Grant Carrington's Music Miscellanea


    Music did not play an important part of my early life. It was in the background. I remember "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" from World War II, although I didn't understand it, and later "Mairsy Doats." My mother played piano a little and both my brother and my sister took piano lessons. (I didn't take piano lessons because I didn't like the piano teacher and my mother said "We're not going to send you to someone else and insult her.") I took guitar lessons in fourth grade so that I could play guitar like a real cowboy but, when I changed schools for fifth grade, I dropped the lessons. There were some records in our house. I remember the red vinyl 78 rpm Silvertone records and "Now Is the Hour" and "Peculiar" (both by Buddy Clark) and "Aren't You Glad You're You?" For Christmas one year, I got an album of cowboy music on 78s which I eventually broke by falling off the arm of the sofa onto them, except for the one with "Old Shep" on it. The first two records I ever bought myself were two 78 rpm records of Frank Chacksfield's "Ebb Tide." I was afraid I would break one. I still have both of them. I also have a 78 rpm of "The Happy Wanderer." Music was not as important to me when I was in high school as it is to teenagers today or even as much as it was to some of my classmates. "Detour" was a big hit in those pre-rock'n'roll days. The Emblers had John McCormick on old big heavy one-sided 78s (they also had some old Bluebird 78s) and Bill Haley on 45s, which I later taped. Pat Boone was more popular in puritan New Haven than Elvis Presley. On Saturday night, the WELI disc jockeys took requests on "Jukebox Saturday Night." Nobody outside of Philadelphia had heard of Dick Clark. Just before leaving for Caltech, I bought the soundtrack for High Society, perhaps the first LP I ever owned, at the Music Box in the Hamden Mall.
    At Caltech (1956-1957), I heard "Rum and Coca Cola" (probably by the Andrews Sisters) on Al Laderman's radio: "Rum and Coca Cola go down point cool, manna. Both mother and daughter working for the Yankee dollar." (Or something like that.) A far cry from Puritan Connecticut, where Damn Yankees was advertised on the radio as Darn Yankees. Oscar Brand's first (and at that time only) Bawdy Songs and Backroom Ballads and Tom Lehrer's first album (a small size 33 1/3 LP) were very popular. For Christmas, I got a copy of Frank Sinatra's In the Wee Small Hours. In the spring, I saw Disney's "Fantasia" and fell in love with Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain." I also won tickets to a movie theatre and saw "Rock Pretty Baby", with music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Rod McKuen. (Cast included Sal Mineo, Mickey Rooney, Faye Wray, Luana Patton, and John Saxon.) I still have the album.
    While at New Haven State Teachers College (1957-1959), I listened to rock'n'roll and Murray the K on a New York station (WINS?) but then began to get interested in classical music, which became stronger when I discovered a bunch of 78s with Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" in the music listening room while rehearsing Uncle Harry in the fall of 1959. I sang bass in the NHSTC chorus under Harmon Diers and as part of a quartet in The Lowland Sea and bought a $15 guitar to play in Hotel Universe (spring 1959). I also spent a lot of time at the Music Box in the Hamden shopping mall, where owner Joe Cohn turned me on to a lot of music. Among other things, I bought Frank Sinatra's Songs for Young Lovers and Songs For Swingin' Lovers.In a cutout bin, I bought Dick Hyman's Autumn in New York (The Music of Vernon Duke), which I taped for use in Hotel Universe. Ray Locke introduced me to Ewan MacColl and Isla Cameron's Irish and Scottish Love Songs (or something like that). In late 1959, George Wagner, Ray Locke, Bessie Shove, and I went down to Greenwich Village, where we heard Dave Van Ronk, Rev. Gary Davis, and a flamenco guitarist at the Commons (later the Fat Black Pussycat) on Minetta Lane.
    At NYU (1960-62), I continued buying classical records at the Discophile on 8th Street, including a record of Georges Enesco pieces with Dinu Lipatti and Germaine Montero's recording of poems and songs by Garcia Lorca, as well as Theodore Bikel's Songs of a Russian Gypsy. I didn't spend much time in the Greenwich Village coffee houses, where Bob Dylan had not yet arrived but Chip Delaney had started performing. At the Champlain Shakespeare Festival in Vermont, I listened to a Pete Seeger concert in the chapel of UVM (I was outside, between cues). I thought it was awful. One of the leads at Champlain, Ron Satlof, had recorded a folk album with his wife, Jane. When I went back to school, I found a copy of it, Folksongs for a Coffee House (Bluebird Records) at the Folklore Center on Bleecker. I also found an old tenor banjo that my grandfather had bought for my Aunt Charlotte that my father had brought home when my grandfather Carrington moved to Florida. I began learning how to play it. While I was home for the summer of 1961, Joe Cohn turned me on to Carmina Burana.
    So when I went to work at Goddard Space Flight Center in 1962 I was interested in folk music and classical but was totally out of the pop music scene. For a while I hung around a record store on 14th Street north of K. It took the Boston Pops' version of the Beatles "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" to start me coming back to pop music. For Christmas 1964, I got a Kay guitar to replace the old guitar I had bought during Hotel Universe that now was threatening to come apart and was unplayable. I also discovered the folk music scene at Dupont Circle, where I ran into Al Cherry and met Larry Ellis and Larry Wolken, a young fellow from Pittsburgh who introduced me to the music of The Holy Modal Rounders, whom we saw at the old Ontario Place.

    Dupont Circle was Washington's answer to New York's Washington Square and I moved there in 1966, first to 2021 O Street NW. While I was living there, in March or April, I met Bill Locke on Dupont Circle. Through Bill I met his girlfriend Sue Buchanan, and through Sue I met Bob Clayton in June. He and I formed a duo we called the hungry 2, which made its debut the following week at the Needle's Eye, a coffeehouse run by a church a couple of blocks south of Dupont Circle on Connecticut Avenue. Bob played guitar; I played tenor banjo. When the coffeehouse closed (the coffeehouse was packed; the church folded), we went to the Pilgrim's Cave, another church coffeehouse that was sparsely attended and eventually the hungry 2 broke up in the fall of 1966. Bob and I continued performing separately, more or less remaining friends. I moved to 1409 Hopkins, where the girls on the 2nd floor played the Mamas & Papas, especially "Monday, Monday" until I hated it. Now it brings back fond memories.

    At the University of Florida (1968-70). I played regularly at the Bent Card Coffee House on University Avenue (run by a church) until it finally closed. I began to get interested in popular music again, partly because of Ramblin' Jack Elliott's Young Brigham album and Dave Van Ronk and the Hudson Dusters, partly because of other performers at the Card, such as Pete Scott, who was heavily into Donovan. I remember listening to Crosby Stills & Nash at Nikki Ricciuti's.

    After finishing my masters degree requirements, I went back to New Haven, where I worked at Book World from 1970 to 1971. I performed for a while at The Exit in New Haven, where I learned the Gaslight in New York had an open mike on Monday nights. So I went down, did one song, and was asked to come back the following week to do three. I did and that was that. Meanwhile I got involved with the poetry scene at The Exit. I met Ed and Illyria Harrington and got more involved with rock music, especially the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane. When my Renault was rearended in January 1971, my back was injured and eventually I had to quit Book World since I couldn't move boxes of books with a badly strained back muscle.
    I spent the summer of 1971 at the Tulane SF&F Workshop, going down to Andy's on Bourbon Street to play on their Sunday open mike, where I made $10-$15.

    Naval Telecommunications Command (1971-74)--Very little performing during this period. I performed at the Iguana at Thomas Circle in DC once or twice, once with Jack Schuster when he was passing through town. I went to a Grateful Dead concert in Williamsburg with one of the guys I worked with. I was stoned out of my mind on psilocybin and the driver was on acid. I was the only one who seemed to have any idea where Williamsburg was and none of us knew where the concert would be. We stopped at a Hardy's on the outskirts of Williamsburg. It was filled with heads. We walked over a little hill and there was the auditorium! I bought albums by Ananda Shankar (including "Light My Fire" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash") and The Royal Teens (Music of the 60s in the style of the 50s).

    Back to Gainesville (1974-77). SREL (1977-1980). Although I did no performing during this period, I spent a lot of time arguing music with Stephen Gregg.

    Westinghouse (1980-1985). About two years after moving to Baltimore, I discovered The Mount Vernon Coffee House, run by Linda Baer, Baltimore's Queen of Folk Music.

    Treasury Department & Retirement (1986-2011) The first couple of years here I performed at the open mikes at The Tacoma Cafe, until it closed, and at Food For Thought north of Dupont Circle in DC as well as at Just Us Folks, run by Tom Jack and his wife at the same church in Baltimore where the Mount Vernon Coffee House had been. Much later (mid90s) I began performing at the open mikes of the Songwriters Association of Washington at the Writer's Center then at a bookstore in Rockville, finally at David Grossman's ArCaDia CD store. I also took lessons from Frances Moyers, went the Commonground and Augusta workshops, as well as ones run by Paul Reisler in Washington, Va.
    Frances had get-togethers at her house, where I met Phil Stoecker, and she told me about the open mike at Borders in Bowie and there I learned about Unexpected Pleasures in Annapolis. Then I learned about Cafe Florian in Camp Springs. Through all these places I met such people as John Kicklighter and Low (who ran Unexpected Pleasures), Bob Jones, Harpo, and J.R. Robusto, one of the finest musicians I have ever known. J.R. recorded my CD, Songs Without Wisdom, for me in 2001. When Unexpected Pleasures closed, I became a regular performer at the Year of the Rabbit Coffee Pub in Bowie Md (run by Francis and Wendy Buckingham until they moved to Denver), where I met Rob Hinkal, Alex Colvin, Brian Boggs, and many others. I also performed at the Riverdale Bookshop in Hyattsville and, thanks to Roger Hockensmith, at the Relay (Md.) Town Hall several times.
    After retirement in 2004, I continued to play at the Cafe Florian in Camp Springs Md, until it closed, theNew Deal Cafe in Greenbelt Md, and the Wagon Shed in New Freedom, Pa. until I moved to Springfield, Mass. in May 2011, while still working on my second CD (Ancient Laughter) with Ray Tilkens.

    Springfield, Mass. (2011-2012)--I drove down to Washington several to finish of Ancient Laughter. I played only one open mike in a bar here and then went up to Northampton, 30-45 minutes up I-91, where I performed every couple of weeks at Sam's Pizza and the Luthier's Co-op in Easthampton.

    Northampton, Mass. (2012-?) The first Friday of June 2012, I walked down to perform at Sam's. I was walking back home with my guitar on my back when a guy walked past me and reached out. "What's this?" I asked. It was a $5 bill. "I'm sure you were good," he said.
    Two weeks later I was outside talking with someone, when Anne Castro [from the Wagon Shed in New Freedom, Pa.] came up! She was there with her husband Joe and her daughter Daisy for the Gypsy Jazz Festival in Northampton. Daisy is about 14 and playing violin, including gypsy jazz violin (whatever that is), with her own group, in Europe and New York City. For some reason, they wouldn't let her play at Northampton's Gypsy Jazz Festival.
    At the end of 2012, I played a couple of times at the Black Moon Cafe in Belcherton before it closed for good at the end of the year.
    Some time in early 2013 I wound making friends with Burrie Jenkins and Conga Bob Adelson and for the next year and more I wound going with them in Burrie's van or Bob's to open mikes elsewhere in western Massachusetts and at least once up to Vermont nearly every night. Burrie got a job hosting the Wednesday Night Open Mike at the Waterfront Tavern in Holyoke so I wound up performing there regularly but that ended in late 2013 and he got a monthly one at the Rendezvous Inn in Turners Falls (which came to an end in Fall 2014) and a weekly one at Whiskerz in Easthampton.