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University of Chicago Folk Festival

11 Jan 07 - 07:50 PM (#1933806)
Subject: University of Chicago Folk Festival
From: GUEST,Becca Hall

I'm an undergraduate member of the University of Chicago Folklore Society, one of three recently put in charge of creating an archive of U of C Folk Fest/Society information and memorabilia in anticipation of our 50th annual festival, coming up in three years

Looking through the forum archives here I see that there are a number of festival veterans here. I would be very excited to hear any recollections and stories you can tell me about performances, workshops, jams, Folklore Society meetings, and anything else you can think of.

Also, if anyone out there has any old festival posters or programs that they'd be willing to part with, email me at rfhall at uchicago dot edu - we're trying to assemble a complete collection, as many of the ones that we had were apparently thrown out by mistake several years back.

12 Jan 07 - 04:47 PM (#1934680)
Subject: RE: University of Chicago Folk Festival
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko

Hi Becca,

If you have a moment - contact me at   I might have some leads.

12 Jan 07 - 06:52 PM (#1934773)
Subject: RE: University of Chicago Folk Festival
From: Chris in Portland

Becca - the Chicago Public Library has transferred tapes of a lot of the early shows to cd's - sure would be something if a compilation of some of the great moments would be possible.
Chris in Portland

12 Jan 07 - 08:43 PM (#1934878)
Subject: RE: University of Chicago Folk Festival
From: MAG

After 2 cross country moves I doubt I have anything, but I'll pull out the dusty boxes and see.

I do remember hearing Art Thieme there so he must have played one after I moved to Chicago in 1970.

Highlights for me: Mike Seeger leading a harmony workshop. His co-leaders were a female barbershop quartet, and Mike asked them good pithy questions, so there was much more interesting content than is true of many festival workshops.

It feels like the early 70's, after I moved to the North Side, I knew whoever LousiKillen was staying with, and gave him a lift back to Hyde Park for the fest. There must have been a dance workshop, because I remember I had my dancing shoes in the car to change into. I don't remember the dance, but I remember Louis' performance. Did he do a workshop?? (probably on his storytelling?)

Later on theFlying Fish guy got a storytelling friend, Reuven Gold, onto the program. Reuven could be a mermerizing storyteller. He was also a character beyond description.

I remember there were always a few folk nazis in the audience who chewed you out for whispering even one word, creating a much bigger disturbance as they did so. May they rest in hell.

12 Jan 07 - 11:38 PM (#1934985)
Subject: RE: University of Chicago Folk Festival
From: GUEST,Art Thieme

I just put a fond memory of the University Of Chicago Folk Festival on the Fred McDowell birthday thread. Downstairs back stage at Mandel Hall, he and I split a bottle of champagne one year at that great festival. His set was even more amazing as a result.

I never missed a session of the first 6 years. And then they actually hired me two, no, three, times to be a part of the doings. It was always an honor to play on that stage where so many of my heroes and mentors had performed.

What a time it was.


13 Jan 07 - 12:12 PM (#1935294)
Subject: RE: University of Chicago Folk Festival
From: GUEST,MAG at the Library

How could I have left off my very first impression of the fest?

You must have many descriptions already of George Armstrong marching down the center aisle w/ kilt and bagpipes to open the festival.

Very stately. Only later did I learn that George was really into theater. A prince among folkies. His recitation of Yeats on his radio show was a treat.

13 Jan 07 - 01:03 PM (#1935333)
Subject: RE: University of Chicago Folk Festival
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton

Whatever happened to Mike Fleischer?


13 Jan 07 - 04:54 PM (#1935555)
Subject: RE: University of Chicago Folk Festival
From: GUEST,Art Thieme


A sad tale, but I have no particulars in my memory. But Mike did pass away some few years ago. He was the head man at the first of their festivals in 1961.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing that year. I was 20 years old. There on stage at Mandel Hall and doing workshops at Ida Noyes Hall on the Midway were Frank Warner & Frank Proffitt, Horton Barker, a young guy freshly back from England named Sandy Paton, Bob Atcher the cowboy singer from the old WLS BARN DANCE singing "Tying Knots In The Devil's Tail." --- Years later, I knocked on his door one time I was doing a high-school show in his town---Schaumburg, Illinois where he was mayor for 20 years. I told him I loved his songs and wanted to give him one of my old LPs. He excused himself a minute, went somewhere in the house, and came back to me with the same record!! He already had it!! Just blew me away. Maggie and Bob Atcher asked me in for coffee, and we had a fine talk.

Rev. Gary Davis was there, so was storyteller Richard Chase. A young Jean Redpath was added to the show because she'd been so great at an open stage. The Stanley Brothers were there and we could see what the music the Ramblers were depicting had rurned into. And Allan Mills from Canada along with the superb fiddle, Jean Carignan. He blew everyone away with "Le Reel Du Pindu!"

I've always felt positive that the best thing the early University Of Chicago Folklore Society did was to hire the New Lost
City Ramblers, who knew all the good questions
to ask the folks from the mountains and other participants, about their music and their lives and how those fit together. Mike Seeger and John Cohen and Tom Paley and Tracy Schwarz ran most of the workshops------and that is where the genius of it was!

Maybe it was an accident their doing that---hiring those 3 at the first fest, and then every year after that for maybe 15 years -- but it sure was a fortunate happenstance. The Ramblers were the ONLY ONES that could do that then--connect the young revival with other times, and they did it in the language us 1960s kids could take to heart. Archie Greene was there too--and Professor Robt. Cosby----and D.K. Wilgus lecturing to present the academic side of the coin. What a way to get a revival energised. Right in the middle of Chicago winters, we could recharge our batteries with this music we came to love----the music we built our lives around championing! And we keep right on doing that here at Mudcat in this strange new time we're in.

Is there any wonder at all why we resist / reject the new nomenclature and definitions??!!

All the best to you all! And here's hoping the 2007 festival is a grand one too.


Art Thieme