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Old Joe Clark
Mike Seeger & Bob Yellin

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About the video

This video features Mike Seeger and Bob Yellin's "Old Joe Clark" from the 1991
album "Mountain Music Bluegrass Style" on Smithsonian Folkways.
For more information about this album, click here: for more information about
Smithsonian Folkways , the non-profit record label of the national museum, click

About the artist

Born into one of the first families of American folk music, it was probably
inevitable that Mike Seeger would become a musician and folklorist. His father
and mother, Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, assisted John and Alan Lomax
at the Archive of Folk Song in the Library of Congress. Mike's half-brother, Pete
Seeger, performed in both the Almanac Singers and the Weavers, while his
sister Peggy Seeger was highly regarded in traditional music circles. There was
little surprise, then, when Mike Seeger, at the age of 25, joined Tom Paley and
John Cohen to form the New Lost City Ramblers.

It is perhaps ironic that a traditional performer like Seeger was born in New York
City to a middle-class family. Born on August 15, 1933, he began playing the
autoharp at the age of 12. Soon, he also began playing the banjo, fiddle,
dulcimer, mouth harp, mandolin, and dobro. His parents brought music home
from the Library of Congress. "They started letting me play field recordings when
I was six or seven," Seeger told Dirty Linen. "These were aluminum records that
you played with cactus needles." He was also influenced by the African-American
singer/guitarist Elizabeth Cotton, who lived in the Seeger home for five years.

In the early '50s, Seeger began to conduct his own field recordings and perform
at square dances in the Washington, D.C., area with his sister Peggy. Because
he was a conscientious objector, he was assigned work in a hospital, and during
this time formed a band with Hazel Dickens and Bob Baker. In 1958, he helped
form the New Lost City Ramblers, a band that specialized in performing string
band music from the 1920s and 1930s. While the band never gained the
exposure of folk revival bands like the Kingston Trio, the group's commitment to
accurately reproducing traditional music proved significant. "The Ramblers'
influence on generations of young musicians who have followed in their
footsteps," wrote Randy Pitts in Music Hound Folk, "is incalculable."

In 1962, when Tracy Schwarz replaced Paley in the Ramblers, Seeger became
involved in a number of solo projects. He recorded Mike Seeger for Vanguard in
1964 and Tipple, Loom & Rail: Songs of the Industrialization of the South for
Folkways in 1965. In the late '60s, Seeger, Dickens, Alice Gerrard, and Lamar
Grier formed the Strange Creek Singers (Arhoolie released Strange Creek
Singers: Get Acquainted Waltz in 1975, reissued in 1997). He also became
involved in the Newport Folk Festival and, in 1970, became the director of the
Smithsonian Folklife Company. In 1970, he married Gerrard, though they later

Seeger continued to involve himself in a multitude of projects. Beginning in the
1970s, he recorded a string of albums for Rounder, and he continued to compile
scholarly projects such as Southern Banjo Sounds (1998) and True Vine (2003)
-- both for Smithsonian Folkways. He was nominated for three Grammys, won a
Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984, received the Rex Foundation's Ralph Gleason
Award in 1995, and an Award of Merit from the International Bluegrass Music
Association (IBMA) the same year. "I feel there's just as much fun in old-time
music as there's ever been," Seeger told Dirty Linen in 1997. "People ask me,
don't you get tired of it? And some people do, but I think I could have three more
lifetimes and not get tired of it." Seeger's 2007 album Early Southern Guitar
Sounds was released on Smithsonian Folkways. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., All
Music Guide