When we perform, we get asked certain questions:
“How do you remember all those words?” We often don’t.
“Are you married?” Why else would she hang out with him?
And a favorite, “Where do you get those songs?”
Well, actually, we write a lot of them. This endeavor includes, of course, the parodies of others’ work, involving finding a well-known song so folks will know it’s a parody.
Deciding to “cover” another’s material is a different matter. From thousands of outstanding songs, finding and selecting one to arrange, learn, and present is daunting. A major problem is knowing a song exists at all. Folks are always trying to turn us on to songs “you guys should do,” and that is always welcome and helpful; but most are drawn from Whitt’s experience in the so-called “folk” idiom.
The explosion of interest in traditional American music which started, really, long before, reached commercial potential in the late 1950s and the Great American Folk Music Scare began.
When Whitt was six or seven, he would watch black and white Sunday morning telecasts of Jean Ritchie, Pete Seeger, and Burl Ives, tenderly sharing, primarily, Appalachian and English ballads and, as they were known academically, “folk carols.” To him, the lyrics were less fascinating than the concept of music offered with such simple accompaniment. The airwaves were packed with music full of instrumentation, arranging gimmicks, sophisticated rhythms, and “hooks;” but nothing seemed to affect him like those solitary, often plaintive, old songs of actual history.
When Whitt was in 7th grade, it happened. The Kingston Trio.
The impact they had on most adolescents was amazing. This was a masculine, energetic sound, and their fast-and-loose approach to adaptation transformed many a simple tune into a rousing, rollicking experience. (Much more about them later.)
Our young student began to follow the newly popular idiom, as well as pop comedy phenomena like Stan Freberg. Then came Bud & Travis and The Limeliters,
A neighbor, an “older” hip guy named Hugh Morgan (a name many Californians will recall from his later broadcasting career), turned him on to Bud & Travis and The (slightly fabulous) Limeliters, (again, much more later) who were able to capture and combine true traditionalism, original songwriting, and humor.
It was the beginning of a lifetime journey which led Whitt to buy his first guitar and eventually get into the business. (Thanks, Hugh!)
Whitt would eventually become professionally involved with all three of these groups.
Meanwhile, consider this:
Hope to see you here next Wednesday for more!