Is It All Going?
With Fred Neil
Hit Parader Magazine - 1966
Listen to the
music of Fred Neil, particularly "Travelin' Shoes", "Country
Boy" and "Gone Again" from his "Bleecker &
MacDougal Street" album and you'll dig where he's at. Fred is
a ramblin' man... sort of a wandering minstrel who cares more about
playing his music and traveling and being free than settling down.
When we first
met Fred he was playing at the Night Owl in Greenwich Village being
backed by drums, bass and vibes. They made music that you couldn't
believe. It was rock & roll and folk and country and jazz and
blues all at once. The audiences every night mostly hip teenagers
mostly dug the new sound.
Now Fred is
in canada, without the trio. The wanderlust got him. His group disbanded.
No one, most of all Fred, knows where he'll be or who he'll be making
music with. Next week he might be back at the Night Owl or the Café
Au Go Go in the Village, or in Coconut Grove, Florida or in Canada
or on the road. That's what Fred is living and singing about.
last stop over in New York, we taperecorded some of Fred's remarks
on the Village, Bob Dylan, songwriting, the Beatles and other related
'Bob Dylan sort
of put the charger in everyone on the folk scene and got them going.
And Greenwich Village is one of the main sparkplugs of folk music.
Everybody gets together for a few months and they absorb everything
thats going on, then they go off wherever they go and write
'In pop music
theres too much imitation, songwriters continually try to come
up with something that sounds like a record in the top ten because
they figure "if it sold once, itll sell again". They
were trying for so long to keep the kids down, instead of letting
them hear what was really going on. A lot of record producers are
still trying for the same baloney sound. Theyre reluctant to
try something new. I think they should let the music happen the way
the new songwriters and singers are creating it. If the music is good,
or is saying anything at all, its got to become commercial.
And the only way to really do that is to make the commercial field
come to you. Then youve got it. Roger Millers music was
rejected at the time when he first started writing his songs, because
the record producers didnt want to hear them. They were only
interested in hearing the "yeah-yeah" and "whoo-whoo".'
'The kids today
are more hip than ever and they want to hear some honest songs for
a change. For example - and this is not a put-down on New York - the
13-14 year old kids who come down to the Village see the winos passed
out in the hallways. Its not something theyll go home
and tell their mothers about, but they see it and they know these
conditions exist. Folk music deals with stark realities like this.
Its saying something that the kids know about. You cant
kid the kids anymore. They know and they know that they know.
They dont want all these wars and hassles and uproar all over
the world. They know their parents have made a lot of mistakes and
they want to see some peace for a change. Maybe when they grow up,
the same thing will happen who knows? But at least theyre
trying more than any other generation. Theyre tired of all the
baloney and theyre saying just that. Much of this is responsible
for the new interest in folk music. The lyrics are saying something.
I still dont know exactly where Im going myself. Im
following the music, trying to write it as I see it, Ill even
say that. Someone once said that in "Other Side Of This Life"
I got away with saying "Would you like to know a secret... I
dont know what the heck Im doing" But at least I
wasnt copping out.'
'A song like "The
Bells Of Rhymney" has been around for some time and now all of
a sudden its being done rock and roll. The kids are dancing
to it. Once in a while they start singing the words by themselves.
The message is bound to get across. Its going to reach them
sooner or later. And if thats the way to get it to them, thats
the way to do it. (ed. note: "The Bells Of Rhymney" is in
The Byrds "Tambourine Man" album if you want to listen
-or dance- to it.) A lot of club owners complain about folk music.
They say "Its nice, but you cant dance to it."
There are people like Phil Ochs who are writing some great things
with a lot of message. Odetta says if you put a beat behind these
messages, folk songs, some of it is bound to get across.'
'I always liked
Buddy Holly so I always liked The Beatles because he was one of their
influences. Holly had a beautiful sense of country music and folk
music and never even knew it -he just sat down and wrote. He did the
thing, as they say. I think if Buddy Holly had lived, he would have
been one of the most recognized people in folk music as well as in
pop and country. The Beatles got into the country thing, I dont
know why probably because they dug it. The Beatles have the
sound and the sincerity. Thats why they succeeded, in my opinion.'
for me was about 4 years ago at the Cafe Wha? On MacDougal Street.
Bobby Dylan, Dino Valente, Lou Gosset, Mark Spoelstra. Comedians Godfrey
Cambridge and Adam Keefee and myself worked the Wha for almost a year
together. The things that came out of that one little basement, all
the people... so much has happened to those people since then.'
deserves much more recognition than hes gotten. But hes
been so busy going to Mississippi. A lot of people now go on these
marches and protests down there because "its the thing
to do". On his days off he used to come by and say "Who
wants to get arrested?" God knows where he is now. He could be
in Mississippi because he believes in fighting for civil rights. But
hes so busy doing that, he doesnt have much time for his
music. Hes been another of my influences. He hates me to say
this, but he took me by the hand to the Cafe Wha? about 4 years ago,
put me in the stage and said "sing!" It was that simple.
He started me off. He didnt know what he was doing -he created
a monster, heh, heh. Len comes up from Miami to work in the Village
for a while, then he goes back down and hides like the rest of us.
A guy can only take it for so long, then he has to get away.'
'Almost all the
folk groups, when they started out, had nothing but Bob Gibsons
chord progressions. Whether there were 3 or 5 in the group, they all
sounded like Bob Gibson. He never got credit for this, which is ridiculous
because hes one of the biggest influences in folk music. Id
been in New York doing blues for a long time and Id had it.
But Gibson said I was doing folk music and should stick around because
something was going to happen -and he was right- Gibson is far ahead
of his times. He should be getting a lot more recognition. Gibson
was one of my influences ans so was a girl named Karen Dalton. Shes
really a blues singer. Shes disappeared now. No one knows where
she is. She comes into New York for a couple of weeks, then she cant
take it longer and she disappears.'
is a fantastic musician. They call him "folk" now, at the
time "blues". Hes one of the best , he has to work
Canada -which is bad- but he deserves wider recognition. Theres
another man... I dont know where he is now -I think was one
of the biggest influences Bob Dylan ever had and thats Jack
Elliot. Elliot was more or less a country singer. He didnt have
as many protest songs as Bobby did but Bobby sounds quite a bit like
him. He comes into town every once in a while, gets bored and goes
back on the road again. Hes one of the people who puts on his
walking shoes and takes off or his deck shoes and goes sailing.'
'Many of the people
who were in that scene three years ago have come back again. Then
they disappear, theyve envolved with the real thing. In my opinion,
most of blues or folk music are one. Theres a lot of jazz in
folk music too... and viceversa. The only thing thats stopping
folk and country music from growing today is that theyre not
combined. All forms of music should build much wider range. But one
thing thats slowing the growing of the music is the people themselves
that I mean prejudice. Once this gets straightened out, I think the
music will be much further into something new really great.'
to Ben Edmonds for making this article available.)