Friday, October 07, 2022

1960s Folk: Greenwich Village, Harry Smith, Oscar Brand, and Joe Rubin

Compulsively wrote this on Facebook around 4 a.m. this morning, but thought I'd share it here too so that I can point non-Facebook friends to it.

Woke up in the middle of the night remembering the name of a song that eluded me at the jam session 10 hours earlier, so went looking for the song on YouTube -- and found this documentary about 20 years of a music-and-progressive-politics culture that was transmitted to me through the early-1960s record bins labelled "folk" and "blues" at the record shop a few blocks from my house... Joe Rubin, a white-haired gentleman I assumed was more into classical music and maybe jazz, ran the place and let me hang out in the back and play LPs that I couldn't afford. (While wondering if I ever thanked Mr. Rubin enough for putting so much music in my life, it just dawned on me that I may have first gone into his store to thank him -- for sponsoring a high school duckpin bowling team I was on!)

I read about the folks and songs on their LP liner notes, and in books by Alan Lomax, Carl Sandburg & Oscar Brand from the library, as well as the great booklet inside the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music record set, mentioned in the documentary as source material for many of the Greenwich Village folkies I admired... And I picked up an Oscar Brand folksong-guitar instruction book, a guitar, and a harmonica or two from an instrument store I'd walk by on my way home from school. (Nice clip of Oscar and the Simon Sisters in the film, along with so many others whose records were in those bins at Joe Rubin's record store.)

Before I went back to sleep I also found the song that I'd originally gone looking for, sometimes titled "Coffee Grows on Wild Oak Trees," and sometimes "Hello Susan Brown," including this recording, which was the first place I heard it about sixty years ago.