Live Folky Bluegrass Performances from the 60s
Written by Randy Black on April 11, 2017
Viking Twang Show 123, April 11, 2017
Good morning, welcome to Viking Twang Episode 123. My name’s Randy Black; happy to see you here in the second is week of Spring Term.
We’re going to get into some classic live bluegrass this week. The second set will feature performances from the Newport Folk Festival by Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, and by Jean Ritchie. In the final set, we’ll have Doc Watson and Bill Monroe live from the early to mid 1960s.
The folklorists Ralph Rinzler, John Cohen, and Israel Young put on 14 shows in New York City between 1961 and 1965 to showcase the musicians who pioneered American folk music. Here’s Mike Seeger to announce our first act.
1 – Turkey Red; W.C. Beck & the Portland Country Underground.
2 – East Virginia Blues; Roscoe Holcomb. Recorded Feb. 11, 1961; the only recording of him playing it on banjo.
3 – Frankie and Albert; Mississippi John Hurt. He originally recorded his version of the Frankie and Johnny story in 1928; this is from December 1963.
4 – Knoxville Blues; Sam McGee. Sam and his brother Kirk were among the first stars of the Grand Old Opry, playing in Uncle Dave Macon’s band. He originally recorded this in 1925; this is from February, 1965.
5 – Riley, John Davis & the Georgia Sea Island Singers. This was a traditional sea chantey of African-American origin that Davis and the singers played in April, 1965.
6 — The Country Blues; Dock Boggs. Dock recorded this in 1927 for Brunswick Records, then again for Folkways just before this December, 1963 performance.
7 – Sugar Hill; Maybelle Carter. Maybelle started out playing banjo, but stopped after she picked up the guitar. She told the audience at this February, 1965 show that she hadn’t played it in 30 years.
The Newport Folk Festival often had some great bluegrass performers during its heyday, so we’re going to present performances by a few of the best. First up is Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, followed by a 1959 performance by Jean Ritchie.
8 – Walking In My Sleep; Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard. A traditional song.
9 – A Tiny Broken Heart; From the Louvin Brothers.
10 – The One I Love Is Gone; Bill Monroe wrote that one.
11 – What’re We Going To Do With The Baby; Jean Ritchie. These are all traditional songs.
12 – Shady Grove.
13 – Pretty Saro.
By the early 1960s, as rock and roll took over the airwaves, Bill Monroe’s career was in decline at the same time that Doc Watson was beginning to emerge as a force on the folk music scene. Ralph Rinzler put the two of them together and sent them out on the college and folk club scene. We’re going to play some songs from a Smithsonian Folkways album called Off The Record: Live Duet Recordings 1963-1980.
14 – Foggy Mountain Top; Bill Monroe & Doc Watson. From New London, Connecticut, August 31, 1964.
15 – Watson’s Blues. Doc and Bill were messing around during their first rehearsal together and this song emerged from it; Bill named it the Watson’s Blues. This performance was at the home of the great fiddler, Tex Logan, in Madison, New Jersey, Aug. 26, 1966.
16 – Midnight On the Story Deep. This song dates back to the 1930s; Doc and Bill play it here at Jordan Hall in Boston, Aug. 31, 1966.
17 – Kentucky Mandolin. A hot mandolin instrumental that Bill wrote, recorded at Oberlin College in Ohio, April 18, 1964.
18 – You Won’t Be Satisfied That Way. An old Jimmie Davis song that Doc and Bill recorded at the famous Ash Grove folk club in Los Angeles, April 19, 1963.
19 – Memories of You. Another from their first rehearsal; they worked it up and played it that night at the Ash Grove, April 14, 1963.
20 – Daybreak In Vegas, The Countrypolitans.