What Was It Like?

Remember the Great Folk Music Scare back in the 60s? That [stuff] almost caught on. --Martin Mull

I was five or six back then; the scare faded out in the early 60s in the face of early rock and surf music, and the British Invasion killed it stone dead, partly, ironically enough, with British groups feeding us back our own folk songs electrified.

I do still remember the stray Kingston Trio, Burl Ives, and New Christy Minstrels song, and Glenn Yarbrough singing "Baby, The Rain Must Fall" through my parents' Pepto-Bismol pink AC-DC tube radio, from back when even Top 40 radio had a vastly more eclectic mix than the focus group and demographics-driven sewer of today's commercial radio. I wasn't old enough to notice the irony of clean-cut college types raking in the dough via faux solidarity with migrant farm workers and coal miners. I just enjoyed it as music, and was blissfully ignorant of any message or emotion therein in my five or six year old way.

Fast forward about forty years...

A slightly stooped but quietly dignified man with a neatly trimmed beard walks into the coffee shop, carrying two guitar cases. (I haven't checked whether one has scorch marks on it from the last night at the coffee shop's old location--but that's another story.) He walks to the stage, acknowledging the greetings of the people who've come to hear the music, checks volume and reverb levels and tuning, and heads out for one last cigarette.

A few minutes later, in walks another man, as if the archetypal grandfather had decided to take a break from Plato's heaven-- though one doesn't think of the perfect grandfather as packing an electric bass and amp. He does the analogous greeting and setup, and then goes to the counter after a beverage.

The gentlemen in question are, respectively, Bob Cook and Gary Audsley. Their audience is reminiscent of a goldfish, growing to fit its container. At the old coffee house site, a proverbial hole in the wall in a suburban strip mall, if you wanted a choice of seat, you had to arrive at least an hour early. (I never got around to asking whether we'd be packed in oil or tomato sauce.) At the new site, there's a lot more room, and you don't have to arrive too early, but it's still pretty well full when the lights go down.

Once they take their respective stools and start playing, you forget about the stoop and Plato's grandfather, and get lost in the music and the images of sailors and hardscrabble farmers, railway men and highwaymen, gamblers and horse thieves. I figure that this what it must've been like during the scare.

It's over too soon--the one concession to time is that they stop at 11:30 rather than midnight. But you'll be back next time, the first and third Saturdays of each month (and fifth when it happens), at Starry Night--The Coffee Connection, now in Ankeny, Iowa.

P.S. Say, "Plato's Grandfather" would be a good name for a band...


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