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The Weavers

 

"The Weavers are out of the grassroots of America. I salute them for their great work in authentic renditions of ballads, folk songs, ditties, nice antiques of word and melody. When I hear America singing, The Weavers are there."
                                                            Carl Sandburg

Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman and Pete Seeger formed the quartet in 1947. In a 1962 article researched by Folk Music ArchivesThe New York Times said . "The Weavers have been a key force in transforming folk music from a coterie cult to a popular pastime."  When Pete Seeger's busy career and desire to spend time with his growing family, Eric Darling filled in.

Folk Music Archives interviewed Pete Seeger on September 22, 1999 and July 20, 2000. Freddie Hellerman was interviewed on February, 2, 2000.
An interview is being scheduled with Ronnie Gilbert.

In 1949 the group was ready to break up, but several months later the song "Goodnight Irene" hit the charts selling two million copies on Decca Records. "Tzena Tzena" was on the flip side. 
Left: "Goodnight Irene"
Sheet Music from the Folk Music Archives Collection: The Weavers Song Book, Page 34: Copyright© 1960 by Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert, Fred Hellerma, and Eric Darling.

The words and music by Huddie Ledbetter and John Lomax - -  When FMA asked Pete Seeger  about Leadbetter he said, "Leadbelly was King of the Twelve-String Guitar . . . we played with him and learned many songs."

Ronnie Gilbert was the female vocalist since 1947. At the age of 12 Ronnie began appearing on radio and according to the Classics Record Library "by then she knew hundreds of songs." During her teens she sang with choral groups and various vocal ensembles, and according to Ronnie "that was my most valuable musical training."
Photo of Ronnie Gilbert: Folk Music Archives Collection

While America was listening to juke box hits,  Senator McCarthy was at work in Washington, D.C.   The Weavers commercial success was brought down by the McCarthy era "blacklisting." They managed to surpass this misfortune and their work provided the platform and artistic freedom for groups like The Kingston Trio. In Folk Music Archives' interview with Peter, Paul & Mary , Mary Travers said, "we were very much The Weavers' children."

Nick Reynolds, founding member of The Kingston Trio said during two recent interviews [San Antonio, Texas and New York City] with FMA, "we had to be very careful when we began in 1958 - - - we didn't want to get caught up in the McCarthy blacklisting, like The Weavers - - songs like MTA were protest songs!" Archival Note: When Pete Seeger originally recorded the song in the 1950's, radio stations wouldn't play it because George O' Brian was a Socialist Mayor in Boston? Bob Shane of the Trio said, "because of blacklisting , . . . we changed the name to "O' Ryan." Nick Reynolds added, "and it became one of our biggest hits." During The Kingston Trio interview, Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane talk frankly about the blacklisting period and how The Weavers paved the way for the threesome in 1958, as well as other folk singers and  groups of the late 50's and 60's. 

All interviews are recorded and are archived at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

ARTIST "VoiceClips" IN RealPlayer G2™ CAN BE HEARD ON THIS PAGE AND ON THE "VoiceClips" PAGE BY ARTIST OR SUBJECT. 

All "VoiceClips" are the copyright and intellectual property of Folk Music Archives and may not be used without permission of Folk Music Archives and/or the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication or use is a violation of applicable laws.

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