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CD39 -

Joe Hickerson - Joe Hickerson with a Gathering of

Doney Gal
I'm On My Way
Going Down the Valley
Blind Fiddler
Bring Back My Johnny to Me
Devil and the School Child, The
Doney Gal
Dummy Line, The
Going Down the Valley
Good Fish Chowder
Hang On the Bell Nellie
Hard Times
I'm On My Way
Last Night As I Lay On My Bed
Lather and Shave
Off to Sea Once More
Rosin the Beau
Thinnest Man, The
Train On the Island

We think of Joe as "the folksinger's folksinger," and there is no better source for good chorus songs. He is the head of the Archive of Folk Culture at the Folklife Center, and has used that archive of traditional music to full advantage. What a great bunch of songs! They include: Doney Gal, Blind Fiddler, Bring Back My Johnny to Me, Lather and Shave, Woad, I'm on My Way, Train on the Island, Hard Times, Hang on the Bell, Nellie, The Thinnest Man, Good Fish Chowder, The Devil and the Schoolchild, Last Night as I Lay on My Bed, Off to Sea Once More and Going Down the Valley.

With a Gathering of Friends

Here are some random thoughts by way of introduction to this recording, assuming that you are interested in matters concerning myself, my singing, and perhaps the nature and endurance of the friends assembled on the occasion of making this recording.

First, a chronology of my residences and concomitant activities will put into perspective the people and places mentioned later in this booklet, and may even provide diachronic evidence toward a theory of the schizophrenic tendencies of a singer-cum-scholar (or, in other contexts, scholar-cum-singer).

I was born and initially raised in Lake Forest, Illinois, then Ridgewood, Haworth, and Ocean Grove, New Jersey. My brother Jay was a year older and almost immediately musical on the piano. My mother was of some musical ability and taste, often playing piano and singing with us from books of folksongs as were available to progressive schoolteachers in the late 1930s and 40s. My father was an educator, first teacher and principal, then Director of Training Schools and Chairman of the Education Department of the New Haven State Teachers College (now Southern Connecticut College).

I was more completely raised in East Haven, Hamden, and New Haven, Connecticut. I sang in church choirs from the 5th grade until my voice changed. Around 1949 my mother obtained a small plastic ukulele, on the pretense that she would rekindle her talents on the instruments once nurtured in college. I immediately succumbed to its tempting noises and was soon twanging away at such folky pop tunes of 1950 as "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena" and "Goodnight Irene." It was then that my parents produced an age-old Mexican guitar that had belonged to my grandmother from Texas. I made feeble attempts to mash down its high-action rusty strings, at least enough to persuade my parents to invest in a year or so of guitar lessons (on an easy-action F-hole Gibson, thankfully) with a guitar teacher who began by advising me to reverse the strings to left-hand order, to match my naturally developed propensity for strumming with the left hand. I learned some basic chords and runs from the teacher, and gained a sensitivity for chords and harmony from my choir experience and from playing with my brother. My first repertory was top-20 songs, especially those songs of off-beat character which I later discovered were derived from folk-songs. My parents also had an occasional folksong album by Carl Sandburg, Burl Ives and the like which won my admiration and emulation, and by late high school I had a small repertory of songs which people could sing along with, and which included a number of early folksong revival pieces.

I engrossed myself as a physics major in the liberal arts program at Oberlin College, liberally interspersing extra-curricular activities with curricular. Freshman year I was introduced to some hard-core folksong-revival songs, The People's Song Book, and Pete Seeger, who made his first major non-Weavers appearance outside of New York at Oberlin in April, 1954. Sophomore year was of great significance: several folk-singers had gravitated to Gray Gables and Pyle Inn Coops, and I sopped up countless Seeger, Guthrie, Leadbelly, Ives , and Dyer-Bennet songs in this milieu and from the record collection of my good friend Steve Taller. Steve had a folk music program on WOBC ("The Voice and Choice of Oberlin College") and was campus agent for the Folkways, Stinson, and Elektra record companies. Steve passed on to me the agency and the radio program when he graduated, and I began to acquire records at an increasing rate, as newer companies like Riverside and Prestige entered the folk field. During my senior year I was elected first President of the Oberlin Folk Song Club and helped organize the first Oberlin Folk Festival in May 1957. (I first met Sandy Paton at the second one in 1958.) During these four years, my singing was done informally, usually in dormitory lounges and in living rooms.

Performing at people was not immediately appealing, but singing with them was, as was the idea of teaching and spreading certain aspects of folk music. So, in 1957,1 joined with 7 other square-jawed, enthusiastic Oberlin students for a splendid summer of teaching and singing at a succession of children's camps and a few resorts from Pennsylvania and upstate new York to the rocky coast of Maine. (For documentation of this enjoyable venture see Ricky Sherover's article, "The Folksmiths: Eight Students Who Had Some Singing to Do," SING OUT!, Vol. 8, no.l, Spring 1968, pp. 17-212, and Folkways record no. FA 2407, We've Got Some Singing to Do: Folksongs with the Folksmiths.)

I entered graduate school at Indiana University in Bloomington to work toward a degree in Folklore. While there I amassed 86 credit hours in Folklore, Anthropology, and Ethnomusicology, and was Folklore Archivist for 3 years, compiled a 1300-item annotated bibliography of North American Indian music for a Master's thesis, and began gathering a collection of versions and variants of "Our Goodman" (Child 274) which now numbers well over 500. I also continued to learn and sing folksongs and to sell records (adding Prestige, Folk-Lyric, Arhoolie, and Folk-Legacy to the catalog), and conducted a folk music radio program over WFIU-FM. I performed at a succession of Bloomington coffee houses: The Quiet Answer, The Counterpoint, and the Phase IIIa. For a while I sang in combination with others: with The Settlers (Bruce Buckley, Ellen Stekert, and sometimes Bob Black), with Ellen Stekert, and with Ricky Sherover. Especially memorable were the summers of 1959 and 1960 when I was a folk music counselor at Camp Woodland in Phoenicia, New York.

A job offer at the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Song has been the deciding factor in my place of employment and area of residence since June of 1963. Around the context of archival, bibliographic, and reference work, my soul has been sustained with a moderate amount of singing and with helping to develop the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. In spite of the star-performance syndrome of the folksong boom of the 1960s, and the penchant for stand-up hymn, sea, and pub singing in the ongoing folksong revival of the 70s, my preference continues to be for situations involving sit-down singing in groups of people such as are to be found at weekend retreats like the FSGW Getaway or in after-hours singing at the Fox Hollow Festival and The Ark Coffee House. It is in these situations that I meet with and sing with such people as those who have joined me here on this recording.

I have been grateful countless times to my Accokeek neighbors and friends, John and Ginny Dildine, whose banjo and puppetry have sparkled many events I have been involved with; and to Debbie and Connie Dildine who provided yeoman service sitting with (and on?) our son Michael during the weekend of recording. More thanks go to Ed Trickett, whose music always sounds so right to me, by itself or in unending combinations; would that there was not so much time in between our visits. My thanks also go to Sara Grey for her natural harmonies and for doing all that traveling to bring us back an unceasing supply of good songs; and to Barry O'Neill, a prolific colleague in this non-business of folksong finding and singing, and a great friend. Especial thanks go to my wife Lynn. And finally my eternal gratitude goes to Lee Haggerty and to Sandy and Caroline Paton, whose hospitality/engineering/singing would make any 5-day visit a supreme pleasure.

This record is dedicated to these people and to everyone else with whom I have, or some day will, learn and share songs.

Joe Hickerson, 1970

1. DONEY GAL (4:04)
Our recording begins with a late-night song, the kind that demands a gentle choral response with harmonious combinations of voices and instruments. I've always been fond of these sit-down, easy-chorus songs, especially for when the stand-up singing is over, and voices and instruments have been lowered to more contemplative levels. "Doney Gal" is one we frequently turn to for the communal Gemutlichkeit which has characterized some of the more relaxed moments of the folksong revival. I learned it under such circumstances, during a visit with Robin Christenson in New York City in about 1961. We were swapping songs and I was trying to fit in with the matchless harmonies of Robin and the Kossoy sisters (Ellen and Irene), when Robin sang "Doney Gal," which I believe he had recently heard Alan Lomax sing. We ended up singing the song all weekend — in Robins apartment, on the subway, walking to and from the Floradora Restaurant in Jackson Heights, and finally in the marble-lined lobby of the apartment house, where the reverberations of our harmonies had us transfixed until an elevator door opened and a man walked out with a look of considerable puzzlement at our suddenly-ceased singing and look of embarrassment. (Robin and some Boston-area children sing "Doney Gal" on Folkways FC 7625, You Can Sing It Yourself, Vol. 2.)

As those who have tried to sing the verses of "Doney Gal" with me will testify, I never sing them quite the same way twice. My rationalization might be that the song itself is extremely lyric, and that the original source and subsequent printings have been in continual variance with each other. As far as the evidence available to me indicates, "Doney Gal" is one of those folksongs which comes from a single tradition and from a single source. John A. Lomax collected it from Mrs. Louise Henson of San Antonio, Texas, in 1936 and 1937 (Archive of Folksong recordings AFS 542 B2 and AFS 887 B2/888 A1, titled "Rain or Shine"). Mrs. Henson's 1936 effort was fragmentary; her 1937 recording included the introductory passage of different melody and text which some like to sing, and the three basic verses which were later printed in John A. and Alan Lomax's Our Singing Country (New York, 1941, pp. 250-251) and B. A. Botkin's A Treasury of Western Folklore (New York, 1951, p. 756). Mrs. Henson also recorded in 1937 that she had heard her uncle sing the song many years before in Oklahoma, and that he called his horse "Doney Gal, his sweetheart."

Additional verses for "Doney Gal" abound in other Lomax books (their Cowboy Songs, New York, 1938, pp. 8-11, and in Alan's Folk Songs of North America, New York, 1960, pp. 377-378) and in various Lomax manuscripts and papers (see the overlong texts quoted in Austin E and Alta S. Fife's Cowboy and Western Songs, A Comprehensive Anthology, New

York, 1969, pp. 231-233), which may be Lomax's attempts at poetic expansion of the song, or actual exemplification (without documentation) of the Fifes' statement that "the song is sung in variant forms." In addition to Mrs. Henson's recordings, the Lomax redactions, and the Fife's remark, the only instance of anything like this song which I have seen is a fleeting couplet in Howard W. Odum and Guy B. Johnson's Negro Workaday Songs (Chapel Hill, 1926; New York, 1969, p. 129): "Rain or shine, sleet or snow, when I gets done dis time, won't work no mo'."

A cowboys life is a weary thing;
Rope and brand and ride and sing.
Rain or shine, sleet or snow,
Me and my Doney Gal are bound to go.
Rain or shine, sleet or snow,
Me and my Doney Gal are bound to go.

We're up and gone at the break of day,
Drivin’ them dogies on their lonesome way.
The cowboy's work is never done;
Were up and gone from sun to sun.

We yell at the rain, laugh at the hail,
Drivin’ them dogies on their lonesome trail.
We'll yell at the rain, sleet and snow,
When we reach the little town of San Antonio.

(repeat first verse)

For 50+ years, Joe Hickerson has performed over a thousand times at concerts, festivals, coffeehouses, folk clubs and societies, colleges and universities, community groups, and radio programs (including "A Prairie Home Companion" in 1976) throughout the United States and Canada, as well as in Finland and Ukraine. He has been referred to as the "folksinger's folksinger." Pete Seeger has called him "a great songleader." His wide-ranging repertoire of English-language songs and ballads includes occupational and labor songs, children's songs, humorous songs and parodies, Irish-American songs, sea songs, religious songs, and chorus songs, which he sings with guitar and unaccompanied. Although not known as a songwriter, Joe is the author of the 4th and 5th verses of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" (in 1960).

Joe has three solo recordings: Joe Hickerson with a Gathering of Friends and Drive Dull Care Away vols. I & II on the Folk-Legacy label (Sharon, CT 06069). He is also featured on We've Got Some Singing to Do: The Folksmiths Travelling Folk Workshop (Folkways); Five Days Singing (The New Golden Ring) vols. I & II (Folk-Legacy); The Continuing Tradition, Volume 1: Ballads (Folk-Legacy); Songs and Sounds of the Sea (National Geographic Society); several anthologies from the Fox Hollow Folk Festival; recordings by the Dildine Family (Front Hall), Jonathan Eberhart (Folk-Legacy), John McCutcheon (Greenhays and Rounder), and Helen Schneyer (Folk-Legacy); and recordings from Camp Woodland and the Old Songs Festival. He also co-edited the first LP reissue of Uncle Dave Macon 78s (Folkways/RBF).

Raised in New Haven, CT, in a family in which folksong books and recordings were a part of everyday enjoyment, Joe's active interest in folk music began in earnest at Oberlin College (1953-57) where he helped found and was first president of the Oberlin Folk Song Club. He then studied folklore and ethnomusicology at Indiana University (1957-63), where he served as folklore archivist and first president of the Indiana University Folk Song Club. He also hosted folk music radio and television shows at Oberlin and IU and was campus representative for several folk music record companies.

In 1963, Joe was appointed Librarian and, in 1974, Head of the Archive of Folk Song (later called the Archive of Folk Culture) at the Library of Congress. While there, he directed over 350 interns and compiled and edited numerous reference and finding aids. He retired from the Library in 1998 after 35 years of service. One of the founding members of the Folklore Society of Greater Washington (1964), Hickerson has been its President, Program Chair, and Book Review Editor. He has also served as Bibliographer (for 22 years) and Secretary (8 years) of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Chair of the Committee on Archiving of the American Folklore Society, and on the advisory boards of Sing Out!, John Edwards Memorial Foundation, Old Town School of Folk Music Resource Center, and Foxfire. He is currently compiler of "The Songfinder" column for Sing Out!. Joe received the Southeastern Massachusetts University Eisteddfod Award in 1973; was a Special Honoree at the 1986 Summer Solstice Dulcimer and Traditional Music & Dance Festival; and was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1999 New Jersey Folk Festival, the Excellence in the Traditional Arts Award at the 2005 Common Ground on the Hill American Music & Arts Festival, and an honorary membership in the Society for Ethnomusicology in 2005.

Besides presenting concerts, Joe frequently lectures on such topics as "My 50+ Years with Folk Music," "Treasures from the National Folk Archive," "The History of Folksong Collecting and Archiving in the U.S.," "The Folksong Revival," "Women Folksong Collectors," "Folksongs of Washington, D.C.," and "African American Folk Music." Joe is also available for research projects, including song and copyright searches (recent jobs have included song searches for "O Brother Where Art Thou," "Cold Mountain," and CDs by Ralph Stanley, Ollabelle, Peggy Seeger, and Tony Saletan).


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