In the past three years, Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers individually
and together performed at more than 300 benefits, traveled to El Salvador,
Nicaragua, South Korea, Israel, and the Soviet Union to witness for peace,
democracy and human rights, raised more than $500,000 for 30 senate, house and
local candidates, paid a lot of attention to the seven children they have among them
and founded the Charity Bailey Folk Music Project.
They were average, run-of-the-movement years for Peter, Paul and Mary. And in
the same 36 months, the trio managed to bring their magic harmony and
hope-filled lyrics to more than 6000 fans at 15 concert dates in the U.S.,
Australia, Japan, and Europe.
Peter, Paul and Mary have been at such a pace for 25 years, ever since they
vaulted out of the coffeehouses of Greenwich Village in 1961 and onto a stage
that has stretched from a platform of coffins at St. Judes just outside
Montgomery to the Royal Albert Concert Hall in London to the dank floors of
jails in Central America.
Musically, they've turned the lonely trails of peace and protest first blazed
by Woodie Guthrie and Peter Seeger into highways for the masses. Popularizing
traditional as well as topical folk music with the millions of records they've
sold, among them eight gold singles and six platinum albums.
Introducing the words and music of struggling young artists like John Denver,
bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot to a world too often too busy too listen to the
truth. Providing a generation of adults with unforgettable camp songs.
Socially, they've stretched our collective conscience by stretching theirs,
testifying for human rights and social justice wit their bodies as well as their
voices. Standing uup to hoses and horses in Montgomery, bayonets in Chicago, the
slurs of anti-ERA agitators in New York and to government thugs in Seoul.
Kneeling with refugees and political prisoners in blood-spattered countries
around the world.
Politically they've shown a commitment to the democratic electoral process
unlike any other entertainers in memory, throwing themselves and their
reputations into every presidential contest since they began singing together.
Pulling crowds and contributions into the campaigns of hundreds of congressional, gubernatorial, mayoral and local candidates. Boosting candidates
unknown, black, female and liberal; often winning but seldom making it a
They've been consistent in their commitment, in the good years and the bad,
from the "we" decade of the 60's to the "me" decade of the
70's to the renewal of spirit that is beginning to characterize the 80's. And in
addition they've organized and inspired hundreds of other entertainers to donate
time, money and talent to the causes and the candidates that have helped change
Through it all, from a giant birthday party for a young President who was not
to have another to the funerals of Andrew Goodman and Allard Lowenstein, they've
continued to bring us messages of optimism, and faith in the human spirit. One
of their first hits, "Blowin' In The Wind", helped us believe there is
indeed an answer; their latest song, "No Easy Walk To Freedom", urges
our chins high with the words, "Glory hallelujah, gonna make it this
In a world of takers, Peter, Paul and Mary have been givers. At a monetary
sacrifice greater than most of us would ever expect; at an emotional price many
of us are all too familiar with. And often without even a simple thank-you-note
from those they have helped.
Twenty-five years. For some of us, literally a lifetime. For others a long
and tiring bridge between the inexhaustible energy of youth and the inescapable
fatigue of middle age. But for Peter, Paul and Mary, 25 years is just a quick
start in a superb race they continue to run, never seeming to tire, never even
for moment, looking backward.
It has been suggested that had their music been attributed upon original
release to Marvin, Gerald and Phyllis , it may very well have sunk without a
trace. For part of the initial charm of Peter, Paul and Mary was their disarming
simplicity. Dressed conservatively, they applied the orthodox vocal/musical
style of the Weavers and The Kingston Trio to traditional favourites, spicing
the brew with carefully selected fresh material from other young emerging
folkies. Sincere and earnest, their starkly pure harmonies sweetened the air of
a world in the throes of acute pessimism. "We came from the folk tradition
in a contemporary form, where there was concern that idealism be part of your
music and the music a part of your life.
Peter, Paul and Mary began rehearsals in Mary's apartment in May 1961,
gradually merging their singular identities into a united voice. A round of New
York performances was exceedingly well received and it was at their very last
Village date, at The Bitter End, that Warner Bros' Mike Maitland spotted them.
Their first, self-titled, album was a deft collection of Pete Seeger, Dave Van
Ronk, Reverend Gary Davis, and Yarrow/Stookey songs in an uncluttered, exuberant
and highly commercial folk mould. By the time Lemon Tree was peaking at
#35 on the American charts, the massive public popularity level, facilitated by
six shows a week for six solid months. Their success spread to foreign shores
and the played to capacity houses in London and Paris. The album soom moved past
the one million point in sales.
If I Had A Hammer, a second single from the first album, hit top ten in
October 1962. Moving, the mostly original second album, turned out three
more hit singles, including the classic Puff (The Magic Dragon), which
made it to #2 in May. By this point Peter, Paul and Mary were unrivalled as the
world's number one folk act, As Peter told the Saturday Evening Post, "Our
purpose is to affirm."
By mid 1963, the same New York club circuit that had produced the trio, was
being well shaken by an enigmatic singer/songwriter from the backwoods of
Minnesota. Albert Grossman added Bob Dylan to his management stable and the
cynical balladeer contributed three songs and priceless liner notes to the third
PP&M album In The Wind. The association was sublimely productive -
Dylan gave the group sharp relevant songs and the group thrust Dylan under the
gaze of the mass audience that had eluded him. Blowin' In The Wind returned
PP&M to the #2 spot in August 1963 and won them a Grammy, It also elevated
them as prime drawcard at Peace and Freedom rallies, culminating with their
thunderous reception beneath the Washington Monument, as part of Martin Luther
King's 1963 March On Washington.
During 1964 they toured incessantly, their schedule taking in Australia.
Warners recorded five American performances for the million-selling In
Concert double album, which featured Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin' and the live A'Soalin'. These performances showcased the extraordinary
level of warmth, participation and genuine joy which the three expert
entertainers were able to generate on both sides of the footlights.
Over the next three years, Peter, Paul and Mary consolidated their
popularity, recording three more albums (A Song Will Rise, See What
Tomorrow Brings, and Album) and two more Australasian tours. They
moved well beyond the acoustic simplicity of their early work, recruiting such
session players as Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Pete Childs, Charlie McCoy, Mark
Naftalin, Paul Butterfield, Kenny Buttrey. The trio was held in high regard by
many 'hip' American bands of the time, and also by the Rolling Stones
(particularly Brian Jones) and The Beatles, who referred to them as Pizza, Pooh
While most of their peers from the folk era outlived their usefulness and
were ground into the dust of the rock stampede of the middle sixties, Peter,
Paul and Mary forged ahead musically. 1967's Album 1700, recorded with
the aid of Paul Butterfield, The Paupers, and members of the Electric Flag, was
startling state-of-the-(West Coast)-art. I Dig Rock And Roll Music, their
fifth top ten smash, referred lyrically to The Mamas & The Papas and
musically to The Lovin' Spoonful, Simon & Garfunkel and Johnny Rivers. More
than two years later, a track form the album written by John Denver proved so
durable that it gave the group their only American number one hit - Leaving
On A Jet Plane. Although it became one of the three biggest singles in
Warner history, it proved to be their final U.S. chart entry for almost a
Most of 1968 was consumed with the tour demands which had followed their new
contemporary identity. Their stage craft was finely honed, with the individual
characters of the three emerging to texture and colour their performances. The Late
Again album saw a continuation of the trio's strong bond with Bob Dylan, via I Shall Be Released and Too Much Of Nothing. This was but one example
of the trio's capacity for deft song selection. On their earl albums they
paid appropriate homage to the pioneers of folk music by recording songs from
The Weaver's (Wasn't That A Time? Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, If I Had A
Hammer, Man Come Into Egypt, etc.), Woody Guthrie, Will Holt, Ewan MacColl,
and others. At the same time, they covered the best works of the new wave of
folk performers - Tom Paxton, Gordon Lightfoot, Tim Hardin, Mike Settle, Dave
Van Ronk, Hamilton Camp, Bob Gibson, Fred Neil, John Denver, Laura Nyro, Eric
Andersen and Australian Gary Shearston among them. By the time they would get
back together in the late seventies their adventurous tentacles would be groping
far afield from folk music. Equally adept at handling pop. they them delivered
unique performances of material by the likes of Billy Joel and Mann & Weil.
The extraordinary troubadours left us with a final vinyl offering that
reminded us of their great love and concern for the young. The Peter Paul and Mommy album drew together their most enduring children's songs, giving new life
to Tom Paxton's Marvelous Toy and Puff (The Magic Dragon). Featuring
participation from The Nursery School of Westchester Ethical Society, the tracks
shone with a positive aura that renders the album timeless.
"When we found out that we no longer wanted to say the same things with
our music, we agreed to go our separate ways," explains Peter. Mary adds,
"I never liked the term 'breakup'. That implies something to me like a marriage
that didn't work out. I like to say that the group retired, or stopped
touring, We remained friends."
The first ten years resulted in five platinum and eight gold album awards
and a legacy of 119 superb tracks - all of which exemplified musical integrity
and plain good taste.
Throughout the seventies, Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers
maintained a high recorded profile, with a string of solo albums and production
efforts. In October 1971 Paul charted internationally with the delicate,
sensitive Wedding Song, which had been inspired by Peter's marriage. An
active Christian, he formed Neworld Media which issued his warm, spiritual solo
albums after his departure from Warner Bros. One of music's most natural and
delightful performers, Paul chose to hit the concert hall regularly and has
built up devoted legions of fans in many countries. He now lives on the Maine
coast with his wife Betty, his three daughters and his own recording studio. His
production efforts include two albums for the Paul Winter Consort.
Peter, perhaps the most accomplished songwriter of the three, busied himself
with writing, record production and film/television work. In 1968 he had enjoyed
considerable acclaim for his production of the psychedelic cult feature film You
Are What You Eat (featuring the Electric Flag, Tiny Tim, Barry McGuire, Harpers
Bizarre, John Simon and Peter himself). After the split, Peter developed his
production skills, working with Jericho Harp, Lazarus and P.R. Battle. In 1976 he
co-produced the #1 American hit for Mary McGregor, Torn Between Two Lovers.
Living in Malibu with his wife Mary Beth and two children, Peter has remained
extremely active in music. He was a guest vocalist on the Burt Bacharach album Futures and produced an animated series based upon Puff (The Magic Dragon) for
Mary who lives in New York with her daughters Erika and Alicia, recorded five
solo albums, undertook her own syndicated radio show (Mary Travers and Friend -
the first episode of which featured a chat with Bob Dylan), hit the college
lecture circuit ("Society And It's Affect On Music"), performed solo
and with symphony orchestras, and continued her myraid social/political
activities. She has recently become a grandmother.
Apart from a reunion at a 1972 George McGovern benefit concert, the three
resisted the urge to take the stage together for some eight years. When they did
get together early in 1978 for a Nuclear Disarmament benefit a reunion album and
tour was mutually agreed upon. They made it into studios in New York and San
Francisco in July 1978 to cut Reunion which, in a nod to past tradition,
included a Dylan song (Forever Young). a little thicker and more worldly,
the sound was still unmistakably Peter, Paul and Mary. Best Of Friends and Like The First Time eloquently stated their position.
A rapturously received tour kicked off in August. In Chicago a critic
observed: "When they blend together it is still pure and overwhelming. Had
the crowd's heart grown any fuller there would have been a danger of a collective
They reached Australia in March 1982 and played to sold-out houses in four
cities. Down Under audiences were enraptured by the tangible bond of love,
respect and trust which emanated from the stage each night. "I noticed the
joy of singing against these two," said Mary. "All of a sudden there
was an emphatic feeling, not necessarily looking at Peter and Paul but feeling
them vocally, our vocal parts meshing into one. It was wonderful and sensuous;
restricted yet free."
"It's a concern, wanting your music not to be schizophrenic. The music
becomes an extension of your caring and your soul. There's no schism between
what you do on stage and what you are. What we're trying for is a kind of
health, and that's what we were always trying for. If Paul explores it vis-à-vis
a Christian experience, and Peter can express it vis-à-vis a political activist
position, it's all the same... We're honest. We're not concerned with
anticipating the demands of the public. We seem to come alive in the stage and
give true expressions of ourselves."
To coincide with the 1982 Australian tour, a second 'reunion' album, Such
Is Love, was issued by Festival Records, and was a solid seller in Australia
and Japan. Particularly touching was the rendition of the haunting There But
For Fortune by the late Phil Ochs and a remake of Stewball - further
links to their own heritage and history. On the eve of Australian tour number
seven, a third 'reunion' album has been readied for 1986 release. In the
interim, an independent single, El Slavador/Light One Candle, has been made
available to the faithful. And indeed there are many.