Club News

Musical Meetings

Musical meetings of the San Francisco Folk Music Club are held every other Friday at 885 Clayton Street, between Carl & Parnassus Streets in San Francisco. Singing and jamming in three separate rooms start at 8:00 p.m. Snacks are provided through $1 food kitty donations or finger food contributions. Guests are always welcome, no one is expected to “perform,” and there is no charge.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Date September 14 September 28 October 12 October 26 November 9
Setup Al Goodwin Joel Rutledge Melissa Sarenac Melissa Sarenac Melissa Sarenac
Bulletin Board Dan Underhill Debbie Klein Al Goodwin Debbie Klein Estelle Freedman
Host/ess Kathy Lutes Lindagrace Etchaverry Stephen Hopkins Al Goodwin Estelle Freedman
Host/ess Jo D'Anna Debbie Klein Estelle Freedman Debbie Klein Phil Morgan
Singing Room Neal Margolis Tes Welborn Phil Morgan Marlene McCall Melissa Sarenac
Theme Alcohol Disaster & Happy Endings Living Things Canada Connection Trees
Cleanup Paula Joyce Paula Joyce Dave Sulin Al Goodwin Marlene McCall

Board Meetings

The SFFMC board meets on the second Tuesday of each month — potluck at 6:30 p.m., meeting at 8:00 p.m. All Club members are welcome to attend the potluck dinner and the Board meeting.

September 11: Melissa Sarenac's house
October 9: Phil Morgan's house
November 13: Marian Gade's house

Next folknik fold-in/folk sing: Sun., October 28, at home of Joan Hall & Abe Feinberg

Club News

Kevin Carr, musician and storyteller, will be at the Sierra Club Clair Tappaan Lodge September 16-21 and September 23-27 presenting evenings of story and song to those in an Elderhostel program. Others may be accommodated.

Faith Petric performs at the 23rd annual Bread and Roses Festival in Lawrence, Massachusetts on September 3. The Festival commemorates the great textile workers strike of 1912, organized and won by the Industrial Workers of the World Union. The poem "Bread and Roses" by James Oppenheim, set to music by Caroline Kohlsaat and identified with the strike, is widely sung today as emblematic of women’s movements toward equality

For Sale: Historic Fretless Banjo

Nancy Borsdorf offers for sale a historic fretless 5-string banjo from the Music Museum of Detroit for $300. Her new phone number is (530) 534 5748. There is no message machine and it is best to get in touch with her by mail at 920 Robinson St. Oroville, CA 95965.

July 4th Campout 2007

Phyllis Jardine

We had a great time: the weather was moderate, and we had few mosquitoes and yellowjackets.

Attendance was good, even though we had only two nights this year because July 4 was in the middle of the week. Next year we will have three nights.

Watch the folknik for May/June next year.

Finances went well; we had a surplus of $35.00, thanks to two last-minute donations.

See you next July at Boulder Creek!

Sea Music Concert Series

By Peter Kasin, Park Ranger, San Francisco Maritime NHP

Tickets are now on sale for the Sea Music Concert Series at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. The historic ship Balclutha, berthed at Hyde Street Pier, is the unique setting for two concerts by these leading exponents of traditional and contemporary songs of the sea.

Tickets: $14 general, $12 San Francisco Maritime National Park Association members. To purchase tickets, please call 415-561-6662, ext. 33 or email

Will You Share your Skills & Energy to Help the SF Free Folk Festival?

Marlene McCall

Some readers may not know that the planning and other work involved in presenting the San Francisco Free Folk Festival is a year-round operation. Even though the 2007 festival just took place a couple of months ago, we are soon going to be starting the planning activities for the 2008 Festival.

Here some positions we would like to fill on the current Festival committee. If you feel you might have what it takes to serve in one of these roles, please let us know. You will be providing a wonderful service to the folk music community and joining a dedicated Festival organization that is 100% volunteer-run.

Please contact me, Marlene McCall, by phone at 510-717-6246, or by email

Sing Out! On Internet Radio

Linda Fahey, Folk Alley Programming & Marketing Director

Starting next month, will bring you a special, new on-demand sidestream called The SingOut Radio Magazine! The one hour long weekly show is produced by the great folks at SingOut! Magazine and is hosted by veteran folk DJ, Matt Watroba, who is heard each week on WDET in Detroit, Michigan. The SingOut! Radio Magazine will feature songs, news and engaging interviews with many fine folk musicians from around the world. Look for the SingOut! Radio Magazine on during the first week in September, and if you are unfamiliar with SingOut! Magazine, we recommend you check out this fine publication too!

All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song. — Louis Armstrong

That Real-Good Dobro Player — or — Never Say “Oops!”

by W. Clem Small a.k.a. M. Missouri Clem

Clem is a member who has moved out of state, but still participates in the Free Folk Festival some years. Johnny Newcomb was a well-known dobro player in the Big W.

Now I don't pretend to be a really good musician but in my almost seventy-five years, I have learned a few things about performing that I think are worth knowing. Take for instance something my dear departed friend Johnny Newcomb would sometimes say to us fellow band members when the Whiskey-Gulch Stringaderos were playing a gig. It was about how not to act when you made a mistake in your playing when on-stage performing. I can almost hear him saying it now: "Never say 'oops.'"

Now "oops" is what some folks say when they make a mistake. In a way it seems to be a pleasant way to let our audience know that you realize that you just made a mistake, and that they probably noticed it too. Johnny's point was that if you didn't say "oops," maybe no one would actually notice the mistake, so why call it to their attention. And even if they did notice it then they might even think that it was something clever that you added to the music. And Johnny never did say "oops." He sang, played his guitar, dobro and harmonica for all he was worth -- and as any of his many friends could tell you, he was worth a lot. And he could get "Ragtime Annie" going on that harmonica 'til you hoped he would just never stop. Something happened to me once that really impressed on me just what effect Johnny's outlook on entertaining did for his music.

I was at a party, and a young fellow came up to me asking who was that "real good dobro player" he had heard playing. Well, after talking to the fellow a while it turned out that he was talking about Johnny. Now I loved Johnny dearly and so did a lot of other people. And Johnny was a great entertainer whose music everyone enjoyed. But Johnny wasn't, in terms of his playing skills, a "real good dobro player" as the young fellow called him. Though he could play chords just fine, he never learned to play lead, or even play licks. If you gave Johnny a lead break, he'd look at you like you just didn't understand what you were asking for, and then go through the chord changes of the song as if he were playing the lead. That's about all he could do in terms of lead -- couldn't play a melody if he had to.

But there were important things that he could do. He could flash that smile of his, play those chords as if he was the playing the best lead you'd ever heard and he'd never say "oops." Johnny had that something special that makes a person a great entertainer whatever their level of musicianship. As a result, there were many folks, myself included, who shared that young fellow's opinion that Johnny really was a "real good dobro player."

So Johnny taught me something about entertaining that I hope I always remember, and that is that it's not how technically good you are at playing your instrument, or at singing, or the clever jokes you tell to your audience that makes them love you. It's how you make them feel -- and that's determined a lot by how you feel about them. If you intend to give them the best time you can, they will join you in the fun. On the other hand, if you intend primarily to show how good or clever you can play, then you should probably pack up and go home. And, even if you're quaking in your boots from stage fright when you genuinely try to give folks the best you have, if you give your music all you've got to give -- whatever that is -- and never say "oops," then I believe that your audience will be with you, and for you, and enjoy you, and you'll all have one heck of a good time. And most likely old Johnny will look down from that musicians' retirement home in the sky with that great big smile of his on his face and say "I told you so!"

Folk Songs and the Labor Movement

I was inspired by Faith's announcement about the Bread & Roses Festival to do a little research into the relationship of folk music to the labor movement. This info came from Kim Ruehl at Marlene

Folk music has a long relationship with labor struggles, and particularly labor unions. From the Baptist hymns adapted by Joe Hill, to the IWW song handbook, to the protest tunes of Billy Bragg, here’s a peek at some of the most notable, most fun, and most poignant labor tunes in Folk history.

1. Bread and Roses

This song was written by James Oppenheim, and it absolutely encompasses the sentiments involved with labor struggles. The song is based on the old phrase “bread and circuses” (as in, feed the people and entertain them, and they will do as you say). In this song, the workers are basically saying, “feed us, but give us a quality life as well.”

2. Solidarity Forever

This traditional song has been recorded by Pete Seeger, Utah Phillips, Anne Feeney, Ella Jenkins, and tons of other folks. The lyrics talk about the power of community and solidarity, and speaks to the notion that when people organize, no matter how powerless they feel alone, there is great power in solidarity.

3. Union Burying Ground

This tune was written by Woody Guthrie to commemorate all the folks killed in the labor struggles of the early 20th century. During this period, when labor unions were just beginning to spread, workers literally risked their lives when they went on strike. Often the militia was owned by the boss, and was brought in to shut down union strikes. This song pays tribute to the workers killed for standing up for better pay and reasonable work conditions.

4. Dump the Bosses Off Your Back

This tune was made by a Wobbly worker named John Brill in 1916, and was included in the 9th edition of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, a.k.a. Wobblies) songbook. In classic union protest song form, this song is sung to the tune of an old Baptist hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Its lyrics talk about the basic points behind a union strike: better pay and better work conditions.

5. There Is Power In a Union

Joe Hill, before he died, said “Don’t waste time mourning. Organize!” Billy Bragg, however, took the sentiment and updated it to apply to modern times with his original version speaking of the strength of solidarity.

6. Pie In The Sky

Joe Hill was incomparable when it came to adapting Baptist hymns to talk about the labor struggle. This little gem was penned by Joe in the beginning of the 20th century, to spin off on what laborers were being told by the Salvation Army (or, as the Wobblies would have it, the Starvation Army), who promised full bellies and comfort of living in the afterlife.

7. Casey Jones

This song was supposedly written by a friend of the real Casey Jones, and has been recorded by Johnny Cash and Dave Van Ronk, among others. It tells the story of a train conductor and his death on the line. The story of Casey Jones has lived throughout labor history, and has even inspired a song by the Grateful Dead.

8. John Henry

This old, old narrative song is about a boy who grows up to be a steel worker. This tune sings about something that happened unfortunately often in the early part of the 20th century — a man dying on the job.

9. Maggie’s Farm

This tune was popularized by Bob Dylan in the 1960s, but actually has a much longer history that includes Lester Flat and Earl Scruggs. Other artists who have sung this song include everyone from Hot Tuna to Rage Against the Machine. The song sings about a guy who’s just had enough of his work conditions.

10. Blowin Down That Old Dusty Road/Going Down the Road Feeling Bad

This Woody Guthrie song features the recurring line, “Going down the road feeling bad, lord lord / and I ain’t gonna be treated this a’way.” There’s not a whole lot more to say about labor songs that doesn’t get summed up in that one statement.