tour book 1  

Peter, Paul & Mary

Meet Peter, Paul and Mary,
in performance, in recording sessions, and
off-stage, a barber shop, a classroom and a snow fight.
Now meet three individuals
named Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and
Mary Allin Travers who met only a few years ago.
Meet them shopping, painting, reading or being alone.
This book will introduce you to them all.
But most of all meet
Peter, Paul and Mary,
that fourth entity created by the three of them
and different from each, in music and in person.


peterSomeone who grows up in New York City becomes aware at a very early age of the limitations of a person alone. The world revolves around him at an incredible pace... but takes little notice. Almost immediately he questions the meaning of his existence. He is drawn to situations and people that he hopes will affirm his importance, or at least testify to the fact that he belongs. I wanted both to belong and to be important. In any given group one must find out what is valued and then possess it, be it an ability, an object, or an hereditary characteristic. Assuming that one is capable of possessing these things at will, the problems arise only when one's values are at variance of those of the group. In my case, this particular conflict has shaped my life.

I attended Public School No. 6 (at 85th Street and Madison) in Manhattan. Most of the students were from wealthy Jewish homes, and had been overindulged in material things since their birth. Unfortunately, they had learned at an early age that their parents' attention could quickly be diverted from them to the vicissitudes of the stock market. (These were the early post-war years and many fortunes had been amassed at the expense of a happy family.) I approached my classmates with the same openness and trust that I had experienced at home. Unfortunately, few of them spoke the same language.

In P.S. No. 6 status in the group was achieved through possessions. One had to be well-dressed and have a yo-yo or a bullwhip when it was the "fad." I tried to obtain recognition by excelling in the classroom. The unfortunate reaction of the teachers to that type of behavior was compounded by their becoming particularly fond of me. Consequently, I worked hard in the afterschool hours trying to convince myself and my friends that I was really a very clever fellow who was putting on a big act in school just to fool the teachers (the eternal enemy, the "grown up"). I think my happiest moments were spent at home painting paper plates and making model airplanes.

During the summer of my seventh year, I painted everyday in Woodstock, an art colony in upper New York State. It was there that an artist named Sigmund Menkes bought one of my paintings. I was told that his comment when he first saw the picture was, "The audacity of the child!" I did not know it then but I was to study painting with him eight years later. During the summer of my eighth year the family went to Chatauqua, a Protestant music colony where I studied the violin, attended a concert every night and ruled the roads with my bicycle. If only life in Manhattan could have been that simple and rewarding.

My life changed abruptly when I was graduated from grammar school. I was to be permitted the luxury of having four years during which everything I valued was similarly valued by everyone around me. In the High School of Music and Art, the castle, all the students were gifted in either painting or music. M and A was an adolescent's Shangrila, a unique wedding of his social, academic and creative lives. In my third semester I ran for secretary of the Student Governing Body. I didn't have a chance until I got up on stage to give my election speech. I was wearing a red corduroy shirt, (my fellow candidates were dressed in business suits) and I promised to put mirrors in the boys' washrooms. I not only won by a landslide, but discovered that I was a performer. To this day I remember that first feeling of real communication with a large audience.

An M & A Saturday night party deserves special mention. In one room a string quartet was "reading" a Vivaldi concerto. In another everyone sat on the floor trading monumental truths and responding with agonized gasps to conflicting monumental truths. In a third room there was folk singing. All the art students (I was one) played the guitar and everyone knew all the songs. They were beautiful songs of freedom and hope, and often, in the last hours of the party, we would weep together in out awakening to the knowledge of a man's love for his brother.

In the fall of 1955, I entered Cornell University as a prospective physics major, with the intention of going to graduate school in the design area. the very first day I began to wage a terrible battle both with the school and inside myself. The Cornell campus was magnificent and the course of study was both difficult and exhilarating. But the students themselves challenged the way of life I had learned to love. Of course, there were all types of people there, but the fraternity system ruled and the social mores were completely alien to me. I would never have tried to conform if I had had the courage of mypeter convictions. But the students I knew were very bright and I began to believe that maybe they were right. Maybe M & A had been a fantasy world and I was a dreamer. I discovered some people who felt as I did inside, and they became my friends. But in a large group, we all played the part.

I joined a fraternity and, to tell the truth, I loved the people in it, but the idea of an exclusive society was wrong, I felt. I could never reconcile myself to seeing the "rushees'" hurt faces when they were rejected because they were less malleable than I. I found I could not paint. My work was technically good but devoid of any feeling I could recognize as my own. I had played the role so often I had begun to believe it myself. Peculiarly enough, I discovered that I could still find myself in singing. And to my amazement, everyone considered this a valuable attribute.

In my senior year I was offered an undergraduate assistantship in English 355-356, a course in the history of folk stories and songs. The renowned Dr. Harold Thompson taught the course, and it was through this man's erudition that I became aware of the historic import as well as the emotional power of folk music. The course was popularly called "Romp'n Stomp" and auditing it soon became the thing to do. I was a senior at this time and had changed to a psychology major. I had also become the President of the folksong club and had produced Cornell's first series of folk concerts. At one concert, the plane carrying Josh White was delayed, and I performed for an hour, holding the audience until he arrived. Josh's kind compliments to me afterward provoked my first consideration of a professional career in folk music.

When I was graduated from Cornell in September, 1959, I needed a rest from the academic world. I fully intended to enter a school of design a year later and, in the interim, to try to earn money by singing. My first engagement was at an Israeli coffee house in New York. I had simply walked in and told the owner that he would make more money if someone sang there. It was the same thing I had done at a place called Johnny's Big Red Grill while I was still at Cornell. In both cases the remark had been unprecedented, and both owner's decided to give it a try. Once a week I played for $15.00 and all the food I could eat.

A month later Eliezor Adoram, a very talented Israeli singer and accordionist, asked me to join the Aviv Theater of Dance and Song, for which he was musical director. I toured with them for three weeks in the Midwest. The members of the Aviv were dedicated artists. More than that, they were pros, and they imbued in me an exacting standard of performance. They taught me to work with other performers and to respect the profession I was becoming a part of.

After that tour I decided to perform alone and managed to get a job at the newly opened "Cafe Wha?" in Greenwich Village. It was there that Albert Grossman first saw me. In a real sense, my break came when I was asked to perform on the first television folk spectacular, "Folk Sound U.S.A." in June, 1960. Also on that program were Joan Baez, John Lee Hooker, Cisco Houston, Frank Warner, John Jacob Niles and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys. After that I performed at the Newport Folk Festival, the Gate of Horn in Chicago and the Ash Grove in L.A.

All this time I had been working under the aegis of Albert Grossman, and when I returned to New York he discussed with me the possibility of forming a group. He introduced me to Mary, who had already been singing with Paul. I wrote the arrangement for "This Train" which the first song we did. Then we worked out the parts to "Cruel War," and it became our second song. Gradually we all began to believe we might have something to say together.

It appears that I have at least in part resolved the conflict of which I spoke. For I do now belong, I do exist and I do have some importance. And I have these things in a world that does not force me to compromise my values and beliefs in any way. I have many people to thank for this. Especially Paul and Mary, who have helped me to achieve these things in the performing world. Our managers, Albert Grossman and John Court have helped me to criticize my singing on it's own terms rather than according to audience reaction. There is my family that became the one constant reference during these periods when the world became completely confusing. In a way I am glad these conflicts existed, for without the ability to sense the world around me, without the desire to evaluate it for myself, and without the capacity for caring about what I saw, I would never have been able to sing folk songs.


noel paulMy dad says that once, when I was very young, we were driving in his old Chevie convertible and singing "The Too Fat Polka." We were both singing the melody, and then he began to harmonize. He says that I stood up in the front seat and laughed so hard I couldn't sing anymore. I'd never heard harmony before. I guess all that happiness in my ears was just too much for me. My Dad wasn't especially musical but he gave me my first guitar, a four string one he had as a boy in Utah, and we'd sing songs like "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain" together. That was when we were still living in Dorsey, Maryland, where I was born. The town had a population of 100 but it was near Baltimore and my father was district manager for the Gates Rubber Company, so we traveled alot. When we were driving in the car, the three of us used to sing to pass the time. Mother wasn't a musician either. She was a writer and an artist and came from an old French family in New Orleans. When I got to writing songs, she was always the critic, musically and lyrically, but she encouraged my interest. Dad sort of said "bah humbug" probably because he knew it would be difficult and thought I should be sure it was what I wanted. He's very proud of me now. I think the first time I knew I could be something more than a casual entertainer was when I was called back from my freshman year at Michigan State to do an assembly for my high school in Birmingham, Mich. It was a big audience. I did the whole show, jokes, songs, everything, and I held them. I'd worked some before that; in 1954 when I was a junior in the high school, I formed a rock 'n roll group called "The Birds of Paradise" and played dance hops around Michigan. We won a local TV talent show in Detroit, and made two records that sold out: all 500 copies. But that high school assembly was the first show I'd ever carried by myself. At Michigan State University I was playing and singing my own songs and country music, and I emceed everything from the Water carnival to a charity benefit where we auctioned off sorority girls. I was even elected the third ugliest man on campus in my junior year, a "popularity" contest, if you will. I was majoring in radio and television journalism, but my grades were good only in the subjects I liked: I always got A's in English but I flunked French four times. I was too busy entertaining. My grade chart looked like the hills of West Virginia but I worked when I had to, and ended my first three years there with a good average. In 1958, my father was transferred again and we moved to Philadelphia. I thought of going to Temple University but it was too expensive. In the meantime, I got a job in a camera shop in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and began saving money to go to New York. What I remember most about that period is building a hi-fi set and listening to Dave Brubeck records. I was beginning to get away from country music and the electric guitar type of thing I'd been doing. Then I won an advertising contest for a series called "Man With a Camera." The prize was $467 worth of flash bulbs. I turned them in to the store for $60 which brought my savings to a grand total of $500, and I was off to New York. After three weeks of eating extravagantly and staying in hotels while I looked for a job, I was down to $26. I was on my way home when I stopped in an office that manufactured and developed photographic chemicals. Because of the connection with my job in the camera shop, I walked in and asked for a job as a salesman. I was hired, and in less than a year, I was production manager with my own office and my own Sound-Scriber. During that year, I went down to the Village to a place called The Commons and played chess after work on tuesdays. I also went to a classical guitar noel paulrecital at Cooper Union, and that was a real revelation. Sure, I'd seen Segovia, but it never occurred to me that I could play a classical guitar. At Cooper, I heard guys my own age who were amateurs but who played very well. The next day I went out and traded my electric guitar and amplifier for a good classical guitar. Then one night I went to The Commons, there was a stage in place of the chess boards, so I walked up to the new manager who was wearing blue jeans (rather "pushy" in my Brooks Brothers suit and vest, something of a novelty in the Village in 1960) and I asked him if he was looking for entertainers. He said sure, come try out. I did, and began to play there regularly on weekends and then on weeknights, too. Pretty soon I was dragging into the office late all the time. I knew I had to decide which is was going to be. I decided to entertain. At The Commons, I did songs and emceed and did sound effect imitations. It was there that I met Mary. She came in one night with her hair in a pony tail; the freshest, most beautiful thing that had ever walked through the door. It wasn't "hip" to be too friendly and outgoing then, either: everybody there was very busy being introspective and feeling sorry for themselves. Soon after that, I went to Boston for two months to appear with Joan Baez. When I came back, I played at the Cafe Wha on weekends and then moved to the Gaslight where I saw Mary again. We began to do guest sets together. The Peter met Mary and Mary introduced me to Peter, and soon the three of us started to work up numbers. I knew Al Grossman, but I couldn't imagine that all this was leading some place. He used to come to the Gaslight and he had once asked me if I would be interested in working in a trio and I had said no. Peter was the one who had the drive in the beginning and is really responsible for getting things going. It was only after we'd gone on the road that I began to hold up my end of things. before that, I just didn't believe what was happening. Now I take care of the books, a kind of financial wizard is what I am, the man with the dates and the names. Musically, Peter and I have versatility and quite a range. We can get a male quality in the high registers as well as the low, and my background in country and western music adds something to Peter's classical & folk training. But what really makes us different as a group is Mary. Lots of guys have a wide range but to find a girl who has a feminine quality in the low registers is very rare. She is the reason we're unique, and I think she's the one who has a future in show business, perhaps as an actress as well. Music for me is essentially communication. When I sing to one or two girls in an audience and make them understand what I'm saying and what I'm feeling, that's communication. I'd like to try films, too, to reach more people; to make films, not to act in them. I think material goals are short-sighted; you have to have a philosophical goal and communication is just a means of reaching it. I'm not ashamed to say that my goal is to save the world. So many troubles between people are only reflections of troubles inside those same people. If we could only make our thoughts and emotions understood by others, many conflicts could be avoided. True communication of thought and emotion for all men is my goal. Music is a way of achieving it.


maryWe spend the greater part of our lives trying to share our experiences and feelings with others. We want to tell people what we are about and let them know we understand what they are about. Almost everything we do contributes to the giving and receiving of this message. We communicate, not only in words, but in how we treat each other, in the way we dress, move, work and live. For many of us words have lost much of their meaning. We, who have inherited one of the richest languages in the world, are using fewer and fewer words in our daily lives. It is as though words have been used too often in the wrong places to describe the wrong things. A child, a flower, a feeling can not all be evoked by the same words used to describe a detergent. And so we sing. We sing to ourselves when we are alone. We sing to each other or listen to music together with the knowledge that the sharing of the sound is greater and deeper communication than we may otherwise achieve. I know this is true for me. I could tell you in words that I was born in Louisville, Kentucky and that my parents brought me North a few days ahead of the great flood that destroyed their home and hundreds of other homes and that I was raised in Greenwich Village and that I had a rich and yet lonely childhood and that I love nature and everything in nature - people, animals, flowers and fields, water and dusty roads and sunshine and snow. But when I finished telling you all this I don't know whether I would have communicated anything at all. Yet, in folk music I find a way of saying everything I want to say. In the audience response I feel something more than applause. I feel other people saying, "Yes, I understand'""Yes, I feel that too." "Yes, that's what I want." Folk music and folk history have been a part of my life always. My great- grandmother, who came out of Illinois to be one of the first public school teachers in the state of Arkansas, had seen the face of Lincoln. Her mother had gone on to make the great trek West to Oregon. A multiple-great grandfather had been an officer with Washington's army. I feel a sense of continuity with this history and with the folk music that reflects it. I like to think when I am singing some of the early American folk songs that members of my family sang these songs when they and the events that evoked them were new. Folk music is a natural means of communication for me. I come from a long line of non- conformists. The conformists were on the losing side in 1776 and I doubt my great-great grandmother went to Oregon to find a better bleach for her antimacassars. My mother and father are both writers and although I come from what is so exquisitely described as a "broken home," they were always united in presenting to me a rugged distrust of "the establishment". The values I saw around me were creative and human values. Friendship was more important than status. Ideas were more important than things. I was surrounded by people who did things or were trying to do things...artists, writers, people who were intense about life and who wanted to affect the world they lived in. Like most young people I rebelled, But even in my rebellion I never got very far away from these values and attitudes. And yet I did not make the voyage through adolescence easily. I attended a series of private progressive schools in New York City where I distinguished myself by by refusing to conform to the standards of non-conformism espoused maryby each of them. Unable to be like everybody else, I was equally unable to be myself. I didn't know who that self was. I'm still learning. I wanted to have and be everything - and nothing. I painted. I sang. I wrote poetry. I read. I daydreamed victories I dared not even begin to attempt. I was lonely, distracted an afraid. I married. Not the least of the reasons it didn't work was that we were both too young in too many ways. Still, for me, this experience proved the source of something beautiful. I have a daughter, Erica, now three-and-a-half. She is to be sung, not talked about. All of this time I was involved in folk music. I had never planned to be a performer. My one professional experience, in a Mort Sahl show, convinced me easily that the theatre was not for me. Still, folk music was pat of my life. My mother and I lived in and old "falling down house" in Greenwich Village. Pete Seeger used our basement for rehearsals. I sang in the chorus at an occasional concert. Leadbelly's niece, Tiny, lived not far away. I haunted that house where on an ordinary evening I might find Brownie McGee, Sonny Terry, the Rev. Gary Davis, or Alex McEwan. Charity Bailey had taught music at the Little Red School House when I was a reluctant student there. At the Elizabeth Irwin High School I listened and learned from Bob de Cormier. Folk music was very much a part of my life at home. When my mother married again - a French doctor who was a director of the World Health Organization, I inherited a non-English speaking sister, Frederique and a brother Joel. Together with my own younger sister, Ann, folk music became a means of communication - a substitute for spoken language. We played and sang for a steady stream of diplomats from all over the world who now became a part of our daily lives. Our visiting dignitaries joined in choruses and added their own folk music to our repertoire. Meanwhile like many other young people raised in Greenwich Village, I gravitated toward the Washington Square Park folk-sings and the neighborhood coffee shops featuring equal parts folk music, chess and the talking artists. I think a word about the "real" Greenwich Village is in order here. To me and to all those for whom the Village is home, the section below 14th Street in Manhattan bears no resemblance to the area gawked at by thrill- seeking tourists. The Village was for me exactly that - a village, a small community where everybody knew everybody else and helped everybody else and cared about everybody else. It wasn't then and it isn't now all sweetness and light. Neither is any small town anywhere. although everyone I knew was busy doing something or getting ready to do something, it never occurred to me that I might ever "do anything" with music. I thought vaguely of acting. I continued to write. I painted numerous interpretations of the alley view from my apartment window. After my marriage and especially after Erica's birth even these vague stirrings died out completely. I sang primarily to Erica and what artistic drives I may have had found their expression in reading other people's words, looking at other people's paintings and moving furniture about to make the two rooms in the apartment do the work of three. It was not until after my marriage had ended that the idea of becoming a performer actually took hold in my head. I had met Paul in The Commons and we were doing occasional guest sets together at The Gaslight. Al Grossman, who was later to become our manager, introduced me to Peter and I introduced him to Paul. Soon the three of us were working up numbers together. When Al took us under his generous wing, I suppose he and Peter and Paul expected something to come of it all. I didn't. I think I really went along for the friendship, the sense of belonging, the to me, startling discovery, that work could be it's own end. I can't write about Peter and Paul and what Al has done for me - for us - without an intensity of feeling that stops the words before they come. They have given me myself. They have made the improbable, possible. Peter and Paul are - Peter and Paul. If you knew them as I do you would not need to know any more. They are, for me, what all the music is about: integrity, and love and the reality of feeling. That is what they have helped me find in myself and thus in the world about me. It is this vision that we share with you in our music and if it has proved to be successful, it is not, I believe, because it is our vision, but because it has been yours all along.

Photographs by: Barry Feinstein
Designed by: Push Pin Studios