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.

“Music is a release from the tyranny of conscious thought.”
—Thomas Beecham

Date 8/10 8/24 9/7 9/21 10/5 10/19 11/2 11/16 11/30 12/14 12/28
Food Setup Melissa S. Debbie K. Melissa S. Melissa S. Debbie K. Melissa S. Melissa S. Melissa S. Melissa S. Melissa S. Melissa S.
House Setup Melissa S. Bob A. Rick M. Melissa S. Dave S. Dave S. Bob A. Kim P. Bob A. HELP WANTED HELP WANTED
Bulletin Board Beth B Estelle F. D. Nunns Debbie K. Debbie K. Estelle F. HELP WANTED HELP WANTED HELP WANTED Yvette T. HELP WANTED
Singing Room Mary L. C. Melissa S. Paula J. Bob A. Tes W. Tom S. Yvette T. Marisa M. Betsy B. Yvette T. HELP WANTED
Theme Early rock and roll Story songs Labor songs Celebrations (September 17 is Faith’s birthday) Kate Wolf/ California Theme Songs Love Won, Lost, etc. Nature/ Nurture Days, Months, Years Celtic/Euro TBA
Cleanup Kim P. Raymond T. Lyla M. Tom S. Kim P. Morgan C. Lyla M. HELP WANTED HELP WANTED HELP WANTED HELP WANTED
<< Use the scrollbar below to see all the dates >>

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.

NEXT FOLKNIK FOLD-IN/FOLK SING: Sunday, October 28 at home of Marv Sternberg,

Club News

John Kelly, our online folknik editor, fell on 8/6/12, received partial hip replacement 8/7/12, went home on 8/9/12 and is now recovering. If you wish to send your regards, his e-mail address is

SFFMC President Ed Hilton fell and injured his shoulder recently. He is now at home recovering from rotator cuff surgery. He can be contacted at or

Hali Hammer

Club member Hali Hammer is a singer and songwriter, as well as a political activist who currently belongs to the Freedom Song Network and Occupella. She is also the Vice President of the San Francisco Folk Music Club, and serves on the festival committee for the El Cerrito Free Folk Festival. At the 2012 San Francisco Free Folk Festival, she performed in the Pete Seeger Room with the Hali Hammer Band, and co-led (with other members of Occupella) a song swap of protest songs. You can find out more about Hali and her various groups, involvements, and events, at her Web site

Art Peterson

Club member Art Peterson is a singer and accordion player extraordinaire. He leads the Polka Cowboys, whose waltzes, polkas, and western swing repertoire get the dancers out on the floor at Champa Thai Restaurant in El Sobrante every fourth Wednesday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Other band affiliations and events abound. At the 2012 San Francisco Free Folk Festival, as in many prior festivals, Art ran the Contra Dance Band workshop, in which he welcomes festival attendees to learn the art of playing in a contra dance band, and do so that night! Check out his Web site at

Laura Lind

Club member Laura Lind is a lead singer and harmony vocalist, a rhythm and lead autoharp player, and a prolific and published songwriter. She has a unique voice and an extensive repertoire of traditional songs and fiddle tunes. At the 2012 San Francisco Free Folk Festival, Laura performed on the Faith Petric Stage, co-led a song swap of Carter Family songs with Searle Whitney, and presented an introductory autoharp workshop. You can access her Web site at

In The Spirit of It All

Robert Rodriquez

There is a legend, prevalent throughout the Southwest, with versions as far afield as California, Montana, Colorado and Alaska, involving a prospector, or more specifically, his ghost. He is said to be American, English, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, German or Mexican in differing versions of the story. Soon after discovering a valuable gold or silver mine, he is killed, either by bandits or in a mine cave-in, and here is where the story takes on an otherworldly aspect.

His ghost is often seen sitting by the opening to a cave or other bizarre location, and he can be heard to be either singing a plaintive or doleful song or else playing a musical instrument, perhaps a fiddle, guitar, harmonica, or (in a strange version from Arizona’s Superstition Mountains) a bagpipe, since in this version, his name is MacTavish and he is Scottish in origin.

On nights of storm and wild wind, the swirl of his spectral pipes can be heard throughout the mountains and anyone hearing those hellish pipes is soon to die, or have some other calamity befall him.

Someone once remarked that everyone fought in the late unpleasantness, the Civil War, even the dead. Therefore it is no accident that even ghosts have a penchant for music and its lure is no barrier to their enjoyment of same. Spectral soldiers are involved in numerous stories wherein music plays a central role. This is especially true where legendary battle sites are located, from the Little Big Horn in Southeastern Montana to Culloden Moore in Scotland and from Puebla in Mexico to the far fields of Flanders in France and even further afield to the shores of Gallipoli in Turkey.

For years after the carnage and horror at Gallipoli during World War I, there was a story told of a ghostly Turkish soldier, often heard to be singing a truly baleful song in which he lamented the fact that he would never see his wife or loved ones ever again, and bitterly commented upon the horrors of war.

For years after the defeat of the Scottish host at Culloden in 1746, they say that the sounds of ghostly pipes could be heard at night, while at Little Big Horn, it was said a ghostly bugle could be heard playing the Seventh Cavalry’s official company song, “Garry Owen.”

At Johnson’s Island, in Lake Erie, a former Union prison camp, during the 1940s, workmen said they could hear the sound of ghostly singing, particularly the words of “Dixie,” while at the infamous Confederate prison camp at Andersonville in Southwest Georgia, spectral music could be heard for many years after its liberation by Union forces in late 1864.

There is a particularly dark tale from Finland in which a hunter is killed while he is at work by a ferocious bear during the dead of winter. When his wife is told of his demise, she is stricken with grief and sorrow and eventually dies of a broken heart. She is buried in the local cemetery, and because he had not been shriven before he died, he could not be buried in holy ground and was thus laid to rest at the crossroads.

It was said thereafter that for many years after their deaths, their spectral voices could be heard at night, singing sad songs to one another, in musical pain and despair, telling one another in music and song that they would be with one another, even if it took eternity to accomplish this.

From Bohemia comes a tale about a shepherd who was slain by his older brother because he desired to have the shepherd’s young bride for his own wife. The murderer did indeed marry the young girl, but his life thereafter took a bizarre turn. The shepherd’s ghost would frequently pay the couple a visit and he could be heard to play a ghostly fiddle, and eventually this state of affairs made the murderer lose his own mind and after which he took his own life by drowning himself in a nearby river.

What happened to the bride is not told, but one wonders whether she gave up any interest in music thereafter.

If ghosts like to make music, they certainly also like to hear it as well, and one tale of this type is particularly worth the mention. From Japan comes the story of Hoichi, a wandering minstrel, a player of the four stringed lute-like biwa. He was approached by a gentleman asking him if he could perform for a company of noble folk for several nights and play his biwa, and especially sing the epic tale of a sea battle between two powerful clans during medieval times for the very control of Japan itself. Each night Hoichi played his biwa for the company, but a priest at a nearby temple became suspicious and it is discovered that the audience is not a company at all, but a group of ghosts, in fact, ghosts of the very epic sea battle in question. In order to protect Hoichi from the powerful malice of the ghosts, the priest covers his body with sutras or magical inscriptions designed to ward off evil. Only his ears were not covered with magical scrolls, and when the ghosts realize what has happened, they attack the minstrel, but cannot hurt him, save for the fact that they remove his ears as a sign of their displeasure and anger. From that time on, he was known as Hiochi the earless ’til the end of his days, though it is said he still managed to make good music to his dying day.

So there you have it, and what this shows is that even ghosts love to hear a good song or a good tune, no matter where or when. Even ghosts know what they like, especially where song and story are concerned, which is the way it should be.


Riggy Rackin

Club member Riggy Rackin sings traditional songs and sea shanties, and is a wonderful concertina player. He’s also a very talented photographer. At the 2012 San Francisco Free Folk Festival, he co-led the Concertina workshop with Daniel Hersh and Jack Gilder. Check out his Web site at

Sharyn Dimmick

Club member Sharyn Dimmick is a singer (notably of traditional ballads), songwriter, painter, and writer. She also teaches writing practice. At the 2012 San Francisco Free Folk Festival, she led the ever-popular murder ballads song swap. You can read her regularly-published blog The Kale Chronicles, in which her writings about food and cooking are illustrated by her paintings, at

DJ Hamouris

Club member DJ Hamouris is a singer, songwriter, and dulcimer player. She performs both solo and as part of the duo Dulcimates with her husband Buffalo. She also teaches dulcimer, leads workshops in circle singing, and will soon be leading a mixed chorus. At the 2012 San Francisco Free Folk Festival, she taught workshop attendees how to play fiddle tunes on the mountain dulcimer, and led an improvisational circle song. Her Web site is here:

Janet Lenore

Club member Janet Lenore is a singer and songwriter who plays swing guitar, fingerstyle ukulele, and clawhammer banjo. At the 2012 San Francisco Free Folk Festival, she co-led a first-time pop/rock/folk ukulele jam with her partner Jeff Davis. You can see more on her Web site

Kitty Wells 1919-2012

Often said to be the first woman to have had a significant impact on country music, Kitty Wells died on July 16, 2012 from complications of stroke, at age 92.

Kitty sang about the real problems of postwar life and the sad side of domesticity, like divorced mothers without custody in the 1950s.

She was born in Nashville to musician parents, and quit high school to work in a shirt factory, but she eventually wound up on the radio with her singing sisters. In 1952, she shattered the rules of country music with one song she recorded as a demo: “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” The song made her the first woman to score a solo hit on the top of the country charts. It even crossed over to the pop charts. But it was seen as incredibly controversial. The song defended women’s behavior in the face of cheating men. The country music establishment was horrified, says historian Mary Bufwack.

Wells was herself quite conservative. She was not a showy or sexy performer and early on put her career aside to be with her family. She told NPR in 2008 she did not think of herself as a feminist.

“I really didn’t think too much about it because I was always pretty natural with the way I felt and carried myself,” she said. But after her hit, as she tells it, “Capitol Records got to recording the girl singers and so now we’ve [got] as many girl singers as men singers.”

One of them is Emmylou Harris, who says before Kitty Wells, it was considered unseemly for a woman to get on a bus with a bunch of men to tour. “She really paved the way for a lot of women to get on that bus and ride down the road.”

Things I’ve Learned from British Folk Ballads