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Mike Seeger

Born into one of the first families of American folk music, it was probably inevitable that Mike Seeger would become a musician and folklorist. His father and mother, Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, assisted John and Alan Lomax at the Archive of Folk Song in the Library of Congress. Mike's half-brother, Pete Seeger, performed in both the Almanac Singers and the Weavers, while his sister Peggy Seeger was highly regarded in traditional music circles. There was little surprise, then, when Mike Seeger, at the age of 25, joined Tom Paley and John Cohen to form the New Lost City Ramblers.

It is perhaps ironic that a traditional performer like Seeger was born in New York City to a middle-class family. Born on August 15, 1933, he began playing the autoharp at the age of 12. Soon, he also began playing the banjo, fiddle, dulcimer, mouth harp, mandolin, and dobro. His parents brought music home from the Library of Congress. "They started letting me play field recordings when I was six or seven," Seeger told Dirty Linen. "These were aluminum records that you played with cactus needles." He was also influenced by the African-American singer/guitarist Elizabeth Cotton, who lived in the Seeger home for five years.

In the early '50s, Seeger began to conduct his own field recordings and perform at square dances in the Washington, D.C., area with his sister Peggy. Because he was a conscientious objector, he was assigned work in a hospital, and during this time formed a band with Hazel Dickens and Bob Baker. In 1958, he helped form the New Lost City Ramblers, a band that specialized in performing string band music from the 1920s and 1930s. While the band never gained the exposure of folk revival bands like the Kingston Trio, the group's commitment to accurately reproducing traditional music proved significant. "The Ramblers' influence on generations of young musicians who have followed in their footsteps," wrote Randy Pitts in Music Hound Folk, "is incalculable."

In 1962, when Tracy Schwarz replaced Paley in the Ramblers, Seeger became involved in a number of solo projects. He recorded Mike Seeger for Vanguard in 1964 and Tipple, Loom & Rail: Songs of the Industrialization of the South for Folkways in 1965. In the late '60s, Seeger, Dickens, Alice Gerrard, and Lamar Grier formed the Strange Creek Singers (Arhoolie released Strange Creek Singers: Get Acquainted Waltz in 1975, reissued in 1997). He also became involved in the Newport Folk Festival and, in 1970, became the director of the Smithsonian Folklife Company. In 1970, he married Gerrard, though they later divorced.

Seeger continued to involve himself in a multitude of projects. Beginning in the 1970s, he recorded a string of albums for Rounder, and he continued to compile scholarly projects such as Southern Banjo Sounds (1998) and True Vine (2003) -- both for Smithsonian Folkways. He was nominated for three Grammys, won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984, received the Rex Foundation's Ralph Gleason Award in 1995, and an Award of Merit from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) the same year. "I feel there's just as much fun in old-time music as there's ever been," Seeger told Dirty Linen in 1997. "People ask me, don't you get tired of it? And some people do, but I think I could have three more lifetimes and not get tired of it." Seeger's 2007 album Early Southern Guitar Sounds was released on Smithsonian Folkways. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Old Time Country Music

1. Richmond Cotillion

2. The Baldheaded End Of A Broom

3. Sad And Lonesome Day

4. Lord Thomas

5. Oh My Little Darling

6. Bonaparte's Retreat

7. Frankie

8. Will The Weaver

9. Rollin' On

10. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down

11. Worried Blues

12. The Story Of The Mighty Mississippi

13. Man Of Constant Sorrow

14. Handsome Molly

15. John Hardy

16. Johnson City Blues

17. Fisherman's Luck

18. Sourwood Mountain

x

Track List: True Vine

1. Breaking Up Ice In The Allegheny

2. Coo Coo Bird

3. Johnson Jinkson

4. Little Rabbit, Where's Your Mammy?

5. The Raftsman's Song

6. Honeycutt's Holler

7. Did You Ever See The Devil, Uncle Joe?

8. Blow The Horn, Blow

9. Old Man

10. Spoonful

11. Shouting In Jerusalem

12. When Sorrows Encompass Me Round

13. Calico

14. Early In The Spring

15. Freight Train

16. Goodbye, My Little Darling

17. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down

18. I'm Gonna Go Huntin' For The Buffalo

19. Granddad Jim's Waltz

20. The Golden Willow Tree

21. California Cotillion

22. Young Johnnie

23. Sail Away Ladies

x

Track List: Southern Banjo Sounds

1. Soon In The Morning Babe

2. Josh Thomas's Roustabout

3. The Blue Tailed Fly (Jimmie Crack Corn)

4. Darling Cora (Darling Corey)

5. Devil's Dream

6. Little Birdie

7. Around The World

8. Whoopin' Up Cattle

9. Flop Eared Mule

10. Lost Gander

11. The Sailor And The Soldier

12. American Spanish Fandango

13. Got No Silver Nor Gold Blues

14. We're Up Against It Now

15. That's What The Old Bachelor's Made Out Of

16. The Last Of Callahan

17. Lady Gay

18. Down South Blues

19. Last Night When My Willie Came Home

20. Wabash Cannonball

21. Bright Sunny South

22. Roll On John

23. Needlecase

24. Come My Little Pink

25. Battle In The Horseshoe

26. I'm Head Over Heels In Love

x

Track List: Tipple, Loom & Rail: Songs Of The Industrialization Of The South

1. Factory Girl

2. Coal Creek Troubles

3. Edward Lewis

4. Come All You Coal Miners

5. The Miner's Blues

6. Harlan County Blues

7. Cotton Mill Blues

8. The Reckless Motor Man

9. The New Market Wreck

10. Cotton Mill Colic

11. The Virginian Strike Of '23

12. Roane County Strike At Harriman, Tennessee

13. The Hard Working Miner

14. Hard Times In These Mines

15. Spinning Room Blues

16. The Death Of John Henry

x

Track List: Solo: Oldtime Country Music

1. Tennessee Dog

2. Ground Hog

3. Roustabout

4. Sallie Gooden

5. The Wreck Of The Tennessee Gravy Train

6. Shaking The Pines In The Holler

7. Dog And Gun

8. Candy Girl

9. Tucker's Barn

10. Wind And Rain

11. Fare You Well, Green Fields

12. Poor Indian

13. We're Stole And Sold From Africa

14. Rockbridge Holler

15. Quill Ditty

16. Rolling And Tumbling Blues

17. Blue Tail Fly

18. Prairie Ronde Waltz

Comments

Report as inappropriate
decifal
jamming!
Report as inappropriate
Great down home music absolutely LOVE IT.
Report as inappropriate
lrsjthomas
Wonderful sounds!
Report as inappropriate
ms1945
He's great!

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