The Maestro's Studio...



Personal Stories and a thank you to Peter, Paul and Mary...


         Teen-Maestro 1967

“The Peter Paul and Mary Song Book” (or "How PP&M helped me make enough money to put me through High School and College.")

In 1965, at age of 15, I began babysitting for a family across the street.  Bob, the father of the two children, introduced me to a couple of Peter, Paul & Mary records.  I recall that the first song I ever heard was "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright", a neat “piece”, to my classically trained ear, certainly a cut above the Dylan fellow who had written and recorded it.  As a Classical Piano Snob, it was customary to "judge" works by how melodic they were.  "Don't Think Twice" was alright! 

As the months went by, we harmonized using “The Peter, Paul & Mary Song Book” that Bob had just purchased.  Listening back to tapes of some of our early renditions, it is not hard to figure out why I decided to take guitar lessons. Bob, who played a little, started me out and I happened on a great teacher who could listen to the record and "figure" out exactly how the song was played.  A short time later, with a rousing version of "500 Miles", written in tablature, my family took off on a trip across the country.  Early in the morning of our departure day, "Album" arrived at Wallich's Music City, I had just enough time to run out and buy it, rush back,  and as final packing concluded, listen to a little of each song.  "The Good Times We Had" really stood out.  Quickly, I recorded it on a little reel-to-reel tape recorder, powered run by two AA batteries.  With my new harmony classical guitar, reel-to-reel tape recording of Good Times We Had and Bob's copy of “The Peter, Paul & Mary Songbook”, we drove off, destination Yellowstone National Park.  Somewhere between L.A. and San Bernardino, the batteries slowed and after noting that even in slow-mo, The Good Times We Had" still had a certain charm, the batteries finally gave out.  Half way between Yellow Stone and Salt Lake my e-string snapped.  By then it had been necessary to tune it and as it turns out, I wasn't much good at it.  At this point, I had to revert to my imagination, Bob's Peter, Paul & Mary Songbook, and a partial attempt at writing down the words for the ever slowing "Good Times We Had".

It would be years till I could sit down and transcribe a piece of PP&M music.  The album songbooks were always a help, particularly for unusual chords and words to songs that were sometimes hard to "make out".  I remember, in particular, the line from Love City ... "Amply supplied with wings".  Which until the songbook arrived remained "exemplisuflied with wings".  Slowing down the record player to 16 rpm helped, too.

Then PPM came to town.  I purchased three tickets, front row, center at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.  After the show, my father, friend Bruce, and I went back stage.  Moments later, a young, bearded, Peter strolled out, adlibbing, singing his greeting and thus communicating to everyone thru his “song”.  He looked just like the Peter on the album cover!  He was mild and gracious, kissed the young ladies on the head and was totally, what we called “with it” and  groovy.  The next weekend, I went again, to a second concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.  I was surprised to see that the concert was equally superb and an exact reproduction of the past weeks performance.  Every word and gesture replicated just as it was the week before.  What a class act. There was only one difference.  As Peter explained, his voice control center was under attack by the LA smog.  When the concert began with their trademark song, “When the Ship Comes In”, it was apparent that something was amiss.  Either Peter was ill and subsequently, hoarse or perhaps in my mind’s ear, Bob Dylan was singing along!

A year or so passed and with the arrival of "Album 1700", came "The Great Mandella", a technically interesting song to “pick off” the record.  PPM arrived in town and I went to their Santa Monica Civic concert.  After the show, we waited back stage, and I asked Peter what chord he used at a certain point in the song.  Surprisingly, he said, that if I came back during the intermission of  the following week’s concert, that he would show me.  Perhaps, surprisingly to him, that's exactly what I did.  So, the following week I was ushered back stage through the rear entrance.  There sat Peter, in pancake makeup, with a cup of coffee in his hand. He picked up Paul's Classical Guitar and showed me the chord.  "Isn’t that a nice D inversion", he said.  I agreed and he sang me the first verse.  If my car had been an airplane, I would have flown it home; a definite Kodak moment.  However, I didn’t have the camera and anyway they weren’t allowed.

It wasn't a week later that Bob took me to the Troubadour in Hollywood and to our delight, there sat Mary Travers.  Over here sat Bob and I.  In my hands was Bob's trusty old "Peter, Paul and Mary Songbook".  However, these days, I think that he had pretty well given up the notion of ever getting it back.  Bob took the book from me and walked over to Mary’s table and explained to her how a young man, who just happened to be a great fan, who really didn't know she was going to be there, and who just happened to have a copy of “The Peter, Paul and Mary Song Book” on his person, would love have her autograph it!.  The tall, slender and famous blond folk singer signed my “Peter, Paul and Mary Songbook"

I guess that Folk Singers need fans and they got a pretty good one in me.  I think that during next decade, teaching guitar for Recreation and Parks, throughout High School and College, that I probably initiated the sale of a lot of PPM records and "Peter, Paul & Mary Song Books" and a lot of Harmony (aka Sears) Dreadnought Guitars.  I suppose that none of the song books are as well traveled as mine.

Peter, Paul and Mary played a very important role in my musical upbringing and I will always appreciate how they music served to motivate me and provide me with wonderful lifelong memories.