Folk Finds Its Way

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 and his world-changing lyrics. Their perfectly blended voices seemed to be the calming force during some of the most turbulent of times. The relevance of their words strikes a chord to this day.
Along the road of their successful musical career, they made a little history of their own. 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 again, bringing their acoustic instrumentation and harmonies to Don’s Celebrity Theatre for the third time Wednesday-Sunday, Jan. 15-19 (7 p.m.).
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 tribute 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.
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, so 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. Ron 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.’
“It really evolved when at an open mic, Ron had heard me and another guy I was singing with at the time. He heard our voices and thought, ‘There we go, Peter, Paul and Mary.’ So he asked us if we’d be interesting in working on that, so we did. Soon after that, the other guy left.
“Open mics are wonderful ways to get acquainted. 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. When we met him that night, we wondered if he would do it, not knowing he was thinking about a Peter, Paul and Mary group.
“Finally in June a few years ago, he said he would like to try working with us. 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,” she 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. And they shared with each other. 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).”
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 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.
“It’s good for the audience to know we’re a lively show, that there is an element of humor, so 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,” she said. “Our new songs that we will be adding to our setlist for the Riverside will be ‘All My Trials’ and ‘Morning Train,’ traditional folk songs, and ‘Quit Your Low Down Ways’ and “It Ain’t Me Babe’ by Bob Dylan, and ‘Deportee’ by Woody Guthrie. All of these songs were on various albums by Peter, Paul & Mary.
“Of course, we will be doing all the amazing standards such as ‘Puff the Magic Dragon,’ ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane,’ ‘Lemon Tree,’ ‘Blowin’ in the Wind,’ ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone,’ ‘If I Had a Hammer,’ ‘This Land is Your Land,’ and many more.
“We keep it lively and then Ron is our major jokester, so he throws in several funny little things along the way. It’s what we love to do. Our greatest joy is to continue to hone our skills to be able to present the most entertaining show to our audience,” she added. “Their enthusiasm ignites us and serves as a catalyst for a dynamic musical experience. We are ready for fun-filled evenings with our Laughlin friends and fans traveling from all over the country to be with us.”


MACDOUGAL STREET WEST

Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort

Wednesday-Sunday, Jan. 15-19 (7 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info