Americana music of the 1950s-60s

I came from a musical family.

My father sang bass in a barbershop quartet. That started everything.

Okay, get ready for some name-dropping.

My brother Morrie, a noted classical guitarist in the 1970s, once gave Bob Dylan a guitar lesson. Flo and Eddie, the stage names of Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of The Turtles, a 60s Pop band, attended Morrie’s Bar Mitzvah. Several years back, I had the opportunity to meet them and reminisce when my company sponsored The Turtles at a local summer concert in the park.

My brother Bobby, eight years my senior and a decent banjo player, was also a connoisseur of various musical styles—a lover of Americana music. Somewhere along the way Bobby became friends with Dave Guard of The Kingston Trio, and Hoyt Axton, of the New Christy Minstrels, who wrote several hit songs, including “Joy To The World,” “The No-No Song,” and “Greenback Dollar.”

Karen and I met Hoyt twice, once at the Palomino Club in Burbank, California, and again in New York, where he was performing. Man, he had a deep resonate voice.

So…as a 10-year-old, I was absorbing the sounds of the folk music revival of the 1950s and 60s. And artists like Elvis—who fused blues, gospel, and country roots into a distinct new sound called Rock and Roll—helped to expand my fledgling musical sensibilities. Add Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly to the list.

Again, I have Morrie and Bobby to thank.

Through it all, my love of traditional folk music from that mid-century revival has never left me. I often find myself harkening back to my first introduction to this genre—the song “Tom Dooley,” made famous by The Kingston Trio in 1958. Enjoy a blast from the past. Click on this link:

This music, defined by artists like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and others, has had a lasting impact on American culture, history, and tradition. Think about it. Who hasn’t sung “This Land is Your Land,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “Blowin’ In the Wind,” and “Puff the Magic Dragon” around a campfire or in a living room hootenanny?

Folk music was a cornerstone of Americana music. It tells stories of labor struggles and pressing social and political issues of the time, seeping deep into the American consciousness. As a kid, it caused me to think deeply for the first time about our national struggles and identity, and the world we Boomers were about to be handed.

Did we want the values of our fathers to be our own?


The anthem of defiance and determination by the rock group, The Animals, became the rallying cry of the younger generation…“We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” Our joys, sorrows, and aspirations were reflected in songs like “We Shall Overcome” and “Give Peace A Chance.”

Folk music, and the classical and flamenco styles my brother was playing, encouraged me to hone my skills on the guitar. I loved the sound of acoustic steel strings, notes that rang out from the finger-picking mastery of Paul Simon on songs like “The Boxer.” And the cross-over of folk to rock by groups like the Byrds, with Roger McGuinn’s distinctive banjo-picking style on an electric 12-string guitar (think “Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!”).

Folk music introduced the singer-songwriter, which paved the way for commercial acts like Simon and Garfunkel, Peter, Paul and Mary, and a personal favorite, Gordon Lightfoot.

Take a listen to Gord’s masterpiece, “Don Quixote.” I love it!

Folk and country continued to cross over to the rock and pop genres, finding its way into early Beatle recordings like “Act Naturally,” and later “Rocky Raccoon,” “Blackbird,” and “Norwegian Wood.”

Singer-songwriter John Sebastian emerged from the Greenwich Village folk scene to reach stardom with The Loving Spoonful. Another artist who broke down barriers with songs like “Daydream,” “Jug Band Music,” “Darlin’ Be Home Soon,” and later with one of my all-time favorites, “She’s A Lady.”

Folk music is not dead, thankfully. It lives in blues, country, bluegrass, and more, evolving and adapting to reflect the cultural landscape of its time.

No…it’s me who has had trouble adapting. More and more I find myself looking through the rear-view mirror at the music that marked my generation. Trolling YouTube for old clips…recalling concerts Karen I attended…pulling up Spotify lists that I’ve constructed to satisfy my nostalgic needs.

Gordon Lightfoot. Simon and Garfunkel. Peter, Paul and Mary. John Denver…

Have I stifled my musical curiosity? Perhaps.


Truth be told, I miss the folk music revival of my youth, and the performers who enriched our country through their craft.