Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Paul Clayton, John Steinbeck, The Open Road, And "Gotta Travel On"

John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a minor American classic - brief, poignant, and deceptive in its apparent simplicity. After all, what's so tough about it? One hundred pages of big print, two guys, a dog or two, a really bad villain, and a tragically inevitable conclusion.* Just right for the seventh through ninth graders who are usually required to read it, no?

Well, no. Like most of Steinbeck's novels, Of Mice and Men expresses the writer's deeply progressive and socialist political beliefs, his anger toward rapacious capitalism (always personified in his books by an authority figure like a bank or [as here] a Boss), and his fundamental faith in the redemptive power of loyalty and love. In stark contrast to the novel's other characters, George and Lenny have hope through much of the book because they have each other; their interdependent friendship is profoundly affecting, even though the bad guys seem finally to win. George is as isolated at the end of the novel as any of the other hopeless souls on the ranch, a point visualized in two of the three film versions (1981 with Robert Blake and Randy Quaid and 1992 with Gary Sinise and John Malkovich) by a brief scene (not in Steinbeck's book but certainly implied by it) depicting George on the road again, this time alone.

And it is that lonely road that is the subject of this week's song, "I Feel Like I Gotta Travel On," attributed to Paul Clayton, a seminal but today largely-forgotten figure of the folk revival years. Like Lou Gottlieb, Clayton (1931-1967) came to professional folk music with some pretty hefty academic credentials - a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Virginia and a masters from the same university in folklore studies. He had taught himself guitar, banjo, and dulcimer while in high school, and had even had his own folk radio show during those same years. At Virginia, prominent folklorist Arthur Kyle Davis was so impressed by Clayton's knowledge of traditional songs that he made the young scholar his research assistant (along with another undergrad named Matthew J. Bruccoli, who would become one of the nation's leading professor/scholars on F. Scott Fitzgerald) and took him on folksong collecting expeditions throughout the Appalachian mountains. Clayton had recorded professionally as part of a group for the Stinson label as early as 1952; he eventually abandoned academic life in favor of collecting, performing, and writing about folk music. Naturally, he moved to Greenwich Village around 1954 and recorded dozens of albums for Tradition (where he met and worked with Liam Clancy), Elektra, Folkways, and more. Clayton was about as successful as any traditionalist singer expected to be in the pre-folk boom days; he had a lovely, mellow voice reminiscent of Pete Seeger or Bob Gibson and a simple but effective guitar accompaniment style.** Clayton's career nosedived with the whole folk movement, and feeling abandoned by performers whom he had mentored (including Bob Dylan, who has always acknowledged Clayton's influence) and depressed by drug use, legal troubles, and his closeted homosexuality, he took his own life in 1967.

Clayton left behind a truly remarkable discography and his copyrights for his widely-covered arrangements of some traditional songs. Chief among these is his "I Feel Like I Gotta Travel On," about the origins of which Clayton was always mysterious. The likeliest reason is that he had heard the basic words of the chorus in a traditional song and had incorporated them into an old W.C. Handy melody, probably "Harlem Blues." The other verses were likewise adopted from other earlier songs, making Clayton's piece one that was rather more assembled from earlier sources than actually composed.

The original copyrighted lyrics that Clayton himself recorded reflect that Steinbeckian ambivalence toward the road, which in American folklore can be the portal to a new life or the desperate means of escape from an old one. Clayton's lyric quite clearly expresses the latter, as reflected in our first rendition by the Kingston Trio from 1964:



The KT was the only major group to catch some of the melancholy that Clayton had invested in the song. The Weavers' version that predates the Kingstons by about five years catches the wistfulness but at the expense of substantially re-writing (and re-copyrighting) the lyrics as Clayton wrote them:



The extent to which the KT was indebted to the Weavers is clear here, at least as far as musical stylings went. The Weavers' lyric re-write, possible because of Clayton's use of a public domain tune, enabled the group to retain all publishing royalties for themselves, and the BMI website lists Weavers Seeger, Hays, and Gilbert as copyright holders as well as Clayton. That was something that the Kingstons also learned from the Weavers, though while there are people who still deride the former group for pulling that little trick, very few people today recall how thoroughly the Weavers protected and profited from their own repertoire in exactly the same manner.

I wonder if any of Clayton's depression emanated from what happened next when country singers got wind of Clayton's work. The prototype for that was the country hit by Billy Grammer in 1959:



Grammer is using Clayton's words but charges through them as if blissfully unaware of what he is singing about. In his hands and those of some of the other country performers below, all the affect and sadness disappear from the song and it becomes a kind of "Happy Wanderer"(you know, "Val-der-ee, val-der-ah") with slide guitar and requisite twang added. Consider Jerry Reed, Tammy Wynette et al. from 1975:



Ditto Boxcar Willie, who sound positively cheerful:



The always-cheerful Seekers:



I have to confess to a great deal of disappointment here - the Seekers are doing the Weavers lyric, not Clayton's - and they could have done so much better.

Chet Atkins provides momentary relief - slower, if not exactly reflective:



The nadir may well be here - archetypal kitsch from The Lawrence Welk Show from 1972:



Looking at the different versions of this song reminded me sharply of my article on Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans", where similarly most of the artists ignore the implications of the lyric and just charge full speed ahead - you know, a train song, riding the rails, the Song of the Open Road and all. Clayton was trying to reflect on something very different - on the feelings of sadness and abandonment of the rootless and disaffected. As Clayton conceived it, this is the song that George Milton might well have been singing to himself as he had to hit that never-ending road alone right after the end of Of Mice and Men.

Appendix

*If you have forgotten the plot, Wikipedia has a decent short summary HERE.

**Here is Clayton from an album of sea chanties singing "Spanish Ladies," which film buffs will recognize as the fragment sung repeatedly by deranged shark hunter Quint (played by Robert Shaw) in 1975's Jaws:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Among The Leaves So Green-O: "The Keeper" / "The Hunter"

This week's song has been one of my favorite traditional tunes since I first heard Burl Ives' version of it rather more than fifty years ago. The most common name for it is "The Keeper Did A-Hunting Go," but it has also appeared in publications as "The Hunter," "Among The Leaves So Green-O," and "Derry Derry Down." It is clearly and unmistakably English in origin, and from what I can gather occupies the same place in U.K. music education that perhaps "Oh! Susanna!" does in the U.S., meaning that for a very long time just about everyone learned to sing it in primary school. Most versions sport an antiphonal chorus - one in which one singer or group alternates responses with another, like "Jackie Boy - Master" here - and is consequently a delight for little children to learn. Or it was, at least when most of us were children. I'm not sure how much basic education in the joys of singing is left in schools today in either Britain or here - and I am even more uncertain that Stephen Foster or "The Hunter" would be included today in any event.

Too bad, because the song is a delight on several levels. Most versions sung today are derived from the rather sanitized version published in 1909 by legendary British folk song collector Cecil Sharp in School Songs. Sharp's rendering makes the song a literal deer hunt, and the tune works just fine on that level:

The keeper did a-hunting go
And under his cloak he carried a bow
All for to shoot a merry little doe
Amongst the leaves so green-O.

The first doe that he shot at he missed,
And the second doe he trimmed he kissed,
And the third ran away in a young man's breast,
She's amongst the leaves of the green O.

The fourth doe then she crossed the plain,
The keeper fetched her back again.
O and he tickled her in a merry vein,
She's amongst the leaves of the green O.


Now, unless you're ten years old, you might well look at that lyric and suspect that something else is afoot here, since most hunters as far as I know neither kiss nor tickle their prey. If you further consider the soft and supple coat of a doe, its fetchingly luminescent brown eyes, its skittish temperament, its elusiveness - well, you don't have to be Freud to figure that the deer might well be a kind of folk code for a supple, luminescent, and elusive female of our own species. (One of my all-time favorite poems is from about 1530, "Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind" by Sir Thomas Wyatt where the connection is clear and intentional, a hind being a female red deer.)

In fact, Sharp was presenting a 19th century cleaned-up lyric of a much older song, one that was first printed in the 1500s and has long been thought to date back to the 13th century, the time of Robin Hood. The 1600s version was called "The Huntsman's Delight; or the Forester's Pleasure" and included stanzas like:

The third Doe she made great moan,
Because that she was big with Fawn,
Which made her to go weeping home,
From 'mongst the leaves so green a:
Hey down, &c.

The fourth Doe could no longer stay,
But she must be gone her way,
For fear that the Keepers should her lay
Amongst the leaves so green a:
Hey down, &c.

The fifth Doe leapt over the stile,
But the Keeper he got her by the heel,
And there he did both kiss and feel,
Amongst the leaves so green a.
Hey down, &c.

That's pretty clear, I'd say. Whatever the quarry is, however, the song is just plain tuneful fun, as our videos will show. First, an instrumental version done with overdubbed pennywhistles by Edinburgh's Gordon Hudson. Lest that sound too weird, give it a listen - it's a delight:



Warms the cockles of my Irish heart, it does.

Now you would think that the Weavers would deliver a creative but straight-up traditional version of the song, as I did when I got the Travelling On album in about 1960. You would be wrong:



The group ultimately cannot blame this travesty on their Decca Records producer Gordon Jenkins and his insistence on orchestrations for folk numbers in the quartet's 1950 recordings; this dates to 1959, though since Seeger had left the group by then over disagreements about the commercialization of material (you think?) and the fact that the other three compelled him to sing on a cigarette commercial that he really objected to, the recording cannot be later than April of 1958. Even if the cut is a refugee from the Decca vaults that somehow found its way onto this otherwise excellent Vanguard album, the group still had to sign off on its inclusion. Big mistake.

That version simply enables me to attempt to drive yet another stake through the heart of the casual misperception of pop folk groups, because the Kingston Trio does exactly what the Weavers should have done - which was to deliver a sophisticated arrangement that respects the song's musical roots:



A truly marvelous arrangement indeed, as Jeremy Raven notes below in my post about Nick Reynolds: " 'The Hunter' is one the Kingston Trio didn't write or significantly rewrite...But probably the harmonic spin was their own. Listen to the quiet verse and chorus, starting with "'Tis merry we are"...The modality of the harmony evokes madrigal-singing or even Gregorian chants , even more so than 'Riu Riu Chiu /Guardo El Lobo'. It's a perfect example of the kind of thing Dave Guard wanted them to start being able to accomplish by learning to read music!" It also exemplifies what I think was the genius of the original group - the ability to present legitimate folk material in a modern setting that does not ultimately distort the integrity of the number. My thanks to Jeremy R. for the comment (part of what made me want to do the song this week) and to Dave Long's marvelous upload. (Dave is saving me a lot of work these days!)

For more creative interpretations - first, a fine a capella version from The Futureheads, recorded appropriately over a few beers in a bar:



From the UK again, Chris with a kind of new-age arrangement done on a 12 string guitar in what sounds like an open tuning (but actually is not, since Chris forms a perfectly normal-looking B minor chord at the end of each verse), slightly reminiscent of John Denver's take on "The Bells of Rhymney":



Youngsters Colin on lead with Mary and Dickon in an adaptation as part of a dramatic version of The Secret Garden:



And finally - because the fantasy camp is coming up soon, because I have been thinking a lot recently about our late friend Bo Wennstam, whose video this is, and because I always like to include in these articles amateurs having fun with folk songs in informal settings, here are Triofan John Lee, Zurich's Tom O'Donnell, and I making up in volume and enthusiasm for what we lack in rehearsal time. It's a jam, after all:



And that is an example of what goes on at the KT Fantasy Camp, pretty much 24 hours a day somewhere or other. The late John Stewart used to remark at the camp that the only way that songs like this and folk music in general would ever survive the onslaught of music biz-American Idol pop culture would be if people just got together and sang their lungs out on these tunes. This last one's for you, John.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On The Shoulders Of A Giant: Milt Okun's New Memoir "Along The Cherry Lane"

Every mature fan of popular folk music and in fact popular music in general probably already knows who Milt Okun is - one of the most influential figures in American pop music history, of the same weight and significance as the likes of Gordon Jenkins and John Hammond and Voyle Gilmore and Quincy Jones. A classical musician by training and a music teacher early in life, Okun spent decades shaping and influencing the careers of artists like Harry Belafonte, Peter, Paul and Mary , the Chad Mitchell Trio, an alum of that group named John Denver, Tom Paxton, Laura Nyro, The Brothers Four, opera superstar Placido Domingo, and many, many more. Okun was a literal jack-of-all-trades for these artists, by turns producing their recordings, arranging their music, influencing their artistic choices and musical directions, and providing them with rehearsal space and a place to lay their weary burdens down in the home he shared with Rosemary, his wife of now more than fifty years.

Okun has had a long and colorful career (he is today a hale and active eighty-seven years old) but one that clearly defies easy categorization. Like Hammond and Gilmore, he is a producer par excellence with an innate sense of how to get a recording to sound right for each artist he has worked with; like Jones and Jenkins, he has created complex and beautiful arrangements across a number of musical genres. Okun has also conducted orchestras, recorded his own folk albums, provided creative criticism, suggested material, discovered artists and songs, and shepherded temperamental musicians through some rough spots in their careers. There is not a single term that can encapsulate such a richly complex professional life.

It is a testament to the quality of what Okun (R. below) and co-author (and son-in-law) Richard Sparks (L. - at a book signing in Santa Monica, CA) have accomplished in Along The Cherry Lane, Okun's memoir published this week by Classical Music Today, LLC, that that career emerges in all its aforementioned complexity as the expression of a single, clear passion - Okun's love for music in nearly all of its forms, which in turn has driven him toPhotobucket
work unflaggingly to help other musicians, from children in New York City's public schools to major international stars, to realize most completely their own potential as musicians. It is equally to the credit of Okun and Sparks that the liveliness and color of that career do not expire when they reach the pages of a book that cannot present the music itself of which it speaks so clearly and warmly.

Much of the credit for that latter point must go to Sparks, who is himself a record producer, lyricist and playwright of note and the author of a number of other books on everything from music to poker. Sparks has chosen to eschew a simple chronological narrative in favor of letting Okun tell his own story in his own way, and most of the book is the record of conversations between Sparks and Okun, with the former pitching questions to the latter. Interpolated at key points are comments from many of the musicians who benefited from Okun's work, and Along The Cherry Lane derives its structure rather more from the creations of the musicians themselves than from a simple autobiography of the subject. It works nicely, not least because Okun's involvement in the careers of the artists usually occurred at a point when they were most in need of musical direction - Peter, Paul and Mary's learning to sing harmonies, for example, or Placido Domingo's decision to attempt a crossover into popular music by recording an album of non-classical songs, most notably his duet with Okun client John Denver on the latter's composition "Perhaps Love."

Okun and Sparks also reward the reader with significant insights into the often Byzantine workings of the "music publishing" industry, and nowhere else will you find a more succinct description of what that term means than in this book. Just as Okun speaks most glowingly in Along The Cherry Lane about musicians (Denver and Domingo especially), the con artists of the business side of music who attempt to chisel away at the money earned by the songwriters and performers (or just flat out steal it) come in for his sharpest barbs. Okun is especially critical of the way royalties and licensing of songs have been handled by the major recording companies, which often deprive the artists of significant income due to incompetence, dishonesty, or neglect. Okun speaks most proudly of the way that his own publishing company, Cherry Lane Music (named for an off-Broadway theater near his original office, and quite coincidentally a line from the "Puff, The Magic Dragon" song that Okun helped to arrange) managed to rectify some of those errors, and the consequent loyalty of songwriters like Denver and Paxton to the company as a result.

Thanks to current technology, we can get a glimpse into some of Okun's genius today by looking at and listening to some of what he wrought. Two examples here should serve nicely. First, though impresario, club owner, and antic character Albert Grossman is listed as the producer on Peter, Paul and Mary's albums, the actual musical force behind them was Okun. Grossman was a businessman who fancied he understood "the biz," but he knew little about music and had assembled the three Greenwich Village soloists Peter Yarrow, Noel Stookey, and Mary Travers into a vocal group to create what he called "a hipper version of the Kingston Trio" and thus tap into the rivers of cash flowing into record company coffers from the early '60s version of folk music. But the three singers had had little experience singing in harmony and almost no idea of how to create and blend three vocal parts - so in stepped Okun, who rehearsed the trio for nine months at his home before getting them into a studio. It paid off, literally and handsomely. The group's eponymous first album hit the number one spot on the Billboard Magazine charts and stayed there for a month - but more impressively remained in the top ten for an unbelievable eighty-four weeks, ultimately selling almost two million units. The group's next half dozen albums enjoyed comparable success, and all the months of drilling the vocalists in harmony singing and working out arrangements that their voices and instrumental skills could handle are on display in the quality and professionalism of those records, still among the best of the entire decade in any genre of music. Take, for example, what Peter, Paul and Mary did with the then-unknown Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind" from their third album:



The arrangement is perfect for the skills of the musicians, with voices brought into the mix simply, as on the second verse where a solo vocal blends into duo unison and then flowers into three perfectly integrated parts. It is complex enough to be interesting but simple enough to execute for the self-taught musicians that all three group members were.

Another example, and one in which Okun expresses great pride in Along The Cherry Lane, is the duet by John Denver and Placido Domingo on Denver's "Perhaps Love." Except for the songwriting itself and the actual vocals, this is an Okun production all the way, and one that he could midwife into existence because of the much greater musical sophistication of both the operatic tenor and the country boy singer-songwriter. Grainy video notwithstanding, this is an inspired arrangement:



The mix here is nearly perfect. As fine a singer as Denver was, he could not match Domingo's volume, so Okun chose to have the singers alternate lines for the most part, keeping moments of actual harmony to a minimum and influencing Domingo to moderate his vocals so as not to overwhelm Denver. Once again - it worked, and Okun and Sparks relate the story of how it came to be thoroughly and engagingly.

Along The Cherry Lane is a significant and welcome addition to the growing number of books that have tried to deal with the popular folk revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Some of those books are pedantic and unfocused; some are scurrilous and gossipy; a few are inspired and highly readable. Okun's and Sparks' effort belongs in that last category, and it is in every way worthy of the career that inspired it.

Along The Cherry Lane By Milton Okun as told to Richard Sparks. Classical Music Today, LLC. $24.99 at Amazon.com

Friday, June 10, 2011

Remembering Nick Reynolds - "Everybody Sings!"

I hope soon to be back to posting regularly and about individual songs - I actually thought to do "Greenland Whale Fisheries" this week because it's maybe my all-time favorite folk song.

But first - a circle needed to be closed here. On the last two anniversaries of John Stewart's death, I've posted memorial articles about him and "July, You're A Woman" and "Chilly Winds", in addition to having created a page in honor of his memory. Last June, I profiled Bob Shane's solo performances, and six months later in December tried to express some of the essence of the genius of Dave Guard.

It only remained to say something about Nick Reynolds, the third member of the original group.

And there is quite a bit to be said, because Nick Reynolds was the heart and soul of the seminal pop folk group The Kingston Trio.

With his college buddies Dave Guard (1934-1991) and Bob Shane (b. 1934), Reynolds and the Trio transformed American popular music, bringing traditional folk songs, sea chanteys, calypsos, world music, and more to an unprecedented level of popularity and visibility, selling more records between 1958 and 1961 than any other American musical act except Elvis Presley and outselling their (today) more respected predecessors, The Weavers, by a factor of five. The group's commercial success, widely belittled by folk purists at the time, paved the way for recording companies to sign and promote traditional musicians, singer-songwriters, topical/political musicians, and international performers - all because of the astounding album sales of the Kingston Trio between 1958 and 1961, more than $175 million in today's dollars.

The core of the Trio's sound was the soaring tenor harmony of Reynolds, and the breakneck energy of many of the group's signature numbers was derived from Nick's supersonic tenor guitar strumming and his masterful percussion accompaniment on bongos, conga, and boom-bams. The late singer/songwriter John Stewart, himself a Trio member for six years following Guard's departure, said that "Nick Reynolds was the real rhythm of the Kingston Trio." And Trio-mate and best friend Bob Shane wrote after Nick's passing, "Nobody could nail a harmony part like Nick. He could hit it immediately, exactly where it needed to be, absolutely note perfect, all on the natch. Pure genius."

Nick was easily the most accessible of the original group members - this despite the fact that for the predictably short period of his international celebrity he was probably the most easily identifiable of the KT, standing as he did nearly seven inches shorter than Guard and six than Shane. There is a section of the video below of "A Worried Man" where you can see Reynolds swarmed for an autograph and jostled by a group of Japanese school girls - he takes the buffeting with a wry smile and just keeps on signing. When I was a teenager in the group's heyday in the '60s, I was granted a short post-concert interview with the Trio for my local newspaper. Shane and Stewart were friendly and cooperative, but it was Reynolds who gave me a story to write, staying with me a quarter of an hour longer than the others and making sure that I had the kind of exclusive tidbits that every reporter of any age prizes. I met him again in 2003 at the Trio's fantasy camp in Arizona - and in each of the four subsequent camps he'd greet me with a "Hiya Jim! How've you been?" with no need for me to remind him of my name - and he did so with literally everyone of the several hundred people who came annually to the event.

Reynolds was nearly always self-deprecating about himself (he was a genuinely outstanding athlete, lithe and muscular til his death at 75 in 2008) and his career, referring to the historic success of the group as "just something we did when we were kids" or "we started doing it for the beer and the chicks and it got all out of hand for a while." On two occasions, however, he let slip comments that might have been nearer to his reaction in the '50s to the excoriating criticism that the group's free-handed but very lucrative adaptations of folk songs excited. In 2004, Nick was talking about his friendship with the late Irish folk star Paddy Clancy and his widow Mary when he interpolated, “People criticized us for not doing enough protest songs. What the heck did they know? You want to hear a protest song? Listen to the Clancy Brothers sing ‘Roddy McCorley!’" Even more so - in 2003, John Stewart and Reynolds duetted on "Sloop John B" in a rough, unrehearsed version . Even before the thunderous applause had subsided, Nick had grabbed the vocal mic and with an asperity in his voice that I found arresting said, "When we were first starting out, there were a lot of people calling us 'phony folksingers' and such. One man who stood up for us - one of the really righteous men - was the poet Carl Sandburg, who collected that song. He sent us all a really nice letter with autographed copies of his works The Lincoln Years. We never forgot that." There was a passion of wronged and wounded pride there, forty years after the event. It seemed like it was rather more than just beer and chicks for Reynolds - it was a good part of his life's work, something of which he was justifiably proud. A word more on that at the end of this article.

It was Reynolds' innate gregariousness and good humor that acted as the balancing point between the combustible temperaments of Guard and Shane, and when the former left the group, it was Reynolds who mentored the somewhat reticent and awkward 21-year-old John Stewart to the point that Stewart eventually became the primary arranger and onstage personality for the act - something that Stewart never forgot and never forgot to acknowledge until the day of his own death a few months before Reynolds. (In fact, San Francisco Bay-area resident Stewart was in San Diego visiting Reynolds at the latter's home when he collapsed from the stroke that took his life - after listening to several hours of KT recordings and reminiscing with Reynolds.)

What is often lost in remembering Reynolds as a person, however, is an appreciation of just how fine a performer he was, and the videos below give some indication of this. He had the most flexible voice in the group, having been a medium baritone with enough clarity and range to be able to sing most of the group's tenor harmonies. Reynolds was also a singularly expressive vocalist, as the first four of today's videos attest:

Hobo's Lullaby



The Mountains of Mourne



One More Town



The Wanderer



The perhaps more familiar high-energy Reynolds performances are typified in the next four clips:

MTA



A Worried Man



"Badman's Blunder"



"New York Girls"



And yet - there were plenty of fine vocalists in the pop folk era, as good as or better than Reynolds - the trained voices of the Chad Mitchell Trio members or Glenn Yarbrough's crystalline and honey-sweet tenor come to mind - and other groups that could play at least in the same ballpark as the Kingstons' high-energy performances. No, there was something more to the group and to Reynolds' contribution to it than syncopation and energy and good singing. What that was has been expressed perhaps most eloquently by Nick's son Josh, in the liner notes for the remarkable 2009 CD of a 1963 KT show called Flashback. Josh wrote:

"You hear the guitars and banjo kick in on 'Little Light,' that first upbeat sing-along song that gets everyone going. Rousing openers like that were a signature template to the Trio's live performances.

Then you hear Dad shout out 'All right!,' which is his signal to 'the boys' that things are moving, and then he brings the audience into it by yelling, 'Everybody sings!'

It hit me. That's it. 'Everybody sings!'

If there was one thing he cherished most about what he accomplished with the Trio, it's that he got everyone up and singing."


And in so doing, Reynolds and the Trio helped to complete what Pete Seeger and The Weavers had started but what their politics had prevented them from completing - the gifting back to the American public of its own folk heritage, a heritage that even back then show business had obscured with its often glitzy but shallow celebrity culture. And that was a priceless and ultimately enduring gift indeed.