Always been a rambler....
August 11, 2009 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Mike Seeger, folk musician and folklorist, passed away on August 7, 2009. Half-brother to Pete Seeger, Mike Seeger was self-taught at banjo, fiddle, guitar, autoharp, and dulcimer, among other instruments. Additionally, Seeger spent decades traveling the country to collect and document American folk musicians, many of whom would have been forgotten were it not for his efforts. In the late 50's, Seeger, Tom Paley, and John Cohen founded the old-time string band The New Lost City Ramblers. The Ramblers countered the rising tide of bluegrass music with a return to old-time traditionals and were a significant influence on the mid-century folk revival. Seeger's death coincides with the upcoming release of an Arhoolie Foundation documentary about the Ramblers (warning: the documentary link contains an embedded video). On Youtube: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Bob Dylan said of NLCR: "The New Lost City Ramblers was Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tom Paley. They never made the big time like the Kingston Trio, but they never did wear striped shirts. One of the things that the New Lost City Ramblers did was uncover great old songs -- songs that you could only find in those days, in piles of 78s in somebody's barn. They breathed new life into those songs, and their records stand the test of time, just like the originals." Here's Bob Dylan and Mike Seeger performing a duet of "The Ballad of Hollis Brown." And just because it gives me a chance to bring up another favorite old-time musician of mine, here's Mike Seeger performing and chatting with Roscoe Holcomb.

- Radio Interview with Mike Seeger
- Seeger discussing and performing the song "Walking Boss."
- New Lost City Ramblers Discography
posted by signalandnoise (20 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
posted by HumanComplex at 7:57 AM on August 11, 2009

posted by wheelieman at 7:58 AM on August 11, 2009

Wow. I hadn't seen.

I met him a couple of times over the years. He oozed passion for the music.

posted by fourcheesemac at 8:00 AM on August 11, 2009

Mike Seeger is (no, was) a great musician, and loved historic folk music. For example, he released wonderful albums like these (1) (2) that "merely" documented traditional songs and sounds.

This recent CD is very good, and I'm sure I'll be listening to it over the next few weeks.
posted by Pants! at 8:01 AM on August 11, 2009

posted by nickyskye at 8:15 AM on August 11, 2009

*sigh* More links to folk music disappearing. We need some kind of modern folk revival, one that isn't a Coen brothers movie.

posted by hippybear at 8:29 AM on August 11, 2009

posted by cookie-k at 8:39 AM on August 11, 2009


I know that Pete Seeger has little time left as well, and I'm going to feel that loss hard.

posted by jokeefe at 9:18 AM on August 11, 2009


Mike's obituary
posted by omnidrew at 9:37 AM on August 11, 2009

A piece I wrote on Mr. Seeger for Smithsonian Global Sound (Smithsonian also owns Folkways Records, which lifts heavily from my piece in its tribute, though in someone else's name! Ah, the life of the lowly intern...). He kept a great many musics alive, and will be missed.
posted by whahappen?! at 9:51 AM on August 11, 2009

I just saw this in the Post this morning, and it made me so sad. While I've never felt all that great about Pete Seeger, I've always really loved Mike Seeger's music. I particularly like the Strange Creek Singers album, and Music from the True Vine. I've also always appreciated the sound that the New...Ramblers made.
posted by OmieWise at 10:55 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

He was a kind man, on top of his musicianship.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:57 AM on August 11, 2009

I met him at Midwest Banjo Camp 2007, and though extremely shy in conversation, was utterly charming to talk to and to hear play. I cherish the recording of the session he played for us.
posted by scruss at 12:32 PM on August 11, 2009

Another man done gone.


Tom Paley is still playing though. A fairly sprightly 80 year-old living in London so I can get to hear him now and then. Last time was in early May this year in Stockholm.

The first time must have been in 1963.
Settle back in your easychairs now. Its time for another tale from the past from Uncle Jan.

We had been playing the streets (I was a busker in Stockholm then) and had done fairly well. On going back home for tea and comfort, this guy tagged along with us. People often did-
After tea I picked up my guitar and was just tootling around in the folky regions and our guest picked up a guitar too and joined in, making the most intricate accompaniment. Man he was way up the fretboard up there in No-mansland. We were strictly cowboy chord guys. Eagerly enquiring - he told us he played with an outfit called The New Lost City Ramblers of which we had heard good things. Though not being in a position as to actually buy records.
He was full of good stories about the Folk scene as it was then- which we lapped up of course
Later he lent me the records plus a lot of other good stuff (Doc Watson, Blue Sky Boys, Roscoe Holcomb, Doc Boggs ) which I diligently copied onto open reel tape - filesharing! this was the night before he was due to return to US. Being a slow analog realtime process I had to work all night, each album takes an hour.I returned his records just before takeoff
Apparently the big divisive question in the group was about the ethics of playing to segregated audiences. If I recall rightly Tom was of a different opinion to Mike.

It seemed very important to them both then.
I must look around in the attic for those tapes.

Thanks for posting mate.
posted by jan murray at 1:17 PM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

I just saw him play with John Cohen and Tracy Schwarz as the New Lost City Ramblers in May. He inspired many young people to play old time music, including me. Thanks for the post.

posted by amelliferae at 3:29 PM on August 11, 2009

I will miss his music. Thanks for the great links.
posted by RussHy at 4:16 PM on August 11, 2009

Thanks for the great post.

posted by snsranch at 5:56 PM on August 11, 2009

posted by orthogonality at 12:23 AM on August 12, 2009

whahappen?! - please contact me offlist at horgand AT SI DOT EDU
posted by horgand at 6:00 AM on August 12, 2009

Wow, I'd missed this post, and hadn't heard of Seeger's passing until right now. On my own I'd stumbled across (this evening) that wonderful color footage of Seeger and Roscoe Holcomb that you linked to, and... of course... was about to make an FPP with that clip alone, so excited was I to have found it! Of course, a pre-posting search turned up this FPP of yours, signalandnoise. Thanks so much for the great post.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:28 AM on September 3, 2009

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