Happy 20th Anniversary to Roger McGuinn’s Folk Den Project

Folk Den: Roger McGuinn in the Folk Tradition

It was 20 years ago that Roger McGuinn — whose musical credentials include playing with the Limelighters, the Chad Mitchell Trio, Bobby Darin, founding the Byrds and with them inventing folk rock, touring with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — decided that on the first day of each month he would upload a recording of a folk song, create a page with lyrics, tablature, and a brief bit about each song and share it all for free with everyone.

That first song was one had first I heard my father sing, based on I think the same version sung by Woody Guthrie and the Almanac Singers, “I Ride an Old Paint.” That song was also sampled as part of Aaron Copland’s Rodeo and in Virgil Thomson’s film score for The Plow that Broke the Plains.” I still don’t know what a hoolian or houlihan might be or why one would throw it, but I love the simple tune and the way Roger’s Martin D-12-45 is played on this first Folk Den song.

Kenton Adler at the University of Arkansas, who was later to appear in the liner notes to the CD collection Treasures from the Folk Den, hosted the first Folk Den site.

It wasn’t long though before Kenton started running out of room and out of bandwidth. We had just been given one of the first Real Audio servers at what is now ibiblio.org. We offered Kenton some relief and Roger a new home for the Folk Den which while only a few months old was obviously a treasure trove in the offing and in the offering of free for all to hear music.

We later helped Roger move the Folk Den to the higher quality MP3 format — and all along he never missed a month. It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with Roger on the Folk Den.

The 240th song for the 20th anniversary of the Folk Den is There a Meetin’ Here Tonight. In a personal note about the song selection, Roger says:

In 1960 The Limeliters hired me as an accompanist on banjo and guitar. One of the songs in their setlist was “There’s A Meetin’ Here Tonight.” Bob Gibson had rearranged and sanitized an old Methodist camp meeting song by taking the words “sinner” and “Satan” out. This is the original version as would have been sung in the nineteenth century in rural North America.
I thought this would be an appropriate way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Folk Den with one of the first songs I played professionally over 55 years ago.