NEW LOST CITY RAMBLERS & THE FOLK REVIVAL - GONE TO THE COUNTRY' BOOK by Ray Allen
"The New Lost City Ramblers & The Folk Music Revival" by Ray Allen, (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2010) 314 pp. A fascinating and very well written book about this group that had much to do with today's popularity of "Old-Time" music. Author Allen presents a wealth of facts and detail, not only about the group itself, but of the active music scene that Mike Seeger, John Cohen and Tom Paley found themselves in during the late 1950s and early 60s. He covers the Washington Square folk scene, the Ramblers many recordings for Folkways, most of the important figures in "Folk" music at the time such as Pete Seeger, Izzy Young (Folklore Center), Ralph Rinzler, Bob Dylan, Alan Lomax, etc. He also mentions the groups that were directly influenced by the Ramblers (such as the Highwoods String Band), the ruckus caused at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival when Dylan first appeared with an electric band, and the constant tension in those days between Folklorists, Revivalists, and purveyors of commercial "folk" music. Allen does not try to avoid delicate issues: careful to present all sides of the story, he discusses the problems and tensions that led to Tom Paley's leaving the band in 1962, to be replaced by Tracy Schwarz. Throughout the book there is an appreciation of the genuine love that the Ramblers had for rural American music, and their desire to share this with a new, young audience. (In addition to their own records and personal appearances, the Ramblers led the way in bringing fine traditional artists like Dock Boggs, Sam & Kirk McGee, Maybelle Carter, Tom Ashley and many others to big city venues where they could be appreciated by urban audiences). Amazingly, the Ramblers made less than $ 5000.00 in 1963, a year in which the Kingston Trio grossed some $ 300,000 in royalties alone (along with $ 8000 to $ 12,000 per show date) --the Ramblers received just $ 320.00 in royalties for sales of 6 different LPs that they had out at the time. In light of these huge discrepancies, it is certainly ironic --and perhaps very fitting --that the Ramblers had more lasting influence --directly or indirectly --on the vibrant old-time music scene that exists today; more than the groups that really profited from the Hootenanny days craze like the Limelighters, The Kingston Trio, The Tarriers and Peter, Paul & Mary. A well-researched & fascinating book!