The Fariña Files
Newport Folk Festival 1965
Saturday started a little earlier for the Fariñas than Friday, but it started out sunny, just the same. Work for them started pronto at the 11:00-1:30 Contemporary Song Workshop. Scheduled by Peter Yarrow and hosted by Yarrow and fellow board-member, Ronnie Gilbert, this also featured Ian & Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, Patrick Sky, Donovan, Eric von Schmidt, and Bob Dylan. Set in Area 2, this was another field that sloped down towards the tiny wooden stage set back against the snow fences, next to Area 1, where the International Song workshop was going on, and next to the road that led back to the main stage area, where at that point, the Children's Concert was taking place. At a great many, if not all, of the workshops, informality was the way to go, and most of the performers spent their time, when not on the stage, sitting in front of it. Joan Baez sat stage right with Donovan, ready to watch her sister & Dick's first performance, and to show support for Donovan at his second performance. Although no stage photos have ever been published of the Fariñas performing, we have the odd David Gahr crowd photos, including one featuring Dick's eyebrows and widow's peak, as well as a photo of Mimi babysitting behind the stage for one of the smaller Von Schmidts, who's curled up in the bright sun inside a guitar case, carefully not sitting on her father's second solo LP (with liner notes by Fariña). Dick, normally in dry-cleaned jeans and a dark turtle neck, chose to wear his dirty Keds, faded green Levis and an orange t-shirt, while Mimi wore the same patterned dress as she had earlier that spring, posing for the yet-to-be-recorded Reflections In a Crystal Wind LP cover, and generally going barefoot.
Since the workshop was 2 1/2 hours long and there were 7 performers, it's fair to guess everyone would get about 15 minutes. It should be noted here that no folk festival ever runs on time unless by coincidence or the law. The Fariñas actually got about 16 minutes.
Seated on the festival's rented folding chairs and accompanied by themselves on Mimi's acoustic guitar and Dick's dulcimer, they were amplified by a single microphone each. Judging by the extant photos of others at this site, coupled with Seeger's theory of acoustics and backed up by the low budget of the festival, nobody seems to have had their instruments miked. The microphones were expected to pick up the voice as well as any instrument and feed this not only to the back row of the audience, probably half a football field away, but to the little Vanguard recording van that rolled tapes on everything. They started with a version of "One-Way Ticket", a fast rocker from their 1st album later released as a single, then followed with "Sell-Out Agitation Waltz", an as-yet unrecorded song, due to be recorded in fall for their second album. Following a quick suggestion of "Pack Up Your Sorrows in B?", Dick comments "That was good." Possibly figuring they'd hit their allotted 15 minutes (though it was only 12 at this point), they launch into what was usually their closing number, "Pack Up Your Sorrows" (also from the 1st album, and also released as a single), helped out by Yarrow. Dick coaxes the crowd to sing along on the chorus: "It doesn't do you any good just sitting there and looking at us, try singing it once, loud as you can," and then again next time round: "We're gonna just do this one more time -- this is the biggest afternoon crowd we've had at Newport and you can make a whole lot of noise - let them hear you over at the Children's Concert!" As they near the end Dick again coaxes the audience to sing along "One last time!" with the lie put to that one chorus later when he asks for "One last time AGAIN!" With the crowd seemingly enjoying themselves, they're green-lighted for another song. Dick again leans to Mimi and says "Do House Un-American Activity?" And though the time is limited, after tuning for a minute, Dick will launch into a minute and forty-five second shaggy dog story as a preface and burn away two and a half minutes. No complaints are filed.
"We know a guy named Milt Kamen -- it's not the same man as the comedian - who, about a year and a half ago, during the election year, got all the presidential candidates mixed up. He found them all looking alike, talking alike, singing the same songs -- and so he went to Cuba to get away from it. And how he did that is he went to Yugoslavia. Cuz if you can't get there from here, you've got to go there to get here from there, to get there. And when he was in Cuba, of course, the House Un-American Activities Committee got in touch with him -- they said they were having a thing in Washington and we want you there -- baby! And so he went [Mimi subtly hints by playing the opening notes at this point, but Dick plows on] and while he was on the stand - you probably read about this in the paper -- a fellow jumped out of the gallery, was wearing a Nazi armband - George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party. Actually, he's wearing a Harris tweed jacket and he tore the jacket off and instead of -- instead of that little "S" and the triangle, turned out to be a different kind of Superman. And he grabbed this guy off the stand and strangled him. He didn't kill him, he just strangled him enough so that when he's in the hospital, the court got him for contempt. And that's a true story, and it's in this song. I dreamed a part of, made the rest up. It's called "House Un-American Blues Activity Dream" - and they finally get past the first 13 notes and are rewarded in the end by thunderous applause and cries for "more!" They thank everyone, get up, wave, and do a slow float off the stage, having their first 15 minutes of fame nicely delivered unto their feet.
Though their next performance was not until an hour and a half later, at the Dulcimer Workshop, word had spread about their earlier performance. The workshop, staged on a pallet on the ground in front of the main stage, was hosted by Jean Ritchie, probably the most accomplished dulcimer player in the US (which meant the world) and also featured Beth Van Over who, according to the program, was from Kentucky, was a year older than Dick, and was somehow related to both Jean Ritchie and Dock Boggs (which is excellent company). The Dulcimer Workshop was the second generation of the previous year's Autoharp and Dulcimer Workshop. It is very likely that Ritchie was at least somewhat aware of the Fariñas before July 24th, as traditional music was her life and she seems to have made a point of knowing about any other dulcimer music being made. In one recount of the day's events, Ritchie recalls arriving at what she thought would be just a small workshop for a very plain and simple folk instrument and instead finding the audience full. Indeed, the crowd was packed in front of the boxed seats on the lawn, all the way up to the foot of their ad-hoc stage, which she thought highly unusual. Once she recognized Dick and Mimi waiting, she no doubt quickly did the math. I'm sure she was somewhat cautious and curious about what (and how) these people were going to play, but also glad to have the larger audience and attention directed at anyone playing her instrument.
The workshop was a short one, only lasting an hour from 3:00 to 4:00, giving each performer twenty minutes, tops. Ritchie more than likely went first, Van Over second, and the Fariñas last, as evidenced by the Vanguard disc. With two out of three performers' backgrounds suggesting traditional playing techniques and songs, Dick and Mimi were the wild cards in more ways than one.
Wooden folding chairs had been set up across a narrow stage, with Dick in his Ray-Bans on stage right, a Narragansett parked under his chair, and Mimi in large, round black shades, on the left. The pallet stage was backed up against the front of the stage, so that stepping off the back of the pallet placed you under the main stage. To stage right, seated on the ground, was Joan. More unusually, behind Joan were both of her parents set to watch their third daughter's Newport debut; behind them sat Debbie Green, who was not only a singer in her own right, but had been Joan's best college buddy in her brief time at Boston University. It's not known whether Dick's parents came to see him here. Both were nearby, living in New York City. They weren't known, or at least recorded, as popping up anywhere, anytime, though both doted on their son. If any scenario works here, it would be that they weren't there because they didn't know about it.
The sky was bright, but getting overcast when they took their seats on the stage and started out with "Bold Marauder", another new song headed for their as yet unrecorded 2nd album. The tune sets a beautiful melody against particularly effecting lyrics. Specifically about the KKK but denouncing bloodlust in all of its forms, it fits vaguely into the protest song genre while set far above what Maria Muldaur nicely termed the typical "unmusical political complaining" of the day. At the end of this one, Dick asks Mimi, "Do the other one? 'Hard Lovin' Loser'?", which under the circumstances could mean that he might have intended for just the two of them to perform it. In what sounds like it might be an aside about a soundperson's query on activating one of the extra stage mikes, Mimi leans in and says to Dick, "... he says it's one of the guys we're playin' with." "Which?" Dick wants to know. "The guitar", she says, "Both of them, yeah", and then Dick announces a sneak attack. He brings out backup musicians, in the form of his buddy and pretty much the session instrumentalist for the entire folk revival, guitarist and percussionist Bruce Langhorne. "He's the Tambourine King," says Fariña on the recording, "Lest you forget!". Also arriving is Al Kooper, guitarist, former member of the Royal Teens, instant organ player on Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home and soon to be a founding member of the New York-based band, The Blues Project. It should be noted here that the notes to Vanguard's Complete Recordings set is slightly wrong about this concert. Their notes incorrectly state that Kyle Garahan and Fritz Richmond accompanied the Fariñas at this workshop. This is unlikely given the number of photos taken, the fact that no harmonicas or washtub bass can be heard on the recordings, neither musician was introduced and, in the final analysis, neither would have fit on the tiny stage. It's far more likely that Vanguard simply assumed the Workshop versions here were just the unedited versions already included on the Memories LP, and thus performed a cut-and-paste on that album's credits for both songs. Of course, someone else inside Vanguard had already assumed the same and chopped them off the set's Memories track-listing, figuring those two tracks would be added to the end of the live versions. So you end up two songs short one place and two credits wrong in another. According to the photos, Kooper stuck to guitar (though as attested to by the recordings, not often within mike range), and Langhorne played two different tambourines. One of these was regulation size and shaken, not stirred, while the other was an enormous Turkish affair with shakers all around, played by hand and capable of producing bass, higher-pitched snare-like sounds, as well as almost cymbal or maraca-like sound with its shakers. The second song, "Hard Lovin' Loser", featured all four playing, with Mimi's mike quickly going dead (unless she stopped playing), then working again. Langhorne plays the regulation tambourine.
"I'm kind of fond of losers", Dick says, "as a lot of people seem to be these days. But I like them to have one saving grace -- this is a song we made up about a loser. The only thing he can do well is make it. The girls like him. It's called Hard Loving Loser -- it's a new song." It wouldn't be a wild guess if the casual observer suggested Dick and Mimi had burned the midnight oil to come up with a load of new songs for maximum effect at the festival, despite having an album less than two months old. In any event, it's hard to imagine what Jean Ritchie's impression was of this one.
Langhorne shifts to his huge Turkish tambourine, Dick plays, Kooper noodles, Mimi alternately taps and plays and they light into an instrumental called Dopico, named after Dick's Cuban friend, Alfredo. Midway, Dick produces a duck call hidden in his right pocket and does an improvised call to all ducks (it pops up right after he's just done lengthy open-string strumming thus allowing him to pick it up, then it closely follows his improvised strumming, and no one but Dick knew what patterns he'd play, so even lacking photo proof, we'd still have him to rights).
Another instrumental follows, as Fariña tells Langhorne to hang on to his weaponry. They launch into another instrumental, "Celebration For A Gray Day", the title track from their first album.
After much applause, the Fariñas rise and wander for a second as Jean Ritchie sits at the front of the stage and asks the audience for questions. Someone points out Dick's left his duck call under his chair. An audience member close to the stage asks the seated Jean Ritchie what Mimi's guitar tuning is, and Jean turns and spots the wandering Fariñas, making a grab for Mimi. "Mimi, don't go away; this is a workshop now, not a concert," and laughs, "Can't escape!" Mimi sits to her right and Ritchie repeats the question about Mimi's tuning -- "Question is, how do you tune your guitar?"
"I don't really know!" says Mimi to much laughter, "It's like a G tuning with one extra doo-dad." The audience member asks just what her doo-dad might be, but suddenly withdraws the question, saying "That's the secret, right?" But Mimi replies, making her guitar more visible for this show-and-tell by turning the guitar upwards and strumming the two bottom strings -- "These two are the same... like the dulcimer."
"Oh, it's a dulcimer tuning -- that's all right!" says Jean.
"It's a dulcimer workshop" points out Dick, standing behind the seated women, hoisting his soggy cup of Narragansett's finest, while his host replies that that makes a guitar tuned like a dulcimer all the more welcome.
Ritchie looks around, then at the audience and notes, "That was really an education for me. I've never heard anything like that before, except on the record," thus disproving the theory that she didn't listen to anything nontraditional, even if she didn't quite grasp what it was.
As a finale for the workshop, Jean Ritchie suggests they all play something together, and suggests "Shady Grove", but then discovers she's not in their tuning and rather than take time retuning, offers to forego playing and stick to singing. Dick quickly responds, "No, no! Not at all!... cuz I don't even know the song! I'll play it on (and gives a duck call)". During the retuning, she looks at Dick's dulcimer and points out, "I'm kinda scared of that instrument he's got - looks dangerous to me - that's the jazziest dulcimer I ever saw!" And indeed it was. The dulcimer, made by Englishman Terry Hennessy in about 1963, was a dark blond dreadnaught compared to any other at the time, made with a Taiwanese spruce top, African walnut fretboard, and mahogany back and sides, and complete with an unheard-of plastic pickguard. As everyone retunes, planes from a local air show scratch the sky overhead. "It's a wargame! They're gonna practice bombing the field!" announces Dick. "They're gonna do it again tomorrow," announces Ritchie. "In case they miss!" adds Dick with a gleeful note.
After several minutes of retuning, chasing people off speaker towers, and buzzes from our shadow forces, "Shady Grove" is successfully learned and performed, and everyone is pleased, excused and starts to wander off like an untended herd of cats.
Dick announces, "See yuh later!" turns and packs up until tomorrow.
© 2002 by Greg Pennell