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Tales of Walt Robertson

Deckman 01 Feb 01 - 08:53 PM
GUEST,georgeaustin@msn.com 02 Feb 01 - 01:20 AM
GUEST,ellenpoly 02 Feb 01 - 06:19 AM
katlaughing 02 Feb 01 - 10:58 AM
Deckman 02 Feb 01 - 11:37 AM
Deckman 02 Feb 01 - 01:22 PM
katlaughing 02 Feb 01 - 01:36 PM
Deckman 02 Feb 01 - 05:56 PM
GUEST,ellenpoly 03 Feb 01 - 06:22 AM
Don Firth 03 Feb 01 - 03:27 PM
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Sandy Paton 03 Feb 01 - 08:34 PM
Deckman 03 Feb 01 - 08:39 PM
katlaughing 03 Feb 01 - 10:35 PM
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katlaughing 05 Feb 01 - 12:29 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 05 Feb 01 - 01:25 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 05 Feb 01 - 01:29 AM
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katlaughing 06 Feb 01 - 01:30 AM
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Subject: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 01 Feb 01 - 08:53 PM

I was 17 when I first met the late Walt Robertson. In he walked, small, skinny, and in charge. He took over the hoot with his powerful voice and guitar. He had a presence like I'd never seen before, and I think he left with the prettiest woman in the house. I watched him over the next 40 years as he traveled the world, and we became friends. He had great success with records, T.V., stage and screen. He taught me many things, many songs, many tales. I know he made friends in many places. I'm curious if any mudcatters would like to share some stories or songs of "WANDERING WALT!" CHEERS, Bob Nelson, Everett, Wa. USA


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,georgeaustin@msn.com
Date: 02 Feb 01 - 01:20 AM

I knew Walt well; he lived at my place for months; and I performed with hime numerous times. One Hell of a singer and musician with a fabulous sense of phrasing and timing-plus a great guy.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,ellenpoly
Date: 02 Feb 01 - 06:19 AM

I knew walt in hawaii,after he had garnered his reputation in the Pacific Northwest,thereby unfortunately missing him as "the dean".He was a dear friend,and I would so appreciate any and all recollections of him during his "pre-hawaiian" days.This was a special man,and deserves to be remembered!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Feb 01 - 10:58 AM

For those os us who are not familair with him, would one of you let us know more background, please?

Thanks,

kat


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 02 Feb 01 - 11:37 AM

Walt was one of the most amazing controllers I've ever witnessed. It was fun watching him take over a hoot. He would arrive late, lurk in the background until he picked his spot, usually next to a beautiful girl. He would wait his moment, then slide into position next to her. He always kept his guitar tuned lower than anyone else. That way no one could play along with him. He usually prepared a new song for every hoot. These songs we called "hoot killers," because after he sang it, we usually just closed up our instruments and slunk away. No one would ever try to follow him, except the girl he chose to sit beside! Like I said, he taught me a lot! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 02 Feb 01 - 01:22 PM

Walt was raised in the Seattle area. About 1953 he won "Horace Heights (sp?) Original Amateur Hour", a nationwide T.V. show. One of his prizes was an audition on Seattle KING T.V. From that he produced and performed a one year weekly live T. V. show called "THE WANDER". From there his career took off, concerts, records, various venues. He recorded at least two records for Folkways, sitting in Moses Asches house for the sessions. These recordings are now available through the Smithsonian. The one record (tape) I have is "The Smithsonian Institution #02330." It's simply titled, "Walt Robertson." I believe another album is titled, "Northwest Ballads." He was well known for his performances of traditional Northwest folk songs. Over the years, he became a successful stage actor, both in the Seattle and the Honolulu areas. He also appeared in bit parts in several motion pictures. Walt died of cancer at his home in Kingston, Washington in 1994. I hope I'm fairly accurate in all this ... if not, I'm sure that Walt will somehow cause my guitar to be out of tune for the next week. CHEERS, Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Feb 01 - 01:36 PM

Thanks very much, Bob. I remember someone saying, hmmm your old pal, Sandy Paton? that you had some tales of your own to tell. This is a great beginning and I found it quite interesting. It's really what the Mudcat is all about!

Thanks,

kat


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 02 Feb 01 - 05:56 PM

Kat, thanks for your comments. I agree, this is what mudcat is all about ... folk music and related issues. I enjoy some of the other threads ... electricity costs, etc, but it's my love of traditional folk music that draws me to mudcat. And Walt was a powerful presence. Everyone who knew or met him knew him to be a force. He played with the best ... Josh White, Leadbelly, Woody, Pete, Jesse Fuller, on and on. I'll be very interested to see how far his influence drifted. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,ellenpoly
Date: 03 Feb 01 - 06:22 AM

even though walt's "folk" days were pretty much over by the time he got to hawaii,i do remember one evening after a production of "macbeth" in which he'd played duncan.while we were having a cast party,walt started playing a guitar that was lyng around..and within a couple of minutes,the entire room had come to a stunned silence.here was a long-time (he's been in hawaii about 5 years by then)friend of ours,who had never before that moment shown us this amazing side of his talents!! it was a moment we would all remember.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Feb 01 - 03:27 PM

Walt Robertson had a profound effect on the entire course of my life.

In 1952 I was attending the University of Washington, majoring in English Literature with vague notions of becoming a writer; but not doing much writing except for class assignments and sometimes not even then. I was keeping steady company with a young woman named Claire. I had never heard of Walt Robertson, but just a week or two before I met her, Claire had heard him play guitar and sing at a party. She became so enthusiastic about folk songs that she took the old George Washburn "Ladies Model" guitar her grandmother had given her and set about learning to play it, so she could accompany the folk songs she was eagerly learning.

I heard that Walt Robertson would be singing an informal concert at The Chalet, a restaurant in the University District where aspiring artists, writers, and musicians gathered. Jazz musicians often got together there on Friday or Saturday nights to jam (since they didn't have a cabaret license, The Chalet would officially close, but the door was left unlocked) . I was an avid opera fan at the time (even took a few voice lessons), but I enjoyed the songs that Claire sang -- especially listening to her sing them. I told her of Walt Robertson's concert and asked her to go with me. Although I was looking forward to hearing the folksinger who had impressed Claire so much, my main purpose was to ingratiate myself with her.

I had no idea that this particular evening was going to be a major turning point in my life.

I am currently writing a "memoir" or series of reminiscences about the folk music "scene" in the Fifties and Sixties as I saw it and remember it. I would like to post what I have written about the first time I saw and heard Walt Robertson. It's fairly lengthy, about 800 words. But with your kind indulgence. . . .

------------------------------------------------------

When Claire and I arrived at The Chalet, the CLOSED sign was on the door. We pushed it open and walked in. A crowd was beginning to gather.

In the kitchen and up by the door the lights were still on, but those in the long, main room had been turned out. The area was illuminated by candlelight. Some of the tables and chairs had been shifted from their accustomed locations. In one corner, a table had been placed diagonally, with a chair facing it. Immediately in front stood a smaller table with a row of four lighted candles on it. It had been reserved as a sort of improvised stage. Claire and I managed to find a table fairly close. Lucky, because the tables were quickly filling up.

After some minutes, a hush fell over the place. Then, a slender young man with dark hair and glasses came out of the back hallway and walked briskly toward the table in the corner. He carried a guitar. A very big guitar. He sat on the edge of the table, propped his feet on the chair, and positioned the guitar in his right leg. Like improvised footlights, the four candles illuminated him from below, casting huge, trembling shadows on the wall behind him.

He took his glasses off, put them on the table, and glanced quickly around the room. His face was thin, almost hawk-like. His eyes were piercing and intense. A half-smile crossed his face. His hands hovered over the strings of the guitar.

Candlelight shimmered along the gleaming steel strings. A concave cut in the guitar's oversized tuning head gave an impression of devil's horns. Two rows of tuning keys resembled shark's teeth. I had never seen a 12-string guitar before. Nor, I think, had anyone else there. It looked downright sinister.

His hands began to move. A strong, pulsing rhythm rang out from that big guitar--deep, insistent, and driving, like the rolling rhythm of a locomotive. His voice, clear and robust, pealed out through the room:

When John Henry was a little baby,
Sittin' on his mammy's knee. . . .

I had never heard that song before. A few of the songs he sang that night, I had heard, on records by Burl Ives or Richard Dyer-Bennet; or they were songs Claire sang or was learning; songs like Lord Randal, The E-ri-e Canal, Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies, and Venezuela. But there were many, many others, like The Midnight Special, High Barbaree, Evil Hearted Man, Bile Them Cabbage Down, The Golden Vanity, Black is the Color, Blow Ye Winds . . . dozens of songs I had never heard. Nor, for that matter, had most of the people there that night.

These days, almost five decades later, John Henry is considered such an old war-horse that it's been banished from the repertoire, and you never hear it sung anymore. The same is true for many of the songs Walt Robertson sang that night.

I had never heard a guitar played like that, either. A few songs along, Walt mentioned that he had just got the 12-string and was still trying to get used to it, but it already seemed to do his bidding. For sea chanteys or chain gang songs, he summoned forth powerful, driving rhythms. For love songs or ballads, the sound he drew from those powerful double strings was gentle, almost like the sound of a harpsichord.

He sang for nearly three hours that evening, weaving tapestries of song and story, evoking ancient images and emotions that seemed to emerge from the Unconscious or from some genetic memory trace: medieval castles looming above cold and misty moors; the suffocating claustrophobia of a coal mine; wind and salt spray on the heaving deck of a whaling ship; the sweat, dust, and boredom of the cattle trail; the roar of cannon, flame and smoke erupting from the gun ports of pirate galleons; the agony of love betrayed, and the joys, both bawdy and profound, of love shared; the gleeful nonsense and fresh wonder of children's songs and rhymes . . . dream visions and antique echoes. And somehow, shadows from within my own soul.

I was enthralled. Spellbound.

* * *

Up to that time I had never seriously considered becoming any kind of a musician. Taking singing lessons was fun; futzing around with the guitar was fun, but . . . now, suddenly, it all took on a whole new dimension.

* * *

One afternoon a few days later, I ran into Walt in The Chalet. We talked for awhile. Then I asked him if he would teach me to play the guitar. He said he didn't really regard himself as a teacher, but he did give lessons once in a while and he would try to show me what he could.

------------------------------------------------------

And that's how I got started.

There is much more I wish to say about Walt. But that's enough for now.

Don Firth

Addendum -- Walt Robertson discography:

The old vinyl records (Folkways library editions) are
American Northwest Ballads, Folkways Records FP 46 (1955 - 10" lp w/notes)
Walt Robertson (in large print) Sings American Folk Songs (in smaller print), Folkways Records FA 2330 (1959 - 12" lp w/notes)
Available through Smithsonian Folkways are
Smithsonian Folkways

Robertson, Walt
- American Northwest Ballads (1955) F-2046 (Cassette, $10.95; CD, $19.95)
- Sings American Folk Songs (1959) F-2330 (Cassette, $10.95; CD, $19.95)

(You can hear snippets of American Northwest Ballads cuts by going to the Smithsonian Folkways website, clicking on the "Liquid Audio" link, locating Walt Robertson on the list, clicking on that, then click on the Liquid Audio icon by whichever one(s) you want to hear. Takes a few seconds to download.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Feb 01 - 03:31 PM

Sorry -- the "close italics" HTML code is there at the end of "Blow Ye Winds," but for some reason it didn't take. Don Firth

Missed one after Evil Hearted Man.
Seems to have done the trick. Great story!
- la joeclone -


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Feb 01 - 06:03 PM

Bless you, la joeclone! Thanks!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 03 Feb 01 - 08:34 PM

That beautiful 12-string was built by Pietro Carbone who had a very tiny little shop called "The Village String Shop" (I think) in the Village (New York, that is). I used to drop in and chat with Pietro regularly. He always invited mt wo stay for dinner, often some of his wife's great lasagna.

Walt told me about getting that guitar. He said Pietro made him play it and sing over it, to be sure he had enough voice to be heard over the voice of the instrument, before he agreed to sell it to him. Knowing Pietro, I have no doubt that he would have told a lesser talent, "No, my friend, that guitar is not for you!" My memory tells me that Walt paid $400 for it, a HUGE sum in those dark ages, and then strapped it on his back and drove across country with it on a motorcycle. The thought of such a risk being taken with that instrument sent chills along my spine!

We all were learning songs from Walt at that time -- good, basic folksongs of America. And Walt had some good old radical songs, too. The kind that worked when we played at the Longshoremen's Union hall for Harry Bridges' boys. I've no idea where Walt had picked them up, but I learned them eagerly. What a lasting influence that man had on many of us!

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 03 Feb 01 - 08:39 PM

Sandy! Do you remember this one?

When the downtrodden masses arise, When the downtrodden masses arise, When the downtrodden masses get up of their asses, Then the downtrodden masses arise.

And don't forget: Harry Polick.

CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 03 Feb 01 - 10:35 PM

Keep this going you phoaks! This is great stuff!!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 04 Feb 01 - 10:00 AM

WALT'S LAST HOOT ... was an amazing event. It happened in late August of 1994, in Everett, Washington. He helped plan it and people came from all over; Oregon, California, Canada and from all around Washington state. We all knew this would be his last hoot and the turnout was phenomenal ... standing room only. His arrival, as usual, was major event. He accompanied by his dear sister Liss and the beautiful Ellen. After an afternoon BBQ, the music started. People had assembled who hadn't been together for years. And the music! My GAWD did the music flow. Song after song, each one better than the last, with Walt laughing and carrying on with the best. Late in the evening, I asked Walt if he remembered "Don't Lie, Buddy, Don't Lie?" No one knew if he could sing a note. He took Gearge's guitar and started. Out came the most amazingly powerful voice, belting out the song. He followed that with two more songs. We were spellbound. He left shortly after that, with two beautiful women of course. He died peacefully at his home three weeks later.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 04 Feb 01 - 11:27 PM

Check the DT for "The Ballad of Harry Pollitt." You'll find a number of differences in the text from the way we all sang it in Seattle, fifty years ago, but the song is there for the learning. What the DT doesn't tell you is that Harry was the head of the English Communist Party, 'way back when. I hadn't remembered that I first learned that one from Walt, but then, there were hundreds of songs inserting themselves into my head at that time, either from Walt or from a guy named Warren Povey. Povey had come west from Dartmouth to study playwriting under Doc Savage at the University of Washington. Bob or Don: do either of you remember him? He had a mess of good songs from Burl Ives and from the Outing Club at Dartmouth. Never pretended to be more than a happy living-room singer, and a darned good one he was, too. He may have gone off to write the great American drama before Walt got back from the army. Sure would like to know where and how he ended up. I liked his approach -- just good, honest, straight-forward singing for fun.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 04 Feb 01 - 11:55 PM

Hi Sandy ... I think I remember him, but I'll bet that Don can do better than I (he usually does in most things.) I can't give you any current information about Warren. I was describing this phenomenon of MUDCAT to my daughter. I compared it to what a transatlantic pigeon race must be like! Someone starts a thread, people comment as they wish, and it all comes dribbling in ... whenever! She tried to explain to me that TIME varies as the world goes around. I can't understand that ... if it's 8:50 here, in Everett Washington (which it is) then it's 8:50 everywhere! PERIOD! THE END. So what the heck are YOU doing up so late! CHEERS and GOOD THOUGHTS, Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 05 Feb 01 - 12:29 AM

This is getting better and better, you guys...keep going and where is Art Thieme? I'll bet he has a tale or two about all of this....kat


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 05 Feb 01 - 01:25 AM

Another Mudcat thread I'm gonna keep whole hog. Such good folks giving their heartfelt remembrances---and noit a trace of B.S. to be found. Simply wonderful.

But it, strangely, leaves me feeling I'm in The Twilight Zone. Being from Chicago in thopse day, I never heard of Walt until I started working at Rose Records on Wabash.(Rose Records called themselves The Worlds's Largest Record Store to the consternation of Sam Goody in New York.)

Now, down the street, also on Wabash, was Kroch's & Bretano's----possibly and actually the worlds largest bookstore then. There was guy working there named Sandy Paton (who I had heard at a Sunday afternoon hoot at the GATE OF HORN folk club right after he and Caroline got back to the Midwest after Scotland etc. Sandy had convinced Kroch's to allow him to put a section of folk LPs in the front of the store. WALT ROBERTSON'S Folkways records were in Sandy's good selection as well as at our store do2 blocks further South 'cause we had EVERYTHING ON EVERY LABEL. (We really did.)

Anyhow, WALT Robertson was one of the few folksoingters whose music I never purchased---and never heard ! It's strange how things happen. I can picture the albums in my mind right now. And I lived on the coast of Oregon for a few years too. Depoe Bay. A beautiful town where Dan Crary hangs out now when not in California. My wife, Carol, and I owned and operated a little folkie music shop called The Folk-Art Shop the year we got married (1967) right on the ocean in Depoe Bay. We went broke there in 1968. Went back to travel the country for the next few years and to base out of Chicago again...

To this day, I've not heard Walt Robertson's music------possibly because, when I looked at the song lists, I already knew all of those songs and that made me less interested somehow.-------But after hearing all of your tales here, I'm gonna search Walt out even if it is too far after the fact. I do wish I'd met him...

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 05 Feb 01 - 01:29 AM

Sorry for the typos folks. It must be late.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Feb 01 - 04:03 PM

Sandy, I'm afraid that I can't say I ever met Warren Povey, at least not that I know of. At the time, I was just learning which way a guitar neck pointed, so I was just a wide-eyed, barefoot pilgrim, overwhelmed by it all. The name sure rings a bell, though.

I've just prepared another one of my tomes, which I will inflict upon the multitudes in a few minutes. I contains the story of the 12-string as Walt told it to me way back when.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Feb 01 - 04:09 PM

Back in the early Fifties, 12-string guitars were pretty rare. As far as I know, none of the better known companies such as Martin and Gibson made them. There just wasn't any demand for them -- until a few years later. Walt, fascinated by the sound of Leadbelly's guitar, went on a quest.

After hearing Walt for the first time, in late '52 or early '53 I began taking my little $9.95 Regal plywood guitar to Walt's apartment for weekly lessons. At the time, he was living in an old firetrap of a house in the University District, which had been divided into small apartments that rented for about $25.00 a month and upwards. Sandy, I'm sure, remembers this place. It was referred to as Cockroach Manor. Lots of really neat (but somewhat less than wealthy) people lived there. It was after one of my lessons that Walt told me how the Carbone 12-string came into existence and how he came by it.

(The following is also in an except from the first draft of the reminiscences I am writing -- and it includes a cautionary tale about drastic temperature changes.)

-----------------------------------------------------------

I was fascinated by Walt's 12-string guitar. Not only did it speak with The Voice of Authority, it was an impressive looking instrument as well.

Walt told me that on a recent trip to New York, he looked up folksinger Susan Reed, who had an antique shop in Greenwich Village. In the course of the conversation, he told her that he was on the lookout for a good 12-string guitar. She directed him to Pietro Carbone at The Village String Shop.

Walt went to The Village String Shop and told Pietro Carbone what he was looking for. He and Carbone talked for quite some time. Then, apparently satisfied, Carbone brought out this extraordinary instrument he had created, and showed it to Walt. It was a 12-string guitar.

Nearby, a classic old mansion was being demolished to make way for a new building. Many famous people, particularly writers, had lived at this old house at one time or another; indeed, some referred to it as "the House of Genius." But now, it had to make way for a new high-rise condominium, office block, or something like that. In the process of demolishing the house, workmen were ripping out all the woodwork -- all this choice old oak, mahogany, and other fine woods -- and they were burning it.

One night Carbone managed to get onto the construction site. He made a careful selection from the piles and stacks of wood destined for the fire. He was especially interested in the door panels. He picked up as much wood as he could carry, and vanished into the night.

From this wood, rescued from the demolition of the House of Genius, Carbone made a singular 12-string guitar.

He handed the guitar to Walt and asked him to play it. And sing. He wanted to see if Walt had a voice that could match this powerful instrument.

While Walt was playing the guitar and singing, someone walked into the shop, listened to Walt for a moment, then insisted on trying the guitar. Walt, having great difficulty unwrapping his hands from the instrument -- this was what he had been looking for -- managed politely to pass it to him.

Walt said that he didn't know who this person was, but he was obviously Somebody. He was all over the fingerboard, doing incredible things, things that even Walt hadn't imagined possible. Walt could almost feel the guitar slipping away. Then the fellow stopped playing, turned to Carbone and said, "I've got to have this! How much is it?"

Carbone shook his head and said, "I'm sorry. It's not for sale."

Disappointed, the fellow departed.

Then Carbone turned to Walt and said, "It's yours."

"But . . . you just told him. . . ."

"That's right. It's not for sale. Not to him. He's a virtuoso on the guitar and the banjo and several other instruments, but his house is full of fine instruments -- instruments that he never plays. If I were to sell this to him, he'd play it for about two weeks, show it off to all his friends, then he'd put it aside and move on to something else. I don't want this guitar sit idle, I want it to be played. I want it to go to someone who will truly appreciate it."

Walt asked Carbone how much he wanted for it. Aware that Walt didn't have much money, Carbone asked him how much he could afford. About all Walt could scrape together at the time was $100.00, knowing that this didn't come anywhere close to what that guitar was worth. Carbone pondered a moment, then said "One twenty-five." Walt winced, but at the same time, agreed. Carbone was practically giving the guitar away, but Walt knew what he was about. He wanted Walt to have it, but he also wanted him to have to work for it hard enough so he would appreciate it. He would have to scramble for the money, but he could do it.

Then, Carbone advised him to insure it for $700.00.

* * *

Walt didn't have the 12-string for very many months before it fell on hard times.

It had snowed in Seattle. Fortunately only a few inches had accumulated, but the weather was crisp and cold. Walt had several errands to run, but he was operating under time constraints. His television show, "The Wanderer," was scheduled in the early evening, and since this was before videotape, he had to be there on time. The show was live.

Walt took the 12-string with him, put it in the back of his car, threw a blanket over it to hide it from sight, and went swiftly on his way. A couple hours later he arrived at KING Broadcasting and, guitar case in hand, sprinted down the hall to the studio. He was a few minutes later than he intended, but still in time for the show.

He took the 12-string out of its case, tuned it, then went to the set. Perching on the stool before the cameras, he heaved a sigh of relief. He still had a few minutes to catch his breath and warm up his fingers before the floor director pointed to him and the red light came on.

Suddenly a sound, like the crack of a .22 caliber pistol, rang through the studio. Everyone jumped. At first, Walt thought a guitar string had snapped. Irksome, but not to worry; there were eleven others, and he could muddle through. But when he glanced down at the guitar, his stomach turned to ice.

A crack ran the entire length of the soundboard.

The guitar had sat for two or three hours in the back of Walt's car in near freezing temperature. A few minutes under the hot television lights and the wood in the guitar began to expand. Much too quickly.

It was one of those ghastly things -- which you realize painfully in retrospect of course -- that you should have seen coming and could have easily avoided. Walt felt sick.

A fellow with a cowboy persona who called himself "Sheriff Tex" had a children's show earlier in the day, and he generally left his guitar in his office or dressing room. Someone made a mad dash down the hall, borrowed Sheriff Tex's guitar, and brought it back to Walt. "The Wanderer" went on the air on time, and somehow Walt managed to get through show.

Walt shipped the guitar back to Pietro Carbone for repairs.

* * *

The Carbone 12-string, despite its powerful sound, turned out to have a delicate disposition. Walt got it back well repaired, but it wasn't long before the neck began to pull up and separate at the heel (guitar anatomy is pretty strange -- the heel is where the neck joins the body). Walt had to have a truss rod placed in the neck to keep it attached and to prevent the neck from bowing. Those twelve steel strings, despite being tuned well below their usual pitch, exerted more tension than the instrument could bear. Walt played it off and on over a couple decades, but it spent a lot of time in one repair shop or another.

-----------------------------------------------------------

As far as I know, the guitar still resides somewhere in Seattle, but it has been worked on by so many repair people, some of whom were not as competent as they claimed to be, that I'm not sure it's still playable. It was very well made, no doubt of that. It was elegantly simple -- almost devoid of inlay and purfling -- and it's size and general lines were imposing -- almost intimidating. But much of its powerful sound and broad dynamic range came from the fact that it was pretty lightly built. And the woods it was made of, since it came from selected pieces of woodwork from an old house, had not been subject to the controlled seasoning of the woods that a luthier usually has stashed away.

It was an amazing and legendary guitar, and during its active life it was played by an amazing and legendary man.

More later.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 05 Feb 01 - 04:12 PM

No discussion of Walt would be complete without telling of his Army days, and how they came about. He was raised a Quaker on Bainbridge Island, across the water from Seattle. As a Quaker, he was granted C.O. status with the draft board. This was in the mid 1950's when Sen. Joe McCarthy was on his anti-Communist terror campaign. McCarthy caused a terrible amount of damage before he was brought down. He caused many people to be ruined for life, to be blacklisted and some suicides. One of his targets was Pete Seeger. (I hope you're reading this Pete, and would like to jump in). Walt sponsored, and hosted, Pete in a concert in Seattle. For the two weeks that Pete was in town, he stayed at Walt's famous houseboat on Lake Union. Shortly after Pete left town, Walt received a letter from the draft board to report for active duty immediatly. He was fortunate (?) enough to be stationed with the 7th Army Repertory Theater Co., based in Germany. While there, he appeared in more than 200 performances in Germany and France. (when you're given a lemon, make lemonade). Walt LOVED the theater and was very successful on stage. He often told me that he really learned his acting skills while in Europe. As for the Communism taint, I've often said it this way: "Of course we sang communist songs ... they had the best music." (but that's another thread for another day) CHEERS, Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: catspaw49
Date: 06 Feb 01 - 01:25 AM

I honestly hope you all have not finished because I know there are others like me simply reading and taking it in. Comment isn't needed unless, like now, when I realized that it was dropping way down the list. Maybe a refresh will involve another reader.....or another story from one of you. Thanks. Spaw


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 06 Feb 01 - 01:30 AM

Me, too, what Spaw said. I feel like a little kid waiting for the next installment..."and, then what happened?"

Thanks! And, Deckman...watch your email tomorrow!:-)

kat


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,ellenpoly
Date: 06 Feb 01 - 07:03 AM

i feel i must add my voice in a plea for MORE!! this is so wonderful for me.and i think i'll share my last,and possible favorite memory of walt with you.his sister Liss and i were taking care of him at the end days,and like most everything else in walts' life,he pretty much knew how many hours left he wanted to have,and how he wanted to spend them. please understand that i don't tell this lightly,but only to underscore the memory of this "lover of life".his last words were.."let's eat,drink and be merry".good advice for the rest of us,eh? please keep up this thread...and thanks...e


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 06 Feb 01 - 01:21 PM

Walt had an incredibly itchy foot. He really earned his knick name, "The Wanderer." Somewhere in the mid 80's, he spent a year living on the beach in Tonga. While there, we wrote constantly. Those letters are a real treasure today. I didn't know until he arrived there, that he didn't expect to return ... he had some serious health issues. While there, he sent the following note to me:

"SING RAUCOUS, SING JOYFUL, SING SAD AND LONELY, SING WORK AND PLAY AND SWEAT AND LOVE. SING RAUNCHY, SING SWEET, SING HARD, SING GENTLY, SING SEA AND SKY AND BUCKING BRONCS. SING QUIET NIGHTS, SING RIVERS AND DAMS, SING CHILDREN ASLEEP AND LOVERS AWAKE, SING BATTLES AND HEROS, BETRAYALS AND FAITH. SING MOUNTAINS AND VALLEYS AND MULES AND SHIPS, SING WARS AND REUNIONS AND FAERY QUEENS, SING BOSSES AND FLEAS AND IMPERTINENT CATS. SING LIFE, MY FRIENDS, SING LIFE. DON'T MOURN FOR ME, SING! AND JOIN IN ON THE CHORUSES.

The first day of Spring following Walt's death, we had a memorial hoot. Bride Judy is a calligrapher, so she lettered this on parchment for everyone and I suspect they are hanging on many walls now. Cheers, Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 Feb 01 - 05:58 PM

Walt was extraordinarily generous to me, as he was to others who shared his enthusiasm for folk music. For several months he gave me guitar lessons, providing me with a good start on the guitar while teaching me lots of songs at the same time. Finally, he said that he felt he had taught me all he could on the guitar. I didn't think so, but he had said initially that he didn't regard himself as a teacher and it may be that he didn't really enjoy teaching (at least on a regular basis) that much.

I had been (and still am, for that matter) an opera fan, and although I had no idea at the time what I was ever going to do with it, I had taken a couple years' lessons from a retired Metropolitan Opera soprano who was teaching in Seattle. I was also an avid fan of Andres Segovia and had it in the back of my mind that along with folk guitar, I would like to learn some classic guitar as well. Although some folk music enthusiasts take a dim view of Richard Dyer-Bennet because of his obvious classical training, with my particular leanings I was learning many songs from his records, and Walt helped me adapt them from Dyer-Bennet's light tenor to my bass-baritone.

Walt was not too enthusiastic about applying classical techniques to folk music, favoring what might be called a more "natural" or "non-technical" approach. Yet, he understood my predilections and, feeling that this might be the best approach for me, he went against his own biases (the mark of a really good teacher!) and recommended that I study with a local classic guitar teacher we knew of. This I soon did.

But there was much I still had to learn from Walt. As young as he was (in 1953 I was 22 and he was 26) he was a consummate performer. I wanted to perform like he did. To be able get up in front of an audience and captivate them with songs and stories the way he could was something I yearned for. We spent many hours leaning over guitars or sitting in restaurants over coffee while he initiated me into the secrets -- things that seasoned performers usually learn by trial-and-error over a period of time, and that some performers never learn.

But he didn't just tell me. He gave me an opportunity to see for myself, and to participate.

The following is another -- briefer -- excerpt from my "reminiscences."

--------------------------------------

It appeared that Walt had taken me under his wing. On a number of occasions when he went somewhere to perform, he asked me if I would like to come along. At first I just observed, such as when he took part in a television special at KING-TV. Walt and Milton Katims, conductor of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra at the time, discussed the relationship between folk music and classical music and the ways in which classical composers made use of folk themes. Walt would sing a few verses of a folk song, then Katims at the piano would give examples of how various composers used the theme.

Then later, as my repertoire of songs grew, he occasionally invited me to perform with him. One notable event was a house concert at the Mercer Island home of one of Seattle's more prominent attorneys. We performed in the large living room in which, in addition to the couple sofas and other furniture, several rows of folding chairs had been set up. Walt had me sit up in front of the audience with him. He did the lion's share of the singing, but in many of his comments about the songs, he included me in the discussion, as if I actually had more knowledge than I did, and he had me sing about half a dozen songs.

This was my introduction to one of my favorite kinds of performances: the small, intimate house concert.

--------------------------------------

This sort of thing happened many times. During these lessons, conversations, performances , and frequent joke-swapping sessions, Walt became, not just my inspiration, my teacher, and my mentor -- he became my friend.

In a future posting, I'll stick in some of the performance secrets I learned from Walt.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 06 Feb 01 - 06:26 PM

Do and Bob: WONDERFUL!!! Please keep 'em coming!! This is such GREAT STUFF!

I NOMINATE THIS FOR THREAD OF THE WEEK!

thanks,

katavidlyreading&waitingeagerly


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Dave Wynn
Date: 06 Feb 01 - 07:25 PM

Should be compulsory reading. Refresh


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 07 Feb 01 - 08:56 AM

Being a successful folksinger and actor, Walt also had to find a way to make a living! He was a very good writer, mostly in the fields of technical writing plus years of newspaper work. One of the funniest stories I remember came from his newspaper days somewhere in Texas. As a new hire, he was assigned the thankless job of writing T.V. movie reviews. To keep his sanity, he started trying to slip the occasional outrageous review past his mostly asleep editor. Walt became clever enough at this that he developed quite a following. Walt had saved scored of these reviews and actually included some of them in his resume. I remember one of his tamer comments. Following the usual three sentence film description, he added this comment, "don't miss it if you can." His last work was five years with the University of Hawaii as the editor of an Agricultural Journal that circulated throughout Micronesia. He used to send me drafts of various articles, including one the various methods of Breadfruit propagation. We had a lot of fun with that one! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Feb 01 - 11:41 AM

This is what keeps me at Mudcat. I truly HOPE that there are many like me who've been reading this every day. Only knew of Walt's name. So glad to read WHO he was.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Feb 01 - 06:47 PM

Bob (the Deckman) has already described how Walt got inducted -- abducted -- into the Army. But he was gone from Seattle and environs for somewhat longer than the usual two years. Most of that time he was in the service of Uncle Sam, but not all.

During that same period, I had occasion to spend the better part of two years in Denver. Most of the time I was there I was pretty busy, but fortunately I had a chance to practice a lot, learn songs, and do some performing on my own. I also had time for contemplation. I made some decisions, turned them into plans, and began to implement them on my return to Seattle.

As we were now into 1957, I wondered where the heck Walt was. He should have been out by now.

On upper University Way, several blocks north of the University District stood a house that was shared by a couple of local folksingers, an actor or two, and a few others of some artistic bent or other. It was a big house, and many historic hoots, parties, orgies, confrontations, jokes, and pagan rites occurred there. Some years ago it was remodeled into an antique shop. (Is there a touch of irony there?)

Returning to my "reminiscences". . . .

------------------------------------------------------------

The telephone rang. It was Bob Clark inviting me to a hoot the following Saturday night at 5611 University Way. This was hardly unusual. But Bob sounded especially intense and enthusiastic.

"This is going to be a good one," he said. "Lots of people are coming. I really hope you can make it. No. You've got to make it."

"Okay, okay," I said, "I'll be there."

This sounds special, I thought. He's really tooted up about it. What has he done, come up with a batch of home brew that won't make your head explode?

I got there fairly early. It quickly became obvious that Bob was right. This was going to be a big one. In addition to the usual crowd, many people arrived whom I hadn't seen since before I went to Denver; some not since before Walt left for the Army.

Hoots here were usually held in the recreation room. The rec room was large; it ran the full width of the back of the house and it boasted a bar. Behind the bar, a door led into the kitchen. When people began migrating from the living room into the rec room, I did a quick survey and picked a spot on the sofa at the north end of the room, with the bar off to my left.

A critical mass of singers had assembled, so out came the instruments and we went through the tuning-up ritual. Once everyone was in tune ("close enough for folk music") the singing started. It was definitely a good hoot. Lots of singers, lots of singing, and lots of enthusiastic people.

After about an hour, it happened.

I was about three verses into a sea chantey and the rest of the room was joining in vigorously on the chorus. Suddenly a familiar voice soared out over mine, singing a high harmony. Everybody's eyes, including mine, swiveled toward the source.

There, standing behind the bar and grinning from ear to ear, was Walt. He had come in through the door from the kitchen.

A yell went up and a few people started to get up and move toward him. He held his hands out for them to stay where they were. We continued the song, Walt and I singing the verses in harmony, everybody else lustily singing along on the chorus. We finished big.

Then, pandemonium broke loose. Walt emerged from behind the bar into a confusion of hugging, backslapping, and hand shaking. After several minutes of everyone trying to talk at once, Walt called out, "Hey, let's all catch up later. Right now, we've got some singin' to do!"

Walt's guitar, the little 6-string Brazilian*, appeared and he sat down on the arm of the couch beside me. (NOTE: Walt's 12-string was once again in the shop for repairs)

"Mis-s-s-ster Firth, sir!" he said, as we exchanged a knuckle-cracking handshake. "Good to see you! Hey, this thing's out of tune. Let me hear your A."

We tuned up together, then Walt called out, "Okay! Let's do it!"

And we did.

Of all the hoots there were, to me this was one of the most memorable. It was marvelous to hear Walt again. Far from getting rusty during the more than two years he was away, he sounded better than he ever had. He sang many songs I'd never heard before. And (wonder of wonders!) I sang some that Walt had never heard before.

There was a whole lot of singing that night.

* * *

During the few weeks after his return, Walt and I got together several times over coffee and caught each other up.

If it's possible for anyone to have a ball in the Army, Walt managed it. He got thoroughly involved with the Seventh Army Repertory Theater Company. He became a stage manager with the company, then got a chance to do some acting. Quite a bit of acting in fact, and he developed a real taste for it. He appeared in over 200 performances of plays such as "My Three Angels" and "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial." (Note: as Bob mentions above, that was a big turning-point in Walt's life)

He also sang a lot. He provided appropriate folk songs as incidental music for a production of "The Rainmaker," then gave several concerts in Germany under the aegis of the United States Information Service. During leaves (or after he got out of the Army, I'm not sure which) he went to Paris where he sang at L'Abbaye, a folk club run by Gordon Heath and Lee Payant, two expatriate American actors turned folksingers. The club was small -- Walt said it seated about forty people -- but crowds lined up outside waiting to get in. Heath and Payant were the main attractions, but many well-known folksingers from the U. S. and the British Isles frequently sang there.

Walt told me about an interesting house rule they had at L'Abbaye. No applause. L'Abbaye, he said, was located on the street level of an apartment building. Shortly after the club opened, the tenants upstairs found themselves treated to -- sometimes blasted out of bed by -- a burst of applause. Every few minutes. Understandably, they expressed their displeasure to Heath and Payant. Sympathetic to their neighbors' plight, the two singer-actors established a house rule: "No applause, please. If you feel like applauding, snap your fingers instead. We can hear it in here, but it won't be so loud that it will disturb our neighbors."

A couple years after Walt told me about this, I noticed that the custom had spread. While singing in coffeehouses, now and then I would spot someone snapping his fingers instead of applauding. As often happens with customs and traditions, the reason it started in the first place was forgotten. Whenever I asked the person if he or she had ever been to Paris, the answer was almost invariably "No." Further questioning revealed that the finger-snapper didn't have a clue as to where or how finger-snapping in lieu of applauding got started. They had seen someone else do it and thought it was "Well, cool. You know. Hip." I still see it from time to time. Recently (four decades later) at a poetry reading I noticed that while the rest of the crowd was applauding, two people sat there snapping their fingers and looking cool. I didn't ask them, but I'll bet the ranch they'd never heard of L'Abbaye.

------------------------------------------------------------

Walt was a master raconteur, and he had many a breath-taking and/or hilarious tale about his adventures and observations while in Europe.

If you'll keep reading it, we'll keep cranking it out. More to come.

Don Firth

*A note for those who may have seen the photo: this is the guitar that Walt is holding on the cover of Walt Robertson Sings American Folk Songs, Folkways Records FA 2330 (dunno about the Smithsonian Folkways cassette or CD -- I haven't seen them). The mustache and beard began to sprout several months later.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 07 Feb 01 - 06:59 PM

I'll keep reading. Many thanks.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 07 Feb 01 - 09:55 PM

This is fantastic and addictive....thank you, again, so much...please continue


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 07 Feb 01 - 09:59 PM

As I mentioned earlier, Walt had a very itchy foot and he constantly scratched it on world travels. I once tried to list all the countries he'd seen and I got writers cramp. Here's a few that I remember: most every state in the Union, Western Europe, Hawaii, Phillipines, Micronesia (he lived in Tonga for a year), The Marshall Islands, Australia, New Zealand, on and on. Another thing I noticed was just how light he traveled. No matter where he was headed, or for how long, he never carried a bag larger than 8" by 8" by 15". Years later, I visited him a couple of times in Hawaii and he taught me the tricks of light travel ... it's an art form! The year that he lived in a native hut on the beach in Tonga proved to be quite a challenge. One of the major industries and source of native income, at that time, was Post Office theft. Because of this, it was nearly impossible to mail him anything of value. I resorted to the 'old hollow book trick.' I glued and cut a large hole inside of a "Hardy Brothers" mystery book. (I still have it). That silly book traveled thousands of miles, back and forth. To Walt it brought goofy stuff like fishhooks, letters written on toilet paper to save weight, snap shots of friends, and the occasional dollar or two. Upon it's return to me, it brought sea shells, notes on toilet paper of very poor quality, and the occasional dollar or two. One of the funnier events happened after he moved to Hawaii in 1984. Honolulu was an incredible mixture of races, cultures and languages. He happened upon a newspaper from Manila. The headline story was a visit from the Archbishop. Let me quote from his letter ... "Just found out who the Archbishop of Manila is: dude by the name of Jaime Sin. His title ...Cardinal -- honest! Always knew there really had to be one somewhere, somehow." Good times, Cheers, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: catspaw49
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 12:03 AM

Again....thanks. And if you feel you're only entertaining a few of us, I suspect others are reading too. We're reaching biographical proportions here and I love it more and more. You both came up on another thread and I'd like (Rick and kat would agree) you both to write a book or two. For now, we'll settle for some more great "tales."

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Idaho 50
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 12:09 AM

As you have read before, Walt was a birthright Quaker and a conscientious objector "abducted" as Bob says into the Army against his will. But he still lodged his protest, because master of rhythm he was--he marched in 5/4 time! This, of course, got everone behind him all mixed up and created wild confusion. When his superiors figured out what was going wrong, they made him march in the last line. Songs of his that haven't been mentioned yet are "There's a hold in my bucket, dear Henry" and "Roll out that little ball of yarn". He was very fond of French songs too and they really sounded French when he sang them (no American accent).


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 12:31 AM

O.K. "IDAHO 50" Who is this? Is this you Liss? I'll bet it is YOU. It is YOU isn't it? Come on now admitt it!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 01:27 AM

I'm thoroughly confused about the dates that are scattered throughout this thread. My last visit to Seattle had to be in 1954. I first left for New York the year of the Army/McCarthy hearings ("Senator, have you no shame?"). I know this because I hiked uptown every day to watch them on the television in a YMCA lobby. Then I spent the next summer in Toledo, Ohio, doing summer stock with the Mad Anthony Players. Hitch-hiked back to Seattle, got the great and embarrassing send-off described in an earlier thread, with Walt providing the major entertainment as a favor. I took the collected donations, gratefully, and hitch-hiked back toward New York. Turned back to Toledo where I'd been told I could actually earn some money singing the old songs I had been singing for fun. That appealed to me more than hauling furniture from a delivery truck up to a fourth floor apartment (hide-a-beds were a hot item that year, and those suckers weigh a ton!)

PERSONAL ASIDE: Mitch Woodbury, Entertainment Editor of the Toledo Blade had told me he could get me some singing jobs any time I felt the urge to turn pro. First he tried to sign me with the Johnny Long Orchestra, doing pop schlock. I said I wanted to sing folksongs. Long said I could do a few of them during the band's breaks. Big money for those days, but "No thanks," says I, heroically, always ready to be a martyr for folk art. So Mitch booked me into the cocktail lounge of the Park Lane Hotel, where I sang four nights a week for six months. Quit the gig when I was invited by a former theater acquaintance to a party in Richmond, Virginia, where Paul Clayton would also be a guest. I wanted to meet him, so I left my heavy gear (books) with a friend and hitch-hiked to Richmond. Nice party. Lots of songs!

Now this had to be 1954, or '55 at the latest. By 1957 I had drifted back to California, met Caroline in Berkeley, kidnapped her from the ranks of respectability, and the two of us hitch-hiked across the country together to go to England and learn more about traditional folksongs. (I wanted to sit at the feet of Ewan MacColl.) Sailed from New York, had our first-born son as a free baby on the National Health in 1958 (let's hear it for socialized medicine!!). Went collecting in Scotland, and returned to the US in the fall of 1958.

Since Walt was back in Seattle in '54, and I saw the big 12-string he got from Carbone (after the army, I'm sure), he must have done his extended hitch before the '57 date Don mentions above. Yet Don clearly knew Walt for a much longer period of time than I did, so -- I am totally bewildered by the conflicting dates.

Senator Joe McCarthy began his purge of the State Department ("I have here in my hand a list of names of Communist subversives in the State Department!" -- actually, he later admitted it was a laundry list, or something of that nature) in 1951. The Washington State Legislature's "Canwell Committee" (a rubber stamp of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee that plagued Hollywood in 1947) went to work in Seattle in 1948, attacking professors at the University and, incidentally, the directors of the Seattle Repertory Playhouse where I was still pretending to be an actor. (Another aside: Lee Payant had been an actor there before my time, but had already gone to Paris and started L'Abbaye by '47, when I arrived on the scene.) Those witch-hunts are another story altogether, but they help to set the dates in my head.

So -- when the hell was Walt in Europe with the Army? When did he get back to Seattle for the big "welcome home" party so beautifully described here? Was he in the army from around '51 to '54, say, when I got to know him? Was the big '57 songswap/celebration honoring his return from one of his other wanderings? And, after all, does it really matter?

Sandy (who is sure that he got married in '57)


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,ellenpoly
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 06:42 AM

boy!some of you guys sure do write your threads in the "wee" hours! but they are so appreciated.walt and i did our first show together in hawaii.it was the musical "carousel",and he played the "starmaker".i remember i was able to endear myself to him by helping to find his "lucky coin"...lucky me. the thing i loved best about him was his honesty.he cut through the crap and you never wondered what he was really thinking.at least,that's how it seemed.it was years before i realized how deep the waters ran with that one. he loved all kinds of motorcycles,though by the time we were together,he was rather tamely tied to a honda scooter,known as the "red devil",or sometimes "the red menace" depending on his mood.when he knew his days were ending,and he was no longer able to ride his trusty steed,he bequeathed it to me,having found out that my own motorcycle had been stolen.i wish i could say i still had it,but this was not to be.i have moved away from the states for now,and left the "devil" with a friend back in honolulu...i'm not quite sure why i'm writing this "thread".it has nothing to do with walt the folk singer,but just walt the lovely,irrascible,brilliant,sly,funny fella i loved...e


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 07:49 AM

You know folks ... this is starting to be FUN! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 08:47 AM

He Ellen ... I remember that lucky coin. He carried it for years. Do you remember the goofy way he carried his money? He never used a wallet. He kept his cash folded very neatly inside of a piece of foreign currency. It was quite large and made of very tough paper. Like I said, he traveled very lightly and enjoyed leaving a small footprint on this earth of ours.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 09:54 AM

A few weeks after Walt died, I received the following letter from Gary Oberbillig. Gary and his beautiful wife Molly, Walt and I had been friends for many years. We used to gather for incredible weekends of music and talk at their home on Hood Canal. Walt often told me that these times made up some of his most pleasant memories. As the letter is long, I'll only post part of it for now. I do so with Gary's permission ... Bob Nelson

"I'll always recall Walt's delight with the infinite color of words and his deft ability to put the "top spin" on a statement. He was one to take dead aim with word choices and pronunciation and could get a little testy when the world fell short. An older neighbor used to come for Sunday breakfasts while Walt was staying out at our place. When our neighbor told us that some relative of his had invested in one of them time share 'cond-moan-iams' Walt shot him a glance of 'this is really rich! Will there be more?

'Good Night Irene' came as a request at Walt's last hoot, both because of the obvious and because Walt always did a great job with it. Those who knew him well grinned at the glint of classic early Walt in: 'well, O.K.., but only if we sing it right ... it's not 'I see you in my dreams' but Leadbelly's 'I gets you in my dreams.' Quite a different proposition, as Walt might say.

Walt had put me straight years before on a line from 'Zebra Dun.' Listen now! It's not the stranger who stopped to 'argue some' ... but the stranger who stopped to 'auger' some ... as in boring holes in wood or in your audience. I chose to sing 'Zebra Dun' as my turn came around at the hoot as a private reference to that conversation. The thought drifted by as I was singing, that probably I was also hearing unrecognized exchanges and confidences to Walt from other singer ... a last 'remember when' from old friends." Gary Oberbillig Nvemember 1994


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 11:07 AM

It's been fun for the rest of us all along, Deckman!! Just marvelous! Thanks, again, and please continue....


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: IvanB
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 03:39 PM

As Spaw says, there are probably many of us reading this without posting. I've been one of them, having opened it every day to see what's been added. This stuff is true Mudcat!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 03:41 PM

Here is the remainder of Gary Oberbilligs letter, dated Nov., 1994 ...

"Walt had an abiding love of secrets ... best of all, in getting your secret and hanging on to his, as the two of us have joked over the years. I'll remember for a long time his look of gratitude, overlaid with just a hint of gloating when toward the last, my wife and I proffered a titillating piece of personal information.

As the time got short, Walt seemed to be purposefully reshaping all of the pigeon holes of his past relationships into one large boisterous aviary of friends. I feel grateful to be one of the flock.

I got hooked on photography a number of years back and Walt obliged as a model with a true friends' indulgence and in the faint hope of photos for his actor's composites. He'd found this old opera topper with a broken spring, somewhere in New England and he used it as a raffish foil for all sorts of character gambits. Generally it was a 'cat-in-the-hat' hat, but for some reason the image seemed more alienated than whimsical when we were shooting that day. I asked him to give me some 'Sam Hall' and some 'damn your eyes.' He certainly did it right."

... Bob Nelson again ... I cannot close this offering without commenting on what a fine writer Gary is, though I know he won't agree with me. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 04:47 PM

"The Marker" ...As you can tell from these contributions to the Walt Robertson story he was a strong personality. As such, many of us who knew and loved him also had occasional dissagreements ... strong personalities are like that. I had a very telling moment just a few weeks before he died. I used to go over to Kingston, Wa. on Sundays to spend some time with him ... time well spent by the way. On this particuliar day, we had something of an argument. I don't know if you know what a marker is, but it's a gambers term for a certain amount of money for a certain purpose. (by this story, I DO NOT mean to infer that Walt was a gambler, as he wasn't, but he knew the value of a marker.) Years ago, one day when Walt was feeling flush, he laid a $100 dollar bill on me. The rules were this: I'm giving you this marker to do as you wish. You can spend it, save it, invest it ... whatever. BUT, whenever I ask for it back, you must give it to me immediately. (kinda like hedging your bets, eh?)

Well that silly $100 floated back and forth between us for years. On this particuliar Sunday, I brought up the subject of that marker ... who owed who and how much? I wasn't really sure, but I had the $100 in my wallet to return it to him. He was VERY CERTAIN, to the point of shouting, that I didn't owe him! So, one of his final gestures to me was a $100 gift ... I think! CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 05:46 PM

Lemme see, now. Chronology. When exactly was Walt in the Army? I can't give the exact dates, but I can come pretty close.

I'm fairly good at relating the chronology of stuff I'm not sure about to things I am sure about. It usually works pretty well, but sometimes I can't pin it down to too precise a date. Usually "near the middle of January '54" or "late spring of '59," sometimes an exact date, but that far back, not too often. I really wish I had kept some sort of diary or journal! Good idea for everyone. Sooner or later, you'll wish you had, believe me.

I first started going with Claire sometime in 1952. Not long after, she and I heard Walt sing at The Chalet, as describe above. He had just got the Carbone 12-string a short time before this. Claire and I parted company in January of '54. She graduated from the U. of W. with a degree in social work; I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up (still am!). So she moved on.

Sometime in early '54, two organizations were formed, the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society and the East 42nd Street Arts Association. The headquarters of both organizations was The Chalet (south side of East 42nd St., half a block off the U. of W. campus, in the basement of Eagleson Hall -- at the time, Eagleson Hall was the U. of W. YM/YWCA, which makes some of what follows kind of ironic), and both organizations were composed of the same people: Ken Prichard and Bob Clark who ran The Chalet, Ric Higlin who headed up the arts end, and Walt Robertson in charge of the folklore end. There were many others, but who all else was involved I can't recall.

The House Un-American Activities Committee was running rampant at the time, trying to stomp perfectly nice people into the ground. Despite HUAC's mighty efforts, copies of The Militant were still being sold on the corner of 15th and East 42nd. But the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society and the East 42nd Street Arts Association were apolitical. Arts and folklore. That was it.

The first big event, sponsored by the two organizations jointly, was the East 42nd Street Arts Festival on Memorial Day weekend, 1954. Art work and crafts were displayed along E. 42nd between University Way and 15th Avenue N. E. during the days (the city closed the street for the event), and concerts were held in the Wesley House auditorium (across 42nd from The Chalet) in the evenings. Gordon Tracie and the Skandia Folk Dance group did their thing one evening, Walt sang a concert the next, and Bill and Marty Holm put on an exhibition of Northwest Indian dances and displayed masks that Bill had carved on the third evening. People came in droves and the festival was a rousing success.

Sandy, as I recall, you hitchhiked back to Seattle in 1954. Summer, I'm pretty sure, sometime after the East 42nd Street Arts Festival. I don't remember exactly how long you were here; several weeks anyway, but maybe more like a couple of months. I remember the big send-off party at the storefront where Donnie Logsdon preached his sermon (see my posting here) was in late summer or early fall. (Related event: I worked in the advertising department of a neighborhood newspaper in the summer of 1954, and this is how I earned enough money to retire my $9.95 Regal guitar for a Martin 00-18. Your farewell bash at the storefront was the first songfest I took it to.)

The next event, a major one, was when Walt Robertson, in the name of the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society, contacted Pete Seeger to see if he would be willing to sing a concert in Seattle. He would. Nobody paid much attention to the fact that HUAC had given Pete a lot of grief (and he, them), nor did most of us care about the political foo-fa-rah -- until later. Pete Seeger was one helluva folksinger and we just wanted to hear him sing! No hidden agenda there.

Pete Seeger arrived in Seattle on Monday, October 4th, 1954 and sang an incredible concert in the Wesley House auditorium on the evening to Tuesday, October 5th, 1954. After the concert, a couple dozen of us, including Walt and Pete, adjourned to Carol Lee Waite's house a block or two south of Wesley House, where we sat around and sang (Pete, too) until four o'clock in the morning.

(Bob the Deckman was right, up above a ways, but he was off on a couple of points [sorry, Bob]. Different 5-string banjo player, different year. In 1954, Pete Seeger stayed with Walt at his apartment in Cockroach Manor, and he was only in town for three days [arrived Monday, 10/4/54, left Wednesday, 10/6/54]. Walt moved to the houseboat down on Lake Union in late '57 or early '58. He arranged a concert for Bob Gibson in 1958 at the big auditorium in Eagleson Hall, and it was Gibson and Dick Rosmini who stayed with him there on his houseboat for two weeks. Not that it matters that much).

It was the immediate aftermath of Pete's concert that makes the mind boggle. Hordes of people who had signed the Pacific Northwest Folklore Society's mailing list called The Chalet and asked -- nay, demanded that their names be removed from the list. The first nationally known folksinger sponsored by the PNWFS had had a run-in with the House Un-American Activities Committee, therefore, the PNWFS and everyone associated with it was suspect and subject to investigation. (What was really un-American here, the activities the committee was investigating, or the committee itself?) Within a day and a half, the mailing list dwindled from several hundred names to about a dozen. Interesting to note that The East 42nd Street Arts Association, comprised of exactly the same people was considered clean! Nor, apparently, was any problem found with the U. of W. YM/YWCA or the Methodist Student Organization, under whose aegis (according to the principles HUAC seemed to operate on) subversive meetings had been held and subversive concerts had been sung.

Who did the Feds come and get? Only Walt, the only registered Conscientious Objector in the organization. The Draft Board didn't say it was because he sponsored a concert for a blacklisted performer; they cobbled up some convoluted chain of reasoning based on the idea that at one time he had worked for Boeing. The fact that he had worked in Boeing's Commercial Airplane Division didn't cut any ice. They maintained that since Boeing also made aircraft for the military, Walt had thereby compromised his integrity as a C. O. The Draft Board swooped down on him like a bunch of buzzards.

He was hauled into the Army sometime early in 1955. He drove the drill instructors absolutely crazy in boot camp by such things as being diabolically ingenious at being incredibly inept (like marching 5/4 and throwing everybody else off!). Tough, the DIs may have been, but they didn't know who they were dealing with! Then he turned his stint in the military to his advantage by getting into the Seventh Army Theater group. Leave it to Walt to fall through the outhouse floor and crawl out with a cherry pie under each arm! They sprang him sometime in 1957 and, shortly thereafter, he manifested himself at the hoot described above.

With the "memoir" or "personal reminiscences" thing I'm writing, I've had to do a lot of checking of whatever documentation I could find, asking people I know who were around back then, and relating things I'm fuzzy about to things I'm sure of. I hope to get it published eventually, complete with photos and maybe some songs, but that may be awhile yet. I've got 85,000 words written so far, and I'm only up to 1959! I've got some serious editing to do, and I don't know what I can cut!

I'm usually pretty sure of my facts and my chronology before I put it out there, and if not sure, I try to put in a caveat ("if I recall correctly" or "to the best of my memory"), but if anybody knows for a fact that I've got something wrong, please let me know.

Next time, I'll be back more specifically to Walt. (I love writing this stuff. I'm having a ball!)

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 07:53 PM

Walt must have told me all about his theater work in the army when he visited us here in Connecticut many years later, otherwise I would have had no way of knowing about it, since I left Seattle in the late summer of 1954 to ride my thumb back to New York, and Walt wasn't hauled into the service until 1955. Between that time and Walt's arrival in Connecticut (which might have been around 1975, I'm not sure) I had no contact with him. I could probably pin down the date of that later visit, since I can remember which of the various churches the Sounding Board coffee house was using when we took him there to sing a guest shot, and Len Domler will remember when they were using that location. I just don't think it's all that critical, since what we are really trying to do here is give folks a sense of the artist and the person we knew, admired, and loved.

Walt had just left some editing/writing job at a newspaper, I think, at that time. My antiquated memory says that it might have been down around Vancouver, Washington, but I'm far from confident of that recollection. He told me that he hadn't been performing much recently, but if he was rusty it didn't show. No one at the Sounding Board had ever heard of him, but they certainly enjoyed his contribution that evening. I wasn't in a position to offer Walt a new recording then (no money!), and he allowed as how he had too little new material to think about making another record at that time. He left for the west coast, and I didn't hear of him again until I was notified of his death by Deckman, who knew that I would want to know. I regretted having to miss the gathering in celebration of his life, and still hope, someday, to take my bride of forty-three years out to introduce her to the wonders of the Pacific Northwest, including many of it's wonderful residents. Someday, that chance will come. Until then, thanks, guys, for everything you did for Walt, and also for all that you did for me.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 08:20 PM

Don and Sandy ... Hey I've got it figured out ... as to why my dates and times were off a bit. Notice that Don uses REAL EVENTS as his benchmarks: festivals, concerts, etc. For myself, I've always used different reference points: "Sue" in Westport, I was 16, she was 15; "Paula" in Highline, I was 17 she was 17, "Nancy" in Seattle, I was 18, she was 23 (that was a benchmark!) Oh well, I think you get my meaning. CHEERS fellas. Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 08:43 PM

Feel like a "fly on the wall". Hope this goes on forever.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 09:21 PM

I feel like Bob, Sandy, ellenpoly and Don are sitting at a nearby table holding this fascinating conversation, while Katlaughing, Spaw, Sinsull, Ivan and I pause over our pints to grin and listen. Another round please, of ale and stories, and I'll raise my glass to that twelve-string troubador Mr Robertson.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 09:48 PM

Well, there was Pat, Mary Anne, Nancy, Diana, Jane, Helen, Gale, another Jane, Carol, Luanne, Tedi --

I'd better quit here. Barbara may read this.

But I take your meaning, Bob. I've always found that reminiscing along those lines tends to muddle my concentration on . . . what was I trying to concentrate on?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 10:06 PM

... you forgot Ellen ... shame on you!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Bill D
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 10:26 PM

........fascinated...been reading for days. Thought I knew at least the names of most of the seminal figures....but Walt escaped me...ah, well,a boy from Wichita didn't get to meet many......


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,bflat
Date: 08 Feb 01 - 11:03 PM

To All, This has been one of the most interesting and pleasurable threads. Just want you to know that I feel enriched by your written recollections.

From another, Ellen


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 09 Feb 01 - 01:06 AM

Keep on a goin' folks.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,ellenpoly
Date: 09 Feb 01 - 07:30 AM

just to let you know that walt kept his "activist" hand in even when he moved to hawaii.we were doing a show together(i was directing,he was acting)called "witness for the prosecution",and were informed by the management that one of our shows was not to be performed for the public,but had been sold to a private group (which turned out to be a fund raiser for a local republican senator). the cast was incensed at not having been told this earlier,and decided to protest.guess whose name was at the top of the list?? the management made the mistake of ignoring our complaint,which led to a threatened stike,led by..guess who? the outcome was a bit of a mexican stand-off.we did the show,but only when we were allowed to put a disclaimer out in front of the theatre saying that the cast and crew did not in any way support this candidate.walt sniffily agreed to perform...but in after-years helped me and various other members of the community whenever "injustice" reared it's head!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 09 Feb 01 - 08:46 AM

I have printed this thread out. Wonder if I will have wonderful tales to tell of the time in New Hampshire when so and so showed up at Barry's. Or the time so and so did a concert on Paltalk long before he or she even dreamed of a career. Now I'll go back to being a fly on the wall. Sorry for the interruption. Please continue. Please?


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,John Hardly
Date: 09 Feb 01 - 09:52 AM

This has been the most enjoyable thread I've read since I found the mudcat. Thanks for taking the time to create it, and thanks, kat, for bringing it to my attention

JH


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Feb 01 - 03:46 PM

About two or three weeks before Bob (Deckman) Nelson started this thread, I posted the following comment on BS: Singing Absent-Mindedly. I though it might be appropriate to re-post it here:

------------------------------------------------------

One place where you don't want to go absent-minded is during a concert, especially if it's a solo gig and you are the one on stage. My friend and mentor from yesteryear, the late Walt Robertson (American Northwest Ballads on Folkways) told me about the time he sang The Fox, the more-or-less standard, Burl Ives version, in front of an audience of about 200 people. He had sung the song umpteen times before and could practically sing it in his sleep, which was sort of the problem. The second verse starts out

He ran 'til he came to a great big pen

and the sixth verse begins

He ran 'til he came to his cozy den

Walt launched into the song, immediately dozed off, then came awake as he was singing "He ran 'til he came to--" and suddenly realized that he didn't know where in the hell he was in the song! He stopped singing, confessed to the audience, and they told him where he was (some of them knew the song), so he picked it up and finished. Fortunately, the audience thought it was pretty funny. "There, I was," Walt told me, "with the words all dangling down-o!"

I pulled a similar one a few years after. I was introducing The Flying Dutchman with a long dissertation on the ferocity of storms off the Cape of Good Hope, details of the legend, and even went so far as to allude to Wagner's opera ("I could tell he was a folksinger, because he talked for ten minutes and then sang for three"). I got so caught up in my own mellifluous verbiage that when I finally got around to singing the song, I played my guitar intro, then sat there with my mouth open. Nothing would come out. I had completely blanked out on the words. Fortunately, here too, the audience saw the humor in it, and I didn't get lynched.

I guess the moral of the story is, if we aren't paying attention, why should anyone else?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 09 Feb 01 - 04:12 PM

Hi Don ... I'll dare to speak for everyone and remind you that you said you would share some of Walt's "performance secrets" with us. He was such a secret person, in so many ways, that you must know that I am looking forward to what he divulged! .. CHEERS, Bob (ain't this fun!)


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 09 Feb 01 - 04:16 PM

By the way, as I posted my last message, I noticed that it came up on the mudcat screen DIRECTLY ABOVE (?) the thread titled "female orgasm by remote controll!" ... words fail me, but I KNOW Walt is enjoying the heck out of this!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 09 Feb 01 - 08:28 PM

LOL...good observation, Bob!! Keep it going guys...this is SO great!!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 09 Feb 01 - 09:03 PM

I have been losing sleep pondering if I should share this next piece of information. It comes from a letter that Walt wrote me on Feb. 1st, 1984. He was living on the beach in Tonga, and I mentioned before, he did not expect to return ... he had serious health problems. He wrote this letter to me at something of a 'low' moment.' I would like to think that the writing of this helped him to rise above it. Here he speaks to the grand times we all had in our hundreds of wonderful hoots. He speaks of those particuliar singers he would like to hear again, and even to which songs he would wish them to sing. I've decided to include this as it speaks not just to Walt and the kind of person he was, but also to the community of wonderful friends he treasured. This was written 10 years BEFORE his death. It's very personal and I will edite it as I wish ... "... songs I'd like to hear ... Bob, La Llorona (surprised?); Don (Firth), "Bonnie Dundee"; George (Austin) "Ramblin' Boy" and "Minstrel Show"; Sally (Ashford) "Who will Sing For me" if she can, if not Bob, will you do it?; Gary (Oberbillig) "Syree Peaks"; Patti (DiLudovico) "Come A Landsman"; Stan (James) "Handsome Cabin Boy"; Richard (Gibbons) "Sully's Pail", Nancy (Quense) "something French"; Larry (Hanks) "Moon Man"; Utah (Phillips) "I Have Led A Good Life" (his version"; Guy (Carawan) "Old Blue" (if guy isn't handy, you do it Bob, Don (Firth) "MacPherson's Lament; ..... let there be plenty of cheap red wine, and let there be a joyful noise. Still let the amenities and courtesies of the old hoots prevail. Honor each other and let the music honor all ..."


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Feb 01 - 09:42 PM

"... let there be plenty of cheap red wine, and let there be a joyful noise. Still let the amenities and courtesies of the old hoots prevail. Honor each other and let the music honor all ..."

Man, that says it. Thanks, Bob, for posting that.

On the performance secrets, I'll be posting that real soon now, as soon as I get it in shape. That may be a couple of days. I've got a heck of a busy weekend coming up, but I'll be checking in often for quick notes, anyway.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 10 Feb 01 - 03:13 PM

REFRESH


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Idaho 50
Date: 10 Feb 01 - 05:04 PM

In the close to five decades we knew Walt,he came and went, lead separate lives in each place, with no connections. It was astonishing to us how some people NEVER KNEW he played guitar at all, much less how masterfully. And others never knew of his newspaper and writing life, etc. He kept his life in separate compartments and was very secretive. It was gratifying to see how well he brought his life together so completely as he came down tothe wire. The barriers were dropping, old angers were resolving, and he brought together people with each other from his many separate lives. We saw a new gentleness and restraint hithertofore uncharacteristic. With an amazing swiftness, he was putting it all together while preparing for his departure from this world.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 12:15 AM

Don't stop, please!? Tell us more.....:-)

Thanks,

kat


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 01:44 AM

Fear not, kat. Too inundated this weekend to write much, but there is definitely more to come. Bless you.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Idaho 50
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 04:05 AM

Kat/katlaughing, Rick, Sinsull and others in the cheering section: what do you want more of? Reminiscences of his music/songs, his style, his personality, his musings or amusings?


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 04:32 AM

Any and all that you feel like writing. You all have such wonderful ways of recounting it; it has all flowed so well, truly an inspiration and definitely one of the best threads we've ever had at the Mudcat!

I don't mean to be pressuring you phoaks and I know you have lives to lead elsewhere, but to us this is precious stuff, to be nurtured, read, and reread, passed on, maybe even aged a bit in a cask of time, to be polished up and reread again to some youngster or our own aged selves as a special memory.

Thank you, thank you...at your pleasure...kat


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 10:07 AM

As you might imagine, after having years of adventures involving Walt, my memory tends to jump to specific images ... like the night he showed up at our apartment driving his 1935 black Packard hearse with actors and actresses hanging out all the windows. That was in 1959 and Don Firth and I were living in the San Francisco area, attempting to make our fame and fortune as folksingers. I don't recall that we made much fortune, but we sure had some famous adventures!

Walt had followed us down to the CITY, fearing he might miss out on something. Our lives were pretty much a mix of little gigs in Sausilito, San Francisco and Berkely, with the occasional college concert somewhere. Walt's main activity was in trying to break into the theater in San Francisco, not an easy task.

On this particuliar night, Walt had somehow scored in invitation to the dressing room of the roadshow of "Westside Story", starring Carol Lawrence. (Walt was very good at scoring ... invitations like this). From this introduction at the dressing room, Walt got himself ("hisself", as he would say) invited to the cast party, and as his hearse was of sufficient size, he filled the car with the most amazing bevy of beauties, of all shapes and sexes. He HAD to swing by our place on the way, mainly I think, to show off his catch. When I think of that night, I still see the image of Walt as he climbed from behind the wheel of his hearse, grinning from ear to ear, with an expression that said, "can you top this!"

Don and I did go to that party. I won't elaborate more, except to say that Walt didn't surface again for three days. (note to Don ... as resident historian, I give you full permmision to correct any details you may wish.)


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 11:41 AM

Hi there Idaho. You're right, we ARE the cheering section. One of the things that make these stories fascinating for me, are that they flesh out a person who appears to have absolutely REFUSED TO BE AVERAGE. That's a difficult road to hoe in any era. Usually it means that you're often broke.....but oh boy, do the rest of the riches flow.

Thanks again to you yarn spinners.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 02:23 PM

Hi Rick ... those are very perceptive observations, and well said. Walt absolutly refused to be average, and he had the most amazing and subtle ways of drawing attention to himself. I've often felt that he viewed life as something of an ongoing contest between himself and the masses. He took frequant and great delight at 'besting' something or someone. Some of his greatest fun came from winning over the 'establishment' or various authorities of different kinds. One small, but very telling story happened when we were fishing, which we often did. We were miles from nowhere in the Cascade mountains. We'd just returned to the truck with a handfull of trout. We were met by two game wardens who asked, politely, so see our fishing licenses. I knew one of them, and showed my license and started visiting with him. Well, NOT WALT! I knew he had a license, but he started giving them a ration I couldn't believe. Finally, to de-fuse what I saw as a nasty situation coming, I teased and joked with Walt until he grudgingly produced his license. As we drove home, I asked him what that was all about? He kinda smiled and said, "Hell, I just wanted them to earn their damned pay!"


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 03:18 PM

Since first reading this thread, I have spent countless hours marvelling at his ability to just GO. And then make it work. The talent would have amounted to nothing without the courage (foolhardiness?) that allowed him to travel on a whim, ease his way into the right situations, and take advantage. Add to it the need and ability to be the center of attention. Just my musings. Does that help Idaho? This thread has struck a chord with me. I hope it never ends. I am learning as much about you and Deckman and Don Firth as I am about Walt Robertson.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 06:58 PM

Hi Sinsull ... Again, I'm impressed with the perceptions. You expressed an interest in Walt's apparent ability to "just go and make it work." Then you mentioned that his talent would have "amounted to nothing without the courage ... that allowed him to travel on a whim, ease into the situation and take advantage." Many of the observations are somewhat true, yet there was always a price.

He had the freedom to pick up and go as he had no binding roots. I won't discuss his marriages or his children, except to say that as "IDAHO 50" implied, at the end of his life he brought these various threads together, and quite successfully. (and admirably I would add.)

Was he courageous? You bet. I remember when he was packing for his year in Tonga. His entire living room floor was strewn with little piles of this and that. I spent a few days helping him return things, dispose of things, organize, etc. During that last week, he slept on the living room floor on a very thin mat. He still had a perfectly good bed in the bedroom, but he was getting ready to travel again and was clearing out his mind as well as his possesions. I drove him to the airport, and he got on the plane carrying a little bag, 8" X 8" x 15", smiling all the way.

He was a survivor like few I've known, and I've known a few. When he first arrived in Honolulu, he spent two and a half years virtually unemployed because of anti white discrimination. During that time, he managed. He sent me 2 or 3 postcards (cheap) every week, and I did so also. I offered him the occasional few dollars, and he always turned it down. I well remember his answer,"I make a poor debtor." (remember now that he and I argued on his deathbed about who owed who the last $100.)

But no matter where he went, or how well preopared he was, he always landed on his feet, independent, proud, and enjoying the hell out of the process. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Sourdough
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 08:34 PM

THis is a marvellous thread!

I didn't even know of this man but the picture that comes through from the main "biographer" and the other illuminations make fascinating reading. The thread is a genre in itself.

Thanks,

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Bill D
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 12:30 AM

it is a very delicate line someone like Walt walks...insisting that he be the 'center' of attention, but making it seem natural and obvious at the same time. I have wondered several times as I read this, if anyone ever called him on his seeming domination of a gathering? I don't doubt he could handle it...but...


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Idaho 50
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 12:59 AM

As noted before in other comments, when Walt went to Tonga his emphysema was quite bad and he fully believed he was going away to die (hence his letter to Bob about the "wake" he wanted). In true Walt style, he just charged it up to the limit on his VISA card and figured he'd never have to pay the bill....


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: catspaw49
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 01:01 AM

Yeah 'Dough.....I agree. Talk about classic Mudcat threads!

I had a friend who believed in immortality and THIS is the immortality he believed in. Bob, Don, Sandy, et al..........thanks........and we can "take some more." We're "tough" listeners.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Idaho 50
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 01:27 AM

Hey, Deckman, perhaps now it can be told. It is no secret that Walt was secretive (double emphasis twice). In a moment of generosity, Walt showed my guitar-playing son some very tricky, incredibly intricate consecutively syncopated sequences--definitely in the category of "trade secrets". He admonished my son, "But whatever you do, don't show Bob--he's forever been trying to figure it out!"


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 03:30 AM

Hey Idaho 50 ... I'm still laughing about Walt teaching Andy the guitar bit, and insisting that he not show me. That's SO CHARACTERISTIC! Like we often said, he never wanted the left hand to know what the right hand was doing! And speaking of playing his cards close to his vest ... do you remember what we had to do to get his best songs away from him in the early years?

I also wanted to comment on Bill D's thought regarding his "seeming domination" of hoots. He wasn't dominating in the sense that he took over and monopolized a gathering, like a brat with bad manners. It was more a case of his presence, singing style and guitar work being so powerful. He was a force. And just when you might suspect that this is going to be one tough act to follow, he'd up and dissapear, usually with the prettiest girl at the hoot, and show up again 2 years later. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 09:13 AM

Any film footage around? Still trying to figure out a man who goes to Tonga to die in a hut on a beach.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,ellenpoly
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 09:19 AM

thanks for helping to fill in the holes! i'm learning so much about this man i thought i knew...one thing i can comment on is that his need to be the center of attention must have waned a fair bit by the time walt came to hawaii.even though he wouldn't turn away from a tussle(verbal,i hasten to add) if it presented itself face on,i often remember him on the sidelines-more the observer than the observed.of course when he took to the stage,you better be able to hold your own,or he'd just shine you into the shadows.but he was not an upstager,,not by then,anyway.he was part of the company effort with the kind of loyalty one dreams of in a friend and fellow worker...ps...i think the competetive element between him and his older cronies was quite amusing to see,as i had the privledge at his last "hoot".it was not my imagination that his menfriends eyed me with that questioning stare,as in..."can i grab the goods while he's looking the other way?" jeeze,you guys played some interesting games among the womenfolk,didn't you???


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 09:40 AM

Why Ellen, shame on you! Whatever do you mean? hee hee. By the way, you described it perfectly when you said that if one was'nt careful "Walt could just shine you into the shadows!" (ever thought of writing seriously... hee hee again) Cheers, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 09:49 AM

Reply to "Sinsull" ... Yes, actually there are several pieces of film around. The best by far was a film in which he starred. It was shot up here in "Squamish", on the Kitsap Pennisula. It was made with the Hollywood School of Film Production, I believe. It consummed his entire Spring and Summer just before he moved to Hawaii. It never made it to the theaters, but was released in video. I have some friends that have a copy of it, I think. I'll contact them and try to get the title and other information. I do remember that the working title was "Lost Point,", but I'm not sure that title survived the process. Whenever Walt wasn't working on the film, he was staying with me. These were the days that we fished a lot. We spent hours in my "little tin boat," as he would say, cussing and discussing the world. Those were some of our best times. Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 10:59 AM

Guest,ellenpoly, "need to be the center of attention" was my take on previous posts. Maybe "ability to be" better describes it. I prefer to melt into the shadows and am fascinated by others' ability to "shine'.

Bob, I would love to track down a copy of the film and share it with anyone interested. See what you can find out. Thanks, Mary


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 04:28 PM


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 04:32 PM

Sorry. Premature e-mouse-ulation!

* * *

Back in the Fifties, the Pacific Northwest's two best known, most prominent folksingers were Ivar Haglund and Walt Robertson.

Ivar Haglund used to have a radio program in the Forties, on which he sang songs of the Pacific Northwest and told stories about the early settlers. It was an amusing, interesting, and informative program and my Dad (who was born on San Juan Island) and I used to listen to him regularly. Ivar was okay. He sounded a bit like Burl Ives on a bad day and he didn't know quite as many guitar chords as Burl Ives did, but he knew a lot of interesting, off-the-wall songs. But by the Fifties he was deep into becoming Seattle's leading seafood restaurateur, and the only singing he did anymore was on TV commercials for his restaurants. He still tried to maintain that he was Seattle's "resident folksinger" despite the fact that he never participated in folk music events in the area, nor would he deign to associate with other folksingers or folk music enthusiasts.

In the Fifties there were several folksingers in the Seattle area, but when it came to actually being out there in front of the public and singing, Walt was the only game in town. And in hoots and songfests, although they were pretty democratic events and everybody got a fair shot at it, there was no doubt as to who was the best of the bunch.

I didn't want to encroach on Walt's territory--

No, that's not true. I did want to encroach on Walt's territory and, in my own way, do what he did. But I wasn't sure I would ever be able to, and I certainly wasn't prepared to try. Yet. But sometimes circumstances conspire, and awkward situations come about.

During the time that Walt was in the Army and subsequently gadding about Europe, I spent the better part of two years in Denver, at the Spears Chiropractic Hospital and Sanitarium undergoing treatment. At the age of two, I had contracted polio. I walked with the aid of a leg-brace and aluminum forearm crutches. My parents sent me off to Spears in the hope that with the right treatment, I might be able to dispense with the brace and crutches, but it's the nature of polio's residual effects that it was not to be.

I spent most of my days at Spears being adjusted, stretched, exercised, hydrotherapized, massaged, and generally run through the ringer. In the evenings there was little to do. I was able to get out and around quite a lot while I was in Denver. But I had brought my guitar (by now, a Martin 00-28-G classic), a stack of guitar technique books, and a stack of songbooks, so I made good use of my spare time. I had a chance to do some singing there, too, for groups of various sizes. Good experience. When I returned to Seattle (still using leg-brace and crutches, but much stronger and healthier), I had a pretty respectable repertoire of songs, a good grasp of the guitar, some confidence about my performing ability, and a firm resolve about what I planned to do.

Reminiscences. . . .

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

A short time after my return from Denver I made a gratifying discovery. Gratifying, but somewhat unsettling. It seemed to entail a responsibility that I wasn't sure I was really prepared to assume.

At the time, Walt had not yet returned from the army. Dick Landberg, Rae Creevey, Bob Clark, Ken Manus, and other folksingers had been around for awhile. Now there were many new people on the scene, including several new singers such as Mike Reedy and Danny Duncan. Yet, it appeared that there was no real leader -- no one who, like Walt, was generally regarded as "The Godfather."

Everyone knew Walt. The newcomers, although they hadn't met him or heard him in person, had certainly heard of him.

And it seems they had also heard of me. Since I had been such a neophyte before I left for Denver, I didn't think I had made that big an impression, so I found this pleasantly surprising. I'm not sure, but my guess is that while I was gone, three people in particular -- Dick Landberg, Janice Tennant, and the Inimitable Wilma -- had bragged me up quite a lot.

After singing at several hoots, I began to notice something. If I picked up my guitar, cleared my throat, or even looked like I was preparing to sing, other singers usually deferred to me. And people requested songs from me the same way they used to request them from Walt. In fact, they were treating me much the same way we had all treated Walt when I first started going to hoots.

That's when it sank in. The person most people now seemed to regard as "The Godfather" was me!

Well . . . that was okay, I guess. I certainly didn't mind that. Not at all!

Before Walt left for the Army and before I went to Denver, most of the songs I knew I had either learned from Walt or had learned from some of the same sources he used, such as Sandburg's American Songbag and Lomax's Folksong U. S. A. Walt rarely came to the smaller, spur-of-the-moment hoots. If he were not there, I sang these songs freely. But when he was there, I usually lapsed into the background, as did most of the other singers. I was very much a beginner, and I knew that people would rather hear Walt sing them. So, for that matter, would I.

Since Walt had taught me most of the songs I sang, and since he often took me along when he did television shows and house concerts, I think a number of hoot-goers began to regard me as Walt's protégé. Then, when Walt left for the Army, the mantle fell to me. In their minds, I guess I had become a sort of "heir apparent."

At the time, I was oblivious to all of this.

Then I went to Denver. I practiced a lot while I was there, returned a much more accomplished performer than when I left -- and returned with a lot of advance notice provided by Wilma, Janice, and Dick. Since I returned some months before Walt did, I had the field pretty much to myself. During those few months, without even attempting to, I seem to have established myself as the big kid on the block.

But now Walt was back. What could have developed into an awkward situation began to show itself.

There we would be, Walt and me, sitting together at a hoot. Someone would call out something like, "Hey, Don, sing Blue Mountain Lake." Or some other song that I had learned from Walt.

This happened again and again.

I don't know if it bothered Walt, but he was cool.

Usually I would say something like, "You ought to hear Walt do that one. After all, I learned it from him."

Then Walt would say, "No, you go ahead. I'd like to hear how you do it."

Sometimes we'd get into an "Alphonse and Gaston" routine until finally someone would interrupt and say, "For cryin' out loud! Will one of you please sing the damned song?"

No problem. It all worked out.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

It is as Bob the Deckman says: "He wasn't dominating in the sense that he took over and monopolized a gathering, like a brat with bad manners. It was more a case of his presence, singing style and guitar work being so powerful. He was a force."

Walt didn't seem to be particularly worried about competition. From early on, he had been giving me hints and tips about such things as how to set up a good program and other aspects of performing for the public, and taking me along and sometimes including me when he performed. After the awkward situation I described above, apparently deciding that I was really serious about performing, he continued discussing aspects of performing with me and taking me, and occasionally others, along when he performed. I remember one concert in particular:

Walt had been asked by Hewitt Jackson of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society to do (I think) a fund-raising concert at the Washington State Museum of History and Industry. Walt asked me and Helen Thompson, a fine young folksinger with a really sweet voice, who had recently arrived in Seattle from Berkeley, to join him (no, Walt wasn't lusting after her, I was). We got together ahead of time, rehearsed a bit, then did it. Walt still did the lion's share of the singing, but it was liberally interspersed with duets and trios, most of it improvised on the spot. We really sounded good together. It was an outrageous concert, and by the time it was over the three of us were just about drunk with applause. Afterwards we talked seriously about forming a trio, but with both Helen and me going to school and Walt's various activities, we couldn't get together frequently enough to make it work. Really too bad.

Next time I'll put on some of the things Walt taught me about performing.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 08:45 PM

And in all of this Don, did you really think we were going to let you get away without answering the most critical question? What happened to the fair Claire?


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Bill D
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 09:04 PM

....the only reason I asked about 'domination' was that in reading this early post back up there:

"Walt was one of the most amazing controllers I've ever witnessed. It was fun watching him take over a hoot. He would arrive late, lurk in the background until he picked his spot, usually next to a beautiful girl. He would wait his moment, then slide into position next to her. He always kept his guitar tuned lower than anyone else. That way no one could play along with him. He usually prepared a new song for every hoot. These songs we called "hoot killers," because after he sang it, we usually just closed up our instruments and slunk away."

it seemed just a little 'excessive'....I do see that he was a much more complex and giving guy than that post seemed to imply, but I suspect shy little me would have been intimidated and grumpy before I appreciated him properly....*big grin*...I do wish I'd met him AFTER I learned the ropes a bit...I envy you all who shared those days


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 11:40 PM

To "Bill D" ... again, I'm amazed at how much you are picking up. I agree, as a 'younger person' no one could match Walt, or even hold his head even. But remember here, you are hearing the continum of some 38 plus years of experiences ... what I was at 15, was not what I was at 63, or whatever. We grow, we change, we reject, we accept, we adapt, and most of all, we choose. We choose that which we want to emulate, to follow, to exemplify. For me, personally, there were many things about Walt I admired, and many things I didn't. You find your heros and you make your choices.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Idaho 50
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 01:02 AM

Some of Walt's songs that personified him he did with all the actor's gusto. "I have been a good boy, wed to peace and study; I shall die an old man, ribald, coarse and bloody". He especially savored the lines: "I have been and good boy and done what was ex-pect-ed, I shall be an old bum, loved but unrespected". Then an example of his many irreverent specialties was "My sweetheart's the mule in the mines, I drive her without rein or lines; on the bunker I sit and I chew and I spit, all over my sweetheart's behind". Then there was "Sam Hall", delivered with venom and a fierce flash in the eye. "My name it is Sam Hall, Sam Hall (repeated 2 or 3 times), I hate you one and all, you're a bunch of b******s all, Goddam your eyes." The words look tame on paper compared to his delivery that really crackled. So it was abundantly clear how much sense of delivery as an actor he possessed.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Idaho 50
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 01:08 AM

The movie Deckman mentions with the working title "No Point" came out under the title "Island Bound". The script and plot however was wanting. It is exactly the same theme as "Milagro Bean Fields War", but unfortunately it had no pizzazz. In fact, as they were filming, and they tried to overcome the inertia of the film, Walt proved to be the best centerpiece and they expanded his part. He has done other live theatre much more successfully (because there he had more to work with).


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 07:00 AM

Over the years, he had many bit parts in several films, including "Officer and a Gentleman." One time when he was staying with me he received a letter forwarded from Hollywood. He flew off and returned with quite a sizable check from residuals that had built up in his name at the actors union office. While he was a good actor, the best stories I remember about his film experiences had to do with the cast parties.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 11:09 AM

My Gawd, this is interesting, and perhaps all the more so because we have a manageable "listening group" in this thread, which has allowed the story tellers to stay focused. When I first joined Mudcat, I envisioned this kind of interaction as the norm. Needless to say, as the site became more popular because of it's friendliness, it started to reflect the images of a "mainstream" community (which is OK, AND inevitable) and discussions like this often focused on mainstream (and commercially successful) artists. To hear about the incredibly full and complex life of someone who I'd only known as a name in a Folkways catalogue, is an unbelievable treat. A couple of thoughts come to mind, however.

There probably were a dozen or so "major" folk communities in North America during the mid fifties through the sixties, but ninety percent of the attention was focused on the New York one. Sing-Out would occasionally mention goings-on in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and even my home of Toronto. Usually when any other area was mentioned it was because ONE person had the right politics and kept the magazine informed. Three or four times a year they'd mention Jenny Wells Vincent, in New Mexico, or Ernie Marrs (in Atlanta?) or Will McLean in Florida. Walt didn't even get that kind of notoriety, so I would have had no way of knowing whether ANYONE played a guitar (Martin or otherwise) in the Pacific Northwest. Hell I barely knew what the Pacific Northwest was!

I'm sure there are thousands more like myself who became well-informed but in a strictly "NEW YORK-CENTRIC" way. Mudcat has occasionaly been quite helpful in that way. On a number of occasions I've bugged Art Theime for "Chicago stories", and have tried to give a picture myself, of the Toronto Folk scene.

It's great to hear about the songs, but to learn about you folks and your friend Walt....well, better late than never!

Thanks again

Rick


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 01:57 PM

Just checking in -- I have a full day today with an important meeting that I have to prepare for this evening, so I don't have time to do much on this thread today, but to answer Sinsull's question about the fair Claire….. I can answer this pretty quickly by doing a little cut-and-paste from my "reminiscences" project.

I actually began playing the guitar a few months before I heard Walt for the first time. Claire got me started.

While visiting her grandmother in the small town of Raymond in southwest Washington, Claire mentioned that she had been learning a lot of folk songs and planned to buy a guitar so she could learn to accompany herself. Claire's grandmother said, "Heaven's child, there's no need for you to buy a guitar. I have one right here in the closet you can have. I haven't played it for years." Until then, Claire didn't know that her grandmother ever played a guitar. Her grandmother went on to say, "I'm sure it's a good one. Your grandfather bought it for me new for fifty dollars." It was a George Washburn "Ladies' Model," made around the turn of the century. Basically it was in pretty good shape for sitting idle in a closet for several decades. The bridge needed to be re-glued and reinforced, but otherwise, it was in excellent condition. With a new set of light gauge strings, the little guitar sang out again, sweet and mellow.

Claire was having so much fun with it that I wandered down to a music store that had dozens of really cheap guitars and plunked down $9.95 on a "Regal" plywood guitar. I was lucky. The neck was straight, the frets were accurately placed, the action was fairly soft, and the tone, although reminiscent of apple-crate, wasn't too bad. Claire taught me G, C, and D7; and Em, Am, and B7. I had a copy of A Treasury of Folk Songs compiled by John and Sylvia Kolb, a paperback bought off a rack in a drugstore for 35 cents (an excellent little collection, long since out of print), so I set to work. A couple months later, I heard about Walt's up-coming concert at The Chalet, which I described above.

Sweet-voiced, tall and slender, with her dark hair flowing over her shoulders, Claire made quite a picture as she sang with her guitar.

Then came the fateful evening in January of 1954.

------------------------------------------------------------------

. . . That was the evening that Claire and I broke up. Or rather, Claire broke up with me. She told me that it had been nice, but. . . .

She was a couple quarters away from getting her degree in Sociology, and she had some fairly definite ideas about where she was going in the near future and she wanted to get on with it. In the meantime, there I was, furrowing my brow, waffling about what I was going to do with my life, and seemingly going off in several different directions at once, all with pretty iffy prospects.

It was a fairly amicable break-up and looking back on it, I can't say that I blame her, but I did feel a bit ill used at the time. But if I felt ill used, the Fates soon avenged me, at least in a small way.

On several occasions Claire had expressed dissatisfaction with her name. She felt it was anything but euphonious.

"Claire Hess!" she would say. "Plunk plunk! I'm going to be sure to marry someone with a last name that's at least two syllables."

This was mildly disturbing to me. "Claire Firth" would not be a great improvement.

Not long after she and I parted company, she married a fellow named Jerry Huff.

* * * But seriously:

Claire was more than just a major factor in my up-close introduction to folk music. When she first began to learn folk songs and teach herself to play the guitar, her enthusiasm and diligence inspired me to try to participate as well. She was helpful and supportive in my first fumbling efforts, which to me at least, didn't seem very encouraging. She provided the encouragement. This, I truly appreciate.

I haven't seen her or heard anything about her since the mid-Fifties. I hope she is happy and doing well. And still singing.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Sorry for the thread creep, but it wouldn't have been right not to give Claire due credit for introducing me real folk songs, sung live and in person, and getting me directly involved in the first place. I am eternally grateful to Claire for this -- and for that fact that had it not been for her, I might never have gone to Walt Robertson's concert at The Chalet.

Don Firth

By tomorrow, definitely. . . .


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 02:00 PM

Great! Left out the HTML code after "excellent." joclone, he-e-e-e-e-elp!!

Don Firth

at your service:-)


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 02:18 PM

One of the funniest stories I remember about Walt happened one day when we were fishing in the mouth of the Snohomish River, right in front of Everett. It had a been a hot August day, no wind, and we were heading into the dock. We were tired and Walt was getting cranky ... as I remember I'd landed a couple of salmon and he hadn't. That ALWAYS made him cranky, especially when I kept holding the fish up so he could admire them. Just as we entered the mouth of the river, I said, "let's give it one more try right here." I shut off the motor and we threw our lines out. In no time, Walt had a big strike. Man was he excited. I pulled in my line and reached for the salmon net. We could tell from the way his pole was acting that whatever it was, it was BIG! Slowly he brought it up, and it was a struggle. Finally, dimly through the water, we could see it. AN HONEST TO GAWD RUBBER BOOT! The classic fishing story, he'd caught a rubber boot! I started laughing so hard I fell over backwards. Finally I looked at Walt's face. He could do a slow burn like no one I'd ever seen before. He said, "NELSON, DON'T YOU DARE SAY A WORD." I pulled the boot in and put it in the fish box. After we docked, I went to get the truck and boat trailor and Walt stayed with the boat. After we got the boat loaded, I couldn't find the boot. I asked Walt about it. He said, "What Goddamned boot?"


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 03:31 PM

Not fair, Deckman! I am sitting at my desk in a very open office laughing out loud.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 04:57 PM

Hi Mudcatters ... This is to tell you that I am stopping my participation of "Tales of Walt Robertson." I started this thread on Feb. 1st. It's been 13 days and any more tales I could share are far too personal. I know you'll respect my wishes.

This experience has been an education, and thanks to the quality of the Mudcat members, it's been very positive. I have NO regrets for having started this thread about Walt. First of all I was very impressed with your interest and obvious respect for the subject. Another aspect was the 'public' bringing together of many friends who knew Walt intimatly: Don, George, Ellen, Sandy, Idaho 50. One private frustration was the knowledge that there are many others who knew him, but they didn't want to participate. I can only respect that.

As you have gathered from these fractured notes, Walt was a pivotal person in our lives. Did I love him ... you bet. Did I occasionally hate him ... you bet. At times we all struggled with the various challenges that happen whenever you choose to bring someone of this power and magnitude into your life.

I really want to thank the Mudcatters who expressed encouragment to me in this process, and it has been a process. Many of you have e-mailed me personally. (by the way, NEVER put your personal e-mail on line. I made that mistake and some jerk is still trying to sell me a newsletter ... Oh well, someday I'll learn!)

Before I started this thread, I communicated with several of the participants. They were very encouraging and wanted me to do it. I asked the question, "what if we give a party and no one comes?" Well, we've had quite a party, and I've enjoyed it. I will continue to monitor this thread for a bit, but I don't expect to add more.

I have a special thanks to Sandy, who interrupted his busy schedule, many times to read my letters and offer his.

Here's a special thanks to my friend Don Firth ... "Get that damned book finished and published ... it's time ... I love you.

CHEERS TO ALL, and as Walt used to say ... "KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON" Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Idaho 50
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 12:16 AM

Walt, being the master of many personalities and accents as an actor, had the most entertaining and varied messages on his answering machine. So much so that it was almost a disappointment to have him actually answer because it made us miss the latest crazy message and persona (he changed them frequently). For instance, he had a Dracula one for Hallowe'en with the proper sinister voice with Transylvanian accent. After the proper opening and set-up, he threatened "I vill come suck your blood" (with delicious empasis on each word) for failure to leave your name and number.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Bartholomew
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 12:32 AM

Deckman - Thanks so much. Same goes to Don Firth, Sandy Paton, Ellen and all the rest who shared in this. I have been so d*mned focused on the political stuff lately that I almost missed this. I would have missed a lot.

Walt Robertson is a name I didn't know before and now won't forget.

Thanks again
Bart


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Tinker
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 12:41 PM

WOW, I just sat and read this from start to finish. Thank You. This is a wonderful read as well as an amazing picture of the ripples (well maybe splashes) one life can make. Kat, thanks for the shamless plug in another thread, I've been scanning to save time and almost missed this...

Tinker


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Peter T.
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 02:10 PM

Not to gripe, but we still haven't really heard WR's playing tips!!!!

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 07:51 PM

Here it is as promised. I hope nobody was expecting a magic formula or something, because I don't think there ain't no sech.

Frequently over coffee somewhere, Walt and I talked about aspects of performance. I learned a lot from him: little things that can make a big difference. He gave me tips and suggestions that were good for concerts, hoots, singing at parties, just about anywhere. They were little bits of business he had figured out that I probably would have had to grub out by myself by trial-and-error, and many of them I may not have learned at all if Walt hadn't shared them with me.

These are not so much rules as they are suggestions, general principles, and observations of what seems to work reliably. None of it is carved in stone. It's just good stuff to keep in the back of your mind when you're putting a program together. The first three are ones that Walt told me early on.

Concert programming (the same general structure for sets, but shorter, of course). Start with a strong, fairly short, attention-grabbing song, preferably one that you're pretty sure most of the audience is not familiar with. Go right into it with no commentary. If it really needs one, do it after, but keep it brief. Then a quieter song, but also fairly short. The third song can be a humorous song or a longer narrative, but save the longer ballads until later in the program. (Word of warning: don't regard that first song as a "throw-away." People who don't know you or have never heard you sing before are just getting used to you -- just "tuning you in," so to speak, and as a result, they may not actually catch all that much of the song. But at the same time, that's your "first impression." Make it a good one.)

Don't sing obvious pairs. If one song seems to remind you strongly of another, probably best to sing something else. Generally, alternate between short and long, fast and slow, funny and serious. Variety.

Avoid singing two songs in a row in the same key. Some singers do several songs in a row -- sometimes a whole concert -- all in the same key. No matter how good the singer is or how interesting the songs are, a certain boredom begins to settle over the audience. They keep hearing the same set of notes over and over again, and that can get -- the word is "monotonous." Don't do it. If the demands of the program you have in mind make it unavoidable, insert a brief commentary between the two songs and while seemingly playing aimless chords as you're talking, modulate through several keys other than the one the last song was in. Then, you can come back to it and go into your next song.

There are other things as well, many of which I learned from Walt, and others that I learned from other performers, either by talking with them or just observing them and figuring out why they did some of the things they did. And there are a few things I doped out by myself. It's kind of a mush, but all I can say is that they've worked pretty well for me. I do know for sure that it was Walt who provided the nucleus, and got me thinking in these terms.

None of these things (with the possible exception of avoiding two songs in a row in the same key without at least a short break between) are carved in stone, of course. Often "rules" are honored in the breach. But having a reliable set of principles to work from is helpful in that when you do deviate from the "rules" or "principles" or whatever you want to call them, you're doing it for a reason and you know what that reason is.

More than once, Walt deviated from the guidelines he gave me. He suggested saving the longer ballads for later in the program, yet, the first time I heard him, he led off the concert with John Henry. That's a relatively long song, and it may not have a Child number, but it's a ballad if I ever heard one. And Richard Dyer-Bennet opened one of the three concerts he did during the Seattle World's Fair with The Golden Vanity. I think that once you've been performing for awhile, you get a feel for when you can get away with it. In the beginning, though, it's a good idea to "stick with the program." Walt's performances, particularly concerts, were carefully planned, but he would "read" and audience and stay flexible. He could lay down a terrific program and make it look as if the whole thing came right off the top of his head.

And as far as "obvious pairs" are concerned, one of my best combinations, and one I got a lot of requests for, was Copper Kettle, modulating immediately, without stopping, into a new key and going directly into a particularly mournful version of Kentucky Moonshiner. Walt did occasional combinations, too. That sort of thing can work really well if you don't overdo it. Kind of a "mini-opera."

There are some absolutes, though. For example, know a song before you add it to your active repertoire. Few things are more pathetic than going to a coffeehouse, a club, or, God forbid, a concert (!) and having to listen to somebody fumble around with a song they don't know yet. They should have done that a home and not wasted their audience's time. When there were just a few of us sitting around and swapping songs, Walt might try out something he was working on, but he never fielded a song in front of an audience that he didn't have down rock-solid.

There was one thing I noticed that Walt didn't explain. In a room full of people, he always managed to get everybody's attention when he wanted it. There might be a half-dozen singers all eager to sing next, but when Walt cleared his throat or merely shifted position slightly and put his hands on his guitar as if he were about to play, all eyes swiveled to him. His control of a room seemed to be effortless. I had noticed this early on, of course, but I assumed that it was because everyone knew him. That was part of it, but not all. The same thing happened even when the people in attendance didn't know who he was and had never heard him before.

How did he do it?

I pondered this for quite a while and it didn't come to me right off. Eventually, I formulated a theory. I put it to the test -- and it worked.

Most rooms have what might be considered a focal point. It depends on the layout of the room and the arrangement of furniture. In a theater, of course, it's the stage; but most living rooms, recreation rooms, or whatever, have one. In times gone by, it was probably near or in front of the fireplace. Each room is unique, but once you get the hang of it, a quick glance is usually all it takes. Apparently there are rules and principles behind this. Indeed, during the Seventies and Eighties, and perhaps still, many Yuppie self-help books came out about the importance of one's location within a suite of offices, one's desk within the office, or one's seat at a conference table. An individual who occupies the focal point can pretty much dominate the rest of the room if he or she so chooses.

If the focal point was already occupied, Walt usually found a way to enhance whatever location he was in. When all the other singers in the room were sitting down, Walt would stand up, put his foot on a chair, and take over, simply by becoming taller than everyone else. I don't know if he did it consciously -- nevertheless, he did it.

Growing out of the ideas that Walt planted in my head early on, I developed a few of my own. Nothing original, really, but I think they are important.

You may feel that being a "folksinger" gives you a lot of leeway, and that's true -- if you are singing by yourself or for a few tolerant friends. But there is a difference between singing at a party or on your front porch and singing for an audience. If people are coming to hear you, especially if they are paying good money for the privilege, you owe them something. If you are singing for -- entertaining -- an audience, you have shifted into the minstrel tradition. You have to prepare like any professional. It was the job of a minstrel (his livelihood depended on it) to give his or her audience a good, professional quality performance. Go for repeat business. The more people you can draw to the marketplace to listen to you and toss a few coppers into your hat, or the longer the Lord of the Castle is willing to house you and feed you for the entertainment you provide, the better off you are. This is an ancient tradition. Give them the best you've got.

Don't feel that this will spoil the fun of "singing for fun," or that the practice it takes to get a song down solidly won't have major rewards later on (I'm not talking financial here, but possibly that, too). Don't feel that you are "going commercial" and won't be able to sing the songs you want to sing in the way you feel they should be sung. That's exactly what you should do. But take the time to learn to do it well. I may be weird, but to me practice is fun. And, believe me, there are few things more rewarding than singing a good song well, then hearing the audience respond with a wave of enthusiastic applause. Talk about getting high!

This kind of thing might make a good subject for a thread. There are lots of performing musicians out there and I think it would be interesting to hear their insights. Just a thought.

* * *

Well . . . it looks like the party's winding down. . . .

In the words of Iris Dement's Our Town,

And you know, the sun's settin' fast
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts

But, then, that's not quite true. There are a lot of good things happening and it looks like they are going to last. The music goes on.

Bob (Deckman) Nelson. I first met him in 1953, when he was still in high school. Take a look at some of the earlier re-runs of the TV show "Boy Meets World." Take Cory Matthews, put glasses on him and stick a guitar in his hands. Bob Nelson, 1953. Truth to tell, he hasn't changed all that much! I love that man, I do. In a lot of ways, he's been like a brother to me. We have to get together far more frequently and see if we can still wheeze out a song or two.

I know about some of the obligations that Bob is under right now and some of the pressures that are on him. Yet, in spite of that, he started this thread and followed through brilliantly, ably aided and abetted by George, Sandy, Ellen, and Idaho 50, giving us insights into a unique (need I say?) individual -- an individual who strongly affected all of our lives. I think this thread has grown into something several degrees of magnitude beyond what we ever imagined. For as long as I knew Walt, and for as well as I knew him, I've learned a lot about him that I didn't know until just these past couple weeks.

I have to get about my business, too, but I do have some closing thoughts -- so I'll be back on at least one more time. Talk to you then.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 07:59 PM

Thank you all. There really is nothing else to say.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Idaho 50
Date: 15 Feb 01 - 01:24 AM

There is a parable about several blind men feeling an elephant and each drawing separate conclusions. The one feeling the tail concluded that it was a rope, the one feeling a leg interpreted it as a tree trunk, and the one feeling the tusk had some other conclusion.

I think Walt with his separate and private lives was such an elephant. That is part of the emjoyment of this tracer that for old friends who each saw a different side, it is a synthesizing process.

For Walt himself, facing the real end of his life, many years after going to Tonga, he synthesized himself.

Fare thee well, Walt.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: katlaughing
Date: 15 Feb 01 - 02:24 AM

Sitting here in incredible awe. Don, you have a superb way with words. Thank you all, once again. This has been magical.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Gervase
Date: 15 Feb 01 - 04:36 AM

Amen to that.
Thank you Don, Deckman, Idaho 50 et al for sharing your memories with such eloquence. Walt Robertson may have been a remarkable man, but he was also blessed with some remarkable friends.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 15 Feb 01 - 04:42 AM

I haven't posted to this thread before as I didn't want to interrupt the flow, but I agree with the other respondents. I hadn't heard of Walt but the stories brought him alive.
I hope Sandy thinks again about his own memoirs -this thread has shown there is an eager audience waiting to lap up similar stories from Rick, Kendall,Sandy, Frank Hamilton, Art and the others with experiences that can enrich the lives of the rest of us.
Many thanks from a non-singing, non-playing, largely non-folkie.
RtS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Sourdough
Date: 15 Feb 01 - 05:04 AM

People often talk about different sorts of tributes to someone they respect and love. This thread is a kind of munument built by the people whose lives Walt Robertson touched so now, in a small way, he has touched mine. The thread is also like music with themes, solos and choruses. The main performers sure sounded good. Thank you.

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Peter T.
Date: 15 Feb 01 - 02:34 PM

Thanks for the wise words. I think I could speak for others and say that while this is a big audience, it would be nice to synthesize some of this into a reminiscence for publication, with pictures, and discography, etc. Not that you aren't busy.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 15 Feb 01 - 02:50 PM

Funny how you guys said Walt was the type to walk into a room and become the immediate center of attention. Seems to me his thread has done the same thing. My guess is he might have liked that.

Thanks to all who joined in


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Idaho 50
Date: 16 Feb 01 - 01:08 AM

To answer you, SINSULL, in your message on Feb. 12, trying to figure out what kind of a person would want to die in a hut on a Tonga beach.... Animals often seek a secluded place to die.... Walt, being a very private person, must have wanted to go be anonymous somewhere.... The truth is he was suffering from emphysema. But in my experience no one ever dies from emphysema. They just suffer immensely from it for an interminable time and eventually die of something else. Years later in that suffering, he was probably wishing for a swifter end. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he ruefully observed, "Be careful what you wish for--you might get it". Actually he learned not to let emphysema restrict him from things he really wanted to do. He still took a role with a dancing routine. He would deftly disappear behind a pillar where he would get a whiff of oxygen and emerge on the next beat on the other side of the pillar and no one was the wiser. Ellen can share more of his extensive theatrical participation in the Hawaii era before his final return to the Northwest like a homing pigeon. Speak up, Ellen.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,ellenpoly
Date: 16 Feb 01 - 07:51 AM

unfortunately,i don't have my own computer here in london,so my time is limited.i have so enjoyed this thread,and would like to continue to add bits and bobs,but i really think the greater part of the story has been told enough in this kind of forum.forgive me,but like deckman,some of my memories are going to be left to myself.it may be selfish,but having come so late into walts' life..i treasure the time we had and need to hold it close.the mourning period isn't quite over...thank you all.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Feb 01 - 08:20 AM

Wet blanket time.

I know this is winding down but...

If it keeps getting added to (and I hope it does), many of us have GREAT difficulty with threads over 100 posts in length.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: catspaw49
Date: 16 Feb 01 - 08:37 AM

I think we have all enjoyed the telling and I'd suggest to Leej that we add this to the Mudcat Classics on the Permathread. Tales of Walt may be over, but the contributions of all here need to go on to other people, other times......including themselves. Many thanks.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 16 Feb 01 - 01:32 PM

I didn't expect to add more, but I have just read the last comments from Idaho 50 and the beautiful Ellen.

Walt was a lifetime smoker. His cigarette, dangling from his mouth, was almost a trademark. I remember early on, when he showed me one of his performers tricks ... perhaps you've seen this. When you change your guitar strings, leave the bottom E string and inch long. Use this as a cigarette holder. I can well remember watching spellbound as as he sang a long ballad, while his cigarette was speared and smoking, on the head of his guitar. He used this theatric to the fullest. It was often a contest to see if he would finish the song before the ash fell ... he never lost!

As Idaho 50 said, he suffered terribly from emphysema. The last few years of his life was an ongoing struggle for breath, although by now he had successfully quit smoking. He had to medicate himself frequantly. And yet throughout this period, he managed to keep working. He also managed, amazingly, to keep performing on stage. And it was as Idaho 50 said, he'd occasionally duck behind a piece of stage scenery so a stage hand could give him a whiff of oxygen. And yes, he could occasionally still belt out a song, but it took a lot out of him. On our last fishing trip together, after he had moved back to the Northwest from Hawaii, I had to piggyback him out of the woods to the truck ... but he was smiling because he'd caught a trout!

I knew Walt was very ill. He called me on a Tuesday. He'd just returned from a Doctor's appointment. He invited himself (hisself, as he used to say) to my home for the weekend, but he laid out the rules: "I'll be there Friday, I want a hoot Saturday, and we'll talk Sunday, BUT ONLY ON SUNDAY." That Sunday he told me that he'd been diagnosed with smokers cancer and it was terminal. (smokers cancer is NOT lung cancer. but cancer of the pancreas). They had done all the tests. The average length of life after the diagnosis is 90 days ... Walt lived 89 days.

One very telling part of this story was that he was very concerned about ME! The previous year, I had lost two very dear friends, one in January and one in September. He knew how it impacted me. So here he was, telling me of his news, and he was concerned about ME! (Again, as he often said ..."shhheeeeez!")

As the final weeks sped by, he did agree to a few treatments, but only in an effort to improve his quality of life. I also know he was concerned about the strain he was causing on friends. During those final weeks, we talked about a lot of stuff ... including the impact of cigarettes. And this is the reason I'm posting this final message.

If you know someone who smokes, try to help them quit.

I can't close this thread without mentioning how fortunate Walt Robertson was to have two very dear and devoted friends move in and help him through the final process ... we should all be so lucky!

CHEERS and BEST WISHES ... Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Feb 01 - 06:30 PM

After Walt returned from Hawaii, he came to Barbara's and my apartment a number of times for dinner, general gab, and sometimes a song or two. Bob, I think you were there some of the times too, such as when he brought the videotape that we all watched. It was of the production of Shadowlands that he was in. He had the major supporting role of C. S. Lewis's irascible Oxford don friend and critic. One evening he came by himself, and that's when he told Barbara and me that he had just recently learned that he had cancer. It was all calm and matter-of-fact, and then we went on to talk of other things. But I felt so damned . . . helpless!

There were a couple of out-of-print books that he had read when he was real young and he wanted to re-read them. Barbara works at the Seattle Public Library and she also knows a lot of used book dealers around town, so he asked her if she would try to find them for him. One of them was the lives and times of archy and mehitabel, which he used to read from with great relish and to the delight and guffaws of whoever was listening. Barbara found both books and got them to him.

After the last hoot at Bob's house, once again we asked Walt if he would like to come to our place for dinner. He said he would, and we set it up for the following weekend. But sometime during the week his sister Liss called and said that Walt sends his apologies, but he was too sick to come. She invited us to come there, but -- well, I've walked with aluminum forearm crutches all my life (every step, a push-up) and in 1990 my shoulders just gave out and I had to take to a wheelchair. Walt's apartment was up a flight of steps and there was no elevator in the building, so that took care of that.

Sometime during those brief few weeks, Bob and I and several other singers got together at George Austin's house. George has some really good recording equipment. We gathered to tape a bunch of songs that Walt wanted to hear us sing. I remember that one of the songs Walt wanted was George singing Before They Close the Minstrel Show, and George closed out the tape with that. (He also sang it at the very end of the memorial Song Circle for John Dwyer. I love the way George sings that song, but now whenever he sings it, I -- and a few other people, I suspect -- can't help but get a bit choked up.)

Then, one morning, Liss called us and told us that Walt was gone.

I had just finished writing the following on my word processor, then accessed Mudcat and opened the thread to cut-and-paste it into the reply window when I read Bob's last post. I felt impelled to add what I have just written above. Now. . . .

This will probably be my last post to this thread (Guest is right -- this is now taking a long time to load). I'll keep checking back, and I'll certainly be around Mudcat, poking my snoot in here and there. But for now, I have to get back to writing the book I'm working on, a few chunks of which (between the dash-lines) are in my posts above. It covers the whole hairy scene in and around Seattle during the Fifties and Sixties, at least from my viewpoint as I moved through it. I shouldn't say the "whole" hairy scene, because Idaho 50's analogy about the elephant also applies here. I'm only one blind man groping my way around the beast. I hope to include a bunch of pictures and a bunch of songs, but first I just hope to get the thing finished. It'll be a while yet. When and if I get it published, I'll post a "Shameless Self-Promotion" note.

I keep nagging Bob Nelson to write it up his experiences too -- our lives have crossed, diverged, and crossed again many times -- but he demurs, saying he doesn't consider himself to be much of a writer and he doesn't have the time. Granted, I'm retired and he isn't yet, but as for his not being much of a writer, I think he let the cat out of the bag in this thread, don't you?

And Sandy. I would hate to put pressure on him because it is a lot of work and it does take time, but he has a wealth of knowledge and experience, he clearly has a way with words, and it is pretty rewarding once you get into it. At least think about it, will you, Sandy? I'd read it avidly, and obviously hordes and multitudes of others would too.

As Rick Fielding has noted above, There probably were a dozen or so "major" folk communities in North America during the mid fifties through the sixties . . . that few people in other parts knew anything about. And on into the Seventies, Eighties, Nineties. . . . That's a big hunk of our heritage. Let's write it up, before it all goes into history's Dumpster!

Special thanks to Rick, kat/katlaughing, Art Thieme, catspaw49, Spot the Dog, IvanB, Sinsull, Lonesome EJ, Bill D, bflat, John Hardly, Sourdough, Bartholomew, Tinker, Peter T., Gervase, Roger the skiffler, and Lonesome EJ who have offered much encouragement, many nice words, and some really insightful comments. You, like the children of Lake Wobegon, are all above average. Way above. And thanks, too, to those who read, but didn't feel impelled to post.

And now. . . .

What all I have learned from Walt Robertson outside of music, both directly and by example (occasionally, I must confess, by negative example -- Walt was human, after all) would be impossible to catalog and measure.

I recently heard a sort of aphorism put forth by one of the self-help gurus who occasionally manifest themselves during PBS pledge breaks -- it may have been Wayne Dyer, but I'm not sure. When I heard it, my immediate response was, "Well, that sounds kind of hokey." But the more I thought about it, the more it resonated with me. I decided, "Yeah, hokey it may be, but that is a pretty good way of looking at things."

"Your life," said the guru, "is like a movie. Have the courage to be the star."

And you might say that that was the key to Walt Robertson. He had the courage to be the star in his own movie.

* * *

Musically speaking: despite the fact that he didn't consider himself to be a teacher, he gave me a good start on the guitar. When he felt he had taught me all he could, I was still begging for more, so he recommended a classic guitar teacher he'd heard of who could teach me what he knew I wanted to learn, even though he, himself, had serious misgivings about applying classic technique to folk song accompaniments. He also taught me a great deal about performing, as I have outlined above.

But there is even more than that:

He taught me that one must not be proprietary about these songs. The whole point was to learn them, sing them, and pass them along. To a singer of folk songs, this is the equivalent of a knight's Code of Chivalry. This became so instilled in me that I was shocked, surprised, and outraged the first time I met a folksinger (up from Berkeley back in the mid-Fifties, spending a summer in Seattle) who, when I expressed an interest in a song he had sung, told me "Why should I teach it to you? Go find your own damned songs!" Others heard him say it, and he couldn't figure out why, from that point on, people around here treated him pretty coldly.

"Slow down!" Walt yelled as I raced through The Fox during a lesson, playing and singing as fast as I could. "Lope, don't gallop. Let people hear the words!"

When I went on to study classic guitar, he taught me that less is more. An accompani-ment should be like a frame for a drawing: it should set it off and enhance it, not overpower it. Technical razzle-dazzle may satisfy the ego, but usually it distracts and detracts from the song.

He showed me that less is more in other ways, too. The way he sang Johnny, I Hardly Knew You. It's very much an anti-war song. In some versions it has several angry, almost strident verses. The DT database gives seven verses, and I have often heard it sung this way -- with great energy, almost quick-march, flogging the audience with its already obvious message. Sometimes the audience (the already converted) responded with shouts, whistles, foot stomp-ing, and roars of applause. All hyped up to rush out and fight for Peace.

The first time I heard this song, it was Walt who sang it. But that was not the way he sang it. Now, Walt certainly knew of all the other verses, but he chose to sing only these four, at a moderate, conversational tempo, almost like a funeral march, but not too slow:

With their guns and drums and drums and guns
Hurroo, hurroo
With their guns and drums and drums and guns
Hurroo, hurroo
With their guns and drums and drums and guns
The enemy nearly slew you
My darling dear, you look so queer.
Johnnie, I hardly knew you.

Where are your legs that use to run
Hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that use to run
Hurroo, hurroo
Where are your legs that use to run
When you ran off to carry a gun?
I fear your dancing days are done.
Johnnie, I hardly knew you.

Where are your eyes that use to smile
Hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that use to smile
Hurroo, hurroo
Where are your eyes that use to smile
When my heart you first beguiled?
How could you run from me and the child?
Johnnie, I hardly knew you.

I'm happy for to see you home
Hurroo, hurroo
I'm happy for to see you home
Hurroo, hurroo
I'm happy for to see you home
But darling dear, you look so wan
So lean in flesh and high in bone.
Johnnie, I hardly knew you.

(American Northwest Ballads, Folkways Records FP 46)

His soft, emotionally restrained delivery paints a simple but graphic picture of intense, personal tragedy. He usually left an audience in a long moment of hushed silence at the end of that song. Message delivered, quietly and without bombast. Power in simplicity.

His talent as an actor came to full flower later, but the actor's insight was there early on. He wouldn't just memorize a song, fiddle out an accompaniment, then haul off and sing it. He would often study a song for a long time. When he finally did sing it, he brought out shadings and nuances that frequently escaped other singers. It was almost uncanny the way Walt could sing an old, familiar song and make you feel like you were hearing it for the first time.

Several times Walt took me with him when he performed, introduced me, and gave me a chance to sing from my small, but growing repertoire. I was not the only one he did this for, either. He inspired me, taught me, and encouraged me, then he rejoiced at my successes when I began performing on local television, in coffeehouses, and in concerts. But in the long run, at least as important to me as the satisfactions and rewards of a "singing career" were the hundreds of hootenan-nies and songfests -- and the feeling of sheer "tickledness" the first time I was able to spring a song on Walt that he had never heard before -- and he asked me to teach it to him.

Beyond his singing, Walt was widely read, very knowledgeable, and possessed a rapier-like wit. He had an almost universal sense of humor, and I consider him one of the world's great raconteurs. He could take an otherwise simple joke and turn it into an epic tale that would leave a roomful of people howling with laughter. He had a real knack with a story, serious or funny. I guess that's part of the minstrel's art.

I owe much of my love for singing to him. There has been, and will always be, a piece of him in every song that I sing.

Someone once said that, whether our names are remembered or not, we find our true immortality in how we affect other people.

Through concerts, hootenannies, or just sitting together of an evening and handing a guitar back and forth, Walt affected many people by passing his love for folk music on to them. His love and enthusiasm was highly contagious. We learned the songs he sang, then we went out and learned more songs, the way he had. And we sang. Some of us sang only at home alone, some sang at parties and hoots, some sang in coffeehouses, clubs, concerts, on television, and anywhere else we could. And from this, others -- many who never even knew Walt -- caught that same fire from us and, in turn, passed it on to still others. It becomes an endless chain.

So, in this very real sense, Walt Robertson has become immortal.

Don Firth

". . . let there be plenty of cheap red wine, and let there be a joyful noise. Still let the amenities and courtesies of the old hoots prevail. Honor each other and let the music honor all. . . ."


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 03:24 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Amos
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 04:44 PM

Amen. Amen. And thank you, all... for a great, geat story and a gift of great measure. I have never seen a human being, contray, lively, fired and flawed and all, so well portrayed in letters. Whew!!!

A


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Alice
Date: 17 Feb 01 - 07:02 PM

This thread is already on Memorable Mudcat Thread links. Great one. Thank you.

Alice


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: rangeroger
Date: 18 Feb 01 - 07:10 PM

Just read this entire thread last night.

WOW

Thank you all and the Mudcat.

Also a refresh as it was about to fall off the bottom.

rr


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Ebbie
Date: 19 Feb 01 - 05:21 AM

What a fascinating story of vivid, vital people. Thank you.

Ebbie


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 19 Feb 01 - 10:27 AM

I am just back from Annamill's gathering. This thread came up in our conversations. Annamill and I agreed that it left us with a certain regret that we were "born too late". The most fascinating part of it for me is how much I have learned about the authors who were trying to tell what they know about a Walt Robertson.

Don't apologize for keeping the more personal moments to yourselves. It would be a betrayal not to.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Feb 01 - 11:57 AM

Sinsull,

Reading your last post (above) about you and Annamill feeling "a certain regret that we were 'born too late'," set me to thinking.

In just about any field, we often hear people, usually older than we are or who have been involved longer than we have, talking about things that happened before we came on the scene. We hear of amazing things and legendary people -- and it can make us feel that we got there too late -- after the Golden Age had waned.

But after reading the "Annamill's gathering 02/17-02/19" thread, particularly your description (posted 20-Feb-01 - 10:45 AM) and some of the other descriptions (I wish I'd been there!), it sounds a lot like some of the bashes we used to have during the Fifties and Sixties. Or more recently, some years ago, the "First Annual Lillawap Folk-Sing and Clam-Bake" (or whatever we called it) weekend at Gary and Molly Oberbillig's place on Hood Canal (unfortunately, it was the only "annual" one -- Gary and Molly now live in Olympia). Or the ones at John Dwyer's place in Marysville before he died a few years ago. Or the get-togethers we still have, such as the song-fests and barbecues at Bob and Judy Nelson's house in Everett or at Alice Lanczos's place here in Seattle (Alice sometimes likes to have them catered, ye gods! It's not that she's wealthy. She just has a slightly [but gloriously] warped sense of style!).

It may very well be that sometime in the future, when new people become involved, they will hear stories of gatherings like the one Annamill just hosted, and of the talents and abilities of the people who were there. And they will hear many other stories of remarkable people who were around, and of wonderful things that happened before they arrived on the scene. . . .

Then, it will be you and Annamill and the others who were at that gathering who may very well be the legendary people.

Just a thought,

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 04 May 02 - 03:38 PM

I never stopped looking and... a copy of "Island Bound" is headed my way. If anyone is interested, I will be happy to send it on once I have had a chance to see it. I love having a reason to refresh this thread.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 05 May 02 - 02:39 AM

HOLY SMOKE ... GOOD GRIEF ... AM I SURPRISED! I would LOVE to have a copy. I've never seen it in it's completeness. I did see some 'previews' of it while it was in production. I had given Walt my work raincoat ... he thought it was 'worn' enough that he could wear it as a fitting costume. I'd like to see my olde raincoat again. I'll mail you privately to make arrangements. Thank you again ... VERY MUCH. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Art Thieme
Date: 05 May 02 - 05:11 PM

Way to go !!!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 06 May 02 - 11:42 AM

Art - I am forwarding the movie to Bob. PM your address to him and he can send it on to you. Anyone else interested?


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 06 May 02 - 12:35 PM

Yep! But I'll check with Bob and see if I can look over his shoulder.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Art Thieme
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 11:46 AM

refresh-------------------'cause this is worth saving!!

How often this entire scenario repeated in different places at diiferent moments and with different folks !!! And they were all just as fantastic. Steinbeck and Ed Rickets (Doc in "Canary Row") in Monterey, CA, Hemingway in Spain and Cuba, Van Ronk & Dylan in N.Y., Wolf, Muddy, Butterfield and Bloomfield and Little Walter in Chi, Kweskin and Baez and Rick VonSchmidt in Harvard Square----maybe some of us in Chicago too; and the other ponds where the folk-fish swam, spawned, sang and spilled their sonic seed on the ground fertile to mnake it fertile. The poverty and the roacy mattresses never mattered and the music we made was all there was that had any importance at all. We didn't choose this. It just happened 'cause it demanded our full attention---and our voices.

The new folks here ought to read this one----and then read it again.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 01:22 PM

Art ... I just read your posting and I want to thank you for it and for refreshing Walt's thread. You said something the really hit me ..."the music we made was all there was that had any impotance." So very, very true, my friend.

I spent increasing amounts of time with Walt during the last years of his life. During one stay with him in Honolulu, he started bequeathing me things. Small items, including many letters, journal entries, etc. While we both knew he was a shortimer, I was puzzled by this. Then he explained that he wanted me to write his biography. I didn't take him seriously at first, then when I realised he was very serious, I freaked out as I've never considered myself any kind of a writer. In fact, the very first piece of serious writing I EVER did was Walt's obituary for Sing Out, and Don Firth and Sandy Paton know how much I sweated writing that!

In retrospect, starting this thread, and contrubuting to it, and drawing others out, probably is my statement to Walt.

Thank you again Art for bringing this up. CHEERS and BEST WISHES ... Bob(deckman)Nelson ((as Walt would say ... "KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON))


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 05:02 PM

Deckman. I am shocked! You have all the material for a great biography about a fascinating man in fascinating times and you think we are going to let you off with a few posts? Shame on you!

Art - this is one I have printed and re-read often especially when some fool tells me that Mudcat is mediocre. Thanks for refreshing it.
SINS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Amos
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 07:17 PM

Art:

You are one mother of a great soul, man! You got the song, words, music, the whole kielbasa.

Thanks for being you.

A


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Art Thieme
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 11:06 PM

I don't understand-----but thanks I guess. I didn't do nothin'...

Art


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 24 Jul 02 - 11:37 PM

Bob,

Proofread your posts! You talked last about your music and it's "impotance." I understood what you meant, but I can never resist a good typo! (Neither could Dad!) Talk about a Freudian slip!

Maggie (chuckling in Fort Worth)


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 25 Jul 02 - 12:00 AM

"LORD LOVE A DUCK", Maggie. That certainly was a slip. I can hear your Dad laughing over that one. Maybe that's why my slip of the fingers happened, so that you and I could have a good chuckle. Nice to see your name. CHEERS and HUGS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 25 Jul 02 - 12:00 PM

My first impulse was to comment on that too, but I thought, we-e-e-e-l-l-l-l. . . .

Thanks for pulling this up again, Art. I reread it and--my gawd I'm long-winded!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 25 Jul 02 - 12:19 PM

Art, Amos suffers from a rare disorder in today's world...he likes people, and feels compelled to voice that affection. I think that was the trigger for his post above, not anything specific that you did. Have patience...although there isn't much hope of Amos recovering from his disorder, there's a slim hope the rest of us might catch it. I understand its fairly painless. :>}


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 25 Jul 02 - 06:47 PM

Don,

No, you're not long-winded. But you do need to direct those words into a BOOK!

Maggie


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Amos
Date: 25 Jul 02 - 07:21 PM

Bob:

If your gonna play that sort of music you should wear a tux when you play. If you're gonna soun' impo'tant, ya should look impo'tant, Ah sez!!!

A


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Amos
Date: 26 Jul 02 - 06:25 PM

Thaks, LEJ -- your scintillating precision of thought and word is impeccable, as always!!

Best of infections to you and yours!! LOL!!

A


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,Masha
Date: 12 Oct 02 - 07:21 PM

I have just arrived at these wonderful Tales Of Walt Robertson. Have I come to heaven? My late husband and I knew and loved Walt also. We knew him starting in the very early 60's in Sacramento. During that time he was living in San Francisco and coming here to perform at a small (tiny) coffee house run by friends and at a small theater that held about 150. I recall two songs that I learned from him in those early days "The Wheel of Fortune" and "Zoom, Zoom, Cuddle and Croon." (I never heard anyone else sing the latter one.) He stayed with us when he was in town . Later on he came and stayed here on his way to and from the northwest.

I have one memory of a particular night after a concert. The three of us were (as I recall) sitting on the floor with a jug of very bad red wine talking about having heard that the Smothers Brothers had written a parody verse or two to "The Streets of Laredo." We took off from there and the laughter and the wine and the verses flowed deep into the night. (I think Deckman can post the song if he has not done so already.)

A postscript to the story is that when Walt left here after that visit he was heading up to Portland and had no place to stay there. We gave him the phone number of good friends of ours up there who would certainly welcome him. Did not hear from Walt or our friends (John and Vivienne Olson) except for a note with an "alternative line for the second to the last verse and a new final verse.

More memories are flooding in. I'll be back.

Marge


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Oct 02 - 07:34 PM

Hi, Marge - good to see you finally got onto Mudcat. You gave me the song years ago, and I posted it in Mudcat here (click) in 1998. That's how Deckman found out you had known Walt. Small world, eh?

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 13 Oct 02 - 03:33 AM

Hi Marge! Hi Joe! Yes indeed, it is a very small world sometimes. Besides meeting Marge through that song Joe posted, Bride Judy and I also renewed our friendship with Mike Nelson (of Pamir House fame), thanks to MUDCAT. After years of disapearance, he surfaced on a MUDCAT posting. Now he is a reguliar at our hoots and our table. Hmmm, a small world indeed. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Stefan Wirz
Date: 01 Jan 03 - 02:13 PM

not one single tale, but one portrait (as man's an eye animal) plus a little more info about the two Folkways LPs of the man, that's the little someone from far Germany can add to this thread: Walt Robertson discography
... and to all 'catters a Happy New Year !!!
Stefan


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 01 Jan 03 - 03:15 PM

Hello Stefan... Merry New Year to you also! I appreciate all your work assembling the list. For years I've heard rumors of an earlier recording that Walt did. It was a 10" LP on the Stinson label. I don't remember hearing it, but I know I've seen it as I can remember that the record was red in color. It would be interesting to see if a copy of this album surfaces! CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 01 Jan 03 - 04:03 PM

Bob, I have two 78 rpm records of Walt, which I bought in 1951 or 52. The first time I ever heard Walt was on these records. Claire had them, and I bought my copies from Campus Music and Gallery before I actually met Walt. The record label is Linden, and both records are red. Red translucent vinyl. The four sides he recorded are Wanderin', Blue Mountain Lake, Life is a Toil, and Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill.

I've never heard of a Stinson recording of Walt (originally "Ashe-Stinson," as in Moses Ashe, founder of Folkways). I did ask Walt once (in the Fifties) how many records he actually had out, and he said that he had one on Folkways (American Northwest Ballads) and the two 78rpm records, which he had done locally. This was before the second Folkways he did in 1959. Next time you're here, I'll show you the Linden records. I'll bet they're what you're thinking of.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 01 Jan 03 - 04:23 PM

AAAAAAwwww Linden schminden! It's all the same to me! (Says Bob, in a cavalier manner) I'm sure you're quite right ... 'course you usually are! And you are probably the one that showed them to me. (well duh!) We'll be seeing you on the 12th, if not sooner. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Cluin
Date: 02 Jan 03 - 12:29 AM

Wow! I read the first post and then got a beer and sat back down to scan through this great thread. The beer was gone a long time ago but I was too hooked on reading here to get another.

Thanks for dusting this one off. Made me feel both priviledged and jealous at the same time.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Aug 03 - 11:42 PM

Good Read - its been awhile


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 15 Aug 03 - 10:56 PM

I started this story about Walt Robertson on Febuary 1st, 2001. It continued until January 3, of this year. When I saw that "Guest" has re-introduced it gain, I read it through. "Guest" is correct ... it is a good read. I thought about adding more to the story, but I told myself "no." It was put down very well the first time around. And yet, I have to add another thought: A week doesn't go by but what I don't have a new/old memory or two pop up. And, more than that, I am very much in touch with all the wonderful folks that did contribute to this thread. In fact, this coming Sunday, several of us are gathering for an afternoon of dinner, conversation and music. And I'm quite certain that several "Waltisms" will occur! Also, this thread was my first contribution to MUDCAT. The encouragements I received during the process made me a committed member. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Amos
Date: 15 Aug 03 - 11:11 PM

And cheers to you, Bob -- the encouragemnent was well-deserved!

A


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 08:50 PM

His LP just showed up on Ebay. Look here:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2552027717&category=1075


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 10:15 PM

Looks like 11 Mudcatters (as of my look just now) have visited the Ebay site. Don't bid against each other--collude here to keep the price down!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 10:28 PM

I just looked at the album cover as displayed. That's a PHONEY cover. I don't know what it means, but that is NOT the original album cover.

Don Firth ... check me out! Bob Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 10:42 PM

I think I have some of his albums here. I'll take a look, too.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Aug 03 - 01:08 PM

I just checked a couple of things.

The album offered on eBay is probably genuine. The original release of Walt's American Northwest Ballads was a 10" LP. In the picture on eBay, you can see part of the cover of the enclosed booklet laying flat in front. The layout of the first page of the booklet and of the cover of the original release album are the same, except that the album cover is blue (I have it right here in front of me). No photograph on it. However, I believe that Folkways re-released the album later as a 12" LP (same songs) with a new cover. I think the one on eBay is the re-release.

If you are a speculator who is into collecting old vinyl records, then you may want to take a chance and go for this. Personally, I have a lot of old vinyl records, but I'm not a record collector in the sense that I just like to have the record—the physical object—on my shelves with the object of selling it later and using the proceeds to retire to the Riviera. I want what's on the record. To listen to. And I don't care what the format is as long as I can play it on something (I find CDs very convenient and they don't take up as much space as vinyl records). But choose your own poison.

If you are interested in the record to play—to listen to Walt singing the songs—then be aware that Walt's American Northwest Ballads is available on CD from Smithsonian-Folkways HERE, and you don't have to bid for it. In fact, the CD's price is $19.95, four cents less than the eBay opening bid of $19.99. If you prefer it on cassette, you can get it for $10.95.

I don't know who this person is, but they seem to have quite a collection of folk music records (I clicked on "View seller's other items"). I think it's all for real. But I've found that if I spot something on eBay that interests me, I always check other sources. I find that more often than not, I can buy the item outright somewhere else, new, often for less than the opening bid, I don't have to go through the bidding process, and usually shipping is less expensive.

Caveat emptor!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Cluin
Date: 28 Jan 04 - 05:13 PM

Saw a couple of older threads refreshed. This is the best one I've read here. Worth a look by any newer members and a refresher by older ones. Threads like this one would keep me coming back.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 05:09 PM

Walt Robertson continues to have an impact in my life. I've been house bound for the last couple of months, which has given me time to go through many boxes of stuff and many books and notes. I've been wondering where to place, as a final repository, some of these items. Any suggestions will be very welcomed. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 30 Jan 04 - 06:26 PM

Bob, I'll email you from home later. I've talked to a couple of folks about this same thing. I'm glad to see you're sorting through that stuff. Those same kind of boxes (with Dad's stuff) have made it out of the storage lockers and out of the garage and are in my front room. They're as close as they have ever been to being sorted through. I just need to put up some shelves to house the contents once I open the boxes.

So, are you finding any gems in there?

Maggie


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 31 Jan 04 - 06:28 PM

There are books to be written, guys. Get busy.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 02 Sep 04 - 09:51 AM

This thread just turned up as a Random Link at the top of the Mudcat Forum Page. How nice to be able to give it a boost back to the top. Enjoy!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 02 Sep 04 - 11:44 AM

This thread is my favorite. Met my good buddy Deckman and his "bride Judy" through it. Wish I could have met Walt or at least been a fly on the wall when he showed up at a song circle.

Also makes me not take for granted the wonderful people I have had the pleasure and privilege to see and hear. Once again - Thank You Max.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 16 Sep 04 - 03:27 PM

I'm refreshing this thread to post a link to Don Firth's story in the Pete Seeger's Last Concert discussion. (It's the researcher in me, to do the cross-linking).

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 17 Apr 05 - 06:55 PM

I started this thread about the "Tales of Walt Robertson" back on Feb. first, 2001. It was last activated by Stilly River Sage (Maggie) on September of 2004. I have recently, within the last ten days, been in contact with several of Walt's family members. None of them knew of this telling of Walt's tale.

I'm activating this thread again in the hopes that it will make it easier for them to contribute to the telling of the tale! CHEERS Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Apr 05 - 04:40 PM


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 18 Apr 05 - 10:59 PM

Thanks, Bob! I heard from his step-daughter a couple of weeks ago and suggested she get in touch with you. I'm glad she did. Any new stories to add to this thread?

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,Jeff Place
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 01:31 PM

Hi Folks: Jeff Place from Smithsonian Folkways here. I have been trying to find out info on Walt Robertson and stumbled on this thread. Hopefully people are still reading it.

As you know we have two albums on Folkways of Walt. We currently have no address for any next of kin/estate etc.. Last address we had was in Hawaii. We have a little bit of money for the family if someone can tell me how to get hold of them. I'm at jeff@folkways.si.edu.

I am also working on a collection of railroad songs for the Smithsonian and would like to use Walt's rendition of Railroad Bill. I was looking through old Victory Reviews looking for an obit to get biographical info, I believe I read above that he died in 1994? In the liner notes I want to say a bit about who Walt was.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 01:59 PM

To: Jeff Place,

I'm Bob Nelson and I live in Everett, Washington. I am in touch with all of his family. I will PM you in a few hours to answer inquiry.

By the way, thank you in advance for being so ethical in your attempts to get proper money to the surviving family members. This speaks well of you!

CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson (Amos ... thank you muchly for alerting me to this message ... MUDCAT STRIKES AGAIN)!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,Jeff Place
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 02:46 PM

Thank you Bob.

The new CD with the track by Walt should be out at the beginning of 2006.- Jeff

BTW- Those that are interested can now get Walt's Folkways Recordngs as downloads on MSN music (matter of fact Seattle's Jon Kerzer arranged it), EMusic and the Smithsonian's Global Sound Site. Thanks again.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Amos
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 03:39 PM

Bob:

You're more than welcome, least I could do. Suggest you use his email though-- I don't think Jeff has a user handle here.

A


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,SINSULL
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 04:17 PM

I love it when this thread comes to the top. Always hoping for some more tidbits.
And now a CD! Neat!
And money too!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 05:13 PM

Sins, I had a nice long phone conversation with Walt's sister a couple of months ago. She's doing well and lives in Oregon. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Aug 05 - 10:21 PM

Bob and Don,

I've just finished reading the whole of this thread, prompted by a short discussion we had at Stewart's last Sunday night. Thank you so much.

Only contact I ever had with Walt was finding and checking out his American Northwest Ballads from the Multnomah County (Portland west) Library in about 1956. I have always rememebered the songs and the way he sang them. I'll get the update from Smithsonian soon.

Reading the thread has given me the feeling that I spent much of my life just down the block or around the corner from the events described.

" I have never cut throats, even when I yearned to.
Never sang a dirty song that my fancy tuned to..."

I had forgotten where I first encountered some of the songs unitl I came across this thread. Again, thanks.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 27 Aug 05 - 12:09 AM

Wonderful news all around!


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 27 Aug 05 - 01:17 PM

Unfortunately, when Mudcat had its major crash a few months ago, the order of the posts in this thread got scrambled (same thing happened on a whole bunch of other threads as well), so it can be a bit confusing to read. Responses to questions or comments often come before the comment or question. If someone is getting bewildered, check the time and date of the post.

It would be nice if this and some other threads could be rescrambled into the correct sequence, but that would probably be a pretty monumental chore.

Glad to see this is up and around again, though.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 28 Aug 05 - 10:33 AM

Jeff,

This is being Sunday morning here on the west coast. As I know that you're on the east coast, it's probably Wednesday by now. In a couple of hours, I'll be able to PM you some of the information you requested. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,Jeff Place
Date: 28 Aug 05 - 11:28 AM

Hi Bob: I'm afraid I'm not exactly sure what "PM" means, I'm not on the Mudcat network.-JP


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 28 Aug 05 - 11:34 AM

Jeff: "PM" stands for "private mail." In other words, I'll use your private e-mail box to get some stuff to you.

You might consider joining MC as a member. It is totally free and doesn't take long to establish a membership. This will allow you several things: yet another method of P.M.ing other members; access to all the incredible data base; ability to use the open chat line, etc; access to member backgrounds including bio's and pictures.

Consider it.

By the way, I think I'll need your FAX number to send you some of the information you need. Don't post it here on-line. I'll talk to you privatly soon. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Aug 05 - 03:11 PM

Jeff...all membership is, is a cookie whick allows you to use extra feature that require 'identifying' you.....private messages...etc...link at top of page tells you how.

If you can't do it at work, perhaps at home.


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Subject: The Walt Robertson I Knew (Part 1)-Bob Nelson
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Jun 06 - 09:49 PM

Deckman wrote quite an impressive article about Walt Robertson. You'll find it online at Victory Review Acoustic Music Magazine (click) - the first installment is in the June 2006 issue. - but Deckman gave me permission to post it here.
-Joe-

Musical Traditions

The Walt Robertson I Knew (Part 1)

by Bob Nelson

Walt Robertson (1928-1994) was known as the ‘Dean of Northwest Folk Singers.’ His impact on the Northwest folk scene was immense and spanned nearly 50 years. Starting in the early 1950s with his television show The Wanderer on KING-TV, Robertson introduced folk music to an entire generation of followers.
I met Robertson in Seattle when I was 16 and he was 25. Little did I suspect that he and I would become lifelong friends. It was not a smooth journey as we both had lots of rough edges, which needed softening. In the 12 years since his passing I realize just how much I learned from this man.
It was always amazing to watch Robertson take over a ‘hoot’ (hootenanny, first used in Seattle for a folk song session). He would arrive late, hang in the background to pick his spot, sit down next to a pretty girl, strike a chord on his guitar, throw back his head...and the performance was on!
To understand the impact Robertson had on Seattle, you have to understand what Seattle was like in the early ‘50s. We were still just a friendly community of neighborhoods. World War II, with all its deprivations, had recently ended. The air was full of promise and hope. Jobs and growth were everywhere. And Seattle nightlife was exploding. Supper clubs, after-hours clubs, coffee houses and new restaurants were beginning to appear. All these places needed entertainment and we were the folksingers to provide it.
Folk music was in. By the late ‘50s we were all performing around town. If it wasn’t at this coffee house, it was at that college concert. While we competed for these gigs, we were also fast friends. And we hung out together at hoots.
These hoots became legend. They were invitation-only gatherings, usually in someone’s living room. It was here we practiced our best songs and performing skills. They often started well after midnight on a Saturday night, after we finished our earlier club dates. We let our hair down and sang our best songs for our best friends. Then we would often all go to breakfast together as the sun came up. It was during those days that I often found myself studying Robertson, trying to understand just what made him so magical.
It certainly wasn’t his appearance. He was a small man, thin and kind of frail looking. He was more striking than handsome. But it was the look in his eyes and his powerful voice that grabbed you. He certainly had a presence. And time and again I noticed many of his performing tricks. He would keep his guitar tuned a little lower than standard pitch to prevent other guitars from playing along. If he wanted you to join with him, he’d let you know. He had impeccable diction. And he was dramatic. When he sang “Rich Gal, Poor Gal,” you knew exactly who was his favorite...’My gal!’
In 1959 I had many chances to watch him perform in the San Francisco area. One night he joined Jesse Fuller on stage at The Blind Lemon. It was a fascinating performance that clearly showed his past acquaintance with the likes of Josh White, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and many other giants of the day.
It was during the late ‘60s and through the ‘70s that Robertson came into his own as a stage and film actor. Seattle had developed a vital and active legitimate theater scene. He starred in many roles and I could see just how seriously he took his art. I saw the intense work and preparation he did. It was also during the �70s that his years of smoking started to catch up with him, ‘hisself’ as he used to say. I watched his health start to decline.
At one point he took ‘hisself’ to Tonga to die on a warm beach. Then his health improved and he returned to Seattle for another couple of years. During his last summer here, he starred in a film titled Island Bound, then he left for Honolulu.
There he continued to have success on stage while working as an editor for the University of Hawaii. By then he had developed emphysema and required oxygen therapy. Even so, he danced the role of Alfred Doolittle in My Fair Lady, while ducking behind a stage set to suck oxygen. When I visited him in Honolulu I was aware of just how much of his energy was spent in just staying alive. But he kept his struggles to himself.
Robertson returned to his beloved Northwest in 1993. One year later he told me that he had a diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. When he told me, I found it interesting that his concern was for me, not for himself. He knew that I’d lost two friends in the previous year. He said, ‘Sorry, but you’re gonna lose another friend.’ I found that very telling.
He asked me to help prepare a list of the things necessary to do before he passed on. We spent several days working on that list. One of the first items was to re-establish a relationship with his daughters. This he did with great satisfaction. I was again amazed as he spent that Summer tying up the loose ends of his life.
On the day of my last visit with him, I brought a $100 bill with me. This was a ‘marker’ that had floated back and forth between us for many years. We’d lost track of exactly who owed it to whom, but I thought I owed it to him. On his deathbed, he got very upset with me, saying that he was certain that He owed me. I let the matter drop. As I remember his life today, I am struck by two things: his astounding talents and his complete loyalty to his friends. He was a very private person and he liked it that way. And he was a true Scotsman in that he never wanted his left hand to know what his right hand was doing. Yet, if he accepted you into his life as his friend, his generosity and loyalty knew no bounds.
Robertson died at his home in Kingston on September 23, 1994. He had said all his farewells to his dearest friends and his family. At his passing, he was in the presence of two of his most loyal friends. That was as it should have been.
Walt wrote his own epitaph:

    Sing raucous, Sing Joyful,
    Sing sad and lonely,
    Sing work and play and sweat and love,
    Sing raunchy, sing sweet, sing hard, sing gentle,
    Sing sea and sky and bucking broncos,
    Sing quiet nights, sing rivers and dams,
    Sing children asleep and lovers awake,
    Sing battles and heroes, betrayals and faith,
    Sing mountains and valleys and mules and ships,
    Sing wars and reunions and faery queens,
    Sing bosses and flea and impertinent cats,
    Sing life, my friend, sing life
    Don't mourn for me, Sing!
    And join in on the choruses!


Don Firth wrote about his remembrance of Walt in the April, 2002 issue of Victory Review. For more reminisces about Walt see Tales of Walt Robertson at Mudcat.org:
http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=30285
Walt recorded two LPs (now available on CD):
  1. “American Northwest Ballads,” Smithsonian Folkways FW02046 (1955) Track list and sound bites are available on the internet: http://www.folkways.si.edu/search/AlbumDetails.aspx?ID=154#
  2. "Walt Robertson," Smithsonian Folkways FW02330 (1959) Track list and sound bites are available on the internet: http://www.folkways.si.edu/search/AlbumDetails.aspx?ID=196

Next month I will tell more about Walt as a
performer and how he created his special magic.
****
Bob Nelson was a Seattle folksinger in the
'50s and '60s. He now lives in Everett, WA.
Contact him by personal message (click) for
comments and more information on the early folk
music scene in Seattle.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Stewart
Date: 14 Jun 06 - 01:21 AM

Thanks Joe,

I just want to point out that the above article was reprinted from the Victory Review, June, 2006 issue.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 14 Jun 06 - 09:47 AM

Thank you so much for posting that! It's wonderful!

Maggie


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Jul 06 - 03:58 PM

MUSICAL TRADITIONS
THE WALT ROBERTSON I KNEW (Part 2)
By Bob Nelson, guest columnist
 
I've been a-wanderin', early and late,
  New York City, to the Golden Gate,
And it looks like
Ain't never gonna' cease my wanderin'
 
In my first article I described how I met the late Walt Robertson in 1953. He became an early icon of the Seattle folk scene as well as a pivotal person in my life. It's been twelve years since his passing and I'm enjoying remembering many times and lessons.

So just what was it about Walt's performing that caused so much attention? It was a combination of many things.

Taken alone, his voice was not great though it certainly was pleasant. He could sing on pitch. And he could sing with great power and force. And he knew how to make himself, "hisself" as he used to say, easy to listen to. He did this by singing very clearly. His diction was excellent. He knew how to spit out the final consonants. You never had to struggle to understand the words he sang. Never!
 
His guitar work was clean and simple. He never let the guitar get in the way of the song, but it always added with it's strong and clean rhythms. And could use amazing chords to surprise and delight you, chords you wouldn't expect, but you knew were a perfect fit when you heard them.
 
He looked you directly in the when he sang. No staring at the ceiling, struggling to remember the words. He was fully prepared or he wouldn't sing that song. If you were giving him your attention, he felt an obligation to perform well. I was often amazed to watch as his eyes seemed to make contact with every person in the audience. You were left with the feeling that he was singing just for you and you were the only person in the room.
 
He had a certain vitality. His eyes would fairly sparkle and shine. He could mesmerize you with a look. And when he had you in his grip, there would be a twinkle in his eye, as if to say, "I've got you, don't I? And ... ain't it fun!"
 
His energy was something to behold. When he sang of a love lost, and looked inside you, your heart bled. When he sang "Sam Hall,"
with the line
 
And those bastards down below,
  Said Sam, we told you so,
God damn their eyes!

you felt a chill.
 
Whenever he picked up his guitar, whether on stage or in a room, I always felt a sense of excitement. I knew something wonderful would be coming. He never picked up his guitar casually. If he reached for it, it was because he had something to say and he was worth the listen. He never played his guitar when someone else was playing. He felt this would be disrespectful to the other performer.
 
This total combination of voice, guitar, diction and acting made a powerful presence. He could sing loud and robust and yet, within a verse, bring the volume down to a whisper that would have you on the edge of your chair. Another telling aspect of his performing would be the total silence that often followed his songs. Many times we just sat there stunned at what we'd seen and heard.
 
Early on, in the 1950's, Walt became so closely identified with particular songs that they became "his." Even his closest friends wouldn't sing them. "What? You can't sing 'Wanderin', that's Walt's song!" Other such songs were "Life Is A Toil; Rich Gal, Poor Gal" 
 

I'm 'goin' cross the mountain, sweet Betsey,
  'Goin' cross the mountain, Cora Lee, poor girl,
And if you never ever see me again,
  Poor gal, remember me!

And he had a Pennsylvania Dutch version of "There's A Hole In My Bucket, Dear Liza, Dear Liza", that would put you on the floor with laughter, no matter how many times you'd heard it.
 
As I think back on those hours we all spent together, I smile to remember the dynamics of a typical hoot. Someone would start a song. Slowly others would get out their guitars and start to tune. Someone might set a jug of wine on the floor. Then perhaps Don would sing, and maybe Moose would follow him. Dick, with his tenor guitar, might add something. Stan might follow that one, and that would trigger something to remind Walt of one. And on and on it went, all night long.
 
Toward the end of Walt's life, when he knew his time was short, he sent me a letter suggesting the songs and singers he'd like to hear one more time. I quote from that letter:
 
... songs I'd like to hear ... Bob, 'La Llorna'; Don, 'Bonnie Dundee'; George, 'Ramblin Boy' and 'Minstrel Show' Gary, 'Ayree Peaks'; Patti, 'Come A Landsman'; Stan, 'Handsome Cabin Boy'; Richard, 'Sully's Pail'; Nancy, something French; Larry, 'Moon Man'; Utah, 'I Have Led a Life'; Guy, 'Old Blue'; Don, 'MacPherson's Lament' ... let there be plenty of cheap red wine, and let there be a joyful noise. Still let the amenities and courtesies of the old hoots prevail. honor each other and let the music honor all ..."
 
Those of us that knew him well often tell "Walt Stories" when we get together. And we still wonder where his drive and energies came from. He was a man of incredible talent: an actor, a dancer, a singer, a world traveler, a storyteller and a writer. He knew how to get the most out of a piece, be it a song or a part in a play. One hint of his talents came from a conversation I had recently with his sister. As we were remembering him, she mentioned that one of her more vivid memories of him was when he was just five years old. �He had a part in a children's play at church. When he made his entrance, he did it in spades. He ran up the aisle toward the pulpit, brandishing a sword and dressed in a Roman toga, yelling at the top of his lungs. I guess he learned early on!�
 
For more reminisces about Walt see Tales of Walt Robertson at Mudcat.org:
Walt recorded two LP's (now available on CD):
1. "American Northest Ballads," Smithsonian Folkways FW02046(1955)
Track list and sound bites are available on the internet:
2. "Walt Robertson," Smithsonian Folkways FW02330 (1959)
Track list and sound bites are available on the internet:

Photograph of Walt Robertson by Gary Oberbillig
 ****

Bob Nelson was a Seattle folksinger in the
'50s and '60s. He now lives in Everett, WA.
Contact him by personal message (click) for
comments and more information on the early folk
music scene in Seattle.



Text furnished by Bob Nelson. Also published in Victory Review, July 2006.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,Gary Cristall
Date: 04 Aug 06 - 07:37 PM

I was looking for info on Walt Robertson and discovered this lovely batch of memories. I'm working on a book about folk music in Canada. Walt ran a club in Vancouver in the mid sixties- The Ark. If anybody knows anything about how and why he came to do such a thing, I'd love to know more. You can see an outline of the book at www.folkmusichistory.com My e mail is garycristall@telus.net.
Thanks for some great reading.

Gary


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 11:53 AM

Bob Nelson ("Deckman" is his Mudcat moniker) is a good one to contact about this. The easiest way is for you to join Mudcat (it's free and easy) then come back and find his name in this thread and click on the little PM beside his name and a message box will open up.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: SINSULL
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 12:24 PM

What the hell is this?
"Bob Nelson was a Seattle folksinger in the
'50s and '60s. He now lives in Everett, WA."

WAS?
IS!
Or has something changed?
SINS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 01:24 PM

SINS,

Seattle is 30 miles south of Everett, where Bob lives now. My father started out in Seattle also, then moved to Everett in 1965, and finally in 1969 he moved another few miles north to live out at the beach on the Indian reservation that is west of Marysville. But it is all an easy drive to Seattle. The distinction is understood by the locals.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Aug 06 - 02:02 PM

Bob Nelson most definitely is a Pacific Northwest folk songer. He used to live in Seattle, but he now lives in Everett, which is about 30 miles north of Seattle, up Interstate 5 (anywhere from 45 minutes to three days travel time, depending on traffic conditions). During the late Fifties and Sixties he sang on television, in coffeehouses and clubs, and did concerts. He has also participated in many folk festivals. In the late Fifties and early Sixties, Bob and I sang together as a duo, both in the Pacific Northwest and in the San Francisco Bay area. Bob has a fine baritone voice, knows hundreds of songs, and is a good guitarist. He has also taught guitar. But mostly he is a carpenter by trade and specializes in building decks, hence the nom de guerre? Nom de plume? Nom de Mudcat, "Deckman."

We (Barbara and I) will be seeing him, and swapping a few songs, over the Labor Day weekend, and after his having undergone a rather harrowing operation for a detached retina and subsequent recuperation, he will also be seeing us.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 08 Aug 06 - 02:34 PM

Contrary to populiar belief, I actually am alive and well in the land of Oz!

Gary, if you'd like to "PM" me with your questions, I'll be happy to answer as best I can. And I may well know so other folks that can perhaps fill in the blanks. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,Penguin princess
Date: 07 Oct 06 - 02:49 PM

Who is this person everybody is talking about?


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Bill D
Date: 07 Oct 06 - 05:37 PM

read from the beginning.....


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Oct 06 - 06:36 PM

I might suggest to GUEST,Penguin princess the following:

Some time back, Mudcat crashed, and in that process, a lot of posts in this thread (and many others as well) got all scrambled and out of sequence, so if you come on it cold, it might get a little confusing (answers coming before questions, that sort of thing).

If you go to the top of the page and click on "Printer Friendly," it will put all of the posts into the correct sequence.

Walt Robertson was one of a number of folk singers who really should have been better known than he was, but that's the way the fickle finger of fate works. Famous or not, however, he was definitely a FORCE.

Don Firth
    I think the posts are all back in proper order now.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 12:48 PM

I only had the pleasure of seeing Walt perform once, in Seattle, and never had the opportunity to meet him. This thread has persuaded me to revisit him, through his recordings, not only to see what I have obviously missed musically, but to go back in time, briefly. I was only in the Great Northwest for two years, January 20, 1961 (the day of Kennedy's inauguration)to January, 1963 courtesy of the U.S. Army. The experience was an indelible one, however.

Don Firth's book is one I would love to see come to fruition. By the way, Don, my Mother, now 99 and in end-stage dementia, was a pioneer nurse and physical therapist who specialized in polio rehab in the '30's and '40's. I visited with and knew many people who suffered the lifelong after-effects of the disease. It often made them stronger people in many ways, as you might well testify. She was the one person in my family who supported my interest in music. Until you mentioned your early years, I had almost forgotten that fact.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Stewart
Date: 11 Jan 08 - 01:45 PM

Visit the web pages of The Pacific Northwest Folklore Society
to find more about Walt.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,Humming in Seattle
Date: 12 Nov 08 - 12:35 PM

Is Stilly River Sage, Maggie, a daughter of Walt?


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Amos
Date: 12 Nov 08 - 01:46 PM

No, she's not.

A


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Nov 08 - 02:19 PM

She's the daughter of the late John Dwyer, another stalwart of the Northwest folk scene.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: GUEST,humming in Seattle
Date: 12 Nov 08 - 06:46 PM

Thanks for the info.
Since I am one of the few children that actually carry his name, I was curious if she was a half sister. We do know that other children were fathered by Walt while he was married to our mother, so he might have been a good singer, actor, whatever, and, good at fathering children, but he was definately not a good father. Just because someone is a good singer doesn't make them a good person.


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Don Firth
Date: 12 Nov 08 - 07:14 PM

Yes, I think most people who knew him well were aware that he did have his "dark side." As do a lot of people, one way or another.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 12 Nov 08 - 11:50 PM

Don and Amos have it right--I never met Walt, sorry to say. I've enjoyed reading the stories in this thread.

(The anniversary of Dad's death was yesterday; near as we can tell he died late in the evening on Nov. 11). Kind of sad around here to have those holidays fall on a day like this. Mom died six months later, on Memorial Day.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 30 Mar 11 - 08:20 PM

What is your name, guest? bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 31 Mar 11 - 12:00 AM

I'd guess that the last name is "Robertson," Bob!

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 31 Mar 11 - 12:16 AM

Something happened ... we're missing a recent post?


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Acme
Date: 31 Mar 11 - 01:23 AM

I suspect a guest post was removed because there was no moniker attached. Was it valid, do you think, or a prank? You can ask if it can be returned, if it was useful.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tales of Walt Robertson
From: Deckman
Date: 31 Mar 11 - 06:19 AM

I'm guessing that it was trouble looking for a place to happen and someone wisely removed it! bob(deckman)nelson


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