Faithful Folkies

In the 1960s the general population was becoming more interested in politics and social movements, which therefore became topics of song lyrics and led to a revival of the folk genre.

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.

For nearly 50 years the trio was a popular fixture in music, with their greatest success coming in the ’60s with hits like “Puff (The Magic Dragon),” “I Dig Rock and Roll Music” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

Travers passed away in 2009 after battling cancer, but Yarrow and Stookey have continued touring, as there is still a large following for their sound.

Another group has found success with Peter Paul and Mary’s catalogue, creating a tribute to the band called MacDougal Street West. 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 fourth time Wednesday-Sunday, Nov. 30-Dec. 4.

The group consists of Mary Alberts (vocals), Rick Shore (guitar, vocals), Bill Rice (bass guitar) and the most recent member, Paul Auer (guitar, vocals).

“We became MacDougal Street West in June of 2015,” Alberts said. “We’ve had some band member changes but now we’re stronger than ever. We all four love to practice and get things right so we’re excited about our new sound.”

This group is similar to the originals in more ways than one.

“So we actually have a Paul and a Mary in the group now,” Alberts laughed. “Paul Auer joined in 2020. He has the look of Paul Stookey and I’m the blonde one in the middle so I kind of resemble Mary Travers. We don’t try to be them, there’s no way. We know we can’t fool the audience, but a lot of people say, ‘You’ve got all of the sounds and the look.’”

The Prescott group takes their name from the very place where 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.'”

The members had all been singing for most of their lives and once they found each other at an open mic night, the group came together.

Alberts had been listening to Peter, Paul and Mary’s music since childhood, but she had no idea how large of a catalogue the group really had until their tribute began practicing.

“When I was 10 years old I got a little transistor radio from my aunt and so I would be listening late at night to everything I could pull up,” Alberts said. “I learned all of Peter, Paul and Mary’s biggest hits from listening to the radio, but it wasn’t until I started working on their music that I realized the abundance of songs they had. They were together for 50 years, so we keep finding new jewels all the time. We try to include all of their top hits in every show, even in our Christmas show, but every so often we include something new. With their arrangements and their sound, they were so well loved and are still loved. They always bring back all of those wonderful memories for people from their youth.”

This time around, MacDougal Street West will be bringing their Christmas show, to sing holiday favorites for the audience, much like Peter, Paul and Mary did during their televised Christmas special in 1988.

“This particular show is our Peter, Paul and Mary Christmas Experience so we will have many of their big hits, but we also include some of the songs they performed on their PBS special, called ‘Peter, Paul and Mary Holiday Concert,’ which was a huge success,” Alberts said. “We include many of the songs they performed on there. Then we add a couple other Christmas classics from that time period that I think people will really like.”

Alberts’ favorite song to perform is one of their Christmas tracks.

“I think it’s actually a Christmas song called ‘A‘soalin’,” she said. “It has to do with the time period in England, during the Dickens period I believe. Children would go door to door to see if people had bits of fruit or soal cakes. This song is a really pretty complex song to do and we just absolutely love doing it.”

MacDougal Street West honors the original sound but may also throw in a bit of their own flair from time to time.

“We add some of our own special things to it too,” Alberts said. “The guys have been playing since their teens so we try to be true to the song and to the spirit of the song but we’ll add a little of our own influence to some of the songs. Peter, Paul and Mary changed things up a little bit too over the years. I’ll listen to recordings early on and then later on and they changed things up a bit, adding an extra harmony here or there. Our guys may add some picking instead of both strumming and different little things.”

Their interpretation has not only been popular among their audiences, but has also drawn praise from Paul Stookey, himself.

“We’ve had a couple of nice compliments from people about our sound,” Alberts said. “We performed at the Woodsongs Coffeehouse in Tucson and the man who runs it is email friends with Paul Stookey and he told him that he was going to have a Peter, Paul and Mary tribute show come. So Paul actually went online and listened to our stuff and he gave us a really nice compliment.”

Stookey wrote to the band, “Caught a little of the west village group (MacDougal Street West) — kinda spooky honestly, hearing those vocal parts rendered so faithfully. Thanks for sharing P,P & M’s legacy of music. Best wishes for a great MacDougal Street West Experience show.”

Fans in Laughlin will be delighted to hear this same dedication to the music they love when MacDougal Street West returns to entertain them with all the hits they remember, along with the Christmas pieces.

“Our greatest joy is to continue to hone our skills to be able to present the most entertaining show to our audience,” Alberts said. “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.

“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.”

Take home a bit of this great music by purchasing a CD from the group after the show.

“We have a brand new CD hot off the press that we’ll have available in Laughlin,” Alberts said. “This particular CD is strictly Peter, Paul and Mary covers, called ‘Live at Thumb Butte.’ In Prescott, Arizona, there is this gorgeous mountain called Thumb Butte and we recorded this live at Heavenly Sound Studio, which is on a street called Thumb Butte, so it represents our town.”