Pete Seeger has performed at Oberlin innumerable times since he began his solo career in the early fifties. He often performed in the basement of dorms and in other informal situations, for as much money as could be collected by passing a hat. These recordings were made in 1959 in Finney Chapel, where Seeger most recently performed last May. Pete Seeger has recorded hundreds of records, mostly for Folkways and Columbia.
The Highwoods Stringband are an excellent old-time group, now established in upstate New York, although originally mostly from California. They perform in a style reminiscent of the Skillet tickers, a band from Georgia who recorded in the late twenties and early thirties. The band consists of Walt Koken and Bob Potts, fiddles, Mac Benford, banjo, Doug Dorschug, guitar and vocals, and Jenny Cleland, bass. They have recorded two records for Rounder records.
John Roberts and Tony Barrand have given two very fine concerts for us over the last few years, performing old English ballads and songs, along with a vast repertoire of music hall songs. On Staines Morris, Tony plays a bowed psaltery, a small stringed instrument that is many centuries old. They have recorded for Swallowtail and Front Hall records.
The New Lost City Ramblers are one of the pioneer stringjbands, who started performing in the late fifties. The band still occasionally performs, and each of its members, Mike Seeger (fiddle and vocal), Tom Paley (banjo), and John Cohen (guitar) have become famous on their own as folklorists and performers in various capacities. This group is largely responsible for the old-time music revival. They have recorded many albums for Folkways.
The Boys of the Lough are one of the best revival groups from Britain, and they will be performing at Oberlin again this April. The members of the band are Aly Bain (fiddle) of Shetland, Cathal McConnell (flute, penny whistle) and Robin Morton (concertina, Bodhrán (frame-drum) of Ireland and Dave Richardson of Northumbria (Northern England). Their music is a synthesis of the different regional dance musics found in No. England, Shetland, and Ireland. They have recorded for Leader/Trailer (in England), and their recordings are available in this country on Rounder and Philo labels.
Art Rosenbaum is a banjo and fiddle player, artist, and folklorist, who currently lives in Iowa, although is originally from the East. He gave a memorable concert of dance songs and ballads here last October. He has edited with Pat Dunford a fine record of Indiana songs and tunes for Folkways (Fine Times at Our House) and has most recently recorded for Meadowlands and Kicking Mule records.
The Red Clay Ramblers are a song and tune band from the Durham, North Carolina area. They were recently featured in an off-broadway musical, Diamond Studs, and have recorded for Folkways and Flying Fish records. Their members of the band are Tommy Thompson (banjo). Bill Hicks (fiddle), Jim Watson (mandolin, guitar), and Mike Craver (piano, guitar). Their arrangements of many sentimental and blues and early jazz songs were greatly appreciated by the Oberlin audience, as well as their fine arrangements of traditional and not-so-traditional dance tunes.
The Stanley Brothers are one of the best of the transitional bands, whose members were raised on old-time songs and tunes, and then became important performers of bluegrass music. Ralph Stanley, the group's banjoist, is one of the creators of bluegrass banjo picking, and Carter Stanley, his brother, has one of the most famous voices in bluegrass, surpassed only by Bill Monroe. Ralph Stanley continues to perform today with the Clinch Mountains Boys. Carter Stanley died in 1967. They have recorded for Starday and King records.
Lou and Sally Killen opened last year's concert program with a very enjoyable program of English songs. Lou's concertina playing has been quite influential to many of us over the years. The Barley Mow is a great old drinking song. The Killens have recorded for Front Hall records, and Louis Killen has made many solo albums as well for Topic and several other labels.
Since the early fifties, The Oberlin Folk Music Club has been bringing traditional performers to the school to spread folk music and lore. We've never been a stable organization; at first, our concerts were held in basements of now-forgotten spots like Pyle Inn, and the club itself was more or less a loose band of radicals and folk enthusiasts. In the mid-fifties and early sixties, when people like Pete Seeger were blacklisted for alleged communistic sympathies, Oberlin was the only school or club west of New York that consistently hired Seeger, or, in fact, that would hire him at all. Other traditional performers who played here were Jean Ritchie, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, the New Lost City Ramblers, and Guy Carawan. The sound quality on these older tapes is a little uneven, but we thought it was important to include a few songs from the early concerts, including two songs from Pete Seeger's concert here in 1959.
After a number of years in the mid-sixties of rather sporadic activity, the club has recently revived a regular concert series, sponsoring six or seven traditional concerts a year. Thanks to the efforts of David Winston, the club has brought many of the fine performers who you will hear on this record, and continues to sponsor concerts and workshops. In editing this record, I have tried to maintain the atmosphere of the concerts themselves, by preserving introductory commentary on most of the selections, and, as much as possible, audience reaction. We hope this record will inspire memories of good times gone by, and also introduce those of you who missed some of our concerts to the fine performers who have played here over the years.