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He and Elizabeth Cotten developed a good friendship. He liked her music, too. He told me earlier that if he were to start playing all over again, he would want to play guitar like Mississippi John Hurt - Mike Seeger recalling his interviews with Dock Boggs

Author Topic: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash  (Read 4078 times)

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« on: May 04, 2009, 07:15:47 AM »
Well Guy Davis and his mom the formidable Ruby Dee were there. Guy played a fairly straight ahead Chicago in the late 40's sounding blues with terrific Little Walter-esque Harmonica in a rack. I didn't know he could do that! Quite impressive . He referred to the guest of honor as Uncle Pete. I guess his folks, Ozzie Davis & Ruby were close to the Seegers. Taj Mahal was at hand as a "conspicuous" part of larger ensembles, including Arlo Guthrie and others, and he was playing a GUITAR-BANJO.... IN MADISON SQUARE GARDEN.... THE WHOLE TIME! OUR TIME HAS COME! WE HAVE ARRIVED! In his solo spots within the ensemble he was absolutely great in all his hambone, over the top, funky growl, comedic exuberance. Too bad whoever put the show together thought it more important to give Dave Matthews a solo spot than either Ramblin' Jack Eliot or Taj Mahal. Billy Brag led the hall in singing the "International" which given my red diaper origins I found profoundly moving and after the Bush regime, improbably and refreshingly liberating. Bernice and Daughter Toshi Regan give Big gospel voiced renditions of "Oh Freedom" and other movement songs. The preservation hall Jazz band provided great brass support in "Down by the Riverside" led by Arlo, who was pretty damn good. Joan Baez was on the bill. So was Bruce Springstein, who read a very insightful, lengthy, and moving tribute to Pete. I don't dig his music at all but I thought what he wrote was excellent.
I was the guest of my dear  old friends Kate & Anna McGarrigle who were sharing a dressing room with their friend Emmylou Harris. Emmylou had a solo spot in the show, and appearances in some ensembles including ones with Kate & Anna and their kids Rufus and Martha. Emmylou was playing a stunningly gorgeous Rosewood j-200 of recent Bozeman vintage. Guitar freak that I am I soon found myself in a intense three way conversation with Emmylou and her stage manager-assistant (forget his name), an avid guitar collector and maven about the history and relative virtues of J-200's. He knew their lineage cold, Big fun for this O'Muck.
For banjo fans there was the estimable Tony Trishka playing in many of the ensembles and giving an homage to Pete as a Banjo player before launching into a medley of his tunes in a duet with Bela Fleck. Eric Weissberg also participated with some truly blistering playing.
Not surprisingly the most impressive performer of the evening was a tall frail ninety year old gent who got the Garden singing as only he can. It struck me that this particular talent of Seeger's, that is turning any audience into a communal singing organism, will depart with him probably never to be seen or heard again. More's the pity its a great talent, and service.

My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Slack

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2009, 07:51:10 AM »
Great review O'Muck - thanks for posting and glad you got to go!  Very cool!

Offline uncle bud

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2009, 08:27:02 AM »
Yes, thanks for that O'Muck. Sounds like an excellent birthday bash. Didn't Emmylou have Gibson make her a smaller guitar based on the J-200 or am I confusing her with someone else.

What can be next for the guitar-banjo? La Scala?

Offline eagle rockin daddy

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2009, 08:54:05 AM »
Thanks for the review.  I was at a party in Barre VT, at the Old Labor Hall, which was built in 1900 by socialist Italian stonecutters.  Emma Goldman, Eugene V. Debs, Mother Jones, etc all spoke there.  We had a great time, Jeremy Seeger, Pete's nephew was there.  We sang most of the same songs.  It was great.  Eddie Epstein made a beautiful card we all signed, the organizer, Mark Greenburg, displayed a note from Pete where he promised to play at the Labor Hall in a few years.

It was great singing all those old songs.......

Mike


Online Johnm

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2009, 09:57:59 AM »
I'll pile on and say great review, too, O'Muck!  The balance between reportage and your personal response to the evening's events makes it a great read.  I'm glad you could make it and it must have been fun to hang out backstage from the sound of it.
All best,
Johnm

Offline TX_Songster

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2009, 01:38:46 PM »
I am jealous beyond belief...  What a great event to attend, let alone be backstage.  Perhaps most of all I am jealous that you had a conversation with Emmylou Harris.

Offline CF

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2009, 02:57:08 PM »
Sounds like a wonderful night O'Muck, what a great report. Maybe it's the bottle of wine talking but I'm feeling deeply touched by this milestone. I spend so much time celebrating the past, the richness of a popular & not-so-popular culture that we are all the heirs of & I almost can't compute that a Pete Seeger is still with us!? Our nostalgia should be tempered at these times: things were not perfect when Pete was a young man. Where else did all that wonderful reactionary & heart-on-sleeve art come from? But the real heartache is in the FACT that we have not followed up on the lengths great souls like Pete's have made. It's a more sinisterly evil time we live in & it requires an almost more calculated response. I don't know if the voice of a Pete Seeger would even turn heads anymore. Too gentle, too meek & too awkwardly honest . . . which of course are elements of his integrity & lasting fame. What the hell am I tryna say? Oh right . . . . Happy Birthday Pete!!
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2009, 06:04:46 PM »
Thanks for the review.  I was at a party in Barre VT, at the Old Labor Hall, which was built in 1900 by socialist Italian stonecutters.  Emma Goldman, Eugene V. Debs, Mother Jones, etc all spoke there.  We had a great time, Jeremy Seeger, Pete's nephew was there.  We sang most of the same songs.  It was great.  Eddie Epstein made a beautiful card we all signed, the organizer, Mark Greenburg, displayed a note from Pete where he promised to play at the Labor Hall in a few years.

It was great singing all those old songs.......

Mike




God bless the Peoples Republic of Vermont! Glad you could celebrate Mike!
« Last Edit: May 04, 2009, 06:07:11 PM by Mr.OMuck »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2009, 06:27:12 PM »
Here's a good story I left out of the review, After riding up in the enormous MSG freight elevator with Tim Robbins, who by the way is about 6'7", and looks every bit the movie star (his father was one of "the Highwaymen" it turns out) I did what I usually do in a new place, get hopelessly lost. So there I am already feeling like a fish out of water trying to find the McGarrigle's dressing room when I come around a bend and WHAM! Walking right at me is a column of press, and cameramen of the video and film variety and about twenty or thirty other people with the birthday boy himself front and center leading the parade, the only person in the hall walking in the opposite direction is, you guessed it, O'Muck.!... I stepped to the side realizing with absolute horror that I was probably being filmed and tried to look inconspicuous which was difficult because i was wearing a bright yellow rain slicker.
As Pete walked by I gave a kind of lame combination tip of the hat, salute thing the likes of which I'd never done before. Here's hoping I didn't intrude on any crucial shots. Well..they can do wonders with editing these days
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Slack

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2009, 07:32:06 PM »
We want the film clip on YouTube!   :P

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2009, 08:46:31 PM »
Sounds like a wonderful night O'Muck, what a great report. Maybe it's the bottle of wine talking but I'm feeling deeply touched by this milestone. I spend so much time celebrating the past, the richness of a popular & not-so-popular culture that we are all the heirs of & I almost can't compute that a Pete Seeger is still with us!? Our nostalgia should be tempered at these times: things were not perfect when Pete was a young man. Where else did all that wonderful reactionary & heart-on-sleeve art come from? But the real heartache is in the FACT that we have not followed up on the lengths great souls like Pete's have made. It's a more sinisterly evil time we live in & it requires an almost more calculated response. I don't know if the voice of a Pete Seeger would even turn heads anymore. Too gentle, too meek & too awkwardly honest . . . which of course are elements of his integrity & lasting fame. What the hell am I tryna say? Oh right . . . . Happy Birthday Pete!!

I've been musing on this subject a good deal of late Mike. Here' the url for a blog I wrote on the subject. WARNING its pretty depressing.
http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=182516085&blogId=481860575
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2009, 09:06:20 PM »
Thanks for the good words Mr. Slack, Uncle Bud & JohnM. And Tx, you really, really don't want to be jealous of me about anything, but Emmylou seems like an unpretentious, nice soul. In going over the upcoming song list she mentioned that Amazing Grace was on the roster. I opined that it was probably time to have an Amazing Grace moratorium for a decade or so because it seemed to me that it had started to lose its meaning and was becoming a cliche. She said that after singing it every night for four years (weeks?) with Willy Nelson she was feeling similar things An anti Amazing Grace movement was fomenting right there. Little did I know that it would be Mr.Seeger himself singing the song, and re-instructing the cynical with the great historic significance the song had in helping the British Empire abolish slavery thirty years before we did. That man can also TELL a story! Suffice it to say that with him singing it, with the combined vocal forces of a packed Madison Square Garden behind him, there was nothing cliche about it...nothing at all.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline blueshome

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2009, 12:09:55 AM »
All well said O'Muck.

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #13 on: May 05, 2009, 01:18:02 AM »
A fascinating read throughout!
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2009, 06:37:55 AM »
Quote
What can be next for the guitar-banjo? La Scala?

Sounds like a project....I know some folks in Milano... I'll make a few calls. ;)
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision


Offline andypitt

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2009, 08:57:23 AM »
Hey--Andy Pitt here. My daughter, Naomi and I were performers at the Bday Party for Pete at the Labor Hall in Barre, VT. We had a great time. The whole house was alive. I know Pete would have loved it. Mark Greenberg and I will deliver the Birthday card to Pete in the next few days. It was done by Eddy Epstein, the artist who did the cover for Pete's original How To Play The 5 String Banjo.
If a can figure out how to attach jpegs , I will do so.

Andy
Andy
If you don't believe I'm leavin', you can count the days I'm gone!

Offline uncle bud

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2009, 09:04:30 AM »
Hi Andy - to attach a jpg, just click on the "Additional Options" below the window where you type your reply. You'll then see a field labelled "Attach". Click the "Browse" button, browse to the place on your computer that has the jpg, doubleclick the jpg file, then click Post as usual. That should attach the jpg to your post.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2009, 11:27:33 AM »
Hey Andy! When you gonna start posting some o' your fine playing?
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline dj

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #19 on: May 08, 2009, 06:02:45 AM »
Quote
But the real heartache is in the FACT that we have not followed up on the lengths great souls like Pete's have made.

The Hudson River is on place where we really have followed up.  Back in 1960, it was an open sewer, literally, with turds floating in every cove from Albany south to New York Harbor.  Pete wasn't by any means the only person involved with the river's cleanup - there was an army of people - but Pete was the public face of the cleanup project.  He was the one who brought people out to the early Sloop Festivals, the one who got people like Odetta and a young Arlo Guthrie to show up to increase the crowds, the one who got the River in the newspapers and on TV.  If not for him, the river cleanup would have gone much more slowly and been less certain.  Forty years ago there were no bald eagles on the river, today there are over 25 nesting pairs.  There were no more peregrine falcons, today they nest on every bridge over the river.  Beaver are back, and river otters, and mink.  And, in great part, we have Pete and a bunch of kindred souls to thank for that.   
« Last Edit: May 08, 2009, 10:25:36 AM by dj »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #20 on: May 08, 2009, 06:30:04 AM »
I saw pair of those bald eagles right outside the city limits not long ago. Fantastic sight!
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline andypitt

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #21 on: May 08, 2009, 07:48:07 AM »
Thanks Uncle Bud.
Attached is a shot of the Birthday card signed by folks attending the Bday concert in Barre, VT.

--Phil -I'll post some of my playing in the near future.
Let's all Weenie Campbell.
Andy Pitt
Andy
If you don't believe I'm leavin', you can count the days I'm gone!

Offline lindy

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Re: The Blues at Pete Seeger's 90th Bithday Bash
« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2009, 06:10:17 PM »
Another good story about Pete

http://leonardearljohnson.blogspot.com/2009_04_01_archive.html#8375508684788947609

Just to add a short anecdote about somebody who?s doing something, like Pete has done for so many years:

A guy named Bill knocked on my door today asking if I was interested in selling my 1979 Dodge pickup truck with one of those indestructible slant-six engines in it.

He was straight from the 60s, scraggly beard, ponytail, thin as a rail, intense eyes. Within a half-hour I?d found out he had made many trips to Cuba and Central America since the early 1980s, delivering things like used computers to support a primitive network connecting rural and urban medical clinics. He had helped organize hunger strikes when he and his cohorts were stopped at the Mexican border with supplies marked for Cuba because of the US embargo and the Mexican government?s refusal to step on Washington?s toes about it. Two hunger strikes, two times given permission to cross the border, good batting average. He?d worked with the American Friends Service Committee on pacifist issues, but had refused to work with them on Cuba because he felt that by applying for a permit from our government to take supplies south, the AFSC was giving tacit approval to the embargo.

Bill?s thing right now is helping a recent college graduate (?from one of them good schools up north?) start a school in the lower ninth ward, which took the biggest brunt of flooding from Katrina and is receiving the least support for resurrection. Their goal is to help dropouts from the dysfunctional New Orleans school district get their GEDs. When Bill knocked on my door to ask about the truck they had 3 students; by the time the college grad arrived to look at the Dodge they had a fourth. Both seemed really excited about that.

No official support from any gummint agency yet for the school, they?re getting grants here and donations there. They?re teaching their students how to grow a garden, Bill said the kids couldn?t believe it when they made $170 selling their produce at a local farmer?s market last Saturday.

In short, I spent the afternoon getting an earful about what?s really going on in the lower ninth from someone who?s on the front lines, an honest-to-god Saul Alinsky community organizing radical, a skinny white guy who must be pushing 60 helping a young black man try to break the pattern of poverty in the hardest hit neighborhood in New Orleans.

Heroes, two people pushing back. It?s been a while since I?ve met someone like that, it brought Pete?s legacy to mind.

Lindy
« Last Edit: May 18, 2009, 08:02:32 PM by lindy »

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