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The Weavers and the McCarthy Era

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GUEST,banjopicker 28 Nov 11 - 11:49 PM
Don Firth 07 Jan 09 - 07:25 PM
Don Firth 07 Jan 09 - 07:20 PM
dick greenhaus 07 Jan 09 - 03:19 PM
Charley Noble 06 Jan 09 - 08:29 PM
Don Firth 06 Jan 09 - 05:54 PM
Big Mick 06 Jan 09 - 04:30 PM
dick greenhaus 06 Jan 09 - 04:15 PM
Stringsinger 06 Jan 09 - 11:51 AM
Charley Noble 06 Jan 09 - 08:19 AM
Mark Ross 05 Jan 09 - 10:36 PM
dick greenhaus 05 Jan 09 - 10:21 PM
John on the Sunset Coast 05 Jan 09 - 10:09 PM
Amos 05 Jan 09 - 08:56 PM
Mark Ross 05 Jan 09 - 06:25 PM
GUEST,Domo 05 Jan 09 - 04:48 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 05 Jan 09 - 04:18 PM
PoppaGator 05 Jan 09 - 03:22 PM
Will Fly 05 Jan 09 - 01:45 PM
Big Mick 05 Jan 09 - 12:52 PM
Stringsinger 05 Jan 09 - 12:24 PM
Charley Noble 04 Jan 09 - 09:19 PM
Will Fly 04 Jan 09 - 03:49 PM
Deckman 04 Jan 09 - 03:35 PM
Big Mick 04 Jan 09 - 03:35 PM
Stringsinger 04 Jan 09 - 03:27 PM
Mark Ross 03 Jan 09 - 11:14 PM
John on the Sunset Coast 03 Jan 09 - 09:20 PM
Charley Noble 24 Mar 04 - 09:00 AM
Deckman 23 Mar 04 - 09:27 PM
Franz S. 23 Mar 04 - 09:14 PM
Franz S. 23 Mar 04 - 09:00 PM
Deckman 23 Mar 04 - 08:52 PM
Franz S. 23 Mar 04 - 08:41 PM
Deckman 23 Mar 04 - 07:45 PM
Deckman 23 Mar 04 - 07:22 PM
Amos 23 Mar 04 - 06:03 PM
Art Thieme 23 Mar 04 - 06:01 PM
Franz S. 23 Mar 04 - 05:48 PM
Deckman 23 Mar 04 - 04:27 PM
Franz S. 23 Mar 04 - 12:43 PM
Deckman 23 Mar 04 - 04:41 AM
Deckman 22 Mar 04 - 07:06 PM
Bill Hahn//\\ 22 Mar 04 - 07:00 PM
Franz S. 22 Mar 04 - 06:42 PM
Deckman 22 Mar 04 - 05:32 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 22 Mar 04 - 09:56 AM
Franz S. 22 Mar 04 - 09:48 AM
Charley Noble 22 Mar 04 - 08:21 AM
GUEST,Songster Bob 22 Mar 04 - 12:19 AM
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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,banjopicker
Date: 28 Nov 11 - 11:49 PM

Im a bit confused with what Frank said about The Weavers were first called " The Priority Ramblers" I always they thought they went under the name " The no-name quartet" and that the priority Ramblers were a group based out of Washington D.C


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 07:25 PM

From the PNWFS web site, here is a more detail description of what happened. CLICKY.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 07:20 PM

Exactly so, Dick!

In 1953, several people including Walt Robertson and myself formed the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society. It was to be primarily an academic association, dedicated to getting what folklore had been collected in this area, and what was yet to be collected, into some kind of reasonable and accessible order. It was also formed to sponsor concerts by various folk singers, both well-known performers and locals. And the organization was completely a-political.

The first well-known performer we sponsored was Pete Seeger.

Pete sang a most enjoyable concert, and aside from one or two labor songs, there was nothing political about it. Nevertheless, large numbers of the 200+ people we had on the PNWFS's mailing list started calling, asking that their names be taken off the list. Reasons given were things like, "I'm a year away from a degree in engineering, and when I go looking for a job, I may need to be able to get a security clearance. And I'm sorry, but I can't afford to take a chance. I mean, after all, Seeger's suspected of being a Communist."

We had no idea! People were scared spitless! In about a week, there were only about a dozen of us left. I remember someone commenting, "This is Kafkaesque!" So we abandoned the PNWFS as just unworkable at that time.

I'm happy to say that some 50 years later, Bob Nelson (Deckman), Stewart Hendrickson (Stewart), and I have reorganized the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society to fill what we still feel is a need in this area—once again, to try to provide an organized and accessible archive for the folklore of this area, and to make sure that performers of traditional material have venues in which to perform.

The PNWFS web site.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 07 Jan 09 - 03:19 PM

The worst part about the McCarthy era wasn't it's effect on the famous; it was the pervasive cloud of fear and suspicion that enveloped everyone. I recall my cousin trying to get neighbors to sign a petition that would have designated the one-block long street on which she lived as a play ares for the kids. Everyone on the block was in favor of this, but, with one exception, everyone was afraid to sign a petition.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 08:29 PM

I never did find much in my FBI "Red File" other than my request for whatever they had. Well, they did take notes on some of the meetings I attended at Michigan State University during the late 1960's and early 1970's. There were lengthy discussions of whether one of our members should or should not cut his hair and trim his beard if he was going to represent the Coalition for Human Survival in the City Council race. My god, I do wonder who that long-suffering informant was; maybe he was our candidate!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 05:54 PM

Good grief, Dick! I had almost the identical experience in the mid-1950s. Two men in grey suits. I politely declined and they politely thanked me for my time and went away.

At least I thought they went away. I would have very easy to follow at the time, without my being aware of it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Big Mick
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 04:30 PM

Dick is another in my pantheon of heroic members of the times. I have the additional good fortune of counting him among my personal friends. I hadn't heard that one before, Dick. But I can just see you doing it, especially the part of circling around and pulling up beside him.

Mick


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 04:15 PM

Ah yes, the bad ol' days. Sometime in the very early 60s, I was out of work, and was supporting myself by being a paid accompaniast for a couple of folksingers. At the time, I was living in a loft on W. 17 St. in NY, just above Greenwich Village.

One evening, the doorbell rang, and I opened to see two clean-cut youngish men in suits with dark knit ties --(very suspicious in that neighborhood at that point in time. They identified themselves as FBI and asked me if I knew I was working with some subversive singers. I explained that I just played the guitar; had nothing to do with the words. They then asked me if I would be willing to serve my country by, er, observing and reporting on these singers.

I explained that that kind of behavior would make it very difficult for me to continue to earn a living. They looked disappointed, and went downstairs to their dark blue Chevy (a car that stood out like a neon sore thumb in that milieu.

Next thing I knew, I was being followed around when I went out. THis turned out to be much more of a problem for them than it did for me--I was riding a motorcycle at the time, and tended to avoid traffic lights by detouring through dome narrow alleys.

After a while, I began to feel sorry for them, so I'd drive aound the block, pull up to their car and tell them where I was going next. This seemed to embarrass them. They gave up after a few days.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Stringsinger
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 11:51 AM

"5) Contrary to popular belief (and a poorly written essay I read on the internet) the government, HUAC, did not Blacklist anyone. Blacklisting was done by the studios, TV networks and sponsors. They were egged on by pressure groups threatening boycotts, and some threats of governmental regulation...this is the same type of threat that had been the impetus for the Hayes and Breen offices to enforce the motion picture decency codes."

The HUAC knew very well what they were doing. McCarthy and the House deliberately set
out to make it difficult for those being blacklisted to work. They, themselves, were ideological pressure groups fostering their own political agenda. They were as culpable as
any of the media, corporate sponsorship or academic institutions of the time.

The decency codes were not made to eliminate talent on the basis of their political conscience. This analogy does not hold water. it was a dark period in American history analogous to Guantanamo, wire-tapping and the present subversion of Constitutional protections.

The idea that HUAC and McCarthy were immune to their motives for their scurrilous attacks is risible.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 Jan 09 - 08:19 AM

Burl Ives also named folk singer/balladeer Richard Dyer-Bennet, severely undercutting his performing career. There is a line between denouncing "communism" and naming "communists" and "fellow travelers" and in my opinion Ives crossed that line.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Mark Ross
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 10:36 PM

I did Woody's, on the reccomendation of Marjorie Guthrie.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 10:21 PM

Hey Mark-
Whose part did you take in "Folksay"? I did Woody's in nineteen fifty-something revival.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 10:09 PM

Just a couple of comments regarding the last ten or so threads.
1) Many of the folks brought before HUAC were or had been members of the Communist Party. Woody was--I've seen a copy of his card in a biography of some 25 years ago. Pete, I think, has admitted he was, Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan were. The CPA was, I believe, a legal political party.

2) Few of them, if any, were hard-core, wanting to overthrow the US by force, members, and most had left the Party long before the hearings.

3) The remainder of those called because they had supported causes spearheaded by or supported by the CPA, but were not, themselves, Communists.

4) Although the House hearings had nothing to do with Tail-Gunner Joe, in fact the 1947 hearings, preceded his Senate hearings by three or four years, McCarthy has become the eponym for the entire period.

5) Contrary to popular belief (and a poorly written essay I read on the internet) the government, HUAC, did not Blacklist anyone. Blacklisting was done by the studios, TV networks and sponsors. They were egged on by pressure groups threatening boycotts, and some threats of governmental regulation...this is the same type of threat that had been the impetus for the Hayes and Breen offices to enforce the motion picture decency codes.

The actor, Robert Vaughn, wrote a doctoral dissertation at USC about the blacklist. I read a book about 40 years ago entitled 'Only Victims'...this may have be by a fellow named Navsky or by Vaughn himself; I disremember.

With the onset of the Cold War, these travesties occurred, not unlike the internment of Japanese aliens and Japanese-American citizens during WWI. The irony of HUAC was that whatever affiliations the actors, directors and writers had with CPA had, for the most, part long passed.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 08:56 PM

At the time, Pete believed Ives was protecting his own lucrative connections. Ives' own biographers say that he was strongly motivated by a realization of the destructive nature of Communism and a deep love for America.

I think Mark Ross hit the nail on the head.

A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Mark Ross
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 06:25 PM

Tony Kraber was one of the names that Ives gave to the committee. I worked with Tony in 1975 in a revival of the Sophie Maslow dance piece FOLKSAY. Pete later re-connected with Ives. As Dalton Trumbo(I think said, "There were only victims").

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Domo
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 04:48 PM

Do any of you guys have details fo what evidence Burl Ives gave to McCarthy's gang or who he pointed the finger at? I have no doubt he would would be remembered as one of the great folkies of all time if he had not turned "traitor". Interesting that Counry and Western welcomed him with open arms.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 04:18 PM

I can only speak to the U.S. experience. I watched some of the Army- McCarthy hearings when I was around 10 years of age. I recall the original broadcast, watched with my parents on our old RCA black and white TV, when Edward R. Murrow finally challenged Joseph McCarthy when no other journalist dared. It was a time of great paranoia when "duck and cover" meant diving under your school desk when you saw the white flash in the window. I guess it would have been better to get fried there than while standing or sitting.

People in power who should have known better did some very stupid, and often self-serving things. We were deprived of the talents of many creative people who happened to have an alternative point of view - or were merely accused of it. It was just as grotesque as incarcerating people of Japanese ancestry during early WWII simply for being who they were. I am anything but proud of those times, during which I also became aware of The Weavers, Pete Seeger and Josh White, among many others. I have not always shared their political views, but I think I understand their roots and I absolutely defend their right to express their thoughts.

What worries me now is that I see a resurgence of attempts to stifle free speech, or shout it down, when it offends or is contrary to the views of certain political or religious groups or powerful individuals. I pray we see this for what it means to all of us and lend our artistic and musical talents, whenever needed, to defend the freedom to speak, publish, perform and believe freely.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: PoppaGator
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 03:22 PM

I've got a lump in my throat.

Thanks to Frank and Mick for their inspirational contributions, and to JotSC for reviving this wonderful old discussion.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Will Fly
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 01:45 PM

Frank - I doff my hat to you. To have known those brave people must have been a life-enhancing, and probably a life-changing experience. I do believe that Dalton Trumbo was one of the scriptwriters for the UK ATV television series "Robin Hood" - a story of the little men against the oppressors... Trumbo was an incredible writer, and made his mark on films in spite of HUAC and the whole McCarthy thing.

And we shouldn't get smug in this country and say things like "only in America" - we have our own illiberal élite over here at the moment.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Big Mick
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 12:52 PM

Frank, it is a theme I have been spouting for some time here. I believe that every so often, in the course of history, there comes a time for the bards, singers, social activist folkie songwriters,.... whatever you want to call us ....... to step forward. It doesn't happen often, but we are at the beginning of such a period now. During the mid 60's was the last time I remember. Your recounting of the HUAC days is so critical because it gives us the fodder we need to write the songs that can cause folks to leave the lockstep "traditional values" group think that is such a pervasive evil. The HUAC times show us, within our memory, that we must be so vigilant if we are to continue on a progressive path. The election of Obama, while being a sign for extreme hope, won't be much more than an interesting bit of history if we don't use the opportunity presented by the minds that have flashed open to progressive ideas. Folks need to rest assured that the McCarthyites are alive and well and plotting as we speak to hamstring this young man, and to re-establish themselves. We have the leader we need, but he needs the help of those of us with gifts, those of us who can use our twin talents of music and message to awaken that which is great in our country. I believe the American melting pot has produced a people with a great capacity to do the right thing, but who are easily swayed by cliche driven "American Dream" rhetoric that has little to do with the real dreams of those that live on the American continent. Those spin meisters will be working overtime, and it is up to us to counter them using our gifts, and the marvelous resource of wisdom we have from folks like you, Jean, Pete, Art, Mark, Utah, and the whole host of wonderful progressive performers who survived that time. We only have a short window to get in, and your writing of that time demonstrates that.

So stay the path, sir. I need you, and so do any number of us that believe that failing to recognize what happened in the past dooms us to repeat it. Could there be any more graphic proof than the Bush Presidency.

And thanks for your emotion.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Stringsinger
Date: 05 Jan 09 - 12:24 PM

Thank you Mick and Bob for your kind words. I am totally a union supporter. I know that
Pete has always been one. He cut his teeth on picket lines. I have never crossed a line
and would always prefer to join one.

I know that Lee was a union man too.

Will, I sat next to Dalton Trumbo (One of the Hollywood Ten) the night before he was to be sent to jail. He wrote a masterful "Johnny Get Your Gun" (the title based on the George M. Cohan song, "Over There").It is a necessary read in my opinion about the futility of war. It was at a meeting by the Left Wing Arts Sciences and Professions in Hollywood.

We lost some great talent in the movie business during that period thanks to the drunk Senator from Wisconsin and Jack Tenney (who wrote the song Mexicali Rose) and formed the Tenney Commision in California to investigate Communist Activities in the movies and TV.

The casualities included Morris Kornofsky (a marvelous actor who ran the Actor's Lab Theater Group in Hollywood), Will Geer, a great actor who was forced to give up acting and supported himself as a landscaper and botanist but came back in the media as Grandpa Walton, Don Murray, another fine actor, who was forced to run a laundromat, Jeff Corey ,actor extraordinaire, acting teacher and director who went back to school to get a degree in speech as a teacher since he couldn't find work in Hollywood, Gail Sondegard, an impressive actress, Waldo Salt (Hollywood Ten) who penned the notable and memorable "Midnight Cowboy" who was very encouraging to me in the early days, Earl Robinson, who tried to get into the Hollywood composer scene but was unable to, Howard Da Silva, a fine actor who also suffered under McCarthy, Hershel Bernardi and so many other fine and talented folks. It was a heartbreaking time.

Josh White was threatened by the FBI. He had those "phone calls". Pete has forgiven him
for his cooperation with HUAAC. Burl Ives and Elia Kazan were unabashed informants.

So you see, the Weavers really didn't have a chance on the pop market scene. The local papers in Hollywood such as the L.A. Examiner ran headlines about "Reds invading Topanga Canyon". Will Geer, Bess Hawes, Rich Dehr all lived there.

It was a terrible time for talented people. I can't describe it accurately because it was such
a vicious attempt by hysterical officials. Today, Steve Earle, as I understand it has problems with Right Wingnuts as did the Dixie Chicks.

The Weavers represent courage in the face of the corruption in the 50's. This is an important part of American History that they won't teach kids in high school. This, and
the legacy of the battles of the labor movement to succeed for the working people of this country as well.

The US didn't officially torture anyone during that period, though, as they do today.

We need more groups like the Weavers to release the American Conscience from its prison by corrupt Right Wing ideologues. The Weavers remind us of how far we need to go to preserve American democracy. I'm off my soap box now but I just didn't realize how emotional I was on this subject until now.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 04 Jan 09 - 09:19 PM

Nice to see this thread revived.

It's certainly one of the more thoughtful ones, with a wealth of experience embedded in it.

It's one of the few reasons I hang around here.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Jan 09 - 03:49 PM

I thought it was interesting that that one Richard Nixon was (I believe) the Secretary of HUAC in its heyday - a fact not publicised at the time of his presidential election campaigning...

Another spin-off from the HUAC days was that many of the Hollywood scriptwriters and film-makers who were blacklisted came to Europe and helped enrich the film arts scene over here - an ironic "plus" for us!


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 04 Jan 09 - 03:35 PM

Frank ... a fine analysis by one who was there. Thanks, Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Big Mick
Date: 04 Jan 09 - 03:35 PM

For all its bumps, bruises and warts, what you have just read, folks, is one of the reasons that this village we call Mudcat is a precious gem. Frank Hamilton was there, and on the front lines. Where else do you get the likes of him, Jean Ritchie, Sandy and Caroline Paton, Mark Ross, and Art Thieme.

Thanks, once again, Friend Frank. This is one 30 year Union Organizer and lifetime folkie, who can't find enough ways to express his gratitude for your "real deal" insights on the times.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Stringsinger
Date: 04 Jan 09 - 03:27 PM

The people who were subjected to the persecution of the era were not officially members of the Communist Party but those who had been former members or what they called "Fellow Travelers". The idea that these people who I knew well were taking orders from the Kremlin is ridiculous. McCarthy was wrong and an alcoholic bully. He was a power-hungry politician who like Rush Limbaugh found a way to capitalize on his persecution.

Ron Cohen and Dave Samuelson has covered this period and the one preceding pretty well. Check out the role of Harvey Matisow.


I remember that many of the people who were associated with the Left Wing were enamored of the issues of social justice,civil rights,labor, anti-war and other now mainstream issues that have always been reviled by Republicans. The corporate media has replaced the HUAC and McCarthy and the Weavers would have as much trouble today as they had in their heyday. They would find little support from the contemporary Senate and House today. They would find negative airtime on Fox News. As now, the Republicans were responsible for the McCarthyism of the time.

In many ways, what is going on today is worse than what happened under McCarthy.
Pre-emptive war, destruction of the labor movement, persecution of detainees at Guantanamo, open admission and encouragement of torture, Wall Street crooks, cronies robbing the American taxpayer, the rise of the Corporatocracy, endless skirmishes in the Middle-East, and open season on the US Constitution though wire-tapping. J Edgar
would be proud. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If a group like the Weavers emerged today with a sense of appealing to the public on issues of social justice etc. they would again be blacklisted and not given media exposure.
The reason for this is simple. There is still a Right-Wing cabal who is interested in suppressing free speech and controversial ideas.

Look at what happened to Amy Goodman in Minneapolis. That's right out of the McCarthy playbook. McCarthy has morphed into Karl Rove. (Check out the Siegelman story).

Nowadays, it's not "communist" but it has now been changed to "terrorist". (Again by Republicans).

The idea behind Pete wanting to reach out to the public's conscience by the Weavers
becoming "pop" was not about making money or being big stars. Pete saw this as
an inroad to reaching the public. The public liked the sincerity. The schism in the Weavers occurred when Lee and Freddie started to like getting the commericial gigs. Erik also. Pete wanted out. He arranged with Paul Endicott of Detroit to open a college market.

The raison d'etre behind the Weavers were to speak out publicly against McCarthy and
his ilk. Pete Cameron who was their first manager was afraid of the McCarthy publicity and put the kibosh on doing anything controversial. By that time, Red Channels had taken place and the horses escaped after the barn door was closed. I met the Weavers originally at the home of Will Geer when they were picketed at Ciros, the Hollywood nightclub.
Harold Leventhal eventually rescued their career from the trepidation of Pete Cameron. I think it might have been a surprise (as it usually is) when an alternative-style act finds its way into the pop field.

There is no chance that the Weavers would become a standard pop group. They had a chance to "sell-out" but there was a split in the group. Pete would never have gone for it though ironically a couple of Pete's songs became popular all over the world.

There were certain songs that were Weaver's songs and they did not include the standard pop fare. Many of these songs that were deemed to be commercially acceptable by the music merchants of the time were rejected by at least Pete if not Lee.

The rationale for being the Weavers under McCarthy was to fight back against the Republican ideology responsible for undermining social issues of the time. That would never be corrupted with Pete in the group. The Weavers would have had to eventually call it a day on the pop circuit.

The style of singing was a "militant" one, not the smooth gloss of the pop crooners of the time. This was the singing on picket lines, labor rallies and the Henry Wallace campaign.
It was a carryover from the Alamanc singers and the Weaver's former name, The Priority Ramblers. This singing style would be offensive to the interests of the popular music moguls of the time who had Republican leanings and corporate sympathies. Ironically,
the public liked it and bought the recordings.

I think that Gordon Jenkins was a fine musician who actually helped the sales of Weaver's recordings by tasteful arrangements that folk-snobs will undoubtably find offensive.
There was no way at that time that a straight version of folk music by untrained voices
was going to find a way onto the pop charts. It had to be made "acceptable". Remember that Burl Ives had a trained voice.

If it wasn't for the Weavers, there would not have been a Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary. They blazed the trail for the "folk scare".

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Mark Ross
Date: 03 Jan 09 - 11:14 PM

They recorded with the Jenkins Orchestra. Overdubbing was relatively unknown at that time,

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 03 Jan 09 - 09:20 PM

It has been nearly 5 years since this thread closed. But today I played a compilation record put out by Decca in the 1960s. It contains Goodnight Irene sung by the Weavers with full orchestra by Gordon Jenkins. A few years ago, I heard Tzena, Tzena and Old Smokey similarly orchestrated, on a radio show raising money for the local PBS station. I told them I'd pledge if they promised never to play those versions again. They didn't honor their promise.

Which leads to the old adage, every cloud has a silver lining. If Pete had not faced HUAC, and the ensuing blacklisting, the Weavers, may have gone on to sing I Left my Heart in San Francisco, or become 3 Lads and a Lass! Alas!

Question. Did the Weavers actually perform with the orchestra, or did Jenkins just overlay the basic Weavers' tracks?


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 24 Mar 04 - 09:00 AM

Here's some more thread drift but who cares!

Sometimes appealing to someone in higher authority works if you can figure out the way to get access, if you're persistent, and if they're inclined to listen. I'm thinking back to one of my father's stories which goes back to the issues of racism and social justice within our armed forces in WW II.

One of our summer neighbors in Maine employed a Black man as a chauffeur and handyman. When Jabbo was drafted into the army, after basic training, he was assigned for further training as a cook. All the cook trainees were Black and during the training there was a special event at the base and the Black trainees were not invited and they were not pleased. Well, I'm not sure what went on between the trainees at that point, but later that night Jabbo and his brothers broke into the armory, armed themselves with rifles and forced their way into the party. No one was seriously injured but when the military police were called in, all the Blacks were hauled off to the brig and subsequently tried for mutiny. Jobbo was identified as a ringleader and perhaps he was. But he was also over 6 feet tall and weighed over 250 pounds. It's also rumored that the principal person who testified against him owed him money from gambling. Jabbo was convicted and sentenced to be shot. Our family finally got news of this from Jabbo's former employers by phone one evening and father began to consider if there was anything he could do to help. Now father at that point was a dairy farmer, not exactly one of the political or economic elite. However, he had been a teacher in the 1930's at an experimental progressive school in West Virginia, known as the Arthurdale Project, set up by Eleanor Roosevelt and some of her friends for unemployed coal miners. Father drafted a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, asking her to personally look into the facts of this case. He was disappointed to receive in a couple of weeks a form response with no recognition that they had even met. He decided to send a longer letter and this time received a handwritten letter from Eleanor with an apology and assurance that the incident would be looked into. She did follow through with her investigation and Jobbo was cleared of the most serious charges but was dishonorably discharged from the army. However, at that point he was a very happy man! Father was very pleased too. I have fond memories of listening to Jabbo's stories when he'd come up every year with our summer neighbors but I never heard this story till years later.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 09:27 PM

Franz ... well said! Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 09:14 PM

Deckman,

Yeah, discrimination works both ways, but what matters is who has the power. There were many more bars in SF in the 70s where I would have been welcomed than there were where that bartender would have been welcomed. See, I'm white. I can always go back to my power base. He didn't have that option, or at least the base he could go back to didn't have much power.

And yeah, the "agitators" can "exploit" these situations,but unless there is a real issue and no one's dealing with it they don't get far if exploitation is all they want. People aren't stupid. They know when they're being used. And if they don't think that what they get out of the transaction is worth it, they won't allow it. Case in point, last Saturday's march in SF. The whole panoply of left "fractions" was there, and they all spoke their pieces and passed out their leaflets, but most people pretty much tolerated or ignored them and marched for their own reasons. Many others felt the "exploitation" and stayed home.

Yeah, most of us are better off. I haven't seen any signs that people are responding to Ashcroft, etc., the way they responded to HUAC and McCarthy. We have a sense of entitlement now that we didn't have then.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 09:00 PM

You have 1 message
        
Go

Franz Schneider's Private Messages
------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the 70's sometime, my dad was a 3rd engineer on a freighter
that came into SF Bay, Since that was near where my home now
is, I picked him up at his ship on the Embarcadero just south of
the Bay Bridge. After a very pleasant day's visit, he had to be
back on board by midnight, so about 8pm we (he, myself, and a
brother-in-law, all very white) headed down to the waterfront
thinking to have a final drink in a waterfront bar.

There weren't any.

We drove south past his ship's moorage and just kept on going,
looking for a small neighborhood-type place. We didn't see
anything until we were more than halfway to Hunter's Point
(Rainier Valley-type neighborhood). Finallt we saw a bar,
stopped, and went to the door. As we opened it, the clientele, all
black, became suddenly silent. The bartender looked at us and
without missing a beat said, "You boys with the band?"

We shared a good laugh with everyone and went on our
way--without thedrinks.

I guess that's music-related.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 08:52 PM

One needs to remember that racial discrimination worked (works) both ways. And whenever these very strong social issues (conflicts) come to focus, agitators (communists?) rose to exploite those opportunities. Right? Wrong" Are we better off today than we were in the 1930's, 1940's, 1950's, 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's?

You tell me? Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 08:41 PM

And I was in Colombia with my wife trying to learn to play the tiple (it's a musical instrument something like a small 12-string, but with four groups of 3 strings-very nice sound) and to justify all the money I was getting paid by you taxpayers. Was I there because of the Weavers' songs? Who knows. But I'm sure the same impulse led me to both places.

And my friends were writing me letters saying, "Don't come home. This country is falling apart." Plus ca change... (Can't do cedilly under c for some reason.)

Art, Depoe Bay is one of the world's most beautiful places, that is, if the weather be good.   In the winter it makes Maine look positively cheerful.. Never been in Chicago in the winter.

Got home from Colombia halfway between the King and Kennedy assasinations. This country still looked better than Colombia.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 07:45 PM

Art ... I came SOOOOO close to probably meeting you. I was driving and moving my family up the coast from San Francisco back to the Seattle area at that time. Oh well, at least we've met, and become friends, here. CHEERS and best wishes, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 07:22 PM

Franz ... Thanks again for your story. I well remember Janzten Beach. As I remember, it was just across the bridge over the Columbia River.

Your story reminds me of all the 'little' things that we all did every day. I was on the receiving end of some of these actions. As I mentioned previously, at the tender age of 18 and 19, I was the only white member of an all black theater group. As we spent many, many hours together in rehersals, we also became friends. Came the time that my fellow thespians wanted to go out and party at the "all black" clubs, they wanted to bring me along. I well remember the confrontations at the door as they tried to get me in. Sometimes I was welcomed, often as not, I was not admitted. I DO belive that every white person in America today should be forced to have the experience of being made NOT WELCOME. It will keep us humble. And we need humility today (sorry, another thread creep).

Franz, please keep these postings going, I'm learning and remembering and enjoying a lot! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Amos
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 06:03 PM

Franz:

What a terrific story, man!!

Thanks.



A


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Art Thieme
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 06:01 PM

,,,and I was on the coast---1967-'68----started a place called THE FOLK ART SHOP ---highway 101 in Depoe Bay, Oregon. We picked D.B 'case we fell in love with it. Had everything we owned (books and music--dog and cat) in a VW bus fresh from Chicago where I'd been asst. manager of the Old Town Folklore Center. Had a ball squandering a small inheritance and pissing off parents. Since there was no folk scene we could find (maybe we didn't look in the right places), we wound up back in Chicago in '69. Our son was born in '70----and now we are here.

Sorry I missed meeting you folks back then.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 05:48 PM

It ain't the Weavers, but here's a story about how the music affected the politics.
Back in 1953 (note: this was before either the Army-McCarthy hearings or the Spureme Court decision in Brown v. Bd. of Education)a family friend had a barber shop in Portland, OR. At this time our life was mostly in the Negro community because me stepfather of the time was black, and so was his friend the barber. Anyhow, a guy from Lionel Hampton's band came in for a haircut, mentioned that the band would be playing New Years Eve 1954 at the Jantzen Beach Ballroom and that he'd get the local some tickets. Long silence ensued. The barber let him know that Negroes were not allowed at Jantzen Beach, at least not in the ballroom or swimming pool.
So they cooked up a plan. The band member arranged for tickets for 3 couple to be available (maybe 4) on New Years Eve. One of the band would hang out in the lobby, and when my folks and the other couples showed up he'd get word backstage that they were there. When the time came and the couples were in the lobby being refused admittance (even though they had tickets), Hampton stopped his band and announced to the management that they weren't playing any more until their guests were admitted.   There was quite a hooraw, my folks told me, but in the end the management gave in. And not only did Jantzen Beach get integrated, but (my mother insists) the band's playing improved greatly. Better audience feedback.

Direct Action gets the goods.

See, there were hundreds if not thousands of actions like that being taken all over the country in those days, by people who generally were never heard of. And those actions laid the groundwork for the big breakthroughs that everyone heard about. And people sang and danced and played or listened to jazz


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 04:27 PM

Franz: I do not think your post was too long by any means. And I'm very pleased that you said what you said. It does help to put the times in context of what else was going on at the time.

The other night I watched, again, the TV production of "Scandalize My Name," which included live interviews with Fredrick O'Neil, Canada Lee, Harry Belefonte, etc. That show is such a "time trip" for me. While I don't remember meeting any of them personally, what was happenning in Seattle at the same time was the same thing.

It made my blood boil ... all over again! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 12:43 PM

Bob, the original thread request was about how the Weavers affected the general public. At the risk ofalmost hijacking the thread, I think the the questioner needs to understand more context.

I was aware at a very early age that I and my family were not the "general public". Couldn't have told you how I knew that, but it was something I understood, like I knew which alleys not to walk through on the way to school. Among my family and their friends were a great many "activists", as they are now called. A few were Communists, whose almost sole loyalty was to the Party and who were alsways looking for ways to advance the Party's intersts. They of course used folk music and Jim Crow and the CIO and the peace movement and whatever else was handy. They were pretty obvious in their activities, but they wer hard workers, often good organizers, and they had the same values as others.   Most people I knew were just people who wanted some justice and wanted to have a good time getting it. They were attracted to the whole range of left-wing activities, associations, causes, even churches (a high percentage were Quakers and Unitarians, but pretty much all faiths were represented. So people who were interested in integration were also interested in folk music( to a greater or lesser degree), unions, peace, social justice, etc., etc. They varied in where they put their personal energies, and they could argue fine points of doctrine or tactics for years,   But it wasn't the commies on one side and the folkies on another and the civil rights people on another. As I saw it then and still do, they were all the same people, just different emphases. And where would the CIO and the Civil Rights movements have been without the songs?

Is this too long a post?


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Mar 04 - 04:41 AM

O.K. folks, I'm making a little time to post another thought. I'm quite sure that my comments might be viewed as a serious thread creep. And yet, they really are NOT.

The subject as started by the original poster, was focused on "the Weavers and the McCarthy era." And we have all be addressing that issue. However, things to NOT happen in a vacuum.

It's just about impossible for me to separate the original subject from what else was happening to me, and also Seattle, during that same time. I'm talking about the 'rise,' for lack of a better term, of the integration movement.

It was at this same time that I met a man who became very pivotel to me. He was black, I was white. He was a schoolteacher, I used to sing songs to his students. He was a well trained stage actor. He formed an amateur theater company. We connected. Up until the time that I married and moved to California, I was very active with him. We wrote plays together, I acted on stage in several productions. I sang songs in his productions. I became the token "white" in an all black company.

Why does this fit here? It fits because what was happening to me was also happening to Seattle.

As we've noted before, many of the popular political issues of those times attracted "communists." And it was very logical.

The "communists" needed social issues, and the black movement was a HUGE issue in Seattle then. Unfortunatly, it still is.

So, to more complete the story, I think we need to bring the nationwide aspects the the black movement here.

Am I wrong? CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 07:06 PM

As you say, "a very interesting thread." Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 07:00 PM

Quite the interesting thread. Franz---in re: to the mention of the Weavers's 78s. They did record Tzena Tzena---I recall that Goodnight Irene was the flip---which made Decca not too happy since they had 2 hits on one recording. This, after Decca was not thrilled to have them in the first place.

As to Terry Gilkyson. He was on the On Top of Old Smoky recording. Much to the chagrin of The Weavers---mostly Pete Seeger who resented having a "pop" singer included in the recording. Gilkyson was, of course, a major writer of "pop" hits---Cry Of The Wild Goose, Memories Are made Of This, etc; He also recorded with a group known as The Easy Riders. Interestingly he also did some recordings with Cisco Houston (who his daughter tells me also had an operatic voice). Sadly those recordings are long gone---wish I could find one.

I have had the pleasure of interviewing his daughter Eliza (who has a great new CD out) for my program (TRADITIONS-WFDU). It wall air on April 11---will post more on that later. Lots of music. Hers and Terry's. She will verify a lot of these anecdotes that I have mentioned.

Quite the intersting thread, as I said----now since it has diverged a bit---no one mentioned the "sore on the face of broadcasting" known as Walter Winchell that I had mentioned earlier. Probably best for another thread.

Bill Hahn


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 06:42 PM

Deckman.. Sorry, my memory isn't that good. I was only 10 when we moved away, and I never went back to Washington Hall after 1951 or so. My dad, who stayed in Seattle with his second family, wasn't that interested in the music except for its political content, so I didn't have much contact with the music scene (except for the New Years' Eve parties at the Hulls') until 1959-60 or thereabouts.   I was closer to the stuff going on in Portland in the middle and late 50s, both political and musical. I did do some of the Kress - Woolworth picket lines i Seattleduring the civil rights sitin time...another case where the music mattered and the Weavers were seminal.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Deckman
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 05:32 PM

Franz ... WOW! WASHINGTON HALL!! Does that place ever bring back memories. I wonder if it is still there? I just P.M.'d a note to you. I'm being overly busy right now, but I hope to get more time later this evening to respond in more detail. Hmmmm? Washington Hall. Do you perhaps remember the name of the old man that lived in the basement and kept an eye on the place? Did you ever hear the GLORIOUS music coming from the Black church next door? Bob


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 09:56 AM

People's Songs were very active in the Progressive Party campaign 1in 1948. Pete Seeger, Paul Robeson and others often travelled with Wallace. There were several recordings released and dozens of songs written. Music played a huge role in the campaign and there were music coordinators who would insure that artists were there to sing. They encouraged and sought out local artists who would write songs that dealt with local issues. Your memory is probably correct Franz.

The Progressive Party drew less than 1 million votes, unfortunately. In the long run, they may have succeeded because they left the seeds that would blossom into the "folk revival" and even more importantly they dealt with issues that would become important causes of the latter 20th century such as the civil rights movement.

Members of the No-Name Quartet (soon to be the Weavers)were very active in the campaign.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Franz S.
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 09:48 AM

Maybe Deckman or Don can help me track down a memory. Utah Phillips in one of his Loafers Glory programs referred to campaign songs recorded by the Progressive Party for use in the 1948 campaign. Around that time I was attending a Saturday labor school at Washington Hall in Seattle, and I seem to remember that on one occasion they had some recording equipment and we recorded a song or two (we being the kids in what amounted to red diaper playschool).   Did such a thing ever happen, or did I dream it? My folks are no help on the subject.

No, the songs themselves won't change the world. But the songs are an essential part of the makeup of the people who do.

I just figured out part of the reason why I found Saturday's march somewhat unsatisfying. Nowhere near enough singing.


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: Charley Noble
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 08:21 AM

Franz-

Pleased to see you posting here, after all your lurking. As one of my long time folk music friends, extending back to the dark dim days of college in Maine, you were instrumental in encouraging me to SING some of the songs I had grown up with. Then there were those long political debates between you and our conservative classmate Al which furthered my "moderate" political education. And then you persuaded me to drive down to the North Carolina mountains one spring in search of even more folk music, and white lightning! And, I like to think, I'm still on that road.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: The Weavers and the McCarthy Era
From: GUEST,Songster Bob
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 12:19 AM

What a thread! The song Seeger tried to sing to the committee was, "Wasn't that a time." The Weavers, because they happened to hit it "big" when other folkies were still marginalized, helped put "folk music" into the popular realm (yes, there had been popular folk music since the 20s -- else why would Columbia have set up the "Bristol Sessions"? -- but not in the same "pop" way that happened in the late 40s). No Weavers, no Kingston Trio, possibly no Beatles (think Weavers popularize Leadbelly --> Lonnie Donegon --> the Quarrymen --> the Silver Beatles --> the Beatles).

As for the Communism of the American lefties, I take some of the Eastern European "files" with a grain of salt. I suspect that anyone with a leftist leaning was glommed onto by the Soviet Communist Party and its apparatchiki, and glowing reports of success in 'subverting' Hollywood or popular music were written, however true or only partly true they might be. I don't doubt for a minute that the Soviets had real sympathizers here, and real agents, but how many of these were those that McCarthy (R - Wisconsin drunk) and the even more rabid wingnuts sought to pillory is open to question. For example, Woody often claimed to be a Communist, but the real CPUSA wouldn't have him -- he was too hard to control, a real loose cannon and not given to following the 'line.'

I always thought it odd that the US side took as Gospel the Communist line about being for peace, justice, anti-racism, etc., so that anyone who espooused these laudible ideals was a Red. All the real Party had to do was say 'racism bad,' and the right-wingers would jump all over themselves to prove that they (and our glorious US of A) were racist to the core, giving African popular opinion to the Communists without a fight. Easy pickings.

Gotta go let the dog out (be back later).

Bob Clayton


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