This was my second album; recorded a year after The Art of the Five String Banjo.


1. Traveliní Man

From a recording by Doc Walsh (or Boggs).

 

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2. The Downfall of Paris From A THOUSAND AND ONE JIGS, REELS, AND STRATHBYS BY Captain O'Neil of the Chicago Police Dept. given to me by Lee Shaw.

 

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3. Billy the Kid

Betty Ballantine wrote this song sometime before l945.

 

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4. Bahaman Lullaby My reconstruction of the singing of Erik Darling and others.

 

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5. Wind in the Trees An attempt to play flamenco on the banjo.

 

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6. The Dying British Sergeant Yankee John Galusha from Orient Point, Long Island, New York sang this song for  Frank and Anne Warner way back when. I have no explanation for why my guitar accompaniment has a classical feel. It was not intentional. 

 

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7. The Great Assembly One night in l951 or 2, Barbara Dane called me at ten in the evening from Berkeley, California.  I was living in San Francisco and had to be up  the next morning at six or seven to go to work as a conductor on the California Street Cable Car. Will Calvin, the visiting father of Barbara's neighbor in the next apartment, heard  Barbara playing her guitar and singing through the wall between the two apartments. He grabbed his banjo and knocked on Barbara's door.  When she heard how well he played she immediately called me.  When I heard him play a little over the phone Lori and I got up and drove to Berkeley.  This was in the days when banjo players were a rarity.  Will was a sparkling old man of 65. (I was only 21.) I was thrilled to the core when I heard him play and sing. I had never heard an authentic old time banjo player before that night except on old 78rpms.  But even my untrained ears could tell he was the real thing.

Will told us about  'Pop" Fred Green who was the "real musician" in his group back home in Modesto, California.  They (Margie's Friendship Club)  met every other Sunday afternoon in a town park in Modesto, and made music and picnicked all day and evening. Lori and I and the kids were there the following Sunday.  We had her old two track, two speed Webcore tape machine and recorded hours of actual authentic folk songs from Pop Green and Will Calvin and a few other old guys.  It was unbelievable to me.  Up to then I had always thought that the old folk stuff was either recorded already or dead forever.  Pop Green played the fiddle and banjo.  He sang versions of songs I already had heard and a few that I hadn't. Will knew practically all of the old banjo songs I had heard.  He had played and sung in church every Sunday in Alabama before he migrated to California in the dusty thirties along with Pop Green (from Texas) and a half million other folks looking to get away from the dust storms and the depression. When he was settled in Modesto he picked up his banjo and went to church but THEY WOULDN'T LET HIM PLAY.

"So," he said to me, with a twinkle in his eye, "I quit going to church and I play my banjo religiously every Sunday."

But Lori and I were only amateur recording engineers. The second time we were there I accidentally used the tape from two weeks before and erased an absolutely brilliant BONAPARTE'S RETREAT from Pop[ Green's fiddle. He played it again but, of course, it wasn't the same. But I was not the only one to blow it with recording tape.  That summer (1952) Lori and I made a trip east.  We met Moe Asch of Folkways records and sold him a ten inch L. P. of Will Calvin's and Pop Green's playing. Moe was delighted with the music.  We dubbed it from our Webcore at Peter Bartok's studio in New York.  We returned west and moved to Ajijic in Mexico.  After not hearing about the recording for a year I called Moe Asch. He had no memory of meeting me or buying the album.  And he expressed real doubt that it had ever transpired.  The next time in New York I showed him the contract with Folkways that Marian Distler, his secretary had signed.  She had died. He still didn't remember. But since he saw the contract he said he would honor it. We had to do the dubbing again.  Lori was in Mexico and sent me the tapes which were lost in the Mexican mails. 

Finding the lost dubs became an obsession with me that lasted for years.  To no avail. I know that somewhere in the dusty back rooms of the old Folkways world (now Smithsonian Folkways) lies an unmarked ten inch reel of quarter inch tape (unless Moe Asch spaced  out and left it on a subway), containing the music of Pop Green and Will Calvin, but I could never get anyone to really search for it.

Losing the true sound of Pop Green and Will Calvin is the greatest loss I have ever known. Ten years ago I lost the sight of my right eye through the bumbling of two eye surgeons.  If I could  choose between getting my eye back or finding those lost tapes, I would choose the tapes.  After all, they would last forever, my eye would last only as long as me.

I guess you could say THE GREAT ASSEMBLY is my signature song.  I sing it whenever I perform.  And when things really look bad in my life and I wonder what its all about and why am I here, I tell myself that my purpose in life is to keep THE GREAT ASSEMBLY alive.  I never heard it before I heard Will Calvin sing it. John Herald would come up and sing it with me when I was performing, and he recorded it with the Greenbriar Boys.  I have recorded it two or three times. But I have never heard any other recordings of it. Have you?

 

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8. The Galveston Flood I learned this song from Stan Wilson in San Francisco in l95l. This is his arrangement as I remembered it when I recorded it six years later.

 

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9. Soldierís Joy I learned this from Woody Wachtel.

 

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10. Minerís Lifeguard Elaine Lanciano and I used to sing this a lot in the old UFR days.

 

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11. Payday at Coal Creek From Pete Steele.  Library of Congress recording.

 

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12. Nine Pound Hammer From Merle Travis recording.

 

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13. Dianeís Reel The original melody and first variation  is by Dick Greenhouse.  He taught it to me sitting at the fountain in Washington Square in Greenwich Village.  In the next few days I made up all the remaining variations.

 

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14. The Hell Bound Train This is from Charles J. Finger's FRONTIER BALLADS.  The constant key changes are my doing.

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