About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Remembering, Never to Forget


Memorial Day, of course, is when we remember those who died in service to their country (talking the US here), but has been expanded to those US service men & women who are no longer with us. However, because we do not want to miss a time we might "recognize" anyone in the military, current or veteran, alive or dead, to express appreciation, we consider them as well. And I've been seeing that some organizations are also recognizing first responders in other walks of life (police, fire, ambulance, etc.) as well. As one who has called 911 more than once and who is a Navy veteran's widow, I have appreciated the different categories of folks who give their life and time for the good of folks, many of whom they haven't and won't ever meet. 

What about songs that are designed to honor the many who have risked and even given their lives for the well-being of others? Of  course, in the US, most of us don't see the horrifying, every-day reality of death and destruction in front of us, as part of our lives (thinking of the unimaginable lives lived by the Ukrainians). But many, if not most, of us experience one, or even more, events where we were "saved" or positively assisted at a time when we did not expect to emerge unscathed, by a first responder, or even a second, third, etc. responder, but whose intervention was life changing, or life saving. Probably the event that immediately comes to mind is the terrorist attack on the US on 9/11/01. With that in mind, my selection of a song is one that expresses appreciation, thanks, and more for those who went in to rescue the folks trying to escape the burning towers in New York, as the last act in their lives.

So many songs deal with brave men and women who put everything on the line to help or save others. So today I offer the song, "The Bravest," in recognition of the bravest in NY on that day when the world changed for so many.

"The Bravest," by Tom Paxton © 2001, recorded live in Aug., 2011 for the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Video is horrible, but sound is good.

"The Bravest," by Tom Paxton © 2001, recorded live in July 2015 at Morristown Green. Video is great, but volume is horrible.

Is there a song that comes to mind for you, one that recognizes, tells a story, or expresses emotion that connects to those who live (and often die) their lives for others?

Monday, May 22, 2023

Sunday . . . er, Monday Singalong - Cut the Cake

 It's been a long day following a longer day that followed still a longer day . . . but, with a few naps under my belt (or head), I am ready to write up my Sunday Singalong. Well, I would have been, 24 or more hours ago. However, my topic today is inspired by an upcoming date that, for some reason, is looming larger than ones in years past. So, I turn 72 on May 25. When I think of that date, I immediately think of my brother, 6 years my senior, who was born on July 4 (we are a patriotic family . . . there have been rare times when my birthday fell on the day we now recognize as Memorial Day). Anyway, dealing with the summer heat & humidity of Chicago had to have been difficult for my mom, but she still went ahead to have her much wanted second child (actually, she tried to show up a couple of years earlier, but that was not to be, so it became my turn). But having me in May meant that Mom was not to suffer pregnancy and hot/humid summer weeks at the same time (at just less than 3 months before she would turn 40 years old). So I show up, with much fanfare. OK, Mom said her first utterance when she was shown her hoped for daughter was "ugh." Actually, that was much better than some things I'm fairly certain she would have wanted to say to or about me as I battled with those glorious years between about 13 and 18. 

Anyway, the obvious song that comes to mind with the topic of birthdays is that horrible, allegedly most famous of all songs, that people insist on singing (so often off key) when the cake comes out. I heard it more than enough. When I was a kid, until 1968, my grandfather (whose birthday was May 20th) and I had a joint family celebration at the Sunday dinner between our two birthdays. Sadly, on our last (1967) birthday dinner, for reasons I didn't understand at the time, the family celebrated my grandfather's natal day separate from mine. I was terribly upset as that was something he and I had always shared. He died on April 4, 1968, so there was no opportunity to right that wrong. But I think of him, every May (and April . . . and March . . . well, he's never far from my mind . . . we were close).

So, what songs are sung to recognize the birthdays in your family? We have been partial to John McCutcheon's performances of Tina Liza Jones's "Cut the Cake." What, don't know it? Oh, dear. Well, give a listen:

Cut the Cake, Live recording, 2016, on YouTube, John McCutcheon

Your turn . . . songs about birthdays??

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Mom, miss you


My mother will be gone 29 years next month (June) and I still miss her every day. That's no surprise; I expected that. In the weeks that followed her passing, I was unable to sing, or even listen to, some of my favorite songs dealing with mothers. But over time (and it doesn't "get better with time," at least, not for me . . . it becomes more controllable - I have some control over when and to what degree I want to let my feeling of her absence govern my thoughts. However, on Mothers Day I am often plunged into sadness by conversations or TV programs or just out of the blue - when I can't sidestep that type of loneliness. I tend to put myself into less mother-intense situations in an effort to manage my own emotions. That may or may not be a good idea, but either way, it's helped me over the last almost 29 years. After all, I think of my mother daily and am ever grateful for how she elected to raise me and teach me those things mothers tend to insist on teaching their kids, even if they don't want the lessons.

So, I guess I dedicate this little post to the mothers who painstakingly teach their children how to tie their shoes; be able to cook basic meals; not mix colors & whites in the laundry; how to diagram sentences; how to properly use utensils; why not to run with scissors, touch hot irons, or cross the street without checking both ways; how to properly word a thank you note (and send it in an appropriate time frame); who to call for help and how to know which first responder to contact for what emergency; when to go to bed in order to get enough sleep for the next day; and so many other things . . . we all have out lists, right? 

This song is a perfect example of a situation where motherhood is more than a birthing process. While this isn't my story, I know so many for whom this is reality. Please listen to the end, and keep tissues handy. As I often do, I've pulled this song from the repertoire of Tom Paxton, who, I believe, has a song for every occasion. It was written in the 1980s and is as pertinent today as it ever was.

Happy Mothers Day, in whatever form that works best for you. 

"Mother," by Tom Paxton, (c) 1982

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Tell me a Story


Yesterday I attended a "story swap" and a storytelling event (local) and got to meet some storytellers I haven't actually met, though I've "met" them via Zoom. One is local to me - the Inland Valley Storytellers - and the other's home is in San Diego - the Storytellers of San Diego. I've been acquainted with many of the folks from years past and, since I've started attending the online meetings, it's been good to get re-acquainted. I've been out of the "formal" storytelling groups for a number of years and it's good to be back. 

Of course, story songs - ballads - are a primary method of "teaching" or informing folks of various events in history or in a family. I took an incredible class in American Folk Song & Ballad back in 1987 at Cal. State Fullerton, taught by Bill Koon, and it was incredible (well, maybe you'd need to be there). Our text book was Lomax's American Ballads and Folk Songs and it's still available at a reasonable price, plus can be purchased for Kindle. Maybe I should get another hard copy since mine is in pieces. Anyway, what story song should I share tonight? That's a tough one, but I'm drawn to the first song I recall learning in its entirety (as far as our copy and version is concerned) - I was about 4. Dad played piano and I sang it with gusto! That a frog was courting a mouse, whose uncle was a rat, was not something that concerned me at that age, after all, many of my storybooks included talking and inter-species relationships of animals, but all the mice I'd ever seen in person were rather quiet (perhaps because they were in traps and already decidedly dead?). I wasn't that familiar with frogs, but my brother and I often went toad hunting at the family's Wisconsin cottage (don't despair: no killing was involved . . . we'd keep them in a bucket overnight and send them on their way in the morning). Those creatures didn't talk, either, but they did make some funny noises. All of that is off-topic. By the time anyone reads this, it will surely be long past Sunday, but have you a story song to share?

Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frog_Went_a-Courting

I have collected a large number of versions of the song, but, sadly, don't find the version Dad taught me very easily ("A Frog He Would a-Wooing Go"), so a recording is not included here. Like the last verse of the version I learned: "If you want any more you can sing (or Google) it yourself."


Sunday, April 30, 2023

Sunday SIngalong - Cures and Ills


Did you walk yesterday? I mean, did you walk for any special causes? So many causes need to be recognized, need to have fundraisers, need to be eradicated. Yesterday (29 April 2023) is a day for Pancreatic Cancer awareness. This does not mean that, once April 29th is over, we no longer need to be aware of this disease, it's that large amounts of money, particularly for the PanCan organization, was raised to create awareness-raising.

I am not going to get on a soap box about this, or any disease. Goodness knows, there are many that are ravaging our communities and destroying families. But those same diseases are bringing folks together with a combined desire to do what is ever possible to make the disease researched and eradicated.

I’d love to say that pancreatic cancer has never touched my life, but off the top of my head I can point to at least 3 good friends and 1 good husband who succumbed. Watching a loved one taken, oh so slowly, by the cancer monster (whatever the cancer may be) is devastating. Nothing has given me such a helpless feeling as that. So, what is there to sing about here, you ask? Sometimes the mere singing (together, but even privately) can lift spirits. My husband and I used to sing together (often รก cappella and without any plan to do so . . . we’d be talking about something, watching a TV show, or just doing a task together and we’d be struck with a song, usually inspired by whatever was happening . . . yeah, sort of like a musical . . . though I don’t recall ever running up a hillside and singing about the hills being alive with music). And I remember sharing music with my friend Pernell Roberts (once, during a lengthy visit, we did some singing together, even though his body was already frail from pancreatic cancer . . . still, he sang, though just a but, preferring to listen to me sing to him). Music ties us together.

So, what song today, and on what theme? How about illness. But it does not need to be a sad song, it can be something that is uplifting. Maybe something that helps you forget an illness (bodily or societal). My choice (and this has taken some time to select):

"Me and a Couple of Angels," by Tom Paxton, ©2002 on Looking for the Moon 

written for his sweet wife, who was ill and holding on to Tom, their 2 daughters, and three grandsons.

Midge died 1 June 2014 of pneumonia, following a long bout with an autoimmune disease. She was 69.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Earth Day (should be every day)


Another year goes by, and still, we deal with pollution and worse in the world. What will the state of things be 2 or 3 generations from now (not daring to think any further). I like to watch old westerns. Have you ever noticed that when the folks in the old west had something to discard (a cigarette butt, a wanted poster, a letter from …anyone) it was just tossed into the street? A street was, by today’s standards, quite tidy (considering the horses and what they left behind), at least in the TV shows. I know that, in some places (the bigger cities, for example), there were street sweepers (people, not machines) whose job it was to sweep up the manure. It was a non-stop job. Didn’t pay well, but steady work. I would guess that the cigarette butts, dodgers, and letters from their gold seeking loved ones, off in California, Nevada, the Dakotas, Alaska, were all swept up by those whose job it was to remove such refuse. I can’t help but notice that the streets near where I live do not have a 24/7 street sweeper. Not even an 8/5 sweeper. 

Thinking back to small towns, those who have sidewalks in front of their establishments are expected to clean up the area, even if the property is public (remember The Andy Griffith Show where Floyd is often found sweeping in front of the barber shop, as is the person with the mercantile, etc.). When was the last time you were in a town or village and saw such activity going on? I can count on no hands how many I’ve seen folks thusly engaged in the past, ah, my whole life. Yes, at times I’ve seen a street sweeper (large vehicle with worn out brushes turning and allegedly sweeping the refuse into an on-board bin) . . . and I’ve seen the trail, after they recently passed by, evident by the thin line of dirt and small items – cigarette butts, bottle caps, candy wrappers – that weren’t big enough to get swept up in the activity.

When folks pine for the good ol’ days, maybe part of that is remembering times when the air smelled cleaner and the streets were swept (though some of the residue from the sweepers trying to keep up with the horses may not be as sweet-smelling). Maybe someday, instead of no longer “needing” the song I have selected for today, it will be more true to life than not. I hope that won’t be the case.

This piece (yup, by Tom Paxton), “Whose Garden was This?,” was written for the promotion of the first Earth Day (1970). I’m honored to say I was in that crowd, at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and heard its debut. It was expanded some over the years (see second link), but the message remains the same: If we don’t do something, then it will be our epitaph. Sadly, he is still feeling it necessary to perform this frequently.  

The buttons here are from that first Earth Day promotion and have remained in my collection. Perhaps, someday, they will no longer be true, and then valued only for their antique status.

“WhoseGarden?” – 1970  

“Whose Garden?” – 2016 (with an addition to the 2nd verse)

Your turn. Any songs about the earth, the gardens, the skies . . . you know, the things we (hopefully) value?

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Sunday Singalong - the American Dream


Tax time! Don’t we look forward to it . . . right. Well, when I married Butch, he told me he always used a tax preparer for filing his return each year. As the daughter of a mathematician, I’d never considered such a bizarre way to handle my finances. That first year together, he went to his tax preparer and I sweated to complete my simplest of simple forms to file on my meager earnings. And I noticed that, of the two of us, one was a lot less stressed than the other (even though, I believe, I received a greater refund that year than he did). Needless to say, after that, we filed jointly and always used an accountant. Over the years, we have had some wonderful folks who have been great at keeping us both honest and fairly stress-free. Fairly.

At one point, we got to get some nice (?) deductions due to the American Dream of home ownership. Over the years, we purchased 3 homes (separately, of course) to be our dwellings (this does not count the various RVs we’ve had over the decades). And, after owning that 3rd home for 13 years, we moved it to our current address in Lake Mathews, an unincorporated area of Riverside County where our zip code says we are in Perris, our home telephone exchange says we’re in Riverside, and our neighborhood children are bussed to schools in Corona. Well, try to find me with all of that info! I live on Multiview Dr., meaning, when I look East, there is Perris; when I look West, there is Corona; and when I look North, there is Riverside. If I look South, I see a lot of construction where it appears at least 3 new neighbors will soon be having a go at the American Dream, too.

(Moving the house was one thing; adding on was another; at least the photographer caught Butch and me BOTH smiling at this point in the renovation/addition/headache – 2002)

Why all that? Home ownership has proved to be an emotional roller coaster, with various demands on time and pocketbook and I started to think about the phenomenon of getting a mortgage, and then working to cover the various expenses (can’t call the lender to replace a broken window as we might have done with a landlord when we were renters). But it is still the American Dream. And I wonder what songs this might bring to mind. Yes, you are right, it’s another Tom Paxton song that was first to pop up in my head (actually, I was singing the song a few days ago and decided to write a blog around it, instead of the other way around).

“We Went to the Banker,” ©1983, on Bulletin . . . We Interrupt this Record

Any songs about homes, money, taxes, ?? 

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Resurrecting


It is Easter Sunday as I write this and I've been enjoying music and talks on the subject of Christ and his resurrection (no, I'm not going to preach here) and the seasonal concept of "rebirth." I like to think of the world blossoming and becoming "new," even in places where many don't "see" the seasons. I've been living in California for 50 years as of this summer and can say that I have always "seen" the seasons and the changes. Granted, some changes are more subtle than others and some seasons stick around for just a moment or two - spring has been particularly brief in the last few years and the rains (AKA the "rainy season," our version of winter) have been significantly brief, also. But this year . . . this year it is quite the season of rebirth as our "rainy season" was plentiful with product - too the detriment of many areas in my general vicinity (property, houses, and people have endured large amounts of suffering because it appeared that the "liquid sunshine" would never end; no sooner was a mudslide cleaned up, felled trees were cleared away, and water pumped from homes that the next deluge would appear and here we go again. But today, in fact, much of the last week, the weather has been amazing - in the 70s and even 80s, some days; mild winds (for the most part); and finally the sense Noah must have felt when the 40 days & nights of torrents stopped and the rainbow came out (yup, even had some rainbows around here). The flowers are particularly gorgeous (and overwhelming to those with pollen allergies). The birds have been quite boisterous. All those signs that spring has sprung are evident (as we sort of cautiously enjoy the outdoors, all the while keeping an eye on the forecast - is it really over?).

Almost every year since I've lived here, there have been the following comments, come April: "This is going to be Southern California's worst fire season ever!" The rationale is that, when there is not enough rain and we again reach drought conditions, all vegetation that is on the hills has turned brown and ripe for bursting into flames, almost without more than a sideways look. However, when the rain has been plentiful, especially into March, the greenery is obvious as for as the eye can see, meaning that, come summer and the temperatures (at least in my area) reach into the 90s and 100s, the multitude of fuel (even if not all dried out) means "Katy, bar the door! The wild fires are in the wind!" I know that last year, with the drought in high gear, the fires were everywhere and one couldn't go more than 20 or 30 miles without being diverted due to smoke or fire. We wore masks to be able to breathe the air as much as protect from diseases. 

And  so, as I observe the proliferation of flowers (OK, many are weeds, disguised as flowers) I think about the region being resurrected. And the weather is perfect where I am (wish I could bottle it to open deep into July or August when I'm certain the temperatures will never again be below 3 figures). Thinking of the rebirth or personal realizations or circle of seasons, etc. so many references in songs remind us that "tomorrow is another day" and we will sing again (in our hearts, if not our voices).

out my front door, today, 9 April 2023 
(likely to be a little less green in a month or so)

I am particularly fond of an obscure Tom Paxton song (yes, I do listen to other music, but I've enjoyed Tom's for so many years that his songs come quickest into my mind): "Spin and Turn." Now, I did try to find a copy of the audio, for free, but have been unable to find a link to one. It's on his album Live, for the Record recorded in 1996, I believe. It's available from Amazon as well as Tom's website. Anyway, here are the lyrics (for those familiar with Tom's music, the verses and chorus follow the tune of his "Fare thee Well, Cisco" - and if you like the lyrics and don't know the best way to get a copy of the song, let me know sometime and I'll sing & play it for you).

“Spin and Turn” – Tom Paxton, ©1996


1)  Deep in the night a baby takes his first deep breath and cries,
His momma’s tired and happy, Daddy’s head is in the skies;
The fiddler resins up her bow, And the guitar tunes a string,
The circle dancers part, To let another others join the ring.


Spin and turn, Life goes on and on.
Circles around the sun Till the final dance is done.
Spin and turn, We’ve been here and gone.

2) Early in life the young man Finds a woman who is wise,
He takes her in his arms And finds tomorrow in her eyes;
They dance around the circle Till the two of them are one,
They do the dance of life Until a new life has begun.



Old men telling children Of the world when they were young;
Children telling old men of their dreams;
Mother, daughters, fathers, sons,
Around and around, the circle runs In streams.

3) Till deep in the night an old man Takes his final steps and sighs,
Across the lake the music Echoes to the midnight skies;
While, deep within, the ancient song Is rising in his breast,
For him, the hour is late And now it’s time he took his rest.



And deep in the night a baby Takes her first breath and cries,
Her momma’s tired and happy Daddy’s head is in the skies -

Spin and turn Life goes on and on.  

Your turn!

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Sunday Singalong - 2 April 2023 - Best Memories


April 2nd . . . the day after April 1st (the Fools’ Day). But it’s the 2nd that holds the best memory for me. It was a day that “changed my life” – back in 1966. At not quite 15 years old, that is quite a deal: to change a life so young, with a change that lasted until . . . well, it’s still applicable.

Meeting my favorite actor was not just a dream come true, it was a goal that was reached. With that accomplishment (a very long story in itself), I felt I had no more amazing experiences left in my life. Yeah, well, I learned. And over the next 44 years, I have learned from those additional experiences, whether involving my favorite actor, who, over the course of the following 3 years, turned into a beloved friend and confidant, or others who came into (and, in some cases left from) my life. I have learned from, laughed and cried with, and enjoyed the company of folks of all religions, cultures, interests, etc. And so many good memories (yes, there were some not so good ones, too, but I choose when and where to let those enter my brain). Got a special friend? A special memory? A special song that brings either to mind?

I turn back to works of my friend Tom Paxton and a song I have loved since I first heard it, but that he was not that enamored with because nostalgia, at the time he wrote the piece, was not something he chose to dwell on. Still, he recorded it and sang it, and it can be listened to and even purchased from Amazon (links below).

As I’ve shared in the past, this one is on his album “New Songs for Old Friends”:

Faces and Places

Pernell Roberts & Jean Wilcox

2 April 1966, St. Charles, Illinois

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Sunday Singalong - National Puppy Day


So the 23rd of March was National Puppy Day. Did it slip past you? My puppy, Amarok, says we should have puppy days all year ‘round. And he has them all year ‘round . . . that is, he takes them if I forget to honor the dog. He has a lot of quirks, but he is really a good dog and will be out of the puppy stage (and into teenager stage, I guess) in about 6 months. He’s already in training: rarely chews things that aren’t his (but he believes most things are his, so maybe that’s not saying much!). But my cables, phones, and most paper piles have gone bite-free since about the beginning of the year (was it his new year’s resolution?) and that’s just fine with me.


So, in honor of National Puppy Day, let’s go for some dog/puppy songs. And, yes, I have one to share, of course. There are so many, though, so there are plenty left for others to recognize. Come on and play the game. I’ll suggest the one that was loved by my family (especially my brother . . . it’s about the only song that he will sing with me): “Hound Dog.” No, not THAT “Hound Dog.” No, not that one either. This one:

“Ya Gotta Quit Kickin My Dog Aroun” – the Skillet Lickers (1926)


“They Gotta Quit Kickin’ My Dawg Aroun’” ©1912 – Vancha March

Written by Webb M. Oungst, music by Cy Perkins

Your turn.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Ha! Bet you expected something Irish


Friday was St. Patrick's (Padraic's) Day and I went to a museum with a friend. Yup, everyone (OK, most people) were wearing the green in one way or another. Even my friend and I both wore the accepted attire, regardless of religious preference. And when we went to lunch, at Mimi's (a French-themed restaurant), decorations reminded us what day it was, even if we had momentarily forgotten. And I even figured out how to order my smart phone, with Bluetooth, to play The Chieftains, one of my favorite, traditional, Irish groups (I could order it to play the music, but couldn't figure out how to make it stop! (at least, not with a vocal command) . . . I physically paused it, but think it is still up on the phone, if I get in the mood again.

I thought about asking for songs with an Ides of March theme (a few days late) . . . but do many folks have a repertoire of Julius Caesar songs/poems? It is one of the very few topics of which I do NOT have stashed in my "there's a song about that" file! And I'm OK with that.

So I'm back to March 17th. Let's go for the green (not money, just the color). I have many songs pop into my mind when I considered that color. I'd say, most standard colors are featured in at least a couple of songs, so it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to come up with something that fits.

Now, my guess is that many who are asked about a green-themed song will come up with my first choice, however, I also bet that no one has this version (besides, this is my blog, so I get first "dibs"). So here, for, hopefully, your listening pleasure (with that last word, possibly a stretch) is a medley of "Greensleeves" and "House of the Rising Sun." I have learned a great deal about both of these, but I'll not take time here to share. Instead, I hope you appreciate the recording of me on guitar and Butch Hibben on saw. This was a combined piece we used to play often. 

"Greensleeves/House of the Rising Sun" - from Playing on the Edge - with Butch & Jean Hibben - download from DropBox (no need to have the program)

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Camp Songs


I've likely used this theme before . . . but there's a lot of material out there!

This weekend I have been attending camp. That is, virtually. Camp Harmony comes up a couple of times a year, hosted by SanFrancisco Folk Music Club. I have been attending online since they started with this platform. It brings me back to times at the camps I attended as a kid. Day camps, overnight camps, one a week long, another 2 weeks. Lots of good memories and a couple of not so good ones. Some of the same songs popped up in the experiences (mostly ones like "Kumbaya" and "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" - that boat has been rowed ashore in a lot of places and for decades!). But a lot of ones unique to the camp or hosting organization (“Great Big Brownie Smile” comes to mind).

So, what camp songs have been part of your past? I learned “Can’t Help but Wonder Where I’m Bound” at YWCA camp (with a bit of adjustment in the lyrics of one verse and omission of another entire verse -  but it was a girls' camp; the enjoyment was still there). It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I learned it was written by my now friend, Tom Paxton – who often would say, in his concerts, when he was about to sing it, “Please don’t say, 'I learned that in camp, Tom.'” I guess others had the same experience. So here’s my link to Tom singing it, with all verses and no censorship (honest, it was very minor – it’s apparently easy to sing “Sometimes when I’m feeling blue” instead of “Sometimes when I’ve had a few” – who’d a-thought? And there are those to whom both statements apply).

"Can't Help but Wonder Where I'm Bound" (as it is on his "Ramblin' Boy" album by Elektra, way back in the '60s, when I bought it).

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Who is in the Family Tree?


So this week (Thurs - Sat) was the RootsTech event in Salt Lake City, but also presented in an online format. The goal: learn more about finding ancestors. That seems to be a common theme in my life (and blog) so finding songs that connect to that is rather an easy task for me. Perhaps it is for you. Or, perhaps, you have some songs that are family favorites. I remember that when my father and I sat down to "jam," there were always particular songs that had to be played/sung - my mother was partial to 2 Tom Paxton songs: "Marvelous Toy" and "Ramblin' Boy" - every "performance" had to include those, while my brother's choice, and long-time family favorite, was, and is, "Ever'y Time I go Downtown, Somebody Kicks my Dog Around," so whenever I hear or play any of those, I'm taken back in time to music with the family). And those were good times.

There are also a number of pieces that I like because of the familial connection and one of those I particularly enjoy is John McCutcheon's "Water from Another Time":

Live performance (2019)

From record (CD) (1987) 

John's website (43 recordings + info on live concerts, in-person & virtual)

Your turn , , , songs about family? songs your family enjoys/enjoyed? (links OK, copying directly from a copyrighted source - e.g., website - not OK)

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Singalong All


I am writing this while enjoying the annual Roundup of Songmakers, a Southern California group of musicians (of all experience levels) who gather in homes or similar locations to make music together. It was begun back in the 1940s during the McCarthy era when many musicians in the recording and entertainment industries were blacklisted. This became a great organization for those wanting to try out their music but also to have some moral support from others in a similar situation. So, here we are, so many years later, still supporting each other and sharing music together.

Getting together has suffered during the pandemic, but has also been expanded, if that makes sense. No, we can’t all hear each other at the same time when we do our music, but we do get a chance to hear and, after a fashion, even sing along with people of all musical experience from all around the world. I miss getting together with folks in person (yes, many have returned to the in-person gatherings, keeping a certain level of distance between each other, but I tend to avoid most indoor gatherings).

Whether folks are joining together in song circles, hoots, informal & formal gatherings/concerts, campouts for music around the campfire, or just to listen and enjoy a variety of music, these experiences can be considered ways of keeping people connected. So, for today’s singalong, do you have a favorite singalong song? Whether it’s something like “We Shall Overcome,” or something less serious like “There’s a Hole in the Bucket,” these musical breaks in everyday life can help to make that life more enjoyable. And it’s OK to sing off key or forget the tune . . . just grab a song and join in!

My selection: Well, here I go, back to my friend Tom Paxton, who has written group songs for over 50 years, many that folks around the world sing together, and in a variety of languages. I think one of my most favorites, and still (and forever?) sending a worthwhile message (more today than ever?): "Peace Will Come." A song written in the early 1970s, also performed in the late 1980s, the mid-1990s, or the mid 2010s . . . the message is the same, but the environment keeps changing. Or does it?

Version with too many ads, poor sound quality, and no audience singing along, but still a good one

This recording is of a live performance . . . Listen all through to get the full feeling of group singing.

Another live recording, but harder to hear audience joining in.

Jean & Tom, Napa, CA, 2015:

Monday, February 20, 2023

Sunday (+1 day) Singalong - Presidents & Others with Holidays


I remember when I was in elementary school; we made decorations for the 12th of February and for the 22nd of February. These, of course, honored the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, respectively. But somewhere along the line, things changed . . . back and forth, sort of.

I am not going to go into a listing of what Presidents are honored on what days or which states recognize which dates as holidays . . . it's just a bit too complicated. Instead, I will give my somewhat slanted perspective of someone who has taught school, worked in "industry," and attempted to keep track of when the garbage goes to the street & mail is, or is not, delivered. But for a more complete rundown of the history of Presidents' Day, check the Wikipedia article found here.

Anyway, in 1971, some order of recognized observances was adopted for many American holidays: Memorial & Columbus Days being the first that pop into my mind (so does Labor Day, but that was already assigned to the 1st Monday in September). Presidents' Day was another one. There is an interesting history, along with the reasoning attached, that can be found here. Obviously, New Year's Day (and related "Eve"), along with the 4th of July, Thanksgiving (4th Thursday), and Christmas are not subject to the adjusted celebratory Monday. When Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was developed, it, too, was assigned an appropriate Monday (3rd in January). Veterans' Day, which had been given a Monday date of the 4th Monday in October, was included in the initial 1971 arrangement, but 7 years later was shifted back to the original November 11th date, honoring the WWI Armistice, in agreement with the calendars of other Nations.

So I am actually writing this on the evening of Presidents Day (possessive is dropped when the phrase makes "Presidents" a modifier instead of a noun; though if written to identify a specific President - i.e., Washington - it becomes singular, possessive - President's . . . confused?). However one wishes to write it, it implies Presidents of the United States, not of some company or a genealogy society. Thinking of the various Presidents we have had over the many, many years, it would stand to reason that most of them should be remembered in song (beyond the expected campaign songs at election time). Can you think of any?

Taken between 1909 & 1919; Library of Congress, from glass negative

Since I've collected Civil War songs over the years, it stands to reason that I have a few that mention Lincoln, but I got to wondering about why there is a song to help me remember the books of the Bible, but no song to remember the names and order of our Presidents. But, wait! There is! How I wish I had known this back in junior high school when we were charged with remembering these gentlemen. If you aren't aware of it, check it out here:

"The American Presidents Song," White House Historical Association. And the lyrics are printed on the screen as they are sung (to the tune of "Yankee Doodle").

Now, who's going to put together a song to cover the Presidents after Coolidge?


Sunday, February 12, 2023

Sunday Singalong - The heart and other body parts

With Valentine's day a mere 2 days hence, one cannot help but notice hearts all over the place! On the windows of stores, restaurants, service offices, . . .  everyone seems to love everyone. Well, until we turn on the news, or look on social media. I am dumbstruck by the amount of negativity in the world - smash & grab robberies (a new genre for the crooks), home invasion robberies, carjackings, . . .  it seems a lot of people are not even loving themselves. And then the various world events .  . .  Turkey's disaster is unfathomable, except that it's in front of us on the Internet or TV. In 1906, when San Francisco was rocked and much destroyed by a monumental earthquake, it was not visible to those out of the area. No TV. No Internet. Only when photos were printed in newspapers did folks in other areas realize just what had happened and to what degree the city and its citizens suffered. And still, over 100 years later, it's still hard to imagine, now that the city has rebuilt. And, we are to believe, better prepared for the next one. But in Turkey, the devastation was much worse; the buildings that should have been able to withstand at least some of the destruction, toppled. And so much loss of life. In San Francisco, there were fires all over the city . . . I haven't seen that in what we've been shown of Turkey, but instead, they are contending with horrible cold (something that is not really visible to the cameras' eyes). Some of those who died no doubt succumbed to freezing temperatures before they could be rescued.

Yet, amidst all of this, I have seen the positive side of humanity in the first responders . . . not just those who were from the region, but people from all over the world are going to help. No rewards. No overtime pay. Just helping their fellow human beings. Maybe I should not be quite so despondent about the inhumanity that also takes a front seat in news stories. And maybe those hearts that are displayed for folks to see are a reflection of the inner compassion of today's human beings. 

So, where is this going? Thinking of care and love, I guess . . . We need to have heart in order to proceed with relationships if they are to mean much. Of course, here I am referring to "heart" in a figurative sense, and the song that pops in my mind is from Damn Yankees. Last night, when I was listening to my favorite radio program - "The Midnight Special," on WFMT, Chicago - I heard a parody of that song by Alan Sherman. It made me smile (something that should happen more often with many of us), because of its very accurate message: "You Gotta have Skin"  The largest organ of the human body seems to be affected by the elements much quicker than the other organs. Sort of.

So, looking for a little smiling, a little love, a little appreciation for our various organs and recognition of how important they are, especially when they are working well together. So, I'm curious, what songs come to mind when you think of the human body, its fragility, yet its resilience as well? Any organ songs out there (or songs you can play on an organ? Well, that's going a bit too far afield)?

Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Sunday Singalong - February Follies

For the first 21 or so years of my life, I dealt with weather in Illinois (northern suburb of Chicago, right by the lake - well, about a mile away - where we had a certain shelter from some of the worst of Midwest weather experiences . . . The "Lake Effect"). Still, moving west and living in California for the last almost 50 years has meant I haven't needed any lake effects to protect me from the snow. Winds are another matter I won't address here. Anyway, that said, it's no wonder that I have accepted the first 2 months of a new year with some annoyance . . . even in California, the weather can get a bit, well, annoying. (I don't mention the last month or so of a year because all the excitement of the holidays does have a way of tempering the temperatures.)

For about 13 years (from 1998-2011) I hosted a video watching party at my home over groundhog day weekend. People would come from a large number of places (yup, even had some visitors from the UK a time or two); we'd spread out the sleeping bags, and laugh throughout much of the nights. While enduring some of the worst of the California weather, I had some of the best times. There's nothing like friends to get one out of the doldrums. I miss those days, but also know that, as I'm getting older, sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor has less and less appeal. But good times can never be downplayed. I may not have "February Follies" as in times past, but the memories bring back laughter and provide a different type of warmth. Do any follies (not necessarily connected to February) come to mind?

So, I'm afraid that, when I think of "follies," I am also reminded of times, which some people I know have had, as a result of a little bit too much imbibing. Now, I'll never admit to that being me, though there was a time when it might have been (not sure I remember those times, though). And that automatically triggers thought of the performances of my friend, Tom Paxton, and his composition "Wasn't that a Party?" Sadly, I could not find a YouTube video of him performing this live, but I did locate an authorized copy of the song in that format. In fact, the entire album on which it was first recorded by Tom, is featured, so I am linking that here. All the songs on that recording are fun to listen to (the first time, or hundred-and-first time): 

"Wasn't that a Party" from

New Songs for Old Friends

Your turn: any follies you can think of, with the songs that express them?


Sunday, January 29, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Critters

 In just a few days it will be my favorite holiday, and the one that determines our atmospheric fate for the next month and a half. It's all a matter of sunshine on February 2 . . . while we might enjoy a bit of sun (for a change?), this is the day when we cheer for clouds because, only if the sun is hidden and a shadow cannot appear, will we enjoy an "early spring" 6 weeks hence. For those who are into the numbers, that date will be the 16th of March. Should the sun be shining on February 2nd and a shadow visible, our prognosticator friend will head for the burrow to get some more sleep (I calculate that to be 1-1/2 months). OK, call me cynical. 

However (don't ever start a paragraph with "however," just FYI), my experience, from growing up in a Chicago suburb and spending the first 21 years of my life in Illinois, I have concluded that, very often, when we have had a mild winter that seems to be behind us by early March or even late February, we get hit with "both barrels" and those who jumped the gun (pardon the references to fire-arms) by removing snow tires and storm windows, regret that move. I am remembering a particularly nasty storm in March 1967. It's an easy one to remember because, on St. Patrick's day that year, my parents and I hustled off (via train) to California for a couple of weeks. Behind us we left a 3+ foot height of snow in the yard and when we got back, not a flake remained. But I digress . . . big time. (No, I don't recall the groundhog's prediction that year . . . maybe I'll get around to checking one of these days!)

So, rather than suggesting we share some songs about weather, I'd like, instead, to learn about "critter" songs. Certainly a number of songs about little furry things (or scaly or feathered ones) appear in the children's songs of our youth (or someone's youth), but there are also a number in the collections of songs for parents. Yup, I have a number of critter song favorites, but I want to keep even closer to the topic and suggest the song "Groundhog." It's not expressly a children's song, but is considered such among some folks, I'm sure. The problem we have with that song is that instead of honoring and revering the critter, the goal of the singers is to catch, cook, and eat it. Something I'll bet horrifies Punxsutawney Phil.     

Regardless of the groundhog's reaction, I have enjoyed this song since I was about 8, maybe earlier. We had neighbors - George and Gerry Armstrong and daughters Becky and Jenny - who recorded this piece and did perform it in live concerts as well. 

So here is a link to the Groundhog song as sung by George & Gerry (lyrics here, with link to a live recording from 1963. . . there's a rather long intro on the recording and it's hard to hear, but the music comes through great . . . instrument: Appalachian dulcimer).



Sunday, January 22, 2023

Sunday Singalong - New Years, New Plans, New People

I have determined how to handle my blogging! A new idea (for me) has come into my head (yes, almost all my blogging friends are already wise to this): Just do the writing as the ideas come to mind and schedule the appearance in the blog for the most appropriate time. 

I know it's a little late for "new year," but, at least in my world, the year stays "new" for at least a few weeks. We've had a lot of rain in Southern California and, while everything feels water-logged, it also tends to feel somewhat new (OK, in some places the slick of mud covering almost everything probably gives it more tarnish). I remember, as a kid, doing summers in some wooded location in Wisconsin or Minnesota, the rain seemed to wash off the dirt and leave the trees glistening . . . maybe that's my "picture" of my yard following a good washing . . . even if it is not quite as I remember. So, as long as we are dealing with the rain and then the resulting (or consecutively) appearing greenery, it's still a "new" year.

What songs come to mind when thinking of "new"? Are there plans, people, places, perspectives, ?? There are so many! They don't all scream "THIS IS NEW" . . . but perhaps the information is new to you or to someone who expressed that to you. Some of the oldest songs, when heard for the first time, could be expressing something new, or just be new, to the listener. The first time one hears "Oh, Susanna," "Camptown Ladies," "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?," etc. may come with some "revelation" or connection to a time and/or place in the past.

I was introduced to folk music when I probably hadn't yet learned to talk! My entire family has love and appreciation and respect for music. My mother said I got my musicality from her side of the family, citing the type of household her grandmother was raised in: one where concerts were held in their home and how she, Grandma Carrie, as a small child, would put "pins in the piano keys." They lived in Bohemia (Teplitz and Bilin), where they were acquainted with some great musicians (or so the story goes . . . sadly, I've proved the story probably more a tall tale than family history, but the music love is very real). It was Mom's side of the family from which the various old instruments originated (violin, mandolin, parlor banjo, even the piano) and became mainstays in our home. 

But my father would say my love of music came from his side of the family. He learned to play piano as a youngster but preferred to play organ, which he was able to do at church. His cousin taught him all she could, then passed him on to a more accomplished musician he never named (probably because he out-shone anyone they could afford to hire). I'd like to think that I "inherited" the love, talent, interest, affinity for . . . whatever you call it . . . from both sides equally. Maybe I'm atavistic (having characteristics of remote ancestors) and the origin of my enchantment of music may not really be something one can pinpoint. Whatever, learning a new song can be a memorable experience (whether I like the song or not . . . not all memories are good), at least for me. So let me suggest my "offering" on the subject for this blog on "new" stuff, to be a song I have recently learned (new to me); or perhaps I should qualify that as "renewed."

Yes, I learned this "way back when" (in the 1960s, recorded by The Seekers; written by Tom Springfield). Interestingly, as I read the lyrics (again), I picked up a new appreciation for the words as they might apply to someone who has lost his/her life partner or eternal companion (my new role in life these days). This, then, I guess, makes "I'll Never Find Another You" fit the "new" category.  



Your turn.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Oops!

 Who hasn't gone along in life, figuring all is well, only to discover (what was I thinking?) that the time for a promised post (or task, or - fill in the blank) slipped past almost unnoticed until, well, too late!? Oops.

Or maybe it's more like an expected outcome comes out . . . not as expected. It's easy to plan but those plans not written down, as some believe, are only dreams (and can disappear just as fast). OK, I wrote it down. On the calendar. At the right time & place. But you know those dreams . . . I think I slipped off for a quick nap and the plans were swallowed in a dream. Yeah, yeah . . . excuses, excuses. But I have a sneaking suspicion that very few folks were sitting around waiting for Singalong Sunday last week. (Obviously I wasn't!) I am repentant . . . and I am hoping to do better, but I am putting this into the right perspective . . . you see, I have a puppy. (Yes, that has been my excuse for almost everything since last April, but it's far more my reality than I ever expected it to be . . . is it possible that a puppy - and one almost 30# - can be harder to handle than the last time I had a puppy . . . that would be 15 years ago and I had a husband handling half the responsibility, and chewing and brushing and training and mopping up. Lots of "oops" with puppies!)

In fact, it seems as if "oops" has become more a mantra of late . . . but it's more what the dogs are saying to me! Besides the puppy, I have a senior dog who is dealing with arthritis, incontinence, and an insatiable appetite for naps. Oh, yes, and a puppy (who does not comprehend how exhausted are the old ones in his environment).

So, there's today's theme for the Sunday Singalong . . .  songs that express some sort of "oops" (a regrettable decision, a mistake, an unplanned ______ - fill in the blank, etc.). Songs are full of them. And they need not represent personal experience . . . it's much more fun to look at the mistakes of others (and, as our ancestors meant when they sang such songs to their children, take the advice or example as evidence of what NOT to do . . . thankfully, I don't know of any songs telling me why I shouldn't get a puppy . . . I have a book on that subject, though).

So, here's my offering. I enjoyed this song when I first heard it, probably around 1962 when this recording of the Chad Mitchell Trio's Bitter End concert album came out. I thought it was funny. And certainly nothing like reality. Then I got older and looked at people around me. Yup, people could choose to marry for money instead of love. Then I got older still and took a look around me at some of the adults in my world (yes, I was one, too, but resisting that with everything I had in me): Goodness, people sometimes had to replace failed body parts with artificial ones. That scared me, in some ways (still does). So while the song "The Unfortunate Man" was funny when I was a pre-teen; became a reality check in my early 20s; a cause for reflection as a middle-aged, working woman (and college re-entry student); and sad commentary as a senior, I still smile when I hear or sing it, and say a little prayer of thanks that the woman in the song in no way resembles me. Yay, me!

So, for a laugh, a reality check, a reflection, or a bit of sadness, check out the lyrics:


and the performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP7gyyi-FV4

Hope the "oops" is good for some levity. We can all use that.

Share your Oops songs in the comments.