January 9, 2016

Joan Baez turns 75

Joan Baez turns 75 this weekend. Your editor was at Harvard and news director at the Harvard radio station, WHRB, when she first made the scene at Mount Auburn 47. Here's a recording of her first radio appearance, which was on WHRB. She was close friends with Lew Walling, also at WHRB, who would later be the 40th American killed in the Vietnam War.

Sam Smith - Mount Auburn 47, which opened in 1958 and later known as Club 47, was a coffee house located just around the corner from my entry of Adams House. The current owners of what is now called Club Passim, described the early days:

"The first few months were rocky as the club was shut down by the Cambridge police. The local blue laws at the time prohibited more than three stringed instruments in a place that served food and beverages. So they got a non-profit educational charter and reopened as a private club, making people members at the door. It wasn't long before it earned a reputation for good music, coffee, and company. And it was here that a friend of then unknown 17-year-old Joan Baez rented the club out just to get her on stage. Baez quickly built a worshipful following and became a regular feature. Here, she introduced Bob Dylan who played between acts. The Club was shut down by Cambridge police once again, but the performers rallied and held their own hootenannies to keep the music going."
The club would become increasingly famous with time, eventually becoming more important for folk singers than similar spots in New York. Bruce Springsteen was refused a gig there, Bonnie Rait hung out there, and Muddy Waters attracted the Cambridge police who, according to one account, "couldn't believe that the loud music could be coming from a place that only plays 'folk' music." Other musicians who cut their teeth at the club over the years included Tom Rush, Peter Wolf, Taj Mahal, Judy Collins, Suzanne Vega, Nanci Griffith, and Shawn Colvin

There was also Eric von Schmidt, with whom I even played a couple of practice sessions when he was wondering how guitar and just brushes on snare would sound together.

Joan Baez's first concert at Mount Auburn 47

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