In Memory of Richie Havens
(January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013)
Just Like a Mensch:
[Editor: In 1963 I lived in Greenwich Village and was fortunate to have seen many of the singers who defined the times. Richie Havens played ‘pass the hat’ coffeehouses and he made a big splash. His voice was unique, but what everyone talked about was how he used his thumb for chording. Everything about Richie was one of a kind. – Leda Shapiro]
Iconic American folk singer and musical activist Richie Havens, who turned an opening act into a star-making turn at Woodstock, passed away from a heart attack on Earth Day, last April 22. He was 72 years old. From his days in Greenwich Village coffeehouses in the 1960s to his book-ending Woodstock with Jimi Hendrix and forty years of music and environmental activism Richie Havens became a symbol of music and social change for children of all ages.
In addition, he put a guitar company on the map by choosing to play a Guild D-50 in preference to the Martin D-28 or Gibson J-200 that defined the folk era. His distinctive and highly refined rhythmic style of using open tunings rather than either flat-picking or finger-picking of his contemporaries made his performances immediately identifiable, even before his hypnotic and always passionate voice kicked in on such songs as Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman and George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun.
[Ed. Note: Chris Caswell, Northern Californian Celtic musician and harp maker, died of cancer on January 21 at 60. Beginning in 1976, Chris recorded three albums and toured North America and Europe with Robin Williamson and His Merry Band. In 1980 he formed Caswell Carnahan with Danny Carnahan and recorded two albums: New Leaves On An Old Tree and Borderlands.
Holy Wood (2001) is Chris's solo bronze-strung harp album displays this rare and hauntingly beautiful instrument in a mix of the popular and eclectic from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England and France,. Celtic Tidings (1999) is his well-loved Christmas CD. He is on over thirty recordings, including Bonnie Rideout's multi-award-winning Give Me Elbow Room and Grammy-nominated Kindred Spirits. Chris was a featured artist with Bonnie’s national A Scottish Christmas tour, 1998-99 and Live from the National Geographic, 1997.]
At the point when I first met Chris Caswell I was already bound and determined to be a performing musician but I had little idea how to go about doing it. I hung out with Chris at the Renaissance Faire and we played and drank and joked and shared plenty of youthful enthusiasms. But when I saw him perform with Robin Williamson's Merry Band I had a real epiphany. Here was someone my age, interested in the same wacky stew of musical styles I liked, who was breezy and confident in front of an audience, damn good at a load of instruments, and most important, clearly having the time of his life on stage. That was the life for me.
February 4, 1955- February 27, 2013
Ricardo Aguero died of a massive heart attack on Wednesday, February 27, 2013. He was a gentle soul, a talented poet, an avid movie fan, a music appreciator and an exceptional photographer. His combined interest in music and photography brought him into our circle and he became the semi-official photographer for the annual Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest. All of us in the community he so beautifully captured in his pictures will miss him. His pictures are on Topanga Banjo Fiddle on FB:
Linda (Leake) Stone
Celebration of her Life
July 29, 1937 – January 11, 2013
I’d like to introduce you to an exceptional lady: Linda Stone, who shared her laughter and smiles with us for a short 75 years. A special part of our world was lost the day Linda could no longer battle the insidious demons of Cancer.
I was asked if I’d like to write something about Linda. I have never written anything under these circumstances. I’ve only celebrated a person’s life. So that is what I will do.
Linda arrived in the San Fernando Valley in July of 1979, met her husband, Warren Stone on March 23, 1981 and fell in love seven days later. Warren smiles and says they were 31 good years. They purchased a home in Twin Lake, Chatsworth, November, 1981, which began her 31 year love affair and passion for bettering her community: Boards of Directors for the Santa Susana Mountain Park Association and the Immigrant Genealogical Society, volunteer for the California Traditional Music Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, Chatsworth Library Association, Chatsworth Historical Society, Save Chatsworth Inc., Happy Hooker Knitting, Twin Lakes Property Owners Association and the Chatsworth Coordinating Council.
February 1, 1937-August 30, 2011
September Song for Steve Parker
As ragtime musician Steve Parker’s days dwindled down to a precious few, I was lucky enough to be able to spend a memorable afternoon with him and his beloved wife Sue, doing what he loved to do, playing music just a month before he passed away. Steve long ago taught me a string-band classic that no one else knew the words to—Bill Morgan and His Gal. And every time we got together we pulled it out and started singing:
Oh a man named William Morgan took his gal to see a play
And on their way back home they walked into a nice café
As soon as they were seated Liza grabbed the bill of fare
And when the waiter asked she ordered everything in there.
Steve’s eyes always lit up when he came to the second verse:
Cowboy Poet, Singer RIP
October 30, 1933—July 30, 2011
Southern California’s most beloved cowboy poet, singer, recording artist, author and hotrod specialist, Ken Graydon of Fallbrook, CA lost his eight month battle with metastasized melanoma on Saturday evening, July 30. The cards were stacked against him from the start, when he was first diagnosed last November at stage 4, but like his cowboy heroes he did not go down without a fight—undergoing grueling treatments of chemotherapy and nuclear radiation directly to the brain. Each treatment required preparatory medications to ward off the nausea that accompanied them, some of which were almost successful.
Despite eerily living out the narrative of The Dying Cowboy ( see accompanying tribute) that is not how he will be remembered. For more than thirty years he set the standard for transmuting straw into gold, turning the raw material of local legends and historical vignettes into beautiful, permanently crafted poems and songs, a number of which were recorded by internationally-known artists like Tommy Makem and Glenn Yarborough.
THOMAS BENTON FLIPPEN
July 18, 1920 - June 28, 2011
A fiddle tune might not differ too much from musician to musician — but when Benton Flippen played, he created a sound like no other.
That was an observation made time and time again Wednesday by people who knew or performed with Flippen, one of the last-remaining creators of an old-time musical style unique to Surry County but appreciated worldwide.
Flippen, who also played the banjo, died Tuesday at age 90 after several years of declining health — and his loss is being mourned near and far.
“He was part of a great tradition of Round Peak music, which is centered in Surry County, North Carolina, but has become known throughout our country and really many parts of the world,” said Wayne Martin of the N.C. Arts Council.
“A lot of what he learned was from friends and neighbors,” Martin added of the musical climate of the early 20th century in rural areas such as Surry, long before the advent of CDs or computers.
“But he had a genius for putting in his own style and really making it unique,” said the official of the state arts council, the director of its Folklife Program. “That was one of his greatest contributions — he was a very creative musician.”
June 1, 1935- April 22, 2011
Songwriter for the Other America
It's Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song
Hazel Dickens was born on June 1, 1935 in Mercer County, West Virginia, and died on Earth Day, April 22, 2011, at a hospice in Washington, DC, from complications of pneumonia. She was the voice of the hardest hit poor people in the coal mining region of the country, a folk singer who wrote and sang songs like Don’t Put Her Down (You Helped Put Her There), and They’ll Never Keep Us Down.
She sang for folk socialist Michael Harrington once described as belonging to “The Other America,” outside of the middle class, or even of middle class aspirations. They belonged proudly to the working class, what the IWW used to call wage slaves, those who barely entered the consciousness of most Americans before Michael Harrington’s friend Bobby Kennedy went down to Appalachia and brought a camera crew with him, to shine a bright light on Americans who had long ago been forgotten and consigned to the dark underbelly of the American nightmare, for whom there was no way out and no way up.
It was for these people, white, black and brown, that LBJ finally declared his War on Poverty. It was on their behalf that Hazel Dickens sang her heart out and wrote her hard-hitting songs for hard-hit people.
FEBRUARY 12, 1929—DECEMBER 15, 2010
A Personal Appreciation
Before Peter, Paul and Mary, before the Kingston Trio, before Bud and Travis, before Ian and Sylvia, before Joe and Eddie, there was Keith and Rusty McNeil, the Southern California based folk duo who traveled the country in their specially outfitted school bus to take students to a kind of school no other bus would take them to: a thorough grounding in their nation’s folk music and history—which they taught as one subject, not two.
Bettine Kinney Wallin
May 14, 1936 - June 5, 2010
Bettine Kinney Wallin passes away at 74; educator, activist, philanthropist and Renaissance Pleasure Faire pioneer, her public-spirited life enriched Santa Barbara and all who knew her.
Singer, dancer, patron of the arts, beloved wife, mother, friend and teacher Bettine Wallin passed away June 5, 2010, after a long and valiant battle against breast cancer.
She was born Bettine Celia Kinney on May 14, 1936, in Beijing (then Peking) China, the daughter of Ray and Beth Kinney, American missionaries who had come to China to teach English at the mission school. Ray Kinney was a Congregational minister whose activities included saving businesses owned by Japanese-Americans interned following Pearl Harbor, and early work in the development of Dianetics as a counseling technique.
It is with great sadness that we share with you the passing of FolkScene founder, Howard Larman.
Howard was one of a kind. A generous soft-spoken man with a love for folk music he shared with his wife and co-founder of FolkScene Roz Larman. Their musical journey started 35 years ago and they shared that journey with FolkScene listeners almost every Sunday night during this time.
February 19, 2007
This St. Patrick's Day was strangely quiet for many members of the Irish Community. The festivities went on as usual, but for many there was a distinct silence. There was no lively button box music, for Des Regan had passed away on February 19th, 2007. Desmond James O'Regan of Moycullen, County Galway, Ireland gave us the great joy of his music for the better part of his 70 years.
Des Regan has been a central figure in the Irish Community, performing at many of the community events for decades with his Irish Show Band. His career as an Irish button accordion player is noted in Susan Gedutis' book, See You at the Hall, Boston's Golden Era of Irish Music and Dance. In his lifetime, he played with some of the best in Irish music including other box players such as Kevin Keegan and Joe Burke.
Des was a distinguished player on an instrument that many musicians forsake due to the challenges. His love of the music sailed through the jigs and reels he played. When he played A Bonnie Bunch of Roses, it sounded holy and you could hear the church bells resonating. Those of us who were lucky enough to share sessions with him will mourn his passing for a long time.
MARY GRIFFITH COX
April 25, 1941 - December 18, 2006
Mary Griffith Cox, wife of folk musician and actor Ronny Cox, died Dec. 18, 2006, at the age of 65, at Tarzana/Encino Hospital it was announced today. The cause of death was lung cancer. She was born Mary Lee Griffith on Aug. 25, 1941, in Elk Horn, Iowa. Her family moved to Portales, New Mexico, in 1952, where she attended public schools. She took a BS degree from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, majoring in chemistry.
She studied organic chemistry at Georgetown University, receiving her PhD there. For several years she did research at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in Rye, New York.
The family moved to Sherman Oaks, California, in 1972, where they have lived ever since.
She is survived by her husband and two sons; by her granddaughter Catherine; by her sisters Joyce Hansen of Elk Horn, Iowa; Alice Hansen of Mesa, Arizona; Kathryn Carol McNair of Ashland, Oregon; and Jane Wittrup of Albuquerque, New Mexico; by her two brothers, John Griffith of Seattle, Washington, and Gene Griffith of Sonoma, California; and by numerous nieces and nephews.
She was a woman of many interests. In addition to her expertise in the sciences, she was widely read in several historical areas. She enjoyed bird-watching, needlepoint and running. She was a valued member of a wide-spread community of folk-singers.