Back in the late ‘80s, Artie and I were playing an in-store CD release promotion at a Barnes and Noble in Albany while Bob was doing a sold-out concert at the Palace Theater. We hightailed it over there after our gig just in time to hear the last song, “Like a Rolling Stone.” Bob was already out of there long before the applause died out, but Victor Maimudes, Bob’s long-time road manager, spotted us and invited us to come down to West Point, where Bob was playing the next night. He graciously gave us backstage passes along with great seats for us and our family, and suggested we come to sound check to say hello to Bob.
FOUR STRONG WINDS: DAVE VAN RONK LIVE IN MONTERREY
I don't know where I'd be today if it wasn't for Pete Seeger. I’m pretty sure I wouldn't have started singing folk songs or playing the guitar and banjo, and there certainly would not have been a lifetime of writing, performing, traveling, teaching and innumerable musical adventures. I might not have even met Jane, whom I originally encountered through folk music and who has shared my life for more than half a century. I owe it all to Pete.
I made my first foray into the exotic streets of Greenwich Village one poignant and unforgettable summer night in 1954. Sixteen, Bronx-bred and a junior counsellor at a summer camp in Connecticut, I had started learning the guitar some months before and was getting reasonably good at it. Some of the older counsellors had also discovered folk music, and I became the kid who could accompany them when they sang songs around the campfire or in the mess hall after the dishes were cleared away. These more mature college students (they were probably 18 or 19) were smart, rebellious proto-beatniks from Brandeis University, into poetry, politics, foreign films and “Catcher in the Rye.” I idolized them and longed for their acceptance; I suspect they made me into a mascot of sorts.
In describing the recording session that I took part in for Bob's "Greatest Hits, Vol.2," I said that the song "Only a Hobo" didn't work out and was dropped. Happily, it wasn't lost forever! It just showed up on Bob's latest "Bootleg" release called "Another Self Portrait," and if I say so myself, it ain't half bad. Actually, I am surprised and delighted at how good it sounds! I played an easy-going clawhammer banjo accompaniment and sang high harmony on the choruses, and the whole thing sounds like it was intended to - like we were sitting around the living room just picking and singing for fun. This was something we did frequently during those years that Bob lived near us in Woodstock, and I relish those easy-going days. There's a really good cover story by Mikal Gilmore in the September 12 issue of Rolling Stone that beautifully describes those special times that I was lucky enough to be a part of. Check out this terrific and sometimes surprising collection. It's worthy of some deep exploration.