First broadcast July 10, 2009

The First Newport Folk Festival — 50 Years Ago

10 p.m. to Midnight Host: Steve Winters

A major impetus in America’s mid-20th century folk revival, the first Newport Folk Festival was conducted in Rhode Island 50 years ago this weekend. It occurred during an era when rock ‘n’ roll was changing America’s musical landscape, but it gave rise to the growing popularity at the time of folk music in the commercial marketplace.

Founded by Theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand, Pete Seeger and impresarios George Wein, of Newport Jazz Festival fame, and his partner, Albert Grossman, that first Newport Folk Festival at Freebody Park was important for three reasons: (1) It afforded folk music a national stage; (2) bluegrass music made its first appearance on a festival stage, and (3) Bob Gibson introduced on stage a shy, almost reluctant, “newcomer” to folk music — Joan Baez. We focused on those three events from recordings of the 1959 festival.

We completed the show with selections from the upcoming Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, the Northeast’s premier singer/songwriter showcase, and an early predecessor of what is now Grey Fox, the region’s premier bluegrass festival.

  • Artist, "Title", Album, Label

  • Pete Seeger, “The Bells of Rhymney”, “One Grain Of Sand/Abiyoyo”, Folk Festival At Newport/Vol. 1

  • Vanguard, , ,

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  • Earl Scruggs with Hylo Brown & The Timberliners, “Flint Hill Special”, “Earl’s Breakdown”, “Cumberland

  • Gap”, “The Prisoner Song”, “Orange Blossom Special”, Bluegrass At Newport, Vanguard

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  • Stanley Brothers & The Clinch Mountain Boys, “How Country Girls Can Love”, “Man Of Constant Sorrow”,

  • “Gather Flowers For The Master’s Bouquet”, Newport: Best of Bluegrass 1959-1966, Vanguard,

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  • Bob Gibson & Joan Baez, “Virgin Mary Had One Son”, Folk Festival At Newport/Vol. 2, Vanguard

  • Bob Gibson & Joan Baez, “We Are Crossing Jordan River”, Rare Live And Classic, Vanguard

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  • Wild Asparagus, “St. Stephen’s Day Parade March”, Main Stage Live/Falcon Ridge, Signature Sounds

  • The Kennedys, “River Of Fallen Stars”, Main Stage Live/Falcon Ridge, Signature Sounds

  • Dar Williams, “If I Wrote You”, Main Stage Live/Falcon Ridge, Signature Sounds

  • Greg Brown, “You Drive Me Crazy”, Main Stage Live/Falcon Ridge, Signature Sounds

  • Richard Shindell, “Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore”, Main Stage Live/Falcon Ridge, Signature Sounds

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  • Spectrum, “I Will Survive”, The Berkshire Mountains Bluegrass Festival, Pigeon Roost

  • Blaine Sprouse, “Jerusalem Ridge”, The Berkshire Mountains Bluegrass Festival, Pigeon Roost

  • Jonathan Edwards & Seldom Scene, “Wait A Minute”, The Berkshire Mountains Bluegrass Festival, Pigeon

  • Roost, , ,

  • Peter Rowan, “Free Mexican Air Force”, The Berkshire Mountains Bluegrass Festival, Pigeon Roost

  • Peter Rowan, “Panama Red”, The Berkshire Mountains Bluegrass Festival, Pigeon Roost