Peter, Paul and Mary and the BBC
The other week, I posted a wonderful video here that was a collection of performances by Peter, Paul and Mary at the Newport Folk Festival at the height of their popularity, between 1963-65. I mentioned that I had another terrific video of them upcoming, and we have now reached what is no longer “upcoming.”
This is 50-minute video of a concert they gave on British TV in 1965. (Actually, it’s a bit odd and might be two half-hour shows, since there are credits in the middle. My guess is maybe it was one performance edited into two shows.)
It’s really good, and – coming early in the peak – is not a “Best of…” show, since many of those hits came later. And what stands out is how excellent so many of their lesser-known songs are. Though there’s plenty of well-known ones (including, yes, they sing it. And what’s fun is seeing an early British audience singing along with “Puff, the Magic Dragon”).
There are two interesting songs at the beginning. One is “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Place,” which was later a huge hit for Roberta Flack. It turns out that the song was written by Scottish folk singer Ewan McColl – and is about his wife, Peggy Seeger…who was the half-sister of Pete Seeger.
The other is the following song, an utterly joyous performance of “San Francisco Bay Blues,” written by Jesse Fuller, who Paul Stookey given an endearing description about.
I’ve always read how long and hard the group rehearsed to get their harmonies and arrangements so impeccable (something Stookey off-handedly addresses later), and how that work pays off is very clear in this performance.
(Side note: You'll get to see their longtime bass player Dick Kniss a lot here. He's the fellow I referred to meeting with Stookey in my tale about O'Hare Airport when I was a little kid that I wrote about with the Newport concerts video, that I linked to above.)
I never saw Peter, Paul and Mary together, though after they had their temporary split, I did see Peter Yarrow in Chicago, and then Paul Stookey unexpectedly in Maine. I was working on a Stephen King movie at the time, Pet Sematary, which was filming in the small town of Ellsworth. As it happened, Stookey lived about 5-10 miles down the road in Blue Hill, so he’d periodically perform in the area. And one night I saw he was going to do a show in Ellsworth – but it was sold out. I went to the theater anyway, and happily a father and his young daughter had an extra ticket since the mother couldn’t make it.
By the way, what got Peter, Paul and Mary back together was a “Come Together” reunion concert fundraiser for George McGovern when he ran for President in 1972. Held at Madison Square Garden, three famous “split partnerships” reunited for the concert – Peter, Paul and Mary, and Simon and Garfunkle, and also Mike Nichols and Elaine May!! Yowza. I remember reading about it at the time, but there was no way I’d be going to New York. But I’ve always wished that that concert had been filmed. How on earth could it not?? And then released on video to raise even more money. Ah, well…
Anyway, Peter, Paul and Mary got on so well together and missed performing as a group that they decide to periodically reunite for other concerts. And eventually those went so well, they just reunited, period. (Though I believe they’d still do separate concerts on occasion.)
Anyway, here they are at their peak, being very entertaining, in 1965 on the BBC.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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