I’m particularly interested in the setlist, I’m guessing from the late 1950s. Some of the songs he was still singing a decade later, when my father, sister Leslie, and I sang together, while there are others (Twenty Souls) I don’t even recognize. I’m always fascinated to hear other people sing the songs he, or we, performed, such as Cindy (Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer), Sinnerman (some early incarnation of Three Dog Night), and Hole in the Bucket, which Leslie and I stole from Dad (Harry Belafonte).
I must say we were pretty darned good, but Dad had a natural excellence, not just in singing, but in introducing the songs, that was very appealing to audiences. From an interview from February 23, 1970, Binghamton Press: “I’ll never sing a folk song publicly without explaining the reason behind the song, whether it relates to history or folklore. And I also have to explain my feelings to an audience… [so that they can] understand the emotions behind a song.”
If memory serves – it often doesn’t – I started singing one or two songs with Dad on stage, definitely including the Car Song (“Daddy, won’t you take me for a ride in the car?”)
During the summer of 1966 or, more likely, 1967, the family, Dad noted, was “camping at one of the local sites. In the evening, we were sitting around the campfire and I brought out my guitar and Leslie hers. We started strumming and singing and harmonizing. Before we knew it, other families who were camping nearby wandered over. And before we knew it, everyone was joining in. The owners of the camping site booked us for the next summer.”
The story noted that Leslie and I had brought in some of the recent folk-rock songs into the repertoire. It also said that, during the interview, while Dad strummed his guitar, I pulled out a comb and a piece of paper and “began playing a blues melody,” with Leslie playing bongos.
As Dad explained: “We all have a knack for singing, and we do relatively little rehearsing… We’ve even sung songs spontaneously and they come out as if they’ve been practiced. And every time we do a song, we do it differently.”