Folk Favorites

Peter, Paul and Mary were more than one of the most popular groups emerging from the folk music scene in the early 1960s, they carried the torch for social change.
Their contributions didn’t stop at simply delivering hit song after hit song written by some of the most dynamic artists of the day — like Bob Dylan’s world-changing lyrics — their perfectly blended voices delivered social commentary and served as the calming force during some of America’s most turbulent times.
The group performed “If I Had a Hammer” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” at the 1963 March on Washington, best remembered for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers were among the many now legendary folk musicians who took up residence along a little stretch of Greenwich Village called MacDougal Street. They performed nightly at the coffee houses and cafes that dotted that small slice of real estate, creating a fresh, vibrant urban scene flowing with energy and life.
Today that sound can be heard a bit further west, as in “MacDougal Street West: A Peter, Paul & Mary Experience.” This tribute group based out of Prescott, Arizona travels to the Riverside Resort bringing their acoustic instrumentation and harmonies to Don’s Celebrity Theatre for the second time.
The group consists of Ron Skelton (guitar, vocals); Mary Alberts (vocals); Rick Shore (guitar, vocals); and Bill Rice (bass guitar).
“This is our ‘Peter, Paul and Mary Christmas Experience Show,'” Alberts said. “There are four of us in the band, so it’s Peter, Paul and Mary plus the bass player. They always had a base player and we’re pretty proud of ours, so we show him off.”
Their last stop in Laughlin was with their Peter, Paul, and Mary Show, but this time the group will add songs the originals included in their “Holiday Celebration” show.
“We’ll be including many of the songs they sang,” Alberts said. “Of course, theirs was highly orchestrated. They had a huge choir and they had a full orchestra for that. Ours will be a little more intimate.”
Audience members can expect songs like “Light One Candle,” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” she said.
“And a very old song, a beautiful rendition of a song called ‘Cherry Tree’ that Peter, Paul, and Mary did,” Alberts said. “We’ll include some of their regular songs, too.”
The Prescott group takes their name from the very place when the folk scene and the originals took shape.
“MacDougal is the street in Greenwich Village where everything was happening in the heyday,” Alberts explained. “It’s where the performers, the singers, the musicians, the artists and the writers lived. Mary Travers actually lived on MacDougal Street.
“Since we’re not in the east, we’re out west, we added the ‘West.'”
While it seems a bit odd that this particular group of people would find each other in the most unlikely of places, it could very well be, destiny played a big role in bringing them together.
“We are from various parts of the United States — like everybody else in Arizona — and being that we’re all living in the Prescott area, it’s a little bit of a round-about story,” Alberts said. “Ron (Skelton) likes to tell the story that he worked at the Post Office in Prescott, and I walked in and he thought, ‘Boy, she looks like Mary Travers, I wonder if she can sing and if I ever have a Peter, Paul & Mary group, I’d like to have her.'”
In reality, Skeleton heard Alberts performing at an open mic night and thought, ‘There we go, Peter, Paul and Mary.’
“Open mics are wonderful ways to get acquainted,” Alberts said. “We saw Rick Shore at one — he’s a very accomplished singer. He’d been to one of our shows in town and we found out he had been thinking before he met us, he’d like to start a Peter, Paul and Mary group.
“It was just a glove, a perfect match, so we started singing together with him.”
While the guys in the group had been playing folk music for many years, and Alberts had a natural love for it, she was surprised at the volume and variety.
“I’m the youngest one in the group, and I loved all of the folk music, but I mostly knew the biggest hits,” Alberts said. “When we started working with the Peter, Paul and Mary music, I was like, ‘Oh, wow!’ I couldn’t believe how many songs they had, how many albums, how many years.”
Alberts was in awe of the camaraderie between artists of the time.
“They shared with each other,” she said. “A lot of their music is from other folk artists and it was actually an honor when another group would want to sing their songs.”
Folk music may not seem mainstream, but it does find it’s way into a lot of popular music.
“The influence of these musicians can be felt throughout the past and present of popular music,” Alberts said. “Many Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were either ‘folkies’ themselves early in their careers (i.e. the Byrds, John Sebastian and others) or are, in part, their musical descendants (Tom Petty, the Eagles, etc).
“It is often contended that ‘folk rock’ blended with country music was the beginning of much popular music given air play today, while others proudly claim today’s traditional folk banner for their own (artists such as John Gorka, Eiza Gilkyson, Tracy Grammer),” she added.
As far as a folk scene today, Alberts said it all depends on geography and demographics.
“I think there are some areas that have a bigger focus on folk music,” she said. “We’ve just been working as a tribute band because tributes are huge. Before we got Laughlin we’ve been working RV resorts because that’s our bread and butter, that’s our baby boomers, that’s our audience. We try to find the areas that have the largest populations of baby boomers, we try to work our way in.”
The interest and the desire to hear the soundtrack of their youth is as popular as ever.
“There is a continuing recognition of folk artists in our time. Two very recent cases in point are the Nobel prize given to Bob Dylan and the election of Joan Baez in 2017 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their seminal work,” she said. “Many of the classic folk artists, such as Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey of Peter Paul & Mary, still tour to packed houses around the country and throughout the world.”
The biggest misconception about folk music — people think boring simplicity.
“We stumble across some people who think it’s not much of a show, there’s no glitz and glamour.
“But our experience so far is that we’ve pretty much packed out every place we’ve been,” Alberts said. “So I think people are missing the mark in a lot of areas by not presenting some of the music people grew up with. We love it when people afterwards, say, “I can’t believe how emotional I felt. You really hit my heart strings, you know, that’s my music, that’s what I love.
Audiences can expect a lively show, with elements of humor, Alberts said.
“There’ll be some laughs,” she added. “We encourage people to sing-along and we have fun with that, too.
“We try to hit the bigger songs and we add some of the more complicated songs to create some excitement.
“With a proud tradition behind and a bright future ahead, folk music lives and prospers today. Bringing the music of Peter, Paul and Mary is a love offering for both those new to the songs and those who know them best.”


PETER, PAUL & MARY CHRISTMAS EXPERIENCE

Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside

Thursday-Sunday, Dec. 13-16 (7 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info