Thursday, October 12, 2017


Several months ago I was contacted via e-mail by an author writing a book for The University of Chicago Press.  The subject is the "folk scene" in the Windy City back in the 60's and 70's.  I agreed to do a phone interview with author and subsequently spoke with him for over an hour.  He was particularly interested in the venues of the day, and specifically It's Here.

The Whitsuntide Singers (and trio) were the "house band" there for several weeks on a couple separate occasions.  I have written about It's Here on this blog earlier so I will not repeat that narrative.

The author requested photos of the group which I gladly provided.  The book will be published in 2018 or early 2019.  I hope I'm around to see it.  Our modest place in history...

Friday, September 29, 2017

Quote of the Day

There is no need of fear on this journey. “Certainly we will experience evil and good – that divine good which is present to us in hope…..for what we experience as evil is no longer serious unless we insist on making it so for ourselves.” [Journals of Thomas Merton: Harper Collins: 1997]

Monday, December 12, 2016


This past weekend the Black Hawk Folk Society presented one of America's finest singer/songwriters, Michael Peter Smith.

Smith is best known for his iconic composition "The Dutchman".  A beautiful, sensitive, and poetic piece popularized by Steve Goodman, Liam Clancy, Gamble Rogers, and covered by countless others.

The concert was lightly attended (by usual standards) due to an well publicized impending snowstorm.  But the nearly three dozen folks, who did brave the weather were treated to yet another example of Michael's legendary artistry.
The snow arrived on schedule, and as he and I drove back across the countryside to our home in the woods, it became apparent that he would be with us for awhile.

We opened a bottle of fine wine, stoked the fireplace and got to know each other as snow piled up outside.  That evening Michael shared with us (among other topics) his journey through the beloved genre (with a good dose of humor I might add).  My wife and I soon learned that the Dos Equis fella is  definitely NOT "the most interesting man in the world"!

The Dutchman by Michael Peter Smith

The Dutchman's not the kind of man To keep his thumb jammed in the dam
That holds his dreams in
But that's a secret only Margaret knows
When Amsterdam is golden in the morning
Margaret brings him breakfast
She believes him
He thinks the tulips bloom beneath the snow
He's mad as he can be but Margaret only sees that sometimes
Sometimes she sees her unborn children in his eyes

Let us go to the banks of the ocean
Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee
Long ago I used to be a young man
And dear Margaret remembers that for me

The Dutchman still wears wooden shoes
His cap and coat are patched with love
That Margaret sewed in
Sometimes he thinks he's still in Rotterdam
He watches tugboats down canals
And calls out to them when he thinks he knows the captain
'Til Margaret comes to take him home again
Through unforgiving streets that trip him
Though she holds his arm
Sometimes he thinks that he's alone and calls her name

The windmills whirl the winter in
She winds his muffler tighter
They sit in the kitchen
Some tea with whiskey keeps away the dew
He sees her for a moment calls her name
She makes the bed up humming some old love song
She learned it when the tune was very new
He hums a line or two
They hum together in the night
The Dutchman falls asleep and Margaret blows the candle out

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

An Old Song Fitting For 11/9/16

The Man Who Would Be King - John Stewart (1939 - 2008)
Oh it’s time to tell the children
That it’s not about the war
It’s not about the winning,
It’s not about the score
It’s time to tell the children
That it’s not about the rings
That we put upon the fingers
Of the man who would be king
Oh it’s time to tell the children
That it’s not about the gold
It’s not about the money
Things that are bought and sold
It’s time to tell the children
That they don’t mean a thing
Like the rings upon the fingers
Of the man who would be king
Oh it’s time to tell the children That it’s not about the plan
To see who is the richest
Or the baddest in the land
It’s time to tell the children
That the birds upon the wing
They would never give their power
To the man who would be king
They would never give their power
To the man who would be king
Don’t you realize? When you see the clues
Right before your eyes On the evening news
Don’t you realize? That the children know
What the children see Is where the children go
Oh it’s time to tell the children
That it is about the heart
That it is about the people
Of this world we are apart
That it is about forgiving
Those who stole the rings
To put upon the fingers
Of the man who would be king

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Time For A New Look

After ten years on the Web, and over 25,000 views I think it's time this old blog takes on a new appearance.  And since I am void of followers due to extremely infrequent postings, who really cares?  Most of the folks who stumble on this endeavor are bored net surfers hoping to find something interesting.  If you are one of those individuals you might want to hit the "Next" button now.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


Well my world of folk music has taken yet another turn.  I now handle the bookings for the Black Hawk Folk Society.  This new endeavor will not only be fun but increase my exposure to some of the great new up and coming artists in the genre.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015


It's been almost 45 years since I've seen the Eagles live.  Actually they weren't even the Eagles yet.  Don Henley and Glen Frey were Linda Ronstad's backup band when I saw her at the Quiet Knight in Chicago after her breakup with the Stone Ponies.  Not long after that those two fellas joined up with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner and "America's Band"was formed.  But I was on to them early and saw them open for Yes before they got really big.

Now decades later I will see them ALL again at a concert in Green Bay, WI!  The History of The Eagles Tour  includes Leadon along with the current lineup that features Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh.

Now I'm not a concert goer much anymore.  But the seats are comp (in a luxury suite) along with a hotel room for the night.  So this is gonna be really cool!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Let's Play Two"!

Lenny sits in front of his cubicle on a rickety folding chair.  A huge smile comes across his sun tanned face as Ernie Banks walks into the clubhouse at Pearly Gates Field!  After some whoops, hollers and back slapping Ernie scans the vast locker room.  Banks squints and slowly moves in Len's direction.  Above the locker next to Lenny the plaque says #14 Banks.  Ernie grabs Lenny by the elbow and says "Looks like us Chicago guys are together".  Len's mouth opens but nothing comes out.  He looks feverishly in his glove for a baseball, but remembers that he flipped it to his dad.  "Does anybody have a damn ball?" Lenny yells.  Clemente comes over and hands the rookie a Spalding.  "Ernie...would you sign this"?  Banks says "Sure if you will too".  Lenny thinks to himself that he's really gonna like this heaven place.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015


I had a dream last night about a baseball game played in heaven.  The following is a narrative as best I can remember...

PLACE: Pearly Gates Field
TIME:    Eternity
PRESENT: Former major league manager for the Padres, Rangers, Red Sox, and Cubs...Don Zimmer and baseball TV commentator Harry Carey

Harry: "So Zim, who's the rookie?"

Don: "Names Dwelle, just got here...(Zimmer spits tobacco)

Harry: "Dwelle...he Italian?"

Don: "Don't think so, I think I'm gonna start him today.  He's suppose to be a really good center fielder".

Harry:  Can I do a quick interview before the game Zim?"

Don: "Yup, but make it quick I wanna see what he's got". (Zimmer spits tobacco again)

Harry: "Hey rook, gotta second"?
(Harry waving his microphone in the air)

Len: "Sure, what's up? Hey aren't you Harry...Car...(Len extends his hand)

Harry: "Yeah, nice to meet you kid, I mean Lenny. So where did you play ball down on earth? I see your jersey says Saint Stephens." (Harry makes some notes on his pad)

Len: "That's my grammar school, I was on the Des Plaines Catholic All star team back in the day."
(Len briefly looks over Carey's shoulder peers out at the field behind him.  A broad smile comes over his face) That's the most beautiful baseball diamond I've ever seen, it almost sparkles!"

Harry:  "Lenny, it actually does sparkle.  That's Pearly Gates Field...It's heaven you know."
(Len drops his sunglasses off his forehead to the bridge of his nose and puts his ball cap on)

Len:  "Do I get to play on it?" (slipping his hand into his glove)

Harry: "Yeah, Zim says you are in center, says you cover it like a blanket...have an arm like a cannon."
(Harry puts his hand on Lenny's shoulder and points out to right field) That #24 is..."

Len:  "That's Roberto Clemente!  I'm gonna play next to the greatest right fielder of all time?"
(Roberto shades his eyes and gives Lenny the thumbs up)
Harry:  "You ain't seen nothing yet fella. Say, you see your parents yet?"

Len: "Sure, the second I got here. That's them in the front row over the third base dugout. I really missed them." (Len waves at his mom and dad, and they wave back half standing)

Harry:  "Cute puppy, he yours? (Harry bends down to pat the small mostly black dog on the head)

Len:  "That's Raleigh, boy was he happy to see me!  But he looks a lot younger than I remember though."

Harry:  "We are all a little younger here if you haven't noticed.  You too kiddo! Len, Zim is giving me the eye. You better go get ready for the game before we get in trouble."
(Len looks out at the field again for a long minute)

Len: "That's the most beautiful baseball diamond I've ever seen, it almost sparkles!"
(Lenny turns and trots briskly to the home team dugout bounding down the steps, flips the ball from his Wilson A2000 to his dad and disappears up into the brilliantly bright tunnel)


Friday, August 15, 2014

This is a recent painting by my trio mate Bill Kolacek (center)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Banjitar

I have more than a couple friends who play banjo.  Over the years I have teamed up with several musicians to commit the misdemeanor crime of folk music.  It all started back with the inspiration for this blog, The Whitsuntide Trio.  Len Dwelle, myself, and Bill Kolacek.

One of the primary reasons I started these musings was to reconnect with these long lost friends and others who were part of various iterations of the group, beyond the first two trio configurations.  The first former member to be unearthed through the wonders of the Internet was Marssie Mencotti, our extremely talented songstress.  She quickly informed me that she had remained in touch with Lenny over all these years.  I was ecstatic!

After reconnecting with Lenny, and re-uniting with Marssie and him in North Carolina for a few days, my focus then narrowed to Bill.  He wasn't hard to locate through some old grammar school friends, but contact was slow to develop as Bill (like me) lives a fairly low-key backwoods lifestyle.  OK, he's a modern day hermit.  Nevertheless my friend Wayne Fuhlbrugge (one of the previously mentioned banjo players) and I met up with Bill in the hills of southwestern Illinois for what turned out to be a fond re-kindling of friendships born long ago in 7th grade!

During that delightfully long afternoon of singing, beer drinking, and story telling Bill gifted me his banjitar.  I had never heard of this instrument, much less seen or played one.  A banjo body with a six string guitar tuned neck!

I have never fully accepted this way too generous gift, instead considering myself a custodian of this beauty. And while I can't play it banjo style frailing, I can get that unique banjo sound playing guitar chords.  It is particularly conducive on Irish songs like "Whiskey In The Jar" or "The Patriot Game", I have plunked out this St. Patrick's day weekend.  Thank you Bill for the banjitar, but more importantly your enduring friendship...

Friday, March 29, 2013

This Old Guitar...

This is my 1967 Gibson J-50 that I bought new.  We have been together now for 50 years!  We have both been through a lot over time.  Certainly the guitar has aged much better than I.  But for a couple of years this guitar was in 2 pieces.  The good folks at Spruce Tree Music in Madison WI repaired the severed head stock and now it's as good (or better) than new.  Besides my teddy bear I can't think of any possession I have had longer than this beauty. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Waylon Jennings (and me)

This is a re-post about a LONG night hanging out with Waylon Jennings. I'm guessing it was 1969 or '70. I was living at the DeVille Motor Inn by O'Hare Airport in Chicago where I was employed as a life guard. My job at the pool to keep airline stewardesses from drowning, or worse yet...meeting Don Chapman. He was a DJ at WJJD radio, the top country station in the market at the time. Don Chapman was a fun-loving guy, who could drink gin in the morning, right after his #1 listened to show (from 6am to 9am) was over. Sometimes he would bring a Styrofoam barrel shaped cooler out to the pool filled with gin and tonic. He would lay on a lounge chair and occasionally tap "the pig" as it became affectionately known. I liked Don a lot and we became friends and eventually roommates.

He also was half owner of a roadhouse type country music bar called The Rock'in Horse in Stone Park. It was a sprawling basement saloon that feature "name" entertainment on weekends. One Saturday night Waylon Jennings was playing, and we arrived early to meet him and have a few pre-show beverages. After getting acquainted, Don and I sat down at a front row table for a dynamite two set show that went past 1am in the morning. After the music stopped and the drunken crowd stumbled out, we sat down with Waylon to count out the gate and pay the band.

Don keep the bar open and we drank some MORE, then Waylon proceeded to put large amounts of pharmaceuticals on the table for general consumption. I recall we pounded beer with the waitresses and talked smart until the help started stacking chairs on tables and threw us out. The band had long since retired to the tour bus parked in the lot.

Back then Waylon wasn't the star he became a few short years later, but he was a great guy to get drunk with and a hell of a nice fella. Now he's in the Country Music Hall of Fame and I consider myself fortunate enough to have met him (but what a hangover).

Monday, February 28, 2011

Peter Yarrow, me, and 70,000 of our closest friends sing "Blowin' in the Wind"

This past Saturday I drove a hundred miles to Madison, WI to march, protest, rally, and sing. And I got to sing this song with Peter Yarrow on the steps of the Capital. We sang "Who's Side Are You On" and a few others. One wonderful experience...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Beer, Banjos, Babes, and Blotter Acid...

They say if you can remember the sixties, you weren't there! After I left the Whitsuntide Singers I fell in with a bunch of no-account hippies. My best friend from grammar school, Wayne had just returned from the army and had brought back a Framus Banjo he had purchased at a PX in Germany. He also brought back some of Timothy Leary's "best". I was about to enter the world of sex, drugs and rock & roll. Well folk-rock anyway...

Now mind you, this nice Irish Catholic boy had never had anything stronger than Blatz beer, when my best friend dropped that little piece of paper into my Orange Crush soda at the Yogi Bear Chicken restaurant. My oh my...Anyway, so for a few years I searched for the meaning of life (which I don't have time to explain right now).

During this time warp I made many wondrous, need I say unforgettable friends (and lovers). But alas, one day I stepped into a steaming pile of something akin to responsibility. And I hate when that happens. It got worse! Next thing I knew there were steady jobs and semi-permanent relationships...Yuck! I had lost my immoral compass.

Guitar playing suffered the most (as if it weren't hurting already). My shallow musical skills digressed to a point where I only had a three song repertoire. Bull Shipping Time in Nebraska, Charlotte The Harlot, and The Good Ship Venus. Then the flashbacks started...KIDDING. No what really happened was I got up one day, looked in the mirror and didn't recognize the old guy looking back at me. Then I realized was all good! My skin fit and somehow I had wiggled through six decades with the help of friends, family, a soul mate and of course a bunch of four-leggers. Someday I'll write my memoirs, I just can't show all the pictures...

Friday, September 10, 2010


Well, this Saturday Central Wisconsin is again blessed with great folk music. The Rising Star Mill hosts Claudia Schmidt and the Blackhawk Folk society features Steve Gillette & Cindy Mangsen, along with the Berrymans. I have loved Steve Gillette's singing/songwriting since his first Vanguard album back in the 60's. I've luckily seen him several times over the past few years. Here he is doing his most covered composition Darcy Farrow

Friday, August 06, 2010

Claudia Russell and the Folk Unlimited Orchestra

Last evening I drove over to Green Bay to see my good friends Claudia, Bruce, and Mark play a concert at the Botanical Gardens. It was a magical setting for a terrific show. There was a wonderful crowd of about 200-300 people, none of whom had ever seen her before. Claudia's soul hangs on the sleeve of every song she sings. From my vantage point in a gazeebo (that we used as the "green room") I watched a sea of smiling faces, of a totally engaged audience, absorbed in the moment and the music. Towards dusk the mosquitoes came out as the Folk unlimited Orchestra finished their second set. A few friends were going out with the band to a Mexican Restaurant, but with night falling I reluctantly hit the highway for the 2 hour trip home. But I'm sure glad I went!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Off To See Joan Baez!

I've been blessed (or lucky) to have seen most every great performer from the 60's folk revival one, that would be Joan Baez. When I found out I had a business trip to Bayfield Wisconsin up on Lake Superior I immediately thought to check out the schedule for Big Top Chautauqua. Yup, Joannie on a Thursday night! With the Big Blue Tent almost sold out I quickly purchased my single seat ticket, and am off to see a legend up in God's country. Here she is singing one of my favorite songs of hers'.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Small Potatoes Tomorrow!

The first time I saw Small Potatoes was a mistake. I had bought tickets for Claudia Schmidt and read the date wrong and showed up a week early. We were with friends and didn't know what to do... ask for a refund or stay. At that point an attractive, smallish woman approached us and convinced us to stay. She said if we didn't like the show we could have or money back! We went into the auditorium and sat down. Small Potatoes took the stage and yes..."that" woman turned out to be Jacque Manning, one half of the group. It was a terrific concert moving the audience as one from laughter to tears. We have seen them every time they come to the area, and tomorrow again at the Blackhawk Folk Festival. Here is their touching performance of 1000 Candles, 1000 Crains

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

John Stewart - Mother Country - April 2007

My favorite singer/songwriter doing his powerful "Mother Country". I miss that man...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Flatland Ramblers ~ Midnight on the Water

Around 1970 I ran away and joined the circus...Really! A girl singer named Barb and a banjo player, Scotty Ross and I went to work singing intro songs for strippers in the tent show for Royal American Shows. Might have been the low point of my modest music career. No, come to think of it... it was the low point! Well the banjo player Scott Ross is now a member of the Flatland Ramblers, a traditional and celtic music band in Iowa. They play really nice music! You can find their album at

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010


It's no secret my favorite folk album of all time is the Allen-Ward Trio. And it's a hoot to turn people on to this masterpiece (and then hear their reactions). Come to think of it, the album is the most commented on "post" on this blog! I hope Craig Allen stops by from time to time to see fans express their appreciation for the Trio's music.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to stumbled onto this York University photo of the Allen-Ward Trio in concert at the Mariposa Folk Festival. The picture was published in the Toronto Telegram back in 8/6/64. Damn would I have loved to had been there to hear and see Craig, Lynn, and Robin along with David Rae on guitar!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Right Place at the Right Time

My friend Dave Hodge gave me a CD of Bob Gibson & Hamilton Camp a couple weeks back. Its been in my truck CD player ever since. Dave mentioned how he use to listen to those guys on public radio back in the late 60's. They played all of the great folk clubs and coffee houses in Chicago about the same time The Whitsuntide Singers were gigging at It's Here.

When we weren't performing, Old Town was a virtual "candy store" of fantastic venues, including the Earl of Old Town , Someone Else's Troubles, Orphans and my favorite spot The Quiet Knight. On any given evening you could catch Bonnie Koloc, Steve Goodman, John Prine, Tom Dundee, Fred and/or Ed Holstein plus national acts like Tom Rush, Rambling Jack Elliott, and Jo Mapes (to name a few).

Of course back then I had no idea the lasting impression these giants would have on me, and how they would influence my passion for folk music to this very day. I guess for me, I was in the right place at the right time...

Monday, May 03, 2010

Goodbye Boomer of Shimek

My best friend's best friend went to The Rainbow Bridge 5/1/10. Boomer was almost thirteen. As a hopeless dog lover myself I know what a loss this means to Wayne. There's a big hole in his heart. And while it is easy to say Boomer was a "special dog"...he indeed was.

I use to call him Mister Boom-box because of his deep, loud bark. A friendlier fellow you couldn't find anywhere. If you were petting him, and stopped he'd put his snoot under your hand to remind you that you weren't done yet.

The last time I saw him was a trip to Iowa and Wayne I took him on his morning walk (in the rain) through the countryside where he could be off-leash. Boomer was the recipient of a lot of love during his time here, and he gave a disproportionate amount back...dogs always do. He will be sorely missed because he touched so many. Ann and I have made a donation to the Humane Society of Portage County in his memory. Rest in peace big yellow dog..

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Rockford Supper Club

Apparently The Whitsuntide Singers played a large supper club in Rockford Illinois on numerous occasions.  I had totally forgotten about that, but was reminded by Marssie and Lenny of that fact during our recent reunion.  The above photo is proof according to my "group mates".  I still have no recollection of those performances.  This club was near a stone quarry out there in Western Illinois, but some limited research has not yet identified the name of the place. More Googling to do I guess.

During this time the group was really concentrating on it's "showmanship".  The set lists were rarely tinkered with as the music and harmonies were tight.  What set us apart now was our ability to engage an audience with banter and humor.  Some of the material between songs was adlib, but most was rehearsed since it had proven to get us laughter and/or applause.  The recipe of Marssie's naivety, Lenny's exaggerated facial expressions, and my dumb Tommy Smothers persona clicked with adult crowds.  Denny was usually deadpan and noticably annoyed by our antics.  We were a well oiled musical machine!  Could a stint at the Stardust in Vegas be that far away?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Finding Banjo Player Scott Ross!

                                            Tom                                        Scott

During my time down in North Carolina last month for The Whitsuntide Singers reunion we sat around the kitchen table after breakfast drinking wine and beer (yeah, I know).  For the fun of it we decided to Google a bunch of folks we had played music with back in the 60's in an effort to fill in some blanks missing in our collect memories.

Marssie fired up her Mac Book Pro and I blurted out "Try Scotty Ross!"  After I left TWS I teamed up with the group's first female vocalist Barb and Banjo player Scotty Ross.  We formed the "Run Away to Join the Circus Trio" (see an earlier blog post titled Royal American Shows).  After I had recounted my totally unbelieveable story to Lenny and Marssie about midgets, strippers, and tilt-a-whirls we had to find Scotty, and did!  He is living in Iowa still playing banjo in the group: The Flatland Ramblers 
 In my excitement I called the only other banjo player I know in Iowa, Ranger Wayne.  He in turn gets a hold of Scotty, and I follow suit.  Scotty e-mailed the photo above of he and I playing together (God knows where).  I'm certain that those two re-connected Iowanian banjo players will get together in person soon. Hell, maybe I'll join them!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Forty Year Folk Group Reunion

                                           Tom         Marssie              Lenny

Just back from North Carolina for The Whitsuntide Singers reunion.  We had a fantastic time.  Lenny picked Marssie and I up at the airport in the biggest limo I've ever seen!  We were drinking champagne and hooting and hollering all the way to Lenny's house in the Carolina Pines.  In a word beautiful (and warm too).  Lenny's wife Jackie was a real trooper to put up with the never ending nonsense, singing, drinking, and incredible story telling that went on until the wee hours of the morning.

We did a little recording too, but not up to our collective expectations.  Nevertheless, The Whitsuntide Singers sang again after a 40 year layoff to live semi-normal lives.  Lenny is retired now and fooling around in the stock market and playing all golf courses in his neck of the woods.  Marssie is the Radio Broadcast Department Chair at Columbia in Chicago.  She still does a lot of voice over work for commercials and has done some theater as well. 

It was amazing that after all that time we picked up right where we left off, great friends...never to be forgotten.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Outsiders - Joel Cory & George McKelvey

Joel Cory's name has appeared in this blog several times over the years.  Joel was The Whitsuntide Singers manager/producer for a time.  But additionally he was an important figure in the Chicago Folk Music scene of the early sixties.  We opened for Joel (as well as Ellen Dee) for nearly two months at It's Here in Rogers Park, near Loyola University.

Later Joel and Dick Toops took us into the studio to record our not-so-hit single: It's My World on the Fontana label.  Now through a quirky turn of unlikely events I have in my possession a CD version of Cheer Up Me Lads...Joel's Argo Folk album from 1963!  What a great coincidence that I should latch on to this album the day before I head to North Carolina to re-unite with Marssie and Lenny of the Whitsuntide Singers for the first time in over 40 years!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Poco Is Coming to Town

POCO, the legendary Country-Rock band of the 1970's will be in Central Wisconsin in May.  After folk/roots/Americana music, Country-Rock is my preferred genre.  While I never played the stuff (afterall it's electric) I am a good and fairly knowledgeable listener.  I especially like the various manisfestations of the California influenced groups including the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Firefall, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Mason Profitt, Pure Prairie League, Ozark Mountain Dare Devils, and of course the Eagles.

 And Poco rates right up there near the top. Today led by Rusty Young, Paul Cotton (both original members) and Jack Sundrud with drummer George Lawrence, they continue to record and tour, logging 100 shows a year. In addition to releasing a new studio CD: "Running Horse" in 2003, a live DVD: "Keeping The Legend Alive" in 2005, "Bareback At Big Sky" in 2006 and an unplugged CD: "The Wildwood Sessions" in 2007. They celebrated their 40th Anniversary in 2008.  My vinyl record collection includes most of their albums, so I'm looking forward to seeing them for the first time live 5/15/10!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Too Cool Not To Write About!

Former Whitsuntide Singers base player Frank Petricca with the band Pacific Gas & Electric

A couple blog-posts ago I wrote about finding The Whitsuntide Singers base player Frank Petricca on Facebook.  Well, I've come to learn that after Frank left the group he went on to play for the 70's rock band Pacific Gas & Electric!  I guess he had bigger fish to fry.

PG&E recorded several albums and had a hit single in 1970 "Are You Ready".  The band had former members from both Canned Heat (Frank Cook) and The James Gang (Allan Schwartz)! Now even this old folkie knows who they were.  According to Wikipedia they made movie history when they appeared in, and provided music to, the Otto Preminger film Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, starring Liza Minnelli. Their song "Staggolee" was also featured in the Quentin Tarantino film Death Proof.  More can be learned about PG&E at:

 The Whitsuntide Singers are planning a reunion of the group in the Spring.  I can't wait...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Briargate Trio

Back in 1967-68 I spent a semester in the desert at The College of Artesia in New Mexico.  I was still a member of The Whitsuntide Singers, but we were not performing regularly at that time. A few months later when my father died I quit school and moved back to Chicago to be closer to Mom.  But during that preceeding Fall and Winter, I teamed up with a couple of talented students, and we formed The Briargate Trio.

The Briargate Trio accomplished some pretty tight traditional three part harmony vocal arrangements of Peter, Paul, & Mary, Ian & Sylvia, and some Allen-Ward Trio  songs I had learned from Ellen Dee at It's Here in Chicago. 

We only did one show professionally, but it was a damn good concert in front of a nice crowd in the college auditorium.  I recall my trio-mates were hurt and upset when I abruptly announced I was leaving to rejoin The Whitsuntide Singers.  And I suppose it was because we really made some nice folk music together...

This is the only known photo of the Briargate Trio performing live.
 Too bad the headstock of my Gibson Hummingbird is in front of the pretty girl's face (as I hogged the mike).

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Frank Petricca's facebook picture

Yet another lost Whitsuntide Singer has been located thanks to Facebook!  Frank Petricca was our base player.  Frank was (and I'm assuming still is) a remarkable musician who I think was somewhat stiffled backing up a "folk group".  But when Frank joined TWS the group was transitioning into a folk-rock ensemble anyway, with a style somewhat akin to Spanky & Our Gang.

I think Frank and I "overlapped" in the group for about a year or more.  As previously posted on this tribute blog I was (and still am) a stubborn traditionalist.  And while that's maybe admirable now, back then it was the kiss of death for a musical the genre was changing.  I left the group with no ill feelings, and from what I gather The Whitsuntide Singers improved musically by replacing me with a very accomplished guitar player.  I also am pretty sure there was less beer consumed at rehersals as well.

Now if we could only re-connect with Denny Preston (besides Lenny) he and I spent the most time together in the group after he was recruited to replace Bill Kolachek.  Alas, Denny might still be mad at me for painting his car with house paint back in 1965 (even the windows).

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Poster on My Refrigerator

This past summer good friends Claudia Russell, Bruce Kaplan and Mark Petrella (The Folk Unlimited Orchestra) played a concert at the famous Freight & Salvage in Berkley with special guest Dan Navarro of Lowen & NavarroThe show was fittingly a benefit for ALS, aka Lou Gehrig's Disease.  The illness that has afflicted Eric Lowen. 

Now Claudia and Bruce are responsible for turning me onto some really good music (besides their own) that I have to admit I was unaware of before making their acquaintance several years ago.

Lowen & Navarro blew me away much like Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer did when Claudia introduced me to them.  L&N's newest CD (2008) is "Learning to Fall"  a wonderful 11 song collection whose title cut is available as a free download off their website, but don't cheat yourself buy the CD!  I would also encourage any reader of this goofy blog of mine to witness the making of this song on you-tube at: You won't be the same after you've seen it. 

Again, I am reminded "So much little time".

Nuff said.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot"

As I prepare to usher out 2009 I want to acknowledge that through this blog I have reconnected with four old friends I haven't been in contact with in nearly forty years!  (Thank you Al Gore for inventing the Internet). 

Some months ago I heard from Don Chapman who had Googled himself and turned up here.  Don was a roommate at one time during my crazy single days.  You can read more about him in the "Waylon Jennings and Me" post.

(Me, Marssie, and Tom)

Early this Fall Marssie Mencotti, songstress from The Whitsuntide Singers (pictured above) surfed onto the website.  I traveled to Chicago and had dinner (a few Guinesses) with her and her partner Tom earlier this month.  Marssie put me in touch with Lenny Dwelle, another original member of the Folk group.  It has been a wonderful experience to re-kindle those friendships.

Most recently I heard from Gail Farrand, a former girl friend with whom I had some terrific times stretching from Illinois, across Wisconsin and into Minnesota. 

In each instance it's been really neat reminding each other of songs, events, and experiences that have been long forgotten since the sixties and early 70's.

Happy New Year to old friends renewed!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice 2009

Nearly every year a loosely knit tribe of seasonal druids known as the Pine & Prairie Druid Conclave gather on the frozen fields of my neighbor Jim's farm. Jim is the high priest and bard of the event which draws curious friends and lineage. After the sun has set, the mystical veil of darkness gives way to constellations of stars and sparks from a huge bonfire which lights the cold horizon. And soon after, it begs both pagans and believers to it's flame.

This year the time honored tradition of celebrating the Winter Solstice will again occur at the ancient ceremonial grounds behind the big red barn. There will undoubtedly be warm, spiced spirits served in the shelter of a small greenhouse hovel that serves as a respite between his abode and the field were the bonfire blazes.

Over the years drums, flutes, and lute like instruments known as "guitars" have been brought out cautiously to add rhythm and sound to the night time magic. A dance known as the druid hop was concieved a few years back, and performed around the fire after fermented concoctions were consumed in large quantities. This evening should be no different, though this solstice falls on a Monday eve. The gatherers and hunters will be eager to prolong the weekend and well ready for comradely.

After the fire dies to embers the Klan will return to home and hearth to eat the flesh of dead animals and count noses to be sure no druid has passed out in the snow, for that would cast a pall on the evening and bring bad luck.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Great Christmas CD

As I begin to load the CD player with Christmas music I thought I'd recommend a great album you may not be familiar with.  American Noel is by Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer.  I discovered it a year or so ago.  It is a 2007 release and it has become a special favorite.  It contains Coventry Carol, a song I' have loved since I first heard it on the Allen-Ward Trio album 40 years ago!

The graphic on the cover shows a dog gazing up at the Christmas star.  This is (I assume) because part of the proceeds of the sale goes towards and supports the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society.  You can order it at:  there is still time before Christmas, you won't be sorry.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Chicago Folk Singer - Ellen Dee

Last year I had written a little about the "It's Here" era of the Whitsuntide Singers.  It's Here being the coffee house near Loyola University that the group played at for almost two months as the "house band".  We opened for the main acts that included Josh White Jr., but more often Joel Cory and Ellen Dee.

Ellen was a fantastic songstress who played a booming Gibson twelve string guitar.  She had a engaging stage presense and I never got tired of listening to her after we'd warmed up the audience.  We played It's Here for six weeks straight and I developed a crush on Ellen.  After our gig there ended I lost touch with Ellen, but she was one of the great Chicago folk artists whose name can be mention in the same breathe with the likes of Steve Goodman, John Prine, Fred and Ed Holstein, Bonnie Koloc and Tom Dundee.

Ellen had me over to her place one evening and I asked her where she got her songs.  She went to her records and pulled out The Allen - Ward Trio album.  As I read the liner notes I saw several songs I recognized from her set playlist.  Brothers, Sisters, and Friends, Hold On To Me Babe, and Now-a-Days are favorites that come to mind.  

I was lucky enough to re-connected with Ellen a couple years ago.  She is now the president of her own company in LA.  But back in the late sixties she was every bit as successful IMHO on the folk stage at It's Here "America's Greatest Coffee House".

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My "Studio" Album

A few years ago I went down to Madison to a friend's recording studio to see if I could muddle through a few songs and make a CD. Bob Hoot (a very talented guy) was not only the engineer, but also added background vocals, base, and even percussion. The subsequent packaging was far superior to the music, nevertheless here's the cover art. The title "No One Left Alive" was his idea, since the songs on the disc fell somewhere between maudlin and downright depressing (hey, it's folk music)!

Included on the album are Eric Andersen's Close the Door Lightly, Billy Edd Wheeler's Coal Tattoo, Tom Paxton's Hold On To Me Babe, and Townes Van Zandt's Tecumseh Valley.

Well I can now announce that in less than three years the entire run of nearly half a dozen CDs has completely sold out!  There is a sequel in the works with 2 songs already "in the can".  Thats two recordings completed in less that eleven months.  Who dah thunk it?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Marssie's Solo "Summertime"

For the last month I have been involved in a remodeling project in the cabin loft. It needed considerably more insulation before winter. A neat by product of this effort was that an attic closet needed to be cleaned out, and more photo albums (and 35mm slide trays) were discovered.

The above photo of Whitsuntide Singer Marssie Bernard was an altogether pleasant find. And while The Whitsuntide Singers did some pretty darn good harmonies, occasional solos from Marssie were always highlights of the set-list. I don't really know what she was singing in this picture, but my imagination tells me it was "Summertime".

My beer sponge of a brain also recalls that this was a song that Denny Preston started out on trumpet like in "Porgy & Bess", yes...that would be "folk" trumpet.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Wonderful Folk Album

This coming Saturday night in the sleepy Village of Amherst WI. I'll have another chance to see (and hear) one of my all-time favorites - Michael P. Smith. Michael has been to Central Wisconsin 3 times in the last couple of years, and he never fails to please. Michael is best known for his signature song, The Dutchman. I've blogged about him before, but this time I am reminded of the great CD: Fourtold, which he recorded with Steve Gillette (Of Darcy Farrow fame) Cindy Mangsen, and Ann Hills.

Fourtold seamlessly blends these 4 incredible talents, yet allows each group member to showcase their unique voices and musicianship. I've seen Steve & Cindy on more than one occasion, and always try to catch them anytime they are in the area. You can order Fourtold at It's a dandy!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Late Bloomer - Jan Hauenstein

My good friend German folk singer/songwriter Jan Hauenstein has released his first commercial CD titled "Late Bloomer". Jan has however been writing and recording music for many/several years. Hence (perhaps) the name of the CD. I am fortunate enough to have nearly a dozen CDs of his (which could be twice as many since he puts twenty-some songs on an album)!

Late Bloomer is the culmination and crowning touch that comes from countless hours of Jan honing his skills. It also brings together a unique cadre from both sides of the Atlantic. Its a collaboration of gifted writers, accomplished musicians, and talented singers all done with meticulous production. I've had the pleasure of meeting Terry Ransom at Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp some years back. Fred and I plinked together at the Great Midwest Potato Salad Extravaganza, and I know Rex DeLong and Jim Clare via the Internet. Tamara Friedrich is the angelic voice that has graced many of Jan's recordings.

I could write about every one of the fifteen great tracks, but since it's my blog I'll focus on those that specifically suit my tastes to a tee. For starters the "covers" of John Stewart songs are exquisite. Top Soil Blues hits home every time I listen to it. Steal Your Heart had Ann bobbing and weaving when I played it for her, a nifty rendition indeed. Eddie Loves Bernadette is a dandy, clever and catchy tune too. My favorite is Manassas In The Rain, but they are all good! My congratulations to Jan and his colleagues on this terrific CD! You can get it at:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mary Travers RIP

I was sitting in a hotel room when I found out about Mary Travers.  I thought to write (on the blog) about the sorrow I felt upon hearing the sad news.  Instead I took my guitar out on the balcony and played several Peter, Paul & Mary songs I hadn't sung in years.  Five-hundred Miles, Where Have All The Flowers Gone and For Bobbie.  

Still I could not go without acknowledging her passing here.  The Whitsuntide Singers had performed a few of their arrangements back when, as PP&M were simply the gold standard.  I only saw them live once, but have darn near every album they ever recorded.  A friend of mine wrote: "Frolic in the Autumn mist Mary"...Nuff said.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ah Woe Ah Me

First the great news that I have been in contact via e-mail with Marssie and Lenny in the past couple/three days for the first time in over forty years! What great fun to re-connect.

The above is a newspaper clipping from a show we did in Artesia, New Mexico back in 1967. We were performing a song we "adapted" from the Kingston Trio, the humorous Calypso tune "Ah Woe Ah Me". I had gone to the College of Artesia for one semester until my dad died, and returned there only once briefly to do the concert. The school's enrollment was primarily draft-dodgers like myself. Once the Viet Nam war ended it was quickly over run with tumble weed, and last I heard the campus is now used to train boarder patrol agents.

The Whitsuntide Singers actually flew commercially to this gig, and while I still have a Western Union Money-Gram, I don't know exactly what we were paid, or how much our then agent/manager Tom Prasch (God rest his soul) negotiated for us. But hey, back then the business of folk music was all about supply and demand. As I recall it was a large and appreciative audience of several hundred people as tickets were only two dollars in advance and three bucks at the door!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Lowland Three

Before there were The Whitsuntide Singers there was The Lowland Three.  Both groups had one (un)commonality, that being songstress Marssie Bernard.  And I'm presently inspired to share what I know about this talented folk trio. It was during the height of the "Great Folk Scare" in 1964 I first heard them in Des Plaines Il. It was in a nifty old club converted from a church, called The Loft. I was a senior in high school at the time and as I mentioned in this blog many posts ago, I was inspired by this group to learn to play guitar.   

The Lowland Three were Marssie Bernard, Lou Witsiepe, and Roy Rankin. The photo above of the group is a publicity shot for a show they did at the Gibson County Fair in Southern Indiana in August of 1964.

Towards the end of that year they won the Grand Prize in the WLS Radio (Chicago) talent contest, and soon were whisked off to Hollywood to perform on the Danny Thomas Television Special in February of 1965! That Spring they released their first recording on the Phillips Label, a 45 RPM titled Three Brave Lads/Pick A Bale O Cotton. Billboard Magazine (April 24, 1965) gave the record a "4 Star " rating that week along with Donavon's "Try To Catch The Wind". Good company indeed!

The Phillips label at the same time was releasing songs by Dusty Springfield, The Serendipity Singers, The Four Seasons, Joe Cocker and of course the Lowland Three. A couple years later The Whitsuntide Singers met Lowlander Lou, who become our manager and introduced us to Marssie. And that turn of events produced one of the times of my life, and the basis for my blog.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

No, not the classic Ed McCurdy song, but a real dream about a "reunion" show with The Whitsuntide Singers. I don't know about anybody else, but I tend to almost always have vivid dreams after eating any tomato based meal. From lasagna to pizza, boom!...a doozy of a dream.

The concert was to be held in the conference room at my office, don't ask me why. It's a dream! Marci Bernard was the first to show up. She looked remarkably the same as in the late sixties but with some gray hair. I was there practicing on my Martin D-18 (the one with the repaired hole in the side due to a banjo/guitar collision). We began rehearsing "Rider" while we waited for the other two group members to show up. When Lenny Dwelle "appeared" he handed me his business card, don't ask me why. It's a dream!

Next the audience began to file in. Turns out it's made of my board of directors! Still no Denny Preston (he must still live in Elmhurst). So on with the show, and with a wink and a smile Marci starts us out..."I know you rider gonna miss me when I'm gone" and then I woke up....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bill & Kate Isles

We recently were introduced to a wonderful couple of singer/songwriters at the Blackhawk Folk Festival in Mount Morris Wisconsin. A foursome of us went without knowing any of the performers on the schedule. We were treated to a great show by these two. Kate sings harmony to Bill who solos on six string guitar, and they put out some very fine music.

After the show I shopped the CD table and found their most recent album titled "Matching Baggage". There are at least a half dozen songs on the CD that they had played, so I knew I would like it based upon that representation. The studio versions are extremely well produced and as you might expect have additional instrumental accompaniment. Bill & Kate are based in Duluth MN. So chance to see them around the Midwest are probably pretty good. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp

This week folk music fans, and those particularly fond of the Kingston Trio will travel to Scottsdale for the Bloodliners reunion and KT3 fantasy camp. Much has changed since I first went back in 2003. Most notably John Stewart and Nick Reynolds have passed on, and sole remaining original member Bob Shane has stepped in (thank Eddy) and taken the enterprise over.

My understanding is that the program has morphed a bit and will showcase the current iteration of the group. And while it has not featured a founding member for several years now, I'm sure it will be lots of fun keeping the music alive. But I can't help but feel a little sad by the turn of events that have transformed what use to be my annual pilgrimage.

Like myself, a few folks that I became friends with through Bloodlines have chosen not to go this year for a variety of reasons. Mine is summed up in the lyrics of a John Stewart song:

You Can't Look Back:
John Stewart
© John Stewart, All Rights Reserved

"But you can't look back

When you're moving on

But you can't look back

Buddy you got to go and sing your song"

John Stewart was a very reflective songwriter, and painted many a picture of bygone eras, the past and better times. I can't help but think he was on to something...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Nick Reynolds Birthday

I was reminded that this is Nick Reynolds birthday. Loosing Nick last fall was a huge jolt to friends and fans alike. I humbly submit I fall somewhere in between. As posted at the time of his passing, I got to share the stage with he and John Stewart back in 2003 at Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp.

It was a frozen moment to sing with two-thirds of the legendary group that revived folk music and made the genre mainstream. It might be time to revisit "those thrilling days of yesteryear" on DVD. I first met Nick back in the early 1990's up in Bayfield at Big Top Chautauqua. He was roaming around Allan Shaw's CD tent using a cane, the result of hip surgery as I recall. That conversation was brief, but very cordial as Nick was always a disarming and approachable gentleman.

Years later in Scottsdale his wry sense of humor on display, Nick engaged the "campers" every chance he got. You couldn't help but love the man. And many, many people still do...

Happy Birthday Nick!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wil Maring & Robert Bowlin's WI Show

Sorry I haven't posted much of late. There's just too darn much great live music around these parts recently. Over the 4th of July Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin played at River Front Rendezvous in Stevens Point, WI. The weather was perfect. A breeze blew off the Wisconsin River through the open doors of the 125 year old grist mill, cooling the crowd of a hundred plus appreciative listeners.

My agency helped sponsor the show, so I didn't feel bad about grabbing the stage-front spool table with friends. Wil and Robert played two hours with only one short intermission. Two of my favorite songs were "bookends" of sorts for the concert, with Keeper of the Farm early on, and Bottomlands at the end of the performance.

After the show Wil and Robert joined us for a few cold Point Specials and we all were entertained by a Bill Monroe style bluegrass band. A good time was had by all. If you've never heard Wil and Robert you are just not treating your ears properly. You can find them at

Friday, June 19, 2009

Townes Van Zandt's "Live at the Old Quarter"

This weekend's album recommendation is the critically acclaimed "Live at the Old Quarter" which was recorded back in 1973 by Townes Van Zandt. It contains his classic "Poncho & Lefty" which became a #1 hit on the country charts in 1983 by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. My friend Joe used to mimic TVZ's opening announcements... "Pool tables up stairs..." Joe had the whole 44 seconds memorized to perfection.

Early on in his career TVZ played the clubs in Houston along with the likes Lighting Hopkins, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Doc Watson. He began to hone is songwriting skills about that time as well. Other classics on the album include For the Sake of the Song, Waiting Around to Die, and my favorite song of his to play, Tecumseh Valley.

Townes had a huge cult following, but he never caught on with mainstream country fans until after his death in 1997. Now-a-days everybody from Norah Jones to Bob Dylan have covered his music. The Old Quarter was a small hole in the wall establishment only 18' X 38'. It could only hold sixty patrons except for that night...when over a hundred folks squeezed into that hot and steamy Texas bar. This album is stripped down and ready to ride. If there were a genre called "authentic" Live at the Old Quarter would be the standard by which all others would be judged. This one's a dandy....

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stan Rogers - Fogerty's Cove

This weekend's recommended folk album is Stan Rogers' Fogarty's Cove. I first became familiar with Stan's music through a Internet friend from Ottawa, who acquainted me with several Canadian folk singers (up until that point I thought Gordon Lightfoot was the only one).

This album and Northwest Passage are both loaded with wonderful lyrics and musicianship inspired by life in the fishing villages of the Maritime Provinces. Stan's touching material is almost Celtic sounding at times, and I can wrap my ears around that influence anytime.

Like too many other terrific artists, Stan Rogers died prematurely in a fire aboard a jet liner on his way home from the Kerrville Folk Festival twenty-six years ago this month. He was 33.

I have a date tonight with a friend's little grey and white cat that I'm looking after. And after she has some Friskies Seafood Morsels, I'll crack open a beer and we will listen to Stan sing us a sea shanty or two.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Old Photograph of The Whitsuntide Singers Turns Up

Here's another 40 year old black & white candid of the group from the Curt Cole Burkhardt photo shoot in Chicago back in 1969. It was taken in Grant Park near downtown. I think Curt captured a "mood" with this shot, which is framed by stone pillars in the park. Of course Grant Park was the site of the Viet Nam war protests that occurred the previous August during the Democratic Convention. The Buffalo Springfield 1967 hit song "For What It's Worth" was already a staple in The Whitsuntide Singers' repertoire. I started the song with the haunting guitar harmonics (and got it right most of the time).

We were trudging hallowed ground so to speak in this picture, and while no one was killed during that violent event (like at Kent State University) this was a significant place in the anti-war movement of the era. The world was changing and so was the music of our group.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ranger Wayne's '09 Ireland Tour

My best friend Wayne (the other 1/2 of The Midwest Outlaw Kazoo Band) just returned from a gig at the Castledaly in Athlone, Westmeath. Wayne played a borrowed banjo as his Framus is permanently out-of-tune. In the picture above Wayne (center) plays for a sitting room only crowd of Guinness soaked patrons.