Monday, 3 December 2012

Pete Seeger and The Bush Music Club, 1963

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In 1963 Pete & Toshi Seeger & their children left America for a trip around the world, visiting 22 countries in 10 months.

While they were in Australia Pete visited the (Sydney) Bush Music Club where Pete was very impressed by traditional singer Harold "Duke" Tritton, source of many traditional songs & an outstanding songwriter & poet. He even called Duke on stage to join him at a concert, a call not appreciated by a teenage folkie who wanted to hear Pete, not an old bloke. Soon after the teenage folkie became a convert to bush music & an admirer of Duke. (source - Ralph Pride)

Copies of the films taken by the Seegers during their visits to Sydney & Melbourne were given to the Sydney & Melbourne Bush Music Clubs at the time.

In 2009 a video Pete Seeger Live in Australia 1963 was published from recordings made on this tour.

Pete's interview with Duke This crackly video was made from a copy of the original film given to the Bush Music Club. 

Earlier contact with Pete

Minutes Friday 26th June, 1957
mention a letter from Pete Seeger, which unfortunately has not survived. (BMC Archives, Minutes1957-1978)

Conference Discussion  
Suggestion arising out of Discussion, undated, filed before AGM Minutes, Friday 14th February 1958 (pages 16A & 16E) (Archives, Minutes1957-1978)


Visitors Book, 9 Mar 1963 to 5 May 1970

Signatures of Pete & Duke Tritton, Tuesday 3rd Sept 1963. 

Singabout 5(1), Oct 1964. (BMC Archives)
Foolscap leaflet sent out with Newsletter, Sept 1963

The Sun, Sat Aug 31, 1963. Members Chris Kempster on guitar, Frank on tea-chest bass & Jan  Jones on bones, none of them University students, might have been accompanied by members of the Sydney University Folk Music Society.   (Ann & Frank Maher Collection


Invitation to Concert for Pete Seeger, Sat Sept 1, 1963 (Ann & Frank Maher Collection)


Song by BMC members Alan Scott & John Dengate



In 2009 on the occasion of Pete Seeger's 90th birthday & the Bush Music Club's 55th, we sent him birthday greetings accompanied by copies of the articles in Singabout,1963, & Australian Tradition, 1964 & received the following reply, accompanied by a copy of his revised songbook, which Bob Bolton reviewed in the Singabout insert of Mulga Wire, Dec 2009.  


Where Have all the Flowers Gone – A Singalong Memoir

by Pete Seeger, Revised Edition, 2009 plus CD

A Sing Out! Publication with W.W. Norton & Co., New York & London

$?? From ???

This is a wondrous book … 320 pages of story, verse, reminiscences, music, photos and autobiographical tales from the long and fruitful life of Pete Seeger – all bound up in an American 11” x 8½” format song book.

This is the revised and expanded third edition of Pete’s book, originally published in 1993 and then revised and expanded in 1997 .. And a long way down the track from the little blue ‘Pete Seeger Song Book‘, the remnants of which, having survived my wanderings of the 1960s, are now held together which a bulldog clip so they don’t disintegrate all over my bookshelf.

This is much more than a song book. Pete gives the background, the sources of inspiration, the politics of the days of many seminal songs … the conscious (and, often unconscious) sources of tunes, rhythms and presentations that seem to many of us to have been around all our lives. As a consummate musician – growing up in a family of musicians and music educators – Pete’s knowledge of his sources shames most of us who seek to find and draw upon the traditional music forms of our own regions. As a man driven by moral awareness, he is often forced to admit to “stealing” tunes … either unconsciously (which is fine, within the “folk process”) - but also being aware of the appropriation – when the tune was just right for a noble purpose.

Whatever the sources (and they are all detailed in this magnificent volume!) Pete gives the music for every variant … from how he wrote it – to the versions developed in groups he sang with – to the inspired changes often made by other groups whose popular releases are often the ones we all know … and frequently adopted by Pete.

Anyone aiming to work through all the variants and developments detailed in the book will appreciate the included CD, which has musical examples from some 267 of the book’s songs. It is certainly a long way from my 1960s struggles trying to turn a rudimentary grasp of guitar into a convincing rendition of the “dots” on the crumpled pages of my little blue book.

I can’t find any evidence of a local distributor for this wonderful musical memoir. It is published for Sing Out! By W.W. Norton and can be ordered direct from <> … for US$24.95 + p/p. 

  Review in Mulga Wire, Dec 2009
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