Fred Hellerman RIP

Howlin’ Wuelf Media

Fred Hellerman, the last surviving member of The Weavers has passed away. The NY Times ran a lovely and informative account of his and the band’s career mentioning the role Alan Lomax played in their ascent from playing at left wing rallies to headlining Carnegie Hall.
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“We really got together for the fun of it, singing in Pete’s basement on Macdougal Street,” Mr. Hellerman told The New York Times in 1980. “We sang for unions, at picket lines and at hootenannies, but we had no anticipation of getting jobs. Even Pete, the most accomplished of us, could not get jobs on his own, so we couldn’t expect anyone to pay for four of us.”

A booking at the Village Vanguard in December 1949 changed that. It did not hurt when the folklorist Alan Lomax brought the poet Carl Sandburg to a performance, which he loved.

“The Weavers are out of the grass roots of America,” Sandburg told reporters. “I salute them. When I hear America singing, the Weavers are there.”

Decca signed the group to a contract. Their first record for the label, the Hebrew song “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena,” rose to No. 2 on the Billboard chart. The flip side, “Goodnight, Irene,” an interpretation of the Lead Belly anthem, sat atop the chart for 13 weeks. The record sold two million copies.
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Ya really should read the whole story if you’ve any interest in the history of American music of substance.

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