my opinion. They both have my respect.


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Subject: RE: Life of Burl Ives
From: GUEST
Date: 10 May 11 - 08:59 AM

You are right Charley, I was not around at that time and so all I can do is try to glean intent and meaning from words on a piece of paper. I'm sure there are subtleties that I cant appreciate, not having lived through that time.


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