Wednesday, September 16, 2009
1099 E Street, Hayward, CA Bret Harte School Amphitheater: Hayward Folk Song Festival, September 26, 1964
The friendly young woman with the guitar, sensible skirt and straight hair is Alice Stuart, one of the performers in the Hayward Folk Song Jamboree, held at the Bret Harte School Amphiteathre (1099 E Street in Hayward) on Saturday, September 26, 1964. The older woman on the left, pretending to play the autoharp, is the organizer, Mrs. Donald Hovenor. This Folk Festival was organized as a fundraiser by the Family Services Guild, a Southern Alameda County "Society" charity. As a result, this event got excellent promotion in the Hayward, Fremont and Oakland papers in the prior week. The photo and clipping above are from an article in the "Women's" Section of the Hayward Daily Review on September 24, 1964.
In the process of planning her fundraiser (we were breathlessly informed) Mrs. Hovenor was directed to Barry Olivier, organizer of the Berkeley Folk Festival, and he simplified the process of organizing a folk festival in Hayward. The performers were regulars at the Berkeley Folk Festival and on the Bay Area Folk Circuit: Sam Hinton, Jesse Fuller, Slim Critchlow and "for the younger set," The Pine Valley Boys, Alice Stuart, Barry Olivier and Merritt Herring. The Pine Valley Boys were a fine East Bay bluegrass band featuring Butch Waller (later in High Country), Herb Pedersen (Dillards, Desert Rose Band, many others) and David Nelson (New Riders, David Nelson Band, etc).
While this performance was probably a fun, and possibly lucrative, gig for the performers, it does show Folk Music at an interesting crossroads. Most serious young Folk musicians, like Herb Pedersen, Alice Stuart and David Nelson, got interested in bluegrass or blues not only because it was good, but because it was unsanitized and possibly a bit dangerous, unlike simper popular stuff like The Kingston Trio. Yet by late 1964, suburban Society matrons are happy to use an exported version of the Berkeley Folk Festival for a fundraiser, and equally happy for their own kids to be attending the show on a Saturday night. This was no criticism of folk music itself, but it had come a long way from the secret society it had once been.
In late 1964, things were certainly on the verge of change. Folk music did, to its credit, turn out to be threatening, if only because it often lead to rock music. Alice Stuart, for example, less than 18 months after this photo was taken, ended up getting hired by Frank Zappa to play in his band The Mothers for a few months in Los Angeles, and if that isn't threatening to parents, what is? In any case, Alice Stuart is still friendly and still has a guitar, even if its mostly an electric one these days, as she is a veteran of many recordings and performances.