As longtime readers of these pages know, I'm a huge fan of Tom Paxton, so I thought it would be good to post a wonderful in-concert version of the fellow singing the song. Plus a couple of bonuses.
I've happily seen Paxton in concert several times and even more happily got to meet him twice -- once when I was working at the Ravinia Musical Festival during my college summer and he was performing there, and another time after I wrote a HuffPo piece about him, got a wonderful email back, which led to him inviting me as a guest to his concert at McCabe's in Santa Monica, that I went to along with the inveterate Chris Dunn. He was a thoughtful, genial fellow both times.
(The Ravinia concert particularly stands out. He had actually shown up a day early -- we had a folk concert with Steve Goodman, Bonnie Koloc and John Prine...which is one heck of a concert!!...and Paxton wanted to see it. Which speaks to who he is. Anyway, he came backstage, where I was working that night and we chatted. When he showed up the next evening for his concert, he passed by me and before I could greet him, he recognized me and remembered my name, with a "Hi, Bob." And even nicer, while he was the one artist I wanted to meet most during that summer, and he was the only one who didn't have a manager with him, so I had to deal with him directly. It was a joy.)
Paxton received Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2009 which is high cotton. Alas, it only got 14 seconds of air time, and that was split among several other performers in a quick montage. (Though here it is...)
Anyway, this first music video comes from the Royal Hall in Harrowgate, North Yorkshire, in 2015, only four years ago, so the good fellow is still performing -- at the time, he was 78, with new albums, and yet a new UK tour that starts...on this Saturday, at age 81.
Paxton, I should note, is particularly popular in England. And that's not just subjective hyperbole. Indeed, eight years earlier, on January 22, 2007, when he was starting a tour of the United Kingdom, Paxton was given an official Parliamentary tribute at the House of Commons -- beating his Grammy honor by two years.
It reminds me of a wonderful story I read in an article about Paxton. His daughter was in England and attended a folk club where the performer sang this particular song, "Ramblin' Boy." She went up to him afterwards and said that her father wrote it. But the singer didn't believe, not for the reason you'd expect, but because he didn't think the author was even known, stating with certainty that it was a traditional folks song. But she persevered and kept insisting that her father really did write, "Ramblin' Boy." And the fellow was just as insistent that he couldn't have. Finally, a bit exasperated, he asked her, "So who is you rather." Tom Paxton, she answered. There was a pause, as the guy considered this, and then said, "Okay, I can see that."
Here he is in concert -- accompanied here by Robin Bullock on guitar and mandolin -- leading into the song with a fun story about bringing to Pete Seeger the song he'd just written back in 1963.
Okay, so, after now hearing Tom Paxton tell that story about Pete Seeger singing his song at Carnegie Hall on June 8, 1963, only two weeks after first heard it -- here is that very recording he's talking about. And though you don't have to listen to the whole song again (since another version is coming along in a moment), you will at least enjoy Seeger's introduction, where he talks about this song you may never have heard before. Written by "a young fella named Tom Paxton." But if you do listen, it's worth hearing Seeger take the lead on the song in a very affectionate performance, complete with his always-wonderful harmony on the chorus as he gets the audience to sing along.
And here's the other bonus video -- a very young Tom Paxton, probably around 27, singing the song with Pete Seeger, on Seeger's New York City television show in the early 1960s.