News & Politics

Folk Music Grows Up


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October 4, 1962, Vol. VII, No. 50

Folk Music Grows Up

By Stephanie Gervis

The 1950s will probably go down as the decade in which folk music lost its purity and brought the Kingston Trio into the world. In the ’60s it is entering its high renaissance, with it purveyors soaring to giddy heights of fame and fortune along a nightclub trail blazed for them by their harmonic ancestresses, the ever-popular Andrews Sisters.

Not since Charlie Chaplin piled up millions in the guise of a hapless hobo has there been a breed of entertainer to match today’s new professional folk-singers in parleying the laments of poverty into such sizable insurance against the experience of it. Today’s troubadors can pull down over $1000 a week midst the quilted opulence of the Blue Angel with a few good choruses of “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out.” Apparently they believe it.

One of the few to keep the vows of poverty in this world of folk-singers, managers of folks-singers, recorders of folk-singers, and sellers of folk-singers — admittedly in spite of himself — is Israel G. Young, proprietor of the Folklore Center, at 110 MacDougal Street.

He might have been more appropriately initialed I.O.U.

But Izzy remains philosophical. “If I became successful,” he reasons, “there would be nothing to look down on any more.”

There might be nothing to look back on, either. If Izzy were lost to the affluent society, the folk-music world would have lost its center, and chroniclers would have nowhere to go to gather its impressionistic history. Since the Almanac Sisters first holed up on West 10th Street in 1941 in what they gloriously dubbed Almanac House, Greenwich Village has been home base for the greats of folk music and the spawning ground of it shiny new stars — and if ever this world is to have a Samuel Pepys, it will be Izzy. From his MacDougal Street den (woodwork by John Mitchell), he has watched them come and go, succeed and fail, and just hang around.

…One of the first commercial establishments to feature folk-singers as regular entertainers was Art D’Lugoff’s Village Gate, which opened in the late ’50s. Gerde’s bar became Folk City early in 1960. Since then just about all of the new singers have appeared there — Van Ronk, Dylan, the Clancys and Tommy Makem, Carolyn Hester, Jean Redpath, Bruce Langhorn, and Logan English, who also put in a long stint as the m.c. at Gerde’s regular Monday night hootenannies…

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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