Paul Clayton and the Folksong Revival

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Scarecrow Press, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 297 pages
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A scholar and a balladeer, Paul Clayton (1931-1967) is credited with the Top-Ten hit "Gotta Travel On" and was a key figure in the mid-1950s rise of folksong to media popularity. Clayton single-handedly brought hundreds of obscure folksongs to the mainstream radio and recording market, and he influenced listeners and friends from Dave Van Ronk to Bob Dylan, who considered Clayton a mentor, "mindguard," and well of folksong. Paul Clayton and the Folksong Revival is the first biography of the folk singer and song collector. Using accounts from friends, family, and fellow musicians, author Bob Coltman relates the breadth and depth of Clayton's extraordinary life, from his birth into a singing family and his teenage years as a radio singer and folksong collector, to his establishment in New York as a folk performer and recording artist, to his tragic early suicide. Clayton's recordings are also examined, interspersed with his insights and adventures as a performer and songwriter in the folk world. Gradually, Clayton's achievements become overwhelmed by his disintegration as a drug user, failing musician, and bipolar gay man, culminating in eyewitness accounts relating to his tragic end. Presenting an in-depth look at folk music in the 1950s, Coltman illuminates what it meant to be a working, but not starring, folksinger in this period. With quotes from a number of folksongs, a discographic summary, and a bibliography, this volume brings to life this intelligent, perceptive, and largely unknown scholar-folksinger.

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I cant review the book because I havent read it. I knew Paul in 1951 in Paris as I told Bob a few years ago. We lived in a youth hostel that had been a gestapo headquartes and still had swaztikas on the walls and doors. At night after lights out he played and sang in the dark. Gotta travel on was a favourite and So long its been good to know you. We all loved listening to him. He was only 20 then and such a kind, generous person. If he was a homosexual he didnt know it then. He was very romantic. I was desolate when I heard he had committed suicide. He sent me a copy of his single Let your Hair hang down and told me to watch Burl Ives on a show when he sang the song, It didnt become a hit but it was a good song. There was a woman's name in the song I think it started with an L. Something like Loretta but not that. I tried to reach you Bob but the email you gave me didn't work. Then my husband became very ill and died so I didnt try to get in touch with you. Paul was one of the favourite people in my life. I am so glad you have kept his lovely soul alive. Good luck
Marg Kennedy


Breathing in Old Songs from the Cradle
A Boy a Guitar a Microphone
In the Heart of Old Virginia
A Couple of Beards and Bluegrass
View from a Virginia Cabin
Paul Conquers Folkways
Big Find in North Carolina
Americas Most Recorded Young Folksinger
Charlottesville Follies
The Dylan and Clayton Expedition
The Long Tumble from Grace
A Gingerbreadd Endd
Life after Death?
Paul Claytons Copyrighted Songs
Discographic Summary

From Virginia to the Village
Done Laid Around and Stayed Around
Across the Blue Mountains
Another Brush with the Big Time
A Roller Coaster Ride
General Index
Song Index
About the Author

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About the author (2008)

Bob Coltman is a traditional folksinger, writer, and composer of several folk standards, and has published articles in Old Time Music and JEMFQ. He is a contributor to Exploring Roots Music: Twenty Years of the JEMF Quarterly (Porterfield, ed., Scarecrow Press, 2004).