Archive for November, 2009

Bess Lomax Hawes Dies at 88

Bess Lomax Hawes 1921- 2009

By Michael Corcoran | Sunday, November 29, 2009, 05:47 PM

Bess Hawes, the youngest child of legendary University of Texas folklorist John A. Lomax, passed away Friday in Portland, Ore. She was 88.

A former member of the Almanac Singers, with Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and her husband Butch Hawes, Bess Lomax Hawes was born in Austin on Jan. 21, 1921 and spent her childhood at the family home on West 26th Street. She often accompanied her father and brother Alan on folk song-collecting trips in the south.

Throughout her life, she carried on her father’s work, tirelessly teaching traditional folk music at festivals, schools, and universities. In the ’70s and ’80s, she directed the Folk and Traditional Arts Program for the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 1993, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.

Hawes attended the University of Texas for two years, but graduated from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.

She is survived by her three children, Corey Denos of Bellingham, Wash,, Naomi Bishop and Nicholas Hawes of Portland, Ore., and by six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.


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Pete Seeger to lead a rare concert in Dobbs Ferry December 10th

Pete Seeger to lead a rare concert in Dobbs Ferry to benefit several local groups The Take Me To The River Children’s Community Chorus debuts in a concert guided by legendary folk singer Pete Seeger at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at South Presbyterian Church, 343 Broadway in Dobbs Ferry.

The chorus, ages 6 to 12, is comprised of Hastings-on-Hudson residents and the Westhab organizations’ community-based youth program at the Coachman Shelter in White Plains.

The concert will feature a dozen songs, most written by Seeger. Local singer/songwriters Jenny Murphy and Matt Turk provide additional musical direction, vocal guidance and instrumental accompaniment.

Following the concert, Seeger will sign copies of his recently updated “Where Have All The Flowers Gone, A Singalong Memoir,” which includes a CD with examples from 267 songs. The book will be on sale at the event for a discounted price of $20, with all proceeds going to Concert-goers are asked to bring a can of food, for donation to The Coachmen Shelter.

For more information about the not-for-profit organizations participating and or benefiting from this event, go to:, or

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Folk Singer Fred Starner Dies at 72

G. Frederick Starner

Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2009 12:15 am

LOS ANGELES – Former economics professor, banjo player and folk singer Fred Starner died Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009, in Los Angeles. He was 72.

Fred grew up in Toledo, Ohio. He graduated with honors from Oberlin College with a degree in economics and received a Ph.D. from Ohio State University.

He went on to teach economics at Drew University in Madison, N.J., then came to the University Wisconsin-La Crosse in 1974.

During his time in New Jersey, he became an ardent environmentalist. He worked with Pete Seeger on the Hudson River “Clearwater” restoration from 1968-1974. He raised money and sang many concerts to bring the public along the Hudson to realize that the river was so polluted that no fish could live in it.

The idea to build a replica of an old Hudson River sloop, which had sailed up and down the Hudson River in the 1800s, came from Pete. He thought if he could get people to come to see this beautiful sloop that he could call attention to the plight of the Hudson. Fred volunteered to raise money and to do concerts to help bring attention to the job of building the sloop. Fred then sailed the first crew of the Clearwater from Maine to New York and then up and down the Hudson, working as a singing member of the crew. Later in the ’70s, he served on the board of the Clearwater restoration for three years.

In 1972, he hosted a 10-part PBS series for New Jersey Public Television called “The Oleanna Trail,” which featured many folk singers whom Fred had met while living on the East Coast.

After moving to La Crosse, where he continued to teach at the university, he was a founder of the Great River Traditional Music and Crafts Festival, which was hosted on the grounds of UW-L. A weekend festival, it featured concerts and workshops led by singers from all over the Midwest and the East Coast. The orientation was to share the love of traditional music and to teach how to play the instruments. The crafts featured a large collection of talented midwestern artists who made birch bark canoes, carved wood in the Germanic and Nordic tradition or painted in a Scandinavian style called rosemaling.

Many who worked at the university served on the board of the festival and donated hours of their time to make the festival work. The university generously hosted the festival for almost 10 years, every Labor Day weekend.

Fred moved to California in 1987, where he continued to teach economics at several community colleges. He continued to write music and give concerts at colleges including UCLA, Pomona and Oberlin.

He then went on to research a group of people that had been forgotten, the Hobos, who emerged during the Great Depression. Hobos traveled the rails, leaving home and families during that desperate economic time, looking for work and a way to survive. He met and talked to many of the old Hobos, collecting their stories, songs and poetry. This collection turned into a documentary film called “Hobos,” which was published in 2008 and is being shown at festivals around the country.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Nov. 14, at Studio City’s Universalists Church. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, 724 Walcott Ave., Beacon, N.Y. 12508;

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