Campfire

The Greatest Camp Songs of All Time

Download any song–or the whole Album on Itunes!


Dedication

Like thousands of other guitar players I learned my first chords playing songs for kids while working at a summer camp. It was my great fortune to work for Alba Taylor at Camp Sewataro in Sudbury MA. I worked there for years with my five brothers and sisters. In many ways camps, and Sewataro in particular, are the greatest preservers of the oral tradition.
Through their games, skits, songs and stories the experiences of countless kids and counselors are passed down to generations of camp going folk.

 

All of the songs on this CD are a big part of the musical legacy that Alba continues at her camp to this very day—some forty odd years and counting. We are proud and happy to dedicate this recording to Alba, with many thanks, for the hugeness of her heart, the determination of her spirit and for her warm wisdom and endless support of all things good for children.

Thank you Alba, for everything!

John Fitz, and The Folk Tradition

Campfire

The Greatest Camp Songs of All Time

We long ago ran out of CD’s, and these songs are not yet up on iTunes, so I will put the songs here for you to listen to and play along with. If you can play your G, C, D and Em chords–and you have a capo–you can play along with any of these songs.    

Creating A Camp That Sings

Emma Jacky Benn          In my experiences at American summer camps I hear a common theme repeated everywhere I go:  “We used to sing all the time, but now it is just too hard to find the right people to lead us in our old camp songs.”  Nobody wants to step to the plate.  Those that try to sing are often met with a deafening silence from the crowd of children and counselors they are trying to inspire.  Each year it gets more difficult as the older staff move on and the new staff—even those who sang their lungs out as campers themselves—find it hard to continue the tradition of music.  It is a tradition that is the heart and soul of the American camp experience.  But don’t despair.  Not yet anyway.  The kids are still kids; they’re young, they’re fun, and they’re willing.   They want to sing.  Your counselors are just as energetic and motivated as we ever were.  But, there’s this zone—educators like to call it the “discomfort zone’, and it stops a lot of people, old and young alike, in their tracks.   For a variety of reasons, most of which are easily identifiable, this discomfort zone has widened its jaws and shut down a huge cross section of those who would lead us in song.  My workshop is designed to help any camp find ways to minimize that zone of discomfort and nurture a self-sustaining cycle of participation in the music and traditions of camp songs.

The reality of being a camp director is much different today than it was 20 or 30 years ago.  Being a Camp Director now involves a more complex and diverse portfolio of responsibilities.  You cannot be both super counselor and super camp director.  There is a wall of rules and regulations that need to be adhered to.  There are standards that need to be sustained.  There are a huge number of camper weeks that need to be filled.   The camp season begins and you pray that someone you have hired will live up to their pledge to lead your camp in song.  But sometimes it doesn’t really happen, at least not like you envision in your dreams or remember from your childhood.  How often have you wanted to jump in front of the crowd and lead the camp yourself?  How often have you wanted to show the reluctant ones that it is really quite simple?  It is simple—it’s as simple as just doing it.

How do you begin?  You begin by creating an environment where singing, cheering and musical risk taking is not only encouraged, but is also rewarded.  My workshops are predicated on the assumption that you have already done your job well.  You’ve hired the very best people you could find.  Some you hired for a very specific reason to answer a specific need of your camp (don’t count them out as singers!).  You hired other people because you sensed that spark—that elusive quality where enthusiasm, willingness, wisdom and talent all come together.  The bottom line is always that you have to have confidence in your staff.  If you have that faith (say, yes) I can help you enormously.  If you don’t, it’s going to be a long rainy summer with large bullfrogs in the pools, strange howlings in the woods and a shortage of gimp in the craft’s shed.

If a camp that is alive with singing and cheering and laughing appeals you; and you feel you could use more of that at your camp, then please consider one of my workshops.  If somehow your camp has managed to maintain its traditions of music and song I’d still love to talk with you.  The summer camp is the last stronghold of our oral tradition.  It is the last place where music is being passed from one generation to the next through the magic and power of memory.  It is the last place where kids hear and sing songs simply because they are good and fun and relevant to their lives; not because they are packaged and promoted by an industry disinterested in the moral and emotional growth of children.  You have assembled a gift: a small world of children led mainly by an even smaller group of young adults.  Without being melodramatic, they are our future.  It is our responsibility to preserve and continue everything that we intuitively know is good and healthy for them.  The camp experience, and camp songs in particular, fill a part of their lives with joy and remembrance; it is a happiness they carry with them through their whole life.  It is important that our camps continue to create places where children can experience the traditions that came before them,  It is important that our counselors be given the opportunity to express those traditions

It is important that we keep singing.

 

 

The Practical Steps to a Singing Camp

 

me and ghini     The summer camp is the last stronghold of our oral tradition.  It is the last place where music is being passed from one generation to the next through the magic and power of memory.  It is the last place where kids hear and sing songs simply because they are good and fun and relevant to their lives; not because they are packaged and promoted by an industry disinterested in the moral and emotional growth of children.  You have assembled a gift: a small world of children led mainly by an even smaller group of young adults.  Without being melodramatic, they are our future.  It is our responsibility to preserve and continue everything that we intuitively know is good and healthy for them.  The camp experience, and camp songs in particular, fill a part of their lives with joy and remembrance; it is a happiness they carry with them through their whole life.  It is important that our camps continue to create places where children can experience the traditions that came before them,  It is important that our counselors be given the opportunity to express those traditions

It is important that we keep singing.

The Steps:

Find The Time: Is there a time when all of your camp is together?  Before pick-up? During meal times? At an all camp meeting?  Music is a great way to fill a few minutes in your schedule if, and only if, your campers are already used to singing together.  Otherwise the moment can feel contrived at best, and, at it’s worst, can even be humiliating to the staff expected to make it work.  But, if there is already a common language of songs, it can be an amazing few minutes.  Some points to consider:

Look at your schedule.  Where can you “create” a 10-15 minute spot each day that is reserved for songs.  That 10-15 minutes is the minimum goal you should set for your camp.  More is better, but the expectation has to be that this is the time when we sing; this is the time we get to see our counselors being goofy, having fun and sharing their joy through songs.

Once that time is set aside and your community is comfortable singing with each other, it is then possible (and fun!) to use a few minutes for singing whenever that time arises.

Supply all of your counselors with the lyrics to songs so that they can spend time in their small groups singing the songs they learned as a community.

How does your camp “get together?”

Find The Place: What is best for the audience is usually best for the performer: Think shade, semi-circle, sound, and serenity.  The best performer benefits from an audience who is comfortable, who can see and hear clearly, and who is free from distractions.  Try and find a natural amphitheater.  Some questions to ask yourself:

Is there already a spot that you feel is perfect?  If not, how could you create that ideal area? Can you get the camp there on a regular schedule?  What sounds good as an idea is not always as easy to accomplish when the true reality of camp is underway.

Do you need a sound system?  As a general rule I appreciate a sound system if the gathering consists of more than 100 people.  Some would argue that it isn’t necessary, (usually not the one doing the singing) but it certainly helps, especially if your performer is soft of voice, or if the material is quieter and more reflective.  The bottom line is that effective sound( though not overpowering) enlarges the scope and diversity of what you are able to accomplish in any given performance—and it is a performance!

Are your campers and counselors trained as an audience?  Some campers need to be taught in a specific way how an audience should appreciate those people who are taking the risk to stand before them and perform.

Find The Talent (and support them!): “If the only birds that sing are those who sing well the woods will be a very quiet place.”  Henry David Thoreau Even a great song in a great spot at a great time doesn’t guarantee success, but a great counselor will always carry the day. This is the big challenge! I don’t know how to say it politely, but some counselors just have it:  They have that spark of enthusiasm; that willingness to go the extra yard; that ability to take control of a crowd and “engage” them—and Engagement is the first victory in the battle against distraction—it is a time when, knowingly or not, your camp is a community.

Here are some steps to consider:

Identify the counselors you feel are best suited to stand in front of your camp and sing their hearts out

Find staff with the ability, the aptitude, or the desire to play a few chords on a guitar, banjo or some other musical instrument.  These people don’t have to be the leaders of your music department (though it is a great bonus if more musically trained counselors can also be leaders in song). They just have to love to sing and love to perform.  Their primary role is to create the energy and then carry the song musically by providing the beat, the key and the tune.

Encourage other counselors to step forward and share material they carry within themselves.  Don’t let the performers you have initially chosen appear like “The Chosen Few.”  Camp and clique are the sworn enemies of each other.  There are usually some amazing and humble people who, by nature, will not step forward without being asked and encouraged; and likewise, there are often quite gifted singers you wish would just get off the stage and get with the campers.

Give everyone involved a role and a responsibility to help make singing be a fun, entertaining and bonding time of the day.   Ideally:

Give them time to learn and prepare their stuff.  A few hours during training weekend to get them started; a few periods during the week to add more material, brainstorm and practice.  It is a good way to demonstrate to them that you value and appreciate what they are doing for the camp. Explain to them your expectations.

Provide the with the best resources (i.e. the songs, skits and cheers) to help them make it work.  There is a good chance many of them already know some great camp songs.  Help them to choose the material, but don’t dictate it.  If they don’t like the material it won’t be fun—and the campers will sense it.

Praise and acknowledge them. Don’t criticize a sincere effort.  Use the common sense of common courtesy.

Encourage, cajole and demand that everyone be involved in singing.  This is a hugely important point.  Bob Grabill, of Pemigewasett Camp sent me this tip, which I quote:

“I think the best way to create and sustain this culture of song is to have role modeling from the top.  If your counselors and older campers participate with enthusiasm, the younger {campers} will go along.  If the oldest members of the community roll their eyes and snicker and belittle, or disdain singing (as happens so often in a school setting where it’s cool to be negative), then you are defeated before you start.”

Find The Songs:  Because of the very nature of camp, the songs we sing and the stories we tell at camp are a shared experience.  We sing them with each other, not to each other. I strongly recommend drawing the bulk of your material from the body of camps songs that has come before us; songs that have proven themselves time and again at thousands of camps around the world.  There is a time and a place for music of all sorts, but here is what has worked for me for over thirty years:  For the most part I only learn songs that appeal to me on a gut and musical level. I’ll force a song on a camp crowd when my gut tells me that by singing the song something magical is going to happen, Such as:

  • The chorus is so catchy that they enjoy singing along and creating hand motions to go along with it:  The Unicorn Song, If I had a Hammer, All God’s Critters, Inch By Inch.
  • The song is just so plain funny, outrageous, or gross that the lyrics themselves grab their attention:  Bill Grogan’s Goat, There Was A Great Big Moose, Mr. Johnny Rebeck, Baby Bumblebee, Gooey Greasy Gopher Meat.
  • The kids are engaged by a silly play on words, jokes, or nursery rhymes:  Throw It Out The Window, Down By The Bay, Keep on the Sunny Side.
  • The song presents a riddleI Am My Own Grandpa, I Gave My Love A Cherry.
  • Everyone gets into the challenge of a song: in some songs every verse is harder than the previous verse—Flea Fly, Ratlin Bog, Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea, I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, When I First Came to This Land; or the pace of the song picks up until nobody can keep up—Mary Mac, or it is a tongue twister–One Flea Fly Flew Up The Flue.
  • The song is a vaudeville act in itself:  the song is acted out as you sing it—Father Abraham. Doodley Doo, The Austrian Went Yodeling.
  • It’s a traveling song; A cheer that helps get your small group from one place to the next.  It keeps them together; It helps them bond as a team and take pride in their spirit:  Saw a Little Birdie, A Boom Chicka Boom, etc.
  • The story line of the song is engaging, rich and meaningful, or historical, while the chorus is catchy and fun:  Charlie On The MTA, Titanic, My Grandfather’s Clock, This Land Is Your Land.
  • And finally, the song that is so beautiful and melodic that it truly touches everyone who hears and sings along with it:  The Dutchman, Don’t Laugh At Me, Puff The Magic Dragon, One Tin Soldier, Circle Game, Day O, Jamaica Farewell, The Kid.

Obviously, a lot of these songs overlap categories (they probably shouldn’t even be put into categories!).  This is by no means meant to suggest songs—but only to suggest the types of songs that have proven to work in my forty years as a camp counselor. My hope is that they express the fullness, joy and complexity of being at a summer camp. They work with each other to bond the camp community by creating a common language of expression, a common memory and a common emotional experience. The songs work together and reinforce each other. In short, camp songs create unity, provide an emotional outlet during some very formative times, and, most importantly to me, they provide a place to return to—a way to relive a beautiful time in our lives.

Finding the songs and building the repertoire of your camp is probably easier than you would imagine. You don’t need a hundred songs. “Repetition is the cornerstone of tradition.” Only do as many songs as your camp can remember. By “remember” I mean they should be able to relive the song in an immediate way; they should never have a vague memory of something somebody sang once.  If a counselor is sick of a song because he or she has been at the same camp singing the same song for ten years, they still need to sing it at the top of their lungs; with the same energy and enthusiasm they had as a camper; because there is always those new campers, sitting right next to them, who are experiencing these songs for the first time!  You have to act like it’s the greatest thing since the rubber worm, because it’s you the campers look up to; it’s you who are paid to create the greatest experience possible for every camper at your camp.

Here are a few ways to find songs:

Search your own self.  What are the songs you remember from growing up?  If you went to a camp, what are the songs you remember singing?

Set up a time for counselors to share their favorites.  Make it a fun party: Video the whole scene, as many songs are acted out, plus, it will always make for a fun movie to show on a rainy day.  Vote on the top ten, or pick a few out of a hat to perform the next day at camp.  Again, it is a commitment to finding the time to do things well.

If you find yourself half remembering some old song just type a name into a search engine and something close to what you remember will come up.

Scour your local library.  There are usually some obscure gems located on the shelves somewhere.

Hire outside entertainment:  This may sound like presumptive self-promotion, but so much of my repertoire has been “adopted” from other entertainers.  Hearing a seasoned professional in performance is both inspiring and educational.

Stage a talent show which is limited to camp songs.

Write your own camp anthem.

Create a camp songbook.

Post the songs on a camp web page.

Create a message board on the web for your staff to post songs, comments, ideas, etc,

Celebrate and Continue ALL of Your Camp’s Traditions: Music is just a part of what should be an abiding respect for all camp traditions.  Everything that is unique and special to your camp is a camp tradition: all the songs, stories, cheers, skits, activities and experiences that you carry over from session to session and from one year to the next are expressions of your camp’s “Traditions.”  These are the heart and soul of a camper’s remembrance of their experience with you.

Remember your traditions and repeat the good stuff—just make sure it’s the good stuff!

Retain and empower your old staff.  They are your greatest resource; they are your living memory and progenitors of the continuing traditions of your camp.

Celebrate your traditions.  Celebrating is a way of ritualizing, sustaining and perpetuating the best of what your camp has to offer.  A Tradition doesn’t just happen, rather it reflects the evolution of trial and error; Traditions are the survivors of every campfire; they are the tried and true that are relied on time and again.  When you think of traditions, think of specifics, i.e.: not arts and crafts, but a special project they make with gimp: The Camp Gitcheegoomee lanyard; Not swimming, but the annual dog paddle relay; not songs, but singing You Are My Sunshine every time it rains; The re-telling of a great camp story; The counselor Grecian Urn skit on the last day of camp. We don’t always need to reinvent the wheel.  Let every camper experience the wheels that carry your camp.  They don’t have to make a Camp Gitcheegoomee lanyard every year, but they should make one at least once.  Build up its importance. Let each camper know and feel that this will always be a memory of our time together! Camps exist because they are created and built. Camps survive because kids become parents who still remember that magic place for their childhood—and they want that magic for their children.

I hope that these thoughts don’t feel like a no brainer masquerading as rocket science.  As a folksinger whose humble beginnings started as a camp counselor with a bad voice, a bad banjo, and a good attitude, I know and have lived the joy of singing in camps—a joy that is just as real more than forty summers later! Take from here what works for you, but don’t give up on the gift that a camp rich in songs and traditions gives to your campers, and to you and your staff

Need some help? Contact me, and I will be glad to help you create a singing camp!

8 + 2 =

A Summer’s Voice

If the only birds that sang were those who sang well,
the woods would be a very quiet place indeed.
          ~Henry David Thoreau

 

IMG_4027         Nobody I knew went to a camp. Summer mornings we hopped on our bikes and rode in huge packs to the nearest playground where the town ran a recreation program. I thought we had to go, like it was a state law or something. Mostly I remember playing baseball—hours in the hot sun and dead grass of right field at Willard School, spitting in my glove, swaying heroically, petrified at the thought of Donny Costello hitting a line drive towards me. Some days we’d hop on a bus and drive to swimming lessons where we’d stand shivering and poking each other, waiting our turn to do the frog kick above the disgusting muck of Warner’s Pond. On really special days, some guy would come from a museum in Boston and let us pet a hoot owl, a boa constrictor and a de-scented skunk; one time he even dissected a baby pig. That was very cool. But the longest part of the day was always baseball. Year after year of Jimmy Buell always pitching from the mound, and the big kids always getting to choose whatever position they wanted. I don’t remember growing old because I never got to choose. Twice a summer we would go on a field trip to Whalom park in Fitchburg. It’s the only time I remember singing. Mostly, we’d scream 99 Bottle of Beer on The Wall at the top of our lungs followed by Had A Peanut and On Top of Spaghetti. And my sisters and their friends always sang You Are My Sunshine. Boys didn’t. Because, mostly it was baseball.

Everything else musical in my life came from Dale Dorman and WRKO, and from the pile of albums in our stereo cabinet. But I was fine. Everything I knew about music I loved. I just didn’t know that much—until I turned fifteen in my sophomore year and got a job at a summer camp. My three older sisters worked at Camp Sewataro in Sudbury MA, the next town over from us. I got a job there for fifty dollars a summer as a boating counselor. I almost didn’t get the job because when they asked my why I wanted to work there I said, “For the money.” But my sisters worked there, and they were very responsible; so they hired me.

At first, I didn’t do much to distinguish myself as a counselor. One morning I fell asleep in a canoe and tipped it over. That news spread fast, especially the rumors as to why I was tired enough to fall asleep in a canoe. Another day I laid down on the dock and pretended I was asleep. I was trying to make a point to some kids to get their boats back to the dock more quickly; but to Steve Conroy, the massively huge and imposing camp director gazing at me from a distance, it looked as if I was just lying down on the dock. Another day I was paddling around with Kathleen Sullivan, a really cute junior counselor, wooing her on the far side of the pond, but too far away to notice a group of wild campers throwing rocks at each other on shore. Big Steve saw that too. Thank God I had sisters who toed the line. As mortified as they were that I was their brother, we were a good Irish Catholic family, so they stuck up for me. So I kept my job.

At the end of every day some very dorky guy would get up in front of the whole camp—and it was a really big camp—and sing some very dorky songs. I was way too cool to join in, so I’d sit in the back and pretend I was singing. I did the hand motions because my sisters made me, but in an exaggerated way, so I was still cool. At least I thought so, (or I hoped, to the junior counselor girls). Luckily, most of my screw-ups happened during the first session of camp. By the end of the second session I was a “true” counselor. I had a blast with the campers, made peace with Big Steve, and even made my sisters proud. Alba Taylor, the owner of the camp, admitted she was glad she hadn’t followed her instincts to fire me. I even started to sit with the kids and sing the dorky songs. I even liked the dorky guy, but I never actually “liked” his songs.

The next summer there was a new guy at the camp. He was an eagle scout (a term I had never even heard before) and taught woodcraft. He was as massively huge as Big Steve and could juggle sixteen pound shot-puts. I did my best to ignore him. He seemed to ignore me as well. I noticed that his campers were always doing these way fun things: like building rafts and teepees, and cooking over a campfire that burned continuously through the day—and singing, always singing: clapping songs, cheers, all stuff I’d never heard before. The more jealous I became of his popularity, the more I ignored him—until after the first girls overnight.

The whole day after the girls overnight (which I wasn’t at) I had to listen to everyone, especially my sisters, talk about how awesome the new guy was; how he took charge and led three hundred campers and counselors in over an hour of singing; how he juggled fire and sang hilarious songs that nobody at our camp had ever heard before; how he led the counselors in skits that the kids were still talking about, and the kids—the girl campers—were now marching around camp, singing and shouting cheers at the tops of their lungs, gathering around in circles and singing the sweetest things you’d ever hear—and talking about the woodcraft counselor, of course. The boys, myself included, eyed them warily. I was hoping the boy’s overnight would be my place to shine, to finally put to rest the ignominy of my first summer at camp. I would be a leader and an example for all. But, I now felt resigned to being a mere subject and serf of the new king.

The boy’s campfire was lit by the new woodcraft counselor in a spectacular never before seen display of campfire prowess. I think he shot a burning arrow into it or something. All is saw was a pyramid of fire leaping into the night air. It didn’t help that he called me by name to come up and help him light his torches just so he could wow the crowd with his juggling talents by juggling fire and cracking jokes and singing a really funny song. It really didn’t help when he said he recognized me from a high school football game, where his small town of Maynard beat the pants off us rich kids from Concord. (He didn’t mention that this small mill-town bred enormously large children, most of who went on to play division one college football.) I got a few laughs at his expense by imitating him behind his back. While a skit he organized was going on he praised me for being so quick on my feet and suggested other ways to make fun of him during the next song. He also pointed out a few kids that looked nervous about staying overnight and told me how to get them involved, at least enough for them to forget they were scared. At the same time, he drafted a few lazy counselors out of the back row and “encouraged” them to take the lead in a cheer (easier to  do when your muscles are barely held in a tee shirt). All of a sudden it dawned on me. He wasn’t showing off, and he wasn’t out to one up me. All he cared about was putting on a show for the kids, with the kids, and because of the kids. He was simply an extension of a tradition I never knew existed. I jumped on the train: This was the childhood I never experienced. It was “camp,” pure and true.

After that night, I got myself a banjo and learned three chords. I found two counselors who played the guitar, another kid who played the violin well enough to call it a fiddle, a tall skinny counselor—I can’t even remember his name—played the washtub bass, and anybody else with gumption, spunk, a big heart and/or a loud mouth could join us on juice jugs, bongo’s, shakers, rain-sticks and anything else that made noise. My little brother, Tommy, (now a counselor, too) and his friends clapped and cheered and danced and gave courage to the reticent. We called ourselves “The Sewataro Jug Band.” Anybody could join, regardless of talent or disposition. My older sister, Patty, Eileen, and Mary Ellen, took the lead roles in every skit. Our home became the unofficial headquarters of camp preparations. It seemed like the whole neighborhood, none of us whom ever even went to a camp, were now working there. Great droves of us would bike to camp everyday. My little sister Annie became the only one of our family to ever actually go to camp. I kept learning and singing old folk songs I learned from the records in our stereo cabinet or found while scouring the seldom-visited shelves of folk music at the Concord Public library. The big fire juggling, hatchet handling eagle-scout led us in everything else. He organized our enthusiasm; he gave hand motions to every song I learned, and he taught us the tricks of the trade that somehow captured the heads, hearts and imaginations of any crowd of campers, no matter how loud the thunder, how large the hail, or how long and hot the afternoon.

That was thirty years ago. That guy, still one of my very best friends, is simply known as ‘The Rogue’—a master magician, juggler, storyteller, and treasure chest of camp lore. I wanted to write a book about camp songs. The only research I did for this book was to sit down and remember—and the memories came in a great flood: I remembered the numerous performances during camp, after camp at the 117 house on Friday afternoons, the hundreds of note-cards filled with set lists, outlines of stories, words to songs we heard at pubs or parties, or from another camp counselor, or gleaned from a late night session with Barry Lyle—another gem of a person and caretaker of a mother lode of camp songs, Native American stories, and the history behind everything. Everything that was good—everything that worked in the unforgiving forum of reality, I put down on paper—and so started my first book of camp songs. I didn’t include the tried and failed—that would be another long and wonderful book. I only included those songs, stories and cheers that worked for us, or that we saw working through the gifts of others willing to bear the torch of tradition, who brought with them the best of the various camps, cultures and traditions they came from.

I hoped when people sat down with my book they would say, “I can’t believe he didn’t include such or such a song!” Because then I know you know: You know the summer camp is the last stronghold of our oral tradition. It is the last place where music is being passed from one generation to the next through the magic and power of memory. It is the last place where kids hear and sing songs simply because they are good and fun and relevant to their lives, and not because they are packaged and promoted by an industry disinterested in the moral and emotional growth of children. The summer camp is a gift: a small world of children led mainly by an even smaller group of young adults. These children and these young counselors are our future. It is our responsibility to preserve and continue everything that we intuitively know is good and healthy for them. The camp experience, and camp songs in particular, fill a part of our lives with joy and remembrance; it is a happiness we carry throughout our lives. It is important that our camps and schools and homes and communities continue to create places where children can experience the traditions that came before them; It is important that our we engage ourselves and create the opportunity to express and continue these traditions.

We’ve got to keep singing. Every camp song I sing is part and parcel of those persons who led me to those songs, who guided me, who inspired me, and who put up with me: I am eternally indebted to the bus drivers who put up with 99 Bottles of Beer; to my parents who had us do everything together, who packed us in station wagons, who squeezed us around an impossibly small square of formica, who shaped, cajoled and created an amazing repertoire of memory; to the Taylors, the owners of my first camp, for not firing me and for setting me free; to my brother and sisters who went through, and still go through, everything as a family; to every camp, club and tavern owner who lets a folksinger through their door; to Big Steve who showed me boundaries, and potential—and kindness; to Jimmy Buell who stood on the baseball mound for six hours a day—for us, a bunch of kids from a huge and crazy neighborhood; to all the great counselors who’ve been there with me, who sang and still sing with me, and who continue to do the good work with kids; to my friends who’ve heard every song, story and joke way too many times—and still smile; to Hatrack and Seth who have almost made a musician out of me, whose love for music is matched only by their love for family and humanity; and to Wally for being the bearer of the torch, who is down in the trenches to this day keeping the traditions alive.

And especially to Rogue and Lyle, the true masters. But above all, to my wife Denise, who I met at summer camp, who took in this wandering soul and who shares a love that is as rich and real as any dream imagined…. And to our own kids: Kaleigh, Pipo, Margaret, Eddie, Charlie, Emma, and Tommy who show that love and family—far more than words—are a great adventure into the known and unknown; who encourage me to grow up, and to not grow up; and who laugh and sing and play and play and play….

And to you who may be curious enough to remember your own songs sung on a warm dark night and so continue the rhythmic cycle of a summer’s voice.

 

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