First time on CD for these rare albums recorded during the US folk boom of the early 1960s.
I grew up listening to popular music with my family, singing folk songs at hootenannies and learning to love country music by listening with my buddies to Barkin With Larkin, an AM country radio show. For my high school variety shows, I chose two Caribbean folk songs made popular by Harry Belafonte. But those loves of my life were only the beginning for me. It was the southern rockabilly artists that had me running to the Brill Building, the pop music Mecca in the heart of New York City. That musical trichotomy – folk, country and pop – has haunted me my whole recording career long.
My professional musical life began when I was a student at Columbia University, where I hosted a folk song show on the campus radio station. My first hits were on the Guaranteed label. Unfortunately its parent company, Carlton Records, couldn’t quite figure out what to do with me after those hits. They released two wildly different LPs simultaneously in 1961: “Hear Paul Evans In Your Home Tonight” (a collection of my hits and some pop covers) and “Folk Songs Of Many Lands”, my pride and joy folk album.
“Folk Songs Of Many Lands” was recorded at Associated Recording Studios in New York City over the course of a month. The musicians were my studio regulars: Buddy Salzman (drums), Charlie Macy, Al Gorgoni and Everett Barksdale (guitars), Dick Romoff (bass), Frank Owens and Leroy Glover (piano).
I was invited to perform my folk repertoire at St Thomas University, a Roman Catholic liberal arts university in New Brunswick,Canada. The students were predominantly Irish by their reaction. They went wild for ‘Wearing Of The Green’ and ‘Kevin Barry’, and, I think, forgave me for singing ‘British Grenadiers’.
In 1962 I found a spot recording for a man who had started out his music business career selling records from the back of his car and had risen to become one of music business’ most respected figures, Dave Kapp. Like Carlton, Kapp Records was one of the bigger independent labels in New York and had enjoyed many hits by Roger Williams, Jane Morgan, Jerry Keller, Brian Hyland and Jack Jones.
When I met Dave, he told me my recording career had slipped because I was too vocally versatile. We had to find one style and stick to it. So what did they do? They released six pop singles and one country/folk LP. That album was “21 Years In A Tennessee Jail” in 1963. Kapp’s executives respected my album, but thought the title and artwork were holding back sales. So they re-released it some three years later with a new title, “Another Town – Another Jail”, and new cover artwork. An album of prison songs was the label’s idea, but the song choices were mine.
The Kapp album shares many things with “Folk Songs Of Many Lands”: many of the same musicians, the same studio, the same recording technique and, most importantly, the folky quality of the country material. The songs are either traditional: ‘Betty And Dupree’s Blues’, ‘Columbus Stockade Blues’, ‘John Hardy’, or written in the traditional style: ‘Another Town – Another Jail’ (penned by Jack Reardon and me), ‘I Got Stripes’, ‘Allen town Jail’.
For this first-time reissue of these two LPs, as a bonus Ace has added my 1960 hit, ‘Midnite Special’. It is a Southern folk song based on aTexasjail legend that said if the light of the Midnight Special train shined into your cell at the stroke of midnight, you’d be freed.
By Paul Evans