Mayor Of Macdougal Street: A Memoir Paperback – Mar 6 2006
There is a newer edition of this item:
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"Gravel-voiced, folk singing giant Dave Van Ronk was an early Dylan mentor, and his (sadly posthumous) memoir lives and breathes the Village underground..." Mojo "A genial and picaresque ramble." New York Times"
About the Author
Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) was one of the founding figures of the 1960s folk revival, but he was far more than that. A pioneer of modern acoustic blues, a fine songwriter and arranger, a powerful singer, and one of the most influential guitarists of the '60s, he was also a marvelous storyteller, a peerless musical historian, and one of the most quotable figures on the Village scene. The Mayor of MacDougal Street is a first-hand account by a major player in the social and musical history of the '50s and '60s. It features encounters with young stars-to-be like Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, and Joni Mitchell, as well as older luminaries like Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Odetta. Elijah Wald wrote the acclaimed study of blues legend Robert Johnson, Escaping the Delta. He also wrote the biography Josh White: Society Blues and Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas. He lives in Los Angeles.
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What a life he had! (The singer died in 2002.) In the chapters devoted to his youth, Van Ronk paints us picture after picture, of the memorable individuals he met in the age of the first folk revival. In San Francisco he encounters the nutty Jesse Fuller, who had once been the folk-singing protege of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. In New York he shares a stage with Odetta, whose powerful voice could fill all of Manhattan when she let it loose. The truth is that being a folk singer in the late 1950s wasn't very much fun, and Van Ronk believed in getting paid for his singing and playing, so he was denied a space by the coffeehouse owners who could put on all the entertainment they wanted for free, and so he started organizing the musicians properly. All of this is fascinating to read about. Those of you who enjoyed Christopher Guest's folk revival send up A MIGHTY WIND will howl with recognition as Van Ronk lays into the "crewcuts in drip-dry seersucker suits" of the period such as the Kingston Trio. "There was an obvious subtext," he writes, "to what these Babbitt balladeers were doing, and it was, `Of course, we're really superior to all this hayseed crap-but isn't it cute?' This attitude threw me into an absolute ecstasy of rage. These were no true disciples or even honest money-changers. They were a bunch of slick hustlers selling Mickey Mouse dolls in the temple. Join their ranks? I would sooner have been boiled in skunk piss." Yowzer!
He's funny also about the truth that, although he was a tried and true Bohemian anarchist, he sure wasn't getting laid very much. In the pre-Pill age, he says, nobody was. "And the fact that we were a pretty scuzzy bunch might have had something to do with it."
It is a wonderful insight to the NYC folk scene before, during, and after their golden ago. It tells stories from distant point-of-view that was there when it all occurred but has the separation in time and place to take the sharp emotions away. Sure Bobby Dylan took his arrangement of "House of the Rising Sum" (that was then copied by the Animals), sure with other management he might have been more famous, sure with a little more luck (and a better record company) he might have had a top ten song. But the book is from a later page in his life.
Once I started the book I could not put it down - each page was a new adventure. To read the words on the pages is the same as to have heard him talk between songs at one of his shows - minus the inflections.
Why four stars rather than five? For so much that was not there. Van Ronk died near the start of the project and his co-author did a wonderful job of keeping Van Ronk's voice and putting the pieces together. The fifth star is reserved for what might have been.
One thing you might expect from Van Ronk, whose crucial musical development predated the '60s folk boom, is a sort of world-weariness. But he has none of that. Beneath his crusty exterior lies an open mind and an almost childlike awe of good music and good art. What a refreshing book, and what a unique artist he was. His takes on Dylan, Phil Ochs, and Tom Paxton are right on.
I knew that Van Ronk died before the book was finished, and I kept waiting for the tone and quality to flag, or the voice to change, but it never did. A great job by Elijah Wald. I've got to buy his other books now.
In this surprisingly insightful narrative, all the major players are given the Van Ronk assessment. (And we have almost as much fun reading it.)
One quickly realizes what we have lost.
Anyone who loves the music, will love this book.
Street”, but whatever it was that I’d anticipated, this book was far beyond my expectations.
As a bit of an FYI:
It was 1964 when I first hit Greenwich Village, me a freshman in HS with a compatriot, a
senior called ‘Rebel’. He was from WV, with dyed-blonde pompadour haircut, tough as nails (when drunk he’d
suddenly send an uppercut with no warning or reason) and most guys would not hang with him, but I just
learned to duck. We’d walk across on W.3rd St. to MacDougal. His phony ID allowed him to drink at the San
Remo Café, where Kerouac and Ginsburg once had hung out, but as I was just a kid I’d wait outside whilst he
celebrated at the bar.
Next we crossed the street to a liquor shop and Reb bought a pint of Vodka and a six of Colt 45 ‘tallboys’,
then it was off to Washington Square Park.We drank the beer sitting on a park bench, after which we headed
to the Café ‘Wha?’ where we’d order ‘Zombies’ (a lemon flavored non-alcoholic beverage) and spice ‘em
up with our pint.
Well, we thought we were about the ‘coolest cats' on the block back then, but according to Dave Van Ronk
, the ‘Mayor’, of title, we were known as “clydes”, the tourists that clogged their streets on the
week-ends and kicked in the quarters and dollars for the entertainment they provided, enabling them
to pay the pittance of rent that the Village commanded at that time. What Dave and his chronicler
do for us here is something I’ve seldom seen in memoirs or auto-biographies, which are usually fraught
with sexual exploits and/or ‘reasons’ for the subject’s sad indiscretions. Well this one has none of those,
it talks frankly and up-front about who was there in GV from ‘56 to ‘66, what they wanted to accomplish,
what they did get done, and how it all played out.
If that interests you as much as it does me, this is your book. Also, if you want to know what Bob
Dylan was like when he came to NYC and what he said and did on his arrival, this is indeed your
source, more than any other except perhaps Suze Rotolo's book (she was the girl on Dylan's 'Freewheelin' cover).
Dave had a perspective that few have ever had, and displays an honesty that I
can respect. If you’ve ever wondered about Greenwich Village, Dave Van Ronk, early Dylan, or
the so-called “Folk Revival” (He calls it the ‘Folk-Scare’) buy this book and shut the hell up!
Crusader in NJ