The Folk Music Revival (Monterey, CA 1963)

Part of my Musical Meetings series . . .


By the end of 1962, I was resuming studies in biology at UCSB and hard at work programming a weekly radio show on a new station in Santa Barbara, KGUD-FM (99.9 on the dial.) They were attempting an ill-advised venture to bring a country music station to Santa Barbara, CA, a town often described as the “Home of the Newly-Wed or Nearly-Dead.” Marketing-wise, it was not a great fit with a community of  giant estates, Rolls-Royce’s, and golf links in Montecito, along with Mexican style Cantinas and primordial surfboard shops on the Lower East side. KGUD ran ads in the News-Press with the copy:

“Welcome to KGUD Kountry! — We’ve eliminated all the raucous banjos and squawky fiddles, and play only REAL country music!”

Taking this as a challenge, I talked their program director into a regular show of folk, old time, and bluegrass music. My partner in this show was Don Robertson, who could be described nowadays as a singer-songwriter. In those days, he called himself a folk singer. After a month or two, I got word that someone was presenting a folk festival in Monterey,  featuring a wide range of performers, to be held in the third week of May. The station manager wanted me to get an interview with a new young star, Bob Dylan. I talked him into sending the two of us up north for five days, with press passes and motel rooms, to cover the proceedings. I packed a couple of Leicas, and borrowed a small tape recorder, along with a match box to hold my clothes. Don and I drove up together in his Dodge Dart. There’s much to speak about during that extended weekend, but this page is devoted to a panel discussion, held Saturday morning, May 18th. I’ll get to other things later.


The Panel begins . . .

After a full night’s music the night before, I managed to get into a large meeting hall early that morning to set up. The small Sony recorder I’d brought had an add-in microphone, but with only a seven foot cord! I had to sit immediately in front of the stage, shifting the mic from one participant to the next (hence the occasional scraping)  as the event took place. It was a 7-inch reel-to-reel, half track machine, but I had only one reel of 0.50 mil  tape left!

Participants of the panel in Monterey.

The Folk Revival Panel; author in front of stage w/ recorder.

[1] The introduction was given by professor D.K. Wilgus, who had recently joined the English/Folklore Department faculty at UCLA. By the time the talk began, there were about 150 persons in the audience and the electricity and excitement of the moment was palpable. DK sets the context and does great Master of Ceremonies work, managing the flow of talk and music amid this array of folk artists.

DK Wilgus

Professor D.K. Wilgus

[2] John Cohen, a founding member of the  New Lost City Ramblers, who was just beginning his career as folklorist and ethnographer, presents his views on what is now happening in the folk music world. His brand new film at that time The High Lonesome Sound, was shown immediately after the panel finished. John poses the question: What am I, a city person, doing performing and studying rural music?

John Cohen, Penny Seeger

John Cohen with Penny Seeger, Monterey 1963.

[3] Roscoe Holcomb, from Daisy, KY tells his story about learning the music, first on mouth harp, then banjo.

Roscoe Holcomb with guitar

Roscoe Holcomb

[4] Ralph Rinzler. later to become director of the Smithsonian’s folk festivals, talks about his life and interviews Bill Monroe. “It turned out to be bluegrass music.”

Ralph Rinzler, Bill Monroe

Ralph Rinzler, Bill Monroe

[5-A] Bill Monroe talks about playing mandolin (like baseball!) & introduces Doc.

Bill Monroe & Doc Watson 1963

Bill & Doc, photo by Peter Feldmann, 1963.

 

[5-B] Bill Monroe and Doc Watson play Bill’s tune Get Up John.


[6] DK Wilgus introduces Clarence “Tom” Ashley, Columbia recording artist from 1927, from Shouns, TN.

Clarence "Tom" Ashley

Clarence “Tom” Ashley

[7] Tom Ashley describes his relationship with Frank Walker, A&R man for Columbia Records, and how he introduced Walker to Lassie-Makin’ Tunes.

[8] How lasses are made in the hills of Tennessee

[9] East Virginia Blues – Tom Ashley’s version

[10] Doc Watson, on his first ever visit to California, sings Dream Of The Miner’s Child.

Doc Watson set list in Braille

Doc Watson’s set list in Braille

[11] Mance Lipscomb, sharecropper from Navasota, TX. (Photo from a three-day visit with the author.)

Mance Lipscomb, from Navasota Texas, 1964.

Mance Lipscomb, from Navasota Texas, 1964.

[12] Roscoe Holcomb, and his version of East Virginia. Compare and contrast with Tom Ashley’s piece, above.

[13] Billy Ray Lathum and Clarence White, of the Kentucky Colonels talk about bluegrass.
Closing remarks by D.K. Wilgus.  Thank you all!

Billy Ray Lathum

Billy Ray Lathum, w/ KY Colonels


This panel, and later interactions with many of the participants that weekend and in years to come, made a tremendous impact on me and my love for and views of the music. It truly was a life-changing time for me and I’m happy to share these moments with you.

PLEASE NOTE! All material, photographs, and recordings are copyright by Peter Feldmann 2020. If you’ve enjoyed this page, please consider becoming a sponsor to help us continue to bring the best in folk, old time, and bluegrass to the web.

About Peter Feldmann

Peter Feldmann has long been a musical mainstay in Santa Barbara and Southern California. Besides actively performing bluegrass and old time music with a variety of groups, Peter is also known as a bluegrass historian, collector, music consultant, teacher, and producer, both of live concerts and radio/tv programs throughout the area. His music has been heard in clubs, concerts, saloons, universities, pre-schools, at weddings, wakes, parties, barn-raisings, calf-ropings, rodeos, auctions, fund raisers, wine tastings and chili cook offs. Peter founded Santa Barbara's Old Time Fiddler's Convention (1972), UCSB's Old Time Music Front (1964), and The Bluebird Cafe (1971). Through these and other outlets, he was the first to bring many prominent folk, blues, and bluegrass artists, including Bill Monroe, Mance Lipscomb, The Stanley Brothers, The New Lost City Ramblers, Fred McDowell, Furry Lewis, Rose Maddox, the Balfa Brothers, and many others to the Santa Barbara area. Peter also helped others access the music by teaching privately, and in group classes for Santa Barbara Continuing Education, UCSB Extension, and McCabes Guitars. He was the first on the West Coast to produce and market instruction Lps - three on How To Play Country Fiddle, and one each on Clawhammer Banjo, and Maybelle Carter Style Guitar. He still presents lectures on country music history at UCSB, Santa Barbara area libraries, and for various interest groups, festival workshops, etc. In 2006, he presented his monograph titled "The Big bang Of Bluegrass Music" (describing the origins of bluegrass 1938 - 1946) to the worlds first International Music Symposium at the University of Kentucky at Bowling Green. He has also been very active in radio, television, and film work, producing weekly shows on country and bluegrass music over a 21 year period on various commercial and public stations. Peter currently maintains three music-related websites, a music blog, and an entertainment service company, "BlueGrass West!", based in the Santa Ynez Valley in Southern California. Peter performs tunes and songs from the heart of America's musical treasure chest. His shows can include fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Well-known as a historian and teacher, Peter is first and foremost an entertainer, sharing his respect, energy and love for the music with his fellow musicians, friends, and audiences.
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11 Responses to The Folk Music Revival (Monterey, CA 1963)

  1. Johnny Harper says:

    Peter, this is fabulous! I loved every minute of it – the talking parts as well as the performances. John Cohen’s remark on the meaning of “recreation” is brilliant. Quotable. And that version of Doc doing “Miner’s Child” – the best recording I’ve heard of it, as opposed to the issued versions which have other musicians on them. Hearing it like this, just him – gorgeous. That high figure he plays on the beginning of verse 2 – amazing. Thank you so much for making this available. I will tell others.

    • Johnny,
      Good the hear from you! I hope you’re well, and staying warm & safe. I’m glad you’re enjoying the recordings I made, in what truly seems a millennium ago. Talk about different times and atmospheres! That reminds me! John Cohen used the term “High Atmosphere” for one of his Folkways LPs. ’63 was the first time I met him. I truly miss him and Mike Seeger, both of whom made a real impact on me. Please do keep in touch! Feel free to write me via my “regular” email: Peter@BlueGrassWest.com We’ve somehow taken the wrong road as a country and are now entering the new Dark Ages. All the more reason to keeping the spark alive as best we can. Be well, amigo.

  2. Lefteris Aerakis says:

    Dear Sir! I really feel so lucky listening to these ”Treasure” recordings that you did! I’m a 63 years old Greek grand father living in the island of Crete with my wife and since my early teens a big fan of all kinds of so called ”Folk Music”! A part-time professional drummer, guitar player and old recordings researcher! So difficult to express the joy I have listening to all these great musicians! Thank you so much! All the best for you, with love and respect from Crete! Lefteris.

    • Mr. Aerakis,
      Thank you for your comments. I’m glad you found these recordings worthwhile. And I am a big fan of Greek music! From Pythagoras to the folk tunes still heard there, the wonderful singing, the amazing bouzouki playing! (I play mandolin myself.) I spent a wonderful month on Crete a few years ago. My wife and I stayed at a small hotel in the town of Stavros. It was really beautiful!

  3. Bruce M Thomson says:

    Pedro:

    Greetings from NM.

    What a fantastic musical life you have lived! And what a great collection of tales; some of them actually seem believable. I love the website and am passing it along to all my music friends in NM and beyond.

    I can hardly wait to get together, visit, and play some more tunes.

    -Toby Adobe

  4. Dear Peter — What absolutely wonderful recordings and photographs. I’m a historian working on a project about the Berkeley Folk Music Festival. We are digitizing the entire Berkeley archival collection, which wound up at Northwestern University in Chicago area after Festival director Barry Olivier sold it to the library at Northwestern. More about the project here: bfmf.net. I’d love to hear more about your memories and thinking about the California folk scene in the 1960s some time! All best, Michael

  5. Herb Pedersen says:

    I think our band The Pine Valley Boys, was there, but we played outside the main stage. I remember Monroe coming over and listening to us pick, then he grinned and stomped his foot at the end of maybe Salt Creek or something. High praise indeed for a bunch of 18 year olds!

    -Herb Pedersen

  6. Pingback: Kernville CA: Whiskey Flat Days Fiddle Contest! | Pete's Place

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