In 1961 I began 4 Harvard years, gradually accumulating records as I encountered things that caught my ears. The Lamont Library listening room had a good selection of Folkways records, including the Harry Smith Anthology, which I listened to with gradually dawning comprehension. It may have been that exposure that led me to the Old Timey sounds. Other favorites were Sven-Bertil Taube's Swedish Folk Songs and Ballads and Songs and Dances of Greece, especially O Mitros Ki Marina and Ap Ton Kaymou Mou Pino and Panto To Vradi Erhome. I might have, but didn't, become a habitué of Club 47.
New Lost City Ramblers
My first encounter with live Old Timey music was a 1962 concert in Kirkland House, where these 3 were especially memorable:
Odetta was another fascination, and probably my primary entrée to the Blues. Saw her in concert in 1963, bought several of her records
Hamza el Din
Hamza's Music of Nubia (1964) captured me utterly. The fretless slitheryness of the oud was familiar to me from childhood listening to Boston's Armenian Radio Hour in the early 1950s, and that red bellydance record too.
I played his first record hundreds of times, dreaming of melodic facility and clarity, and the 20-odd minutes of "Blend" suggested improvisational territory beyond the tune. By the time I was able to see him in concert (around 1970) he was so far gone into heroin addiction that he tuned for about 15 minutes and then just gave up.
Richard and Mimi Fariña
Everything about Richard was cool: the leather jacket, the (at the time rare) dulcimer. And Mimi too of course. His Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me was absolutely a book of its time.
Koerner Ray and Glover
Earnest white boys, ca. 1964, before Cultural Appropriation was deprecated
The Beatles were widely influential by 1963 or so. We saw Hard Day's Night at the Freeport ME drive-in the day we got married in September 1964
In 1964 the gods dealt me a W.A. Cole 1898 guitar in a Boston junk shop for $10.
During the Peace Corps years (1965-1967) I had some reel-to-reel tapes and was sent others. Betsy's father was drafted into taping Bob Dylan's Subterranen Homesick Blues for me. His comment: "...and brother you can have that music..."
I bought a few records on a trip to Singapore, among them the absolutely marvelous Greece in Music and Song (Argo 1965) and Champion Jack Dupree From New Orleans to Chicago.
Jorma Kaukonen's Embryonic Journey
Heard first in Sarawak, Spring 1967, when somebody brought Surrealistic Pillow back from San Francisco
In 1967 we returned from Sarawak, bought a new VW, drove from Massachusetts to California, listening to "If you go to San Francisco..." all the way across the country. My records took up the space between the back wheels of the VW.
First heard at a party in Berkeley, very soon after our return to the US after two years in Sarawak. Death Chants, Breakdowns and Military Waltzes was playing as we walked in, definitely a musical watershed. "Stomping Tonight on the Pennsylvania/Alabama Border" might have been the very cut:
"Angie" was everywhere in early summer 1967. I bought the record on a visit to New York City.
Holy Modal Rounders
Perhaps fortunate that I didn't encounter Stampfel and Weber while I was an undergraduate, because I'd have been too smitten with the sound and the chutzpah.
Mike Seeger interviewing Doc
Perhaps it was the subtitle "Greatest of the Delta Blues Singers" that led me to buy the 1965 Biograph album. It was surely the extreme creepiness of "Hard Time Killing Floor" in the shocking Dm tuning (DADFAD, or Em EBEGBE) that grabbed my ears, and "Devil Got My Woman" has the same chilling effect:
First heard in about 1969, instantaneous favorite, and probably instrumental in my shift from Southeast Asia to Northeastern North America for fieldwork.
A protege of John Fahey, first appeared on John's Takoma label with "6 and 12-string Guitar". How could anybody play so cleanly?
(about 6:30 is when the actual song starts... very Kottke)
Another Takoma discovery
Several FM radio stations (KPFA, KTAO most prominently) contributed to the stretching of my musical ears.
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