There’s a Hullabaloo about the Womenfolk

Ned Nickerson emailed me recently that he had put up some great footage of The Womenfolk on YouTube. This fabulous clip from Hulllabaloo from April 1965 has the ladies singing a wonderful snippet from “I’ll Never Find Another You”  They come in at about the 1:41 minute mark, and in my humble opinion, they are the best of the bunch.

For those of you who don’t know about The Womenfolk, you should check out my tribute to them and some of my other posts about these five fabulous folk singers.

40 by 40 Update: #32 Go to the Museum of Television and Radio

(Back in May of 2007 I noticed that a bunch of people in the blogosphere had created lists of 101 things to do in 1001 days. I was intrigued by the notion but felt I needed to change the parameters. So I created my 40 by 40 list. 40 things I wanted to do before I turned 40. Well on August 17th I turn 40, and I need to give $10 to charity for every uncompleted item. So it is time to see how I did.)

32. Go to the Museum of Television and Radio – COMPLETED
Running Tally: $140.00 to charity.

Back in December I made it to the Museum of Television and Radio, now called the Paley Center for Media. My main interest was in finding old television appearances by The Womenfolk. I only managed to find one, on a show called Dial “M” for Music. It was a really great show and the women sounded great. You can read about it here. I did a similar search at the Library of Congress and did manage to find more recordings of shows that included the Womenfolk. Unfortunately, at the LOC the recordings are on various tape media and you aren’t allowed to fast forward. This meant I had to sit through lots of boring variety shows waiting for the women to appear. On top of that, the performances were a little to canned to satisfy the show formats. The Dial “M” appearance that I saw first was by far the best. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

Esoteric Television: Dial M for Music (and W for The Womenfolk)

(Photo courtesy of the Womenfolk’s MySpace page)

After Christmas we spent a long weekend in New York. Not being in the mood to shop I decided to spend my Sunday afternoon at the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio or something like that). It isn’t a regular museum, they show various TV programs in various parts of the building, but the real focus is the library where you can look up just about any show you can think of, request it, and watch it.

My mission was to see if I could find any television appearances of The Womenfolk. The few video clips that have been on the Internet were a great chance to see the ladies sing (for the first time for those of us who were born too late), but both have been removed and I was hoping to find more. I had a list of shows and show numbers from or some other online dbase. Unfortunately the show numbers weren’t helpful in the Paley Center’s catalog where they use show dates not episode numbers. I wasn’t able to find the episodes of Ed Sullivan and Red Skelton and other shows on which they appeared.

The only thing I managed to track down was an episode of the show “Dial M for Music”. Featuring the CBS Orchestra and hosted by some priest (?!). This particular episode focused on folk music. The “Irish” tenor Richard Hayman sang Danny Boy (which I hate) and a really rather nice version of “I’m Just a Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger”. Ralph Curtis played the harmonica on Deep River with the orchestra which I loved. He also added a nice touch to Hayman’s version of Wayfarin’ Stranger.

But the real stars of the show were The Womenfolk. Taped in 1966 (I think) the group was one short for this performance, missing Jean Amos who I believe had left the group by that time. The performances are pretty satisfying, I can only imagine how nice it would have been if all five had still been singing.

In total The Womenfolk did five songs: The Maybe Song, Young Man, Last Thing on my Mind, Love Come a’Tricklin’ Down, and something that sounded like Bonnie Heedin (Highland?) Laddie. The ladies were definitely not lip syncing (I wonder if they ever did?), only three of them were playing guitar (Leni Ashmore Sorensen did not), and there was no additional accompaniment. At least I don’t think the CBS orchestra joined in with them. It was fascinating to watch, to see/hear what each of the individual voices sounded like. It actually would have been cool if Ralph Curtis would have joined them with his harmonica on Last Thing on My Mind. Joyce James also encouraged the very clean-cut, young audience to join in on Love Come a’Tricklin’ Down.

I know I have waxed rhapsodic about The Womenfolk on many occasions, but I must say, as I sat at the Paley Center watching this one show over and over I was again reminded of how much I love this group. It was a bit of a bittersweet moment. I was happy to be seeing the footage, but a little sad that I could only find the one show when I know they did a lot more television. Hopefully I will be able to see more in the future.

For those who haven’t seen the original tribute to The Womenfolk, click here.

My 15 Minutes of Fame

(photo credit: Darrow Montgomery)

Now that the media frenzy surrounding my appearance in the Washington City Paper has finally died down, I have some time to reflect on fame. Well, I guess there isn’t much to reflect on. It was certainly a lot of fun to see my mug in print as well as to see my Womenfolk quest reaching a wider audience, but I wasn’t exactly mobbed on the way to work. It was really nice to get email from a few strangers who had similar affection for the Womenfolk and a few people who were friends with or were related to the late Joyce James. And I think some of my friends finally paid attention (for the first time) to MyPorch. But a week in the life of the City Paper goes by pretty quickly and soon all the old copies laying around in coffee shops and on the Metro are replaced by the newest issue. A few years ago I read a story about Dr. Heimlich of the Heimlich Maneuver fame. Apparently he was ill and reaching the end of his life and had never had the opportunity to actually use his maneuver on a choking victim. Despite all of the lives he had indirectly saved he was troubled that he never got to use the maneuver himself to save anyone’s life. So he started hanging out at restaurants and other places where people eat in public as much as possible just hoping that someone would begin to choke and need his assistance. For a moment I felt a bit like Dr. Heimlich, albeit without having saved any lives, directly or indirectly. But I did manage to resist the urge to place copies of the City Paper (all opened to page 42 of course) around various Starbucks and on benches, and other places where people are bored enough to start reading a random article.

Although I didn’t become a media star I did get some fun reactions from people who know me. There were two things that came up almost universally in comments from my friends and family:

Adams Morgan is not a travel agency
Those who aren’t that familiar with Washington DC, thought that “Adams Morgan travel agent” meant that I worked at an agency called Adams Morgan. Rather Adams Morgan refers to the neighborhood I live in. I actually work for a firm in Alexandria, Virginia–if you need help planning your next vacation drop me a line, I do fantastic work if I do say so myself.

Working for the Federal Government
Almost everyone I know commented on the quote in the story about having done much of my Womenfolk research while I was a federal employee. First I would like to say that most of that happened while I was on lunch break or after hours. And GSA has a policy that allows such reasonable use on our personal time. Now, I know that many government employees do really amazing things, saving lives, sending people into space, predicting hurricanes (that other government employees ignore), but there are also a whole lot of federal employees who do nothing or next to nothing. Or if they do manage to get something done, you wish they hadn’t because their level of incompetence is so stunningly bad. For most of my time in the government I outperformed and outworked most of my peers, always did what was asked of me (and more), always put in great effort to produce excellent work. So taxpayers need not worry that I bilked the government, but they should be worried that thousands of others do day in and day out.

Looking for the Womenfolk?

If you are looking for information on The Womenfolk, look no further. You can read the original tribute here. To see what the surviving members look like you can click here.

Other Womenfolk related stories can be found here, here, and here.

Never Underestimate the Power of These Womenfolk

Clockwise from top: Lalah Simcoe (aka Judy Fine), Babs Cooper,
Jean Amos, Leni (Ashmore) Sorensen.
(Photograph by Sean Haggerty)
Here is a photo from The Womenfolk’s reunion in November 2007 in Charlottesville, Virginia. This was the first time the women had been all together in 40 years. You can read about The Womenfolk and WF related items here, here, here, and here.