In het voorgaande deeltje van deze serie sprak Bill Clifton voornamelijk over het festival dat hij organiseerde op ‘Independance Day’, op 4 juli 1961. Eerder al had Bill het een en ander verteld over het Newport Folk Festival in 1963 (je kan dat deeltje hier teruglezen). Ik vind het fijn dat Kees Jansen het gesprek weer terug naar ‘Newport’ heeft kunnen sturen. Vandaar dat we nu weer een deeltje kunnen lezen waarin Bill terugblikt op dit (in mijn beleving) gedenkwaardige festival. Het mooie van deze aflevering is dat Bill Clifton ons achter laat met een vraag. Ik wens je veel lees- en luisterplezier. Mocht je aanvullingen, verbeteringen en/of commentaar hebben… Ik hoor het graag van je…

Newport Folk Festival 1963, part 2.


But they did come, not to play, but they came to see what happened. That’s good. Cause I was wondering, you know, with such an unique event, being the first festival, did any of the bands ever talk to you about later, in retrospect, saying: ‘wow, we’re glad we were there’ or… Oh everybody was glad they were there and when I say ‘Reno & Smiley came’ Red didn’t come. Red Smiley didn’t come but Don and Carlton Haney came. And I didn’t ask Don to play. I figured he wasn’t hooked and that’s that, you know. So I didn’t ask him and Bill didn’t ask him either so he wasn’t on the program. But they wandered around. I saw them all over the place, wandering around, looking at the crowd and wondering what they might do. And it was four years later Carlton Haney did his first bluegrass festival in Virginia. But, I’m wandering again Kees; get me back on track here.

George Wein was de initiator van het Newport Folk Festival.

And how did you wind up at the Newport Festival? Yeah, this is it. After I had this letter from Pete and Theo Bikel I phoned my friend, Mike Seeger. I mean, Pete was not a friend of mine. He was just somebody I knew but I had met him but I didn’t know him really. And he’s an older brother to Michael who’d been a friend of mine for many years. So I asked him what he knew about it and he told me: ‘I think you ought to do it’. He said: ‘What they want you to do is do the bluegrass and old-time, you know, and that’ll be your responsibility. And you’re not gonna have to worry about the folk music end of it or what they do in the blues end of it, or anything like that’. So I agreed to do it and they had invited other people too so there were nine of us altogether, who were on the board, the founding directors of the Newport Folk Festival starting in 1963, which was the non-profit Newport Folk Festival. And the other members were supposed to be responsible for blues or for other aspects of folk music. Each took his own place and Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul & Mary, was one of the members. And he would fly in from California or wherever they were performing at the time and get on to the board meetings and I was coming up from Virginia. They held all the board meetings in New York City, because most of the people were from New York City or lived close to New York City. Like Pete Seeger and Toshi lived north of New York City but that was easy enough, they came to the city all the time. So for them it was easy enough. For me it was more difficult but I kept coming up and I…

No one who attended the Newport Folk Festival of 1963 would soon forget the three memorable days and nights of music-making. Vanguard Records is proud to present this recording as one of six LPs permanently documenting the best of that festival. In sheer force of numbers, the Newport Folk Festival of July 26 to 28 was the biggest event of its kind in memory. More than 70 musicians participated, performing in concerts, workshops, and panels to an audience of more than 37,000 persons. It was not numbers alone that counted. Here was a festival run by musicians to further the best in traditional and contemporary folk music and to help build a fund for The Newport Folk Foundation, Inc. The foundation would, in turn, replenish through study and research, the best in folk music. George Wein, the producer of previous Newport events, had called together a board of directors of seven performers, who served without pay. They put in endless nights of Work and discussion to assemble the most impressive roster of performers imaginable. Name pop-folk stars appeared side by side with lesser-known and unknown rural and city musicians. The dominating theme was folk music of integrity, music made to express musical beliefs and true feelings, not to court the fancy of fickle audiences. For providing the memorable festival of 1963, lovers of folk music must extend their thanks to Mr. Wein and his able staff, and to the seven musicians on the board of directors who worked so long and selflessly; Theodore Bikel, Bill Clifton, Clarence Cooper, Erik Darling, Jean Ritchie, Pete Seeger and Peter Yarrow.

How did you go up there, by car, by train? No, I ‘d have to fly up because I was still working as a stockbroker in Charlottesville and I had to be at work on Monday morning and the meetings were on the weekend. So I had to fly up and fly back. It was very costly and at some point I mentioned the fact that: ‘I know we don’t have any income yet but it would be very helpful for me if the committee felt it was reasonable to ask for some kind of reimbursement at some point. Because I can do it’. And at that point Peter Yarrow says: ‘Heck, I just flew in from California, I’m not asking for a reimbursement’. Well, I wasn’t Peter, Paul & Mary. So I told him that and I said: ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have that kind of income that you have right now’. Anyhow, it was a non-profit organization and we all served as non-profit, non-receiving in any way, members of the board. I don’t remember ever getting any reimbursement. Now, I might have but I don’t re[1]member it, even after the festival. And we made a good profit on that first festival, it was amazing. We would have made a good profit. Jean Ritchie’s husband George [Pickow] was a filmer… he does films and he asked if we would pay him to film the first Newport Folk Festival. And we thought: ‘Yeah, we could sell that to television and so forth, so let’s do that’. Well, I think we paid him $80,000 dollars out of the 87 we took in. So in the end we didn’t, I mean, 87 we took in after we paid the performers but the performers only got, everybody got $50 dollars per day. If you were there for three days you got $150 dollars, if you were there for two days you got a hundred dollars and if you came only for one day you got fifty dollars. Even if you’re Peter, Paul & Mary.

What happened to those film recordings? Well, you know, to tell you the truth I think I asked Jean that some time she was over doing the Cambridge Folk Festival, at some point. I remember talking to her about that but I don’t remember the answer and I haven’t been in touch with anybody else about it and I don’t really know. But as far as I know: nothing was ever done with them. That’s a shame.

That would be unique. I think nowadays, I mean if you look back on it, of course Bob Dylan that was his…

Het was in 1963 voor een héél erg jonge Bob Dylan (hij was net 22 jaar oud) de eerste keer dat hij op het Newport Folk Festival zou spelen en zichzelf aan een groot publiek presenteerde…
26 July 1963; Newport Folk Festival. The first Newport Folk Festival for four years acts as a testing ground for the new breed of folkies – dubbed ‘Woody’s Children’ by Pete Seeger. ‘Protest’ was the in word, with Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul And Mary all questioning society’s attitudes to war, race and the ecology. But it was Bob Dylan, there for the first time, who delivered a whole compendium of songs making America and the wider world ask questions of itself. Dylan biographer Robert Shelton reported that Bob’s picture ‘was everywhere – lean, gaunt face, frail shoulders, covered in a faded khaki army shirt with wilted epaulets, blanched blue jeans. Most of the weekend he walked around with a long leather bullwhip wrapped tightly around one shoulder’. His was the image that drew the world’s press. Little wonder why he’d been booked to play the festival’s honored closing spot. Though there were supposedly no stars at Newport that year – everyone received the same $50 fee plus expenses – Dylan was the performer that many wanted to see, one reason why on the opening Friday night, July 26, over 13,000 people made their way to Freebody Park – equaling the attendance at the entire 1959 edition of the Rhode Island-based folk bash. They were an engaged crowd, clearly out for more than entertainment. Some 2,000 of them signed postcards to ABC-TV protesting about the blacklisting of Pete Seeger and The Weavers from the Hootenanny television show. Others read copies of Broadside, the 35-cent news and songsheet which had devoted that issue to Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Len Chandler and Peter La Farge. In its pages, Pete Seeger opined of ‘Who killed Davey Moore’, ‘I think this is one of Bob Dylan’s best songs. He sings it as a kind of hoarse chant, hardly more than two notes of the scale, one high and one low’. A shift was clearly becoming apparent. Ultimately, the Newport Folk jamboree, a non-profit operation sponsored by the Newport Folk Foundation, would be heard by a total audience of 46,000 over the course of its three evening performances and daytime workshops. By comparison, its older brother, the Newport Jazz Festival, had drawn 36,000 for four evening concerts and various daytime events three weeks before. One of the jazz festival’s founders, George Wein, claimed the first night folk festival audience was the biggest for any Newport opening since the jazz festivals started in 1954. Billboard magazine reported: ‘The opening night performance carried the dramatic highlight of the affair as well. It fell to Columbia’s fast-rising young singer-writer Bob Dylan to produce this episode. Reaching close to the finish of his closing spot on the bill, Dylan called to the stage Peter, Paul And Mary, Pete Seeger, Theodore Bikel, Joan Baez and The Freedom Singers from Albany, Georgia, all of whom lent a choral backup to Dylan’s rendition of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’. Following this, Dylan stepped back into the semi-circle of celebrated performers and joined them in an inspiring reading of We Shall Overcome, which had become the national anthem of the integration movement. The folk revival was in full swing. On Saturday evening (27) another 13,000 fans turned out for a concert highlighted by The Rooftop Singers, while Sunday (28) produced another sell-out crowd to watch Joan Baez perform by herself and later with Dylan in a rendition of ‘With God on our side’. Pete Seeger, who had performed the day before at the afternoon’s children’s concert, wrapped up the Sunday nighter. Everywhere there was music to be heard, ranging from the blues, provided by such as Sonny Terry And Brownie McGhee, Mississippi John Hurt and John Lee Hooker, through to the country sounds of Doc Watson, Maybelle Carter and Doc Boggs, not to forget Tynesider Bob Davenport, who contributed what was hailed as ‘a heroic unaccompanied mining ballad’. Vanguard Records recorded everything that moved and eventually released six albums based on the event. Even so, Dylan was the undoubted sensation of the three days, as was confirmed by two local record dealers Charles Lasky and Moss Music, who set up stalls in two tents at the rear of Freebody Park. They were well stocked with albums by all of the artists performing, but in no time the boxes filled with Dylan releases were left empty. The rapid sell-out prompted Lasky to claim: ‘I just didn’t realize how big he was’.

That’s when he first came out with the electric band, wasn’t it? No, no. That was his first introduction to anybody. He came on, Joan Baez asked him to come up and do a song with her. She was finishing the festival.

Who else was on there actually, from the bluegrass… Oh, I had Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys, Jim & Jesse and The Virginia Boys. I had, they came as a duet, The Morris Brothers, Wiley and Zeke Morris. I had Mac Wiseman with band, full band.

Indertijd werden door het Amerikaanse Vanguard Recordings volgens mij zes LP’s uitgebracht met opnamen van het Newport Folk Festival 1963. Jaren later werden deze opnamen door een Japans bedrijf opnieuw uitgebracht. Een aantal van die ‘Japanse edities’ heb ik al jaren in mijn verzameling (ik weet echt pas een paar maanden dat Bill Clifton bij de programmering van het Newport Folk Festival in 1963 betrokken was…

Flatt & Scruggs? No. And I didn’t have The Stanley’s either because, the reason I didn’t have either of them, and I think Carter Stanley always felt a little bit left out on that one because he and I had been real close friends. But they had been on one of the earlier George Wein folk festivals. And so did Flatt & Scruggs and none of the other people have so I felt like they were the ones that needed to be brought out. Doc Watson… A great fiddle player who wrote ‘Christmas times a-coming’ and worked with Bill and he worked for Bell Telephone for as an engineer. Who am I talking about here?

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND – JULY 1963: An encore ensemble (from left to right): Peter Yarrow, Mary Travers, Paul Stookey, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Bernice Reagon, Cordell Reagon, Charles Neblett, Rutha Harris, Pete Seeger) sing the civil rights anthem ‘We Shall Overcome’ at the finale of the Newport Folk Festival in July 1963 in Newport, Rhode Island. (Photo by David Gahr/Getty Images).

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