Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pete Seeger

I just got the news of the death of Pete Seeger this morning from yahoo news on my computer. So sad but he went peacefully and was 94 years old. He influenced so many people, musicians, singers and others including myself. I remember him when I was a lot younger when he was with the Weavers and sang Good Night Irene. 
I first came to Canada in 1961, and it was during that time, or maybe 1962, that I went to a Pete Seeger concert. I didn't really know much about him then or even what he looked like, for he was banned on television for a long time and I don’t think anybody readily recognised him. The concert was a sellout in the high school auditorium in Fort William, Ontario. In the middle of the stage sat a chair and a table with a jug of water and a glass. A big, tall skinny fellow came ambling onto the stage, carrying a guitar and banjo. He leaned them up against the table started to take off his sweater. I thought this was a stagehand bringing the instruments on for Pete Seeger and I thought it was kind of unprofessional to come wondering on the stage as a stagehand and commenced to take the sweater off before leaving. He threw the sweater onto the chair picked up the banjo approached the microphone and started playing. At that point we all realized this was Pete Seeger, who had come on without an introduction. 
What a performance that was; for two hours he held the audience in the palm of his hand with stories and songs and sing-a-longs and the playing of his 12 string guitar and longnecked five string banjo. I was fascinated. I had been playing guitar and singing folk songs for maybe a year and I thought to myself that night the how wonderful it would be if I could ever reach the stage of my life where I could go on stage like that and entertain an audience the same way. 
I did become a full-time musician in 1964, while living in Edmonton, Alberta. I spent time with the rock groups and folk groups, made recordings, got radio airplay, did TV shows and toured the country of Canada from coast to coast. Eventually went solo in 1972 I did eventually accomplish my dream as a solo performer and singer and entertainer. I was signed by Community Concerts of New York around the end of the 1980s and for the next five or six years I toured across the United States and Canada. The only province in Canada I did not get to go to was Prince Edward Island, and the only two states that I never sang in were Alaska and Rhode Island. 
I learned from many other performers the importance of stage presence, telling jokes, telling stories, song introductions, mixing humour with serious songs, but I will always remember my first inspirations were from Burl Ives whom I was later to meet in my life and the one concert of Pete Seeger that I attended. I did meet and become friends with his half-brother Mike Seeger years later. I think I have every recording of Burl Ives and Pete Seeger with and without The Weavers. 
Tonight, Tuesday the 28th of January 1014 I will raise a glass of single malt whiskey to his memory. 
Thank you Pete Seeger.

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