Paul Clayton and the Folksong Revival

Overview

A scholar and a balladeer, Paul Clayton (1931-1967) is credited with the Top-Ten hit "Gotta Travel On" and was a key figure in the mid-1950s rise of folksong to media popularity. Clayton single-handedly brought hundreds of obscure folksongs to the mainstream radio and recording market, and he influenced listeners and friends from Dave Van Ronk to Bob Dylan, who considered Clayton a mentor, "mindguard," and well of folksong. Paul Clayton and the Folksong Revival is the first biography of the folk singer and song ...

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Overview

A scholar and a balladeer, Paul Clayton (1931-1967) is credited with the Top-Ten hit "Gotta Travel On" and was a key figure in the mid-1950s rise of folksong to media popularity. Clayton single-handedly brought hundreds of obscure folksongs to the mainstream radio and recording market, and he influenced listeners and friends from Dave Van Ronk to Bob Dylan, who considered Clayton a mentor, "mindguard," and well of folksong. Paul Clayton and the Folksong Revival is the first biography of the folk singer and song collector. Using accounts from friends, family, and fellow musicians, author Bob Coltman relates the breadth and depth of Clayton's extraordinary life, from his birth into a singing family and his teenage years as a radio singer and folksong collector, to his establishment in New York as a folk performer and recording artist, to his tragic early suicide. Clayton's recordings are also examined, interspersed with his insights and adventures as a performer and songwriter in the folk world. Gradually, Clayton's achievements become overwhelmed by his disintegration as a drug user, failing musician, and bipolar gay man, culminating in eyewitness accounts relating to his tragic end. Presenting an in-depth look at folk music in the 1950s, Coltman illuminates what it meant to be a working, but not starring, folksinger in this period. With quotes from a number of folksongs, a discographic summary, and a bibliography, this volume brings to life this intelligent, perceptive, and largely unknown scholar-folksinger.

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Editorial Reviews

Dirty Linen, June 2009 - Craig Harris
Well-researched tome.
Sing Out!
Coltman's book is thoroughly detailed and annotated, with interviews with colleagues, family, friends, lovers and creative collaborators. . . . Bob Coltman's friendly prose, eye for detail and exceptional research capture a significant, if overlooked, player in the mid-century folk revival. . . . Recommended.
Morris S. Levy
Coltman's book was published in 2008, and it is a fine study of a nearly forgotten but still significant figure in the folksong revival of the 1950s and 1960s. The discography is useful, especially in its listing of non-commercial recordings, but equally fascinatingis the appendix of Clayton's copyrighted songs, divided into original compositions hybrids, and traditional songs. While there may not be many who have been longing for a book-length biography of Paul Clayton exists, there may be more people discovering the song and voice that I have respected for over twenty years.
Ed Trickett
Coltman, writing with obvious love for the time, the music, and the people who made the folk music revival of the mid-1900s a resource for all of us, provides a glimpse into the story of a man often walking the thin line between genius and insanity. As one who lived that era, I relived many times, places, and feelings reading this book. A must-read for old folkies, scholars of the folk revival, and indeed anyone who wants to read a vivid portrait of a man possessed with immeasurable talent and demons who left an indelible footprint on the folk music of his time."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810861329
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/5/2008
  • Series: American Folk Music and Musicians Series , #10
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob Coltman is a traditional folksinger, writer, and composer of several folk standards, and has published articles in Old Time Music and JEMFQ. He is a contributor to Exploring Roots Music: Twenty Years of the JEMF Quarterly (Porterfield, ed., Scarecrow Press, 2004).

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Table of Contents


Series Foreword vii Preface ix Acknowledgments xi Permissions and Credits xv Overture: Paul at the Showboat xxv Introduction: A Singer and His Times 1
1 Breathing in Old Songs from the Cradle 7
2 A Boy, a Guitar, a Microphone 13
3 In the Heart of Old Virginia 27
4 A Couple of Beards and Bluegrass 41
5 View from a Virginia Cabin 49
6 Paul Conquers Folkways 61
7 Big Find in North Carolina 73
8 "America's Most Recorded Young Folksinger" 89
9 From Virginia to the Village 99
10 Done Laid Around and Stayed Around 109
11 Across the Blue Mountains 115
12 Another Brush with the Big Time 125
13 A Roller Coaster Ride 139
14 Charlottesville Follies 155
15 The Dylan and Clayton Expedition 165
16 The Long Tumble from Grace 173
17 A Gingerbreadd Endd 187
18 Life after Death? 201 Appendix Paul Clayton's Copyrighted Songs 217 Discographic Summary 233 Notes 243 Bibliography 261 General Index 271 Song Index 287 About the Author 297
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