Recreating the 1941 tour of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and The Almanac Singers, with a new CD and concert tour. 7/12/13 - 8/11/13
In the summer of 1941, a musical group of labor activists known as “The
Almanac Singers” climbed into a midnight blue Buick and blazed a trail across
the USA, spreading the gospel of unionism and bringing folk music back to the
people. The group, with members Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays & Millard
Lampell, created a new kind of topical music, using old folk melodies to tell
the stories of the times. They played in union halls, on picket lines, theaters
and radio shows, planting seeds wherever they went. The Almanacs’ now
almost-mythical journey has become an inspiration for legions of musicians,
free thinkers, and gasoline gypsies, and has paved the road for many of today’s
singer/songwriters. At the core of it were some of the greatest labor songs ever
written, including “Union Maid,” “Talking Union,” and “Which Side Are You On?”
Some seventy years later, with the help and guidance of Pete Seeger and The Woody Guthrie Archives, two modern-day troubadours are following in the footsteps of the old Almanacs. With banjos and guitars and a bag full of union songs, “Totem Pole” Rik Palieri and George Mann are traveling down the road from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, up the west coast and then from Seattle to Buffalo, singing at some of the same places and towns, and inviting local musicians to join in, as in the original tour. The Almanac Trail will be like an old-fashioned “Hootenanny”-- an evening of history, music and fun for all generations!
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The idea of creating the Almanac Trail started 30 years ago with a letter I wrote to my friend Pete Seeger about recreating the 1941 tour. Pete was excited and wanted me to go ahead and take this tour across the country. I was very young at the time and did not have the experience or contacts to pull it together. The letter just sat in my files collecting dust for many years until I met George Mann, a former union organizer and fellow folksinger, and we started performing together. As we got to talking about this idea, it seemed that with our mutual love of this music, and his union contacts around the nation, we might bring this old dream back to life.
The first challenge was that I had to do an interview with Pete Seeger to really get the story behind the tour. I was lucky to be able to interview Pete twice for this project, once at his house and another time in the front seat of my pickup truck. We then had to take my interviews with Pete and edit them to work in the CD.
Next I had to gather more information about the Almanacs and the 1941 tour, so I spent a day reading through the original letters of Woody Guthrie from 1941 at the Woody Guthrie Archives. The information that I collected helped to flesh out many of the stories that Pete Seeger had shared with me. This helped me to create the show that will be the Almanac Trail.
As I was getting the research done, George was getting the nuts and bolts of the tour assembled. We are trying to follow the original trip “route” as much as possible, and the challenge of linking up the bookings in a chronological manner in union halls, as The Almanacs did in 1941— and according to a schedule that we think we can maintain over 32 days, 7,000 miles and 25 concerts—seemed daunting at first. But with a lot of perseverance from George, and as word is spreading, we have been able to pull it together.
While plans for the tour were coming to life, the next challenge was to record a new CD based on the original Almanacs recordings. As the recording proceeded we found that although we knew a lot of the old labor songs from many years of singing them, we each had our own versions. We had to agree on what worked best for the project, and which songs to include among the many that The Almanacs recorded and sang— our focus being on the labor/union songs of the era.
Another challenge was finding a way to get some of our busy friends who wanted to help us out by playing on the record into the studio. The vision of this project was so strong that our friends made the time to get into local studios to get the job done, sometimes in the only available time slot that worked! We are very happy with the record we are making, which will also feature Pete Seeger narrating bits and stories about the Almanacs and some of the songs, as well as the 1941 tour itself.
We are more than halfway there, with the songs recorded and most of the tour booked. We have been financing this project on our own, out of love for the music and, specifically, for Pete Seeger’s contributions to folk music and the cause of unions. But there is a lot of work ahead with mixing, mastering, and CD production, plus the tour itself; renting a union-made, American car, the cost of gasoline, and traveling across the USA in these modern times.
Well, first off, the tour itself is challenging— putting together a network of at least 25 concerts, plus radio and possibly television shows, picket lines or rallies, etc., as we go through much of the nation over the course of five weeks, that alone will be challenging. We have to give a good show each night, no matter how much we’ve traveled that day, how little sleep we might have gotten the night before, or how we are feeling that day. So the financial help gained through this Kickstarter project (if we are successful) will put us a little more at ease.
It is also difficult to get people out and motivated in these times. An uncertain economy, not enough employment, a standard of living that is only going up for the wealthiest in our nation— people are going home and staying home each night because they are short on money, and they are tired. But Rik and I are putting together an event that is truly multi-media: centered on the songs, no doubt, but full of information, education, tales of those times and the travels that Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger undertook with the Almanacs, with a film to open the evening that features Pete Seeger, the only surviving Almanac Singer. It will be a night for all ages, and a night to inspire the spirit, in each city we visit!
Another challenge is just breaking through all the other options that people have, both on Kickstarter and in general. We are making a specific kind of folk music here, songs that tell the struggles of working people to establish what by law was their right—to have a voice, and a union, in the workplace. We are not promoting ourselves, or our songs, here. We are paying tribute to the earliest music that Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and Mill Lampell wrote and sang together, with an eye toward firing up the working class of our nation. Your help will make sure that this journey takes place, and our message gets out.
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You can help us keep the gas tank filled and receive one free download from the new CD, plus a limited edition custom Almanac Trail Flat pick, designed by Rik PalieriEstimated delivery:
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You will receive two downloads from the new CD plus the custom Almanac Trail flat pick!Estimated delivery:
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46 backers Limited (954 left of 1000)
You will get a copy of the Almanac Trail CD featuring the songs of the Almanacs, plus the Almanac Trail custom flat pick.Estimated delivery:
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21 backers Limited (979 left of 1000)
You will receive two hand-signed Almanac Trail CDs plus the Almanac Trail flat pick.Estimated delivery:
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8 backers Limited (492 left of 500)
you will receive a signed copy of Rik’s book, The Road Is My Mistress, plus two Almanac Trail CDs, and the custom flat pick. You and a friend will each be put on our guest list to attend one of the concerts on our tour and be able to meet us after the show. If you live too far away to attend a show, you can send a friend.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $200 or moreYou selected
7 backers Limited (493 left of 500)
You will get all of the above, plus a hand-made leather bookmark made in the hills of Vermont at the Holzer Bindery, by Rik and his wife Marianna, and two additional CDs from George Mann.Estimated delivery:
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You will get all of the gifts above plus a special thank you in the Almanac Trail CD liner notes! NOTE: To insure your name is listed, your pledge must be made by June 10th.Estimated delivery:
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You will not only get a “Thank You” on the CD, but will be credited as an honorary producer! Plus you will receive our full gift package and a copy of the finished DVD of our tour, which will be produced after the tour. You will be credited in this project as well! NOTE: To insure your name is listed on the CD, your pledge must be made by June 10th.Estimated delivery:
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Please contact us by email for more information on becoming a tour sponsor. This option will not only give you our full gift package and feature your name in our tour promotion, but also give you a chance to have this program performed for your friends in a private house concert or club. Rik and George will perform songs from the tour and regale your guests with wild tales of adventure from their many years on the road. But there’s more: YOU will get to select some of the songs (a maximum of 15) that will be performed that night from a list of songs (quite lengthy….) that Rik and George know. You will be surprised at what songs are on the list… and we will perform them at your request. And there’s more: you will also receive both Rik and George’s full catalog of CDs, including all six of Rik’s CDs and 12 of George’s CDs (including the “Hail to the Thief!” 4-CD compilation series and the “Until You Come Home” veterans’ CD compilations, both featuring many great folk artists). We are able and willing to travel a “reasonable” distance (less than one day's drive) from our homes if you want us to perform a private concert. We can discuss additional travel expenses if you live farther away or in another country! IMPORTANT NOTE: June 10 is the deadline for your donation pledge if you wish to be credited on the “Almanac Trail” CD.Estimated delivery:
- (30 days)