Tag Archives: Pete Seeger

Music, News and What Not: The Pirate Broadside


For those of you who visit No Depression: The Journal of Roots Music website for the latest music news, reviews and columns…May 2017 marks the month that the site has hit the pause button on fresh content in order to run a subscription drive for their quarterly print journal. You can read about it here, but the deal is this: you commit to just $6 USD per month and you receive four copies of incredible music journalism each year delivered to your doorstep. And you can cancel at any time. Took me a second to punch in my numbers and take the plunge.

To give you an idea of the quality of writing you’ll be getting, No Depression has sidelined all new content this month in favor of running some of their past long form stories that originally were published in the print journal. So if you want a sampling, here’s a few complimentary stories to check out:

Songs from The Gut: A Conversation with John Prine from Holly Gleason

Sweet Freedom: Jason Isbell Has Hit His Stride by Kelly McCartney (No relation to above pirate.)

Re-Trace: Jay Farrar Looks Back on 20 Years of Son Volt from David McPherson

So there it is…my personal Public Service Announcement; a swing and a pitch to keep No Depression alive and well. Keep in mind this is a non-profit organization, and most of us who contribute do it for literally peanuts or soy beans. Money and writing are like oil and water these days, so unless you’re James Patterson or Stephen King, flipping burgers is in your future.

Enough….let’s pull something new out of the ether and take a music break. Even though No Depression is in ‘send me money mode’…there is plenty of news, music and what not. Here’s Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit performing ‘If We Were Vampires’ live in TV Studio A at KCPT in Kansas City, Missouri. This is on the new new album and it sounds great.

The 2017 Americana Music Awards‘ nominees announcement ceremony included special performances from the Milk Carton Kids, the Jerry Douglas Band, Caitlin Canty and more — but it also featured one particularly special moment: Jason Isbell and the Drive-By Truckers‘ Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley coming together for an acoustic performance.

Isbell, Hood and Cooley sing “Outfit,” originally from the Truckers’ 2003 album Decoration Day. Written by Isbell alone, the song is one of two songs that the then-24-year-old penned for the album; the other, also written solo, is the record’s title track. Earlier this year, in late January, Isbell — now, of course, a solo artist — reunited with his former bandmates during a Drive-By Truckers show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. (From theboot.com)

Speaking of the AMA awards, I was taken aback by the announcement of Van Morrison receiving a lifetime achievement award for songwriting. No disrespect: Van is indeed The Man, and we know that the organization loves to recognize those from the UK (Richard Thompson and Robert Plant were past recipients), but I just don’t get it. Although I know this guy probably doesn’t give a damn and wouldn’t show up anyway, I think he might be deserving of anything with the tagline ‘Americana’ in it.

The folks over at Pitchfork have published a User Guide to The Grateful Dead that focuses not on their studio work but rather the gazillion of live tracks that are out there. Which reminds me…Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter…a songwriting team that deserves acknowledgement from the Americana cabal. You know, since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame people are often slapped around for missing folks like Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers, the AMA might be moving into their elitist territory. Sad…to quote the POTUS.

By now you’ve heard about the sad passing of Austin singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave. Local radio station KOKE-FM published the statement from his label and family, and you can find it here. And No Depression co-founder Peter Blackstock covered LaFave’s Songwriters Rendezvous for the Austin American-Statesman, and I think it’s a beautiful piece of writing. Click here to get there. This video was recorded at SXSW in 2011. Rest in peace.

“Every day, every minute, someone in the world is singing a Pete Seeger song. The songs he wrote, including the antiwar tunes, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and those he popularized, including “This Land Is Your Land” and “We Shall Overcome,” have been recorded by hundreds of artists in many languages and have become global anthems for people fighting for freedom.” So begins a story of Pete, and how we keep his spirit alive.

Writer Susanna Reich and illustrator Adam Gustavson have produced a book dedicated to that objective. In 38 pages of text, paintings and drawings, Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice provides a wonderful portrait of Seeger, focusing on how his strongly-held beliefs motivated his music and his activism. The book introduces children to the notion that music can be a powerful tool for change. As Reich notes, Seeger saw himself as a link in “a chain in which music and social responsibility are intertwined.”

Read more about Pete and his music in this wonderful article posted at Common Dreams.

This year marks 50 years since Otis Redding died. He’d ignited the crowd at the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967; later that year, he and his band were en route to a show in Madison, Wisc., when their plane hit rough weather and crashed in an icy lake. Redding was 26 years old. Half a century later, Redding’s influence as a singer and spirit of soul music remains. Author Jonathan Gould, who’s written a new biography called Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life and you can read more about it here.

Guess it’s time to close the ‘pirated’ version of my Broadside column out with something that captures Mr. McCartney’s early acting career. In the meantime, while I’m officially on hiatus, please feel free to come visit me at therealeasyed.com ,  The Real Easy Ed: Roots Music and Random Thoughts which is my Facebook home where I aggregate daily and feel free to subscribe to my Flipboard e-mag of the same name.






The Alternative Fact of “Buffalo Gals”

In 1844 a blackface minstrel named John Hodges, who performed under the name “Cool White,” wrote and published a song titled “Lubly Fan.” Over the years it became quite popular throughout the country, and touring minstrels would often switch up the lyrics to appeal to wherever they were playing. Now considered a traditional American folk song, almost everybody knows the chorus.

Buffalo gals, won’t you come out tonight?
Come out tonight, Come out tonight?
Buffalo gals, won’t you come out tonight,
And dance by the light of the moon.

According to an article from the Library of Congress, the Ethiopian Serenaders, a white band who also performed in blackface, published sheet music for “Philadelphia Gals” with similar lyrics and no attribution for a composer in 1845, and then again in 1848 for “Buffalo Gals,” presumably for Buffalo, N.Y.


That’s a 1929 recording from The Pickard Family, which sounds pretty authentic to the times, but here’s a more homogenized version by Gene Autry that was used for the 1950 film Cow Town. It should be noted that Hollywood used “Buffalo Gals” quite often: It was featured prominently in High NoonTexas, and Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.


Pete Seeger learned the song when he was recruited by Alan Lomax in 1939 to work on cataloging field recordings at the Library of Congress in Washington. This version was recorded for Moses Asch years later, and is still available on the Smithsonian Folkways set titled American Favorite Ballads.


In true folk tradition, the tune was appropriated and lyrics changed for rockabilly singer Ray Smith’s version, and he sold over a million copies in 1960 for Judd Records.


In 1958 a group called The Olympics had a top-ten single with “Western Movies,” which was written by Fred Smith and Cliff Goldsmith. Two years later, those two composers adapted “Buffalo Gals” in a completely different way:


Skipping ahead about 15 years, Malcolm McLaren was a British visual artist, performer, musician, clothing designer, and boutique owner. He supplied stage costumes to the New York Dolls and eventually became well known as the manager of the Sex Pistols. After they self-destructed he was involved with Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, The Slits, and Jimmy the Hoover.

In the early ’80s I managed a record store in Santa Monica, and an unlikely album captured my attention. McLaren had teamed up with producer Trevor Horn and a duo of radio disc jockeys – The World’s Famous Supreme Team – from New York City who hosted a hip-hop and classic R&B show on WHBI 105.9 FM and were among the first DJs to introduce the art of scratching to the world. Duck Rock was on my turntable almost every night in 1983, and it was this version of “Buffalo Gals” that is my hands-down favorite.


Somewhere along the way I lost the album, but 20 years later I found a used CD reissue at Amoeba Records. It always traveled with me in the car along with the twang stuff I listen to, and my kids – who were about ten and seven at the time – learned all the lyrics. Together we could all recite the spoken word interludes that were ripped from the radio shows of Sedivine the Mastermind and Just Allah the Superstar.

A few weeks ago my oldest son and I got to talking about that album, and he reminded me he wrote a paper in college about the evolution of “Buffalo Gals.” I asked him to send it to me, and while he might be disappointed that I strayed from his original narrative and main topic, I have to give him credit for prompting me to write this column. It’s just a great song and the perfect example of how a folk song will twist and turn, with each version presenting an “alternative fact” of the original.

Alright kids, I’ll leave you with my second-favorite version of the song. Play it through and play it loud. And thanks for the catchphrase, Kellyanne.


This was originally was published as an Easy Ed’s Broadside column over at No Depression dot com.