Reunion Tour Book

Peter, Paul & Mary


IN 1960 three young people with aims for modest musical success came together to form a singing group. They called themselves "Peter, Paul and Mary". The name had a pleasant biblical ring to it which seemed suited to the folk songs they planned to perform, but also Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers wanted to affirm their participation as individuals. "We felt it should be us, not some entity that was replaceable," explains Mary.

They put themselves on the line beginning with this choice, and they put themselves on the line many times over in the next several years both professionally and politically, as they evolved their unique and infectiously optimistic blend of folk music, straight talk and social commitment. They were entertainers par excellence. Audiences came away from their performances full of goodwill and feelings of well-being. But people took seriously what they had to say, and they in turn took their effect on people seriously.

"Our interaction was attractive because they saw us opening up to each other" says Peter. "That connection was so profound, I feel, that it did sincerely indicate that our communication was more than entertainment." A young man sang The Great Mandala in court in defense of his position as a conscientious objector and won his CO status. The same song was inscribed on the gravestone of a soldier killed in Viet Nam, at a request he had made to his wife in the event of death.

picture by Barry FeinsteinThe extraordinary decade in which the trio flourished saw popular music become one of the dominant expressions of the culture, a culture torn by the youth revolt, the sexual revolution, conflicting attitudes about the war in Viet Nam, civil rights, and the shocking assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. In the midst of chaos, PP&M's star rose beyond their farthest imaginings. Folk music was not exactly a vehicle for grand ambitions at the time, and they had no way of knowing they were on the verge of a musical explosion that would thrust them into a whole new sphere of visibility and consequence.

They sang their own songs and the songs of others, never taking the words lightly. If one of them found a line or an idea untenable or untrue, the group would discuss it, argue it, reconsider it until the issue was resolved. And they worked on their music in the same way. It was this sharing, vulnerability and ultimate trust in each other, along with their leavening humor; which gave them strength as a group and appealed to their audiences. "We had some wonderful rules for working," Mary confides. "you could fight all you wanted to before you hit the stage, but onstage you looked at your idealistic vision of the other person...The discipline of performing together was really to share something bigger than any one of us could make by ourselves."

By the time the sixties were drawing to a close the group had produced eleven albums, made thousands of appearances worldwide, and had amassed numerous gold and platinum albums, a "Grammy" and other awards. They had marched in Selma for civil rights and on Washington against the war in Viet Nam. They had performed in dozens of benefit concerts for causes in which they believed. And they had imbedded in the national consciousness their love and respect for each other, for their country, for people everywhere, and for life.


Then, as the decade ended, with the group still enjoying undiminished popularity, Peter, Paul and Mary made the announcement that they were dissolving the group. It took a lot of people by surprise. The relentless pace of concert appearances, recording and traveling had begun to take it's toll. Paul wanted to spend more time with his family, Peter and Mary didn't want to form a new group, " because we had really felt all the way through that it was the three of us." They embarked upon their individual odysseys, and their parting was seen by some as symbolizing the end of an era.

Perhaps because they had never courted such stardom in the first place, had never expected to become such a coalescing force, they were able to make the transition to a more private existence with the same remarkable energies and grace that had marked their careers together.


Peter YarrowPeter Yarrow talks about the past eight years. Soon after the group broke up, he decided with his wife Mary Beth to move to California with their two small children, Elizabeth and Christopher, and establish a closer way of living. "Over that period of time I think the only thing could ever have equaled what PP&M had were our families, our children." They settled into an airy house in Malibu overlooking the Pacific.

Peter continued to write music and to perform. He made a couple of solo albums and began producing records for others. He continued to involve himself in those causes that mattered to him. He went to Chile at Allendes behest to represent North America in a song festival of support. He organized "Survival Sunday". A hugely successful benefit concert in Los Angeles to endorse the United Nations' five-week session on world disarmament. "I am moved to do something in the face of of indifference," he volunteers, "to step in even though no one else seems interested."

He contributed his efforts to ERA benefits, witnessing his influence upon his children with pride when daughter Elizabeth decided to donate the contents of her piggy bank to the cause, eschewing the chemistry set she had been saving for.

And he has completed co-producing an animated version of 'Puff The Magic Dragon" for an upcoming CBS television special.

Another major effort was the creation of The Festival of New Music, conceived as a continuing series for discovering and developing new songwriters. "The world of music is highly competitive and reaches for a broad common denominator which really doesn't allow a new kind of oddball voice," says Peter. The Festival receives over 500 tapes from writers each time it is produced- there have been four of them in the past two and a half years- and has brought forth ten new songwriters. "They are chosen not just for their craft but also for what they have to say."

One of the songs Peter co-wrote in recent years was the single hit for Mary MacGregor, Torn Between Two Lovers. The current songs are not couched in what he terms "the flagwaving language of the 'sixties, but in the language of now, which is trying to be as realistic, as open, as unself-deceptive as possible. Inherent in the new songs of PP&M, I believe, is that premise".


Noel Paul Stookey   PAUL

Noel Paul Stookey experienced a religious conversion in the mid-'sixties. He had been profoundly affected by the ease of his success, and by what he felt to be the disparity between his public idealism and the erosion of his private life. He found himself being separated by long distances and time from his family. "For three or four years it had been very exciting to do something that seemed as natural as conversation," he explained. "To get up on the stage and talk about things that occurred to me and have people applaud, put it on a record, pay for it, buy it, was staggering and very heady."

But after a while he says, "I began to look for a firmer basis, as a result of being involved with the music." A lot of music he did at the time reflected that search-The House Song, The Good Times We Had, Love City, Hymn. They didn't seem to be very far afield from what PP&M were, in terms of expressing those things that were heartfelt. "Also we seemed to do a lot of Gospel music, the import of which I never really understood until after my conversion. Then these songs took on incredible significance." Finally he, his wife Betty and daughter Elizabeth moved to a 67 acre farm on the coast of Maine. "Moving to the country was a way of understanding what was real," he explains. "There are more responsibilities. People become more precious because there are fewer of them." Two more daughters were born there, Kate and Anna.

"I left the group with a vengeance," he adds. "I was not going on the road. But how could I not sing or write music, or at least perform for my daughters' schools?" And he started over again, only with the difference that these were small community events or an occasional large benefit. "The subject matter changed. Many songs I do now have what could be called a Christian emphasis." he made four solo albums that reveal "where I have lived, what my values are."

He converted one floor of an old henhouse on his property into a recording studio, another into an animation studio, for his Neworld Media productions. There is also a workshop and living quarters for visiting artists who may rent the facilities.

"I have become aware that in my most ingenuous moments I am a vessel, a tool, an instrument. I suspect now that love is not generated from a human spirit but in fact flows through it. So now when I sing for people and they applaud, part of what they are applauding I feel I can applaud along with them."

Eight years later, as a result of those pressures of the time, the need to be with his family, the sense of a continued growth in God, Noel feels relaxed about his renewed relationship with Peter and Mary. Having thrashed out many issues which had not been resolved at the time of their breakup, they can accept each other again. "We are at a very nice place now," he says.


Mary TraversBefore Mary Travers added her voice to the trio, she had been what she calls "a hobby performer." As part of PP&M, she confesses, "I never talked, never made an introduction. In the beginning I was too terrified and in the end too role-bound." So learning to confront an audience, to conduct a band, to handle the whole responsibility became her challenge. And she learned.

Besides keeping to an arduous schedule of club and concert appearances, she hosted several daytime talk shows and a syndicated radio show, wrote and starred in six television specials for the BBC, played in summer stock, and made five solo albums along the way (the most recent "It's in Everyone of Us," for Chrysalis.) She also lectures at campuses on "Society and it's Effect on Music." Having been asked to speak on the reverse issue, she concluded after some thought that music "is an answer to a question society poses first. It is an articulation of the question."

Juggling these activities with her single-parent responsibilities towards daughters Erika and Alicia has been demanding but balancing. "The reality of raising children offsets the unreality of a performer's life." She is loving and proud, wryly complaining that there is hardly anything left in her wardrobe to call her own anymore.

Mary's commitment to larger causes has involved her in events for ERA, women's liberation, anti-nuclear reactor groups and various political campaigns. "They are all part of the same package.' she observes. "Civil rights was really a question of human rights, ERA is a question of human rights, the quality of life in terms of pollution is human rights again. They all have to do with the rights of individuals in society."

She reflects on her current and earlier activism. "It was never a profitable thing to be involved in politics. You don't make more money and you don't get more attention of the right kind. It isn't good for the 'image'. What it is good for is one's head. Fame is encapsulating, isolating. It can cut you off from other professions, other dialogues, other economic strata."

"There is all of this romanticism about the 'fifties' and even the 'thirties," Mary comments with some impatience. "Every time is a good time if you share it with other people, if you make that effort to reach out and share it. I am the last of the eternal optimists. It has got to be better tomorrow. I do know that I look forward to tomorrow. I look forward to living." She speaks of the reunion with Peter and Noel. "Coming together is a sharing, a celebration. We have twice as much to give each other now. We bring each other the strength we had together and the strength of having stood by ourselves."


Mary describes with fervor the process of the past several weeks. "I had fogotten what a joy it was to fight over a song, line for line, to get hung up on one word, to say 'This is philosophically incorrect!'" There have been long days into night of talking, listening and choosing among hundreds of songs, rehearsing, finally recording. It has been necessary for them to map out this happening months in advance, to clear the time to spend together.The Trio in the recording studio

And it was with some astonishment for each of them that their reunion was working, that the magic for them still was there. Their split had never been irreconcilable, of course. Certain issues had remained unresolved, questions unasked. But they had kept in touch, left doors open. The notion of a reunion had been raised many times, if not by themselves then by others. The answer had always come up no. "We had to feel our getting together had a meaning and a validity beyond just the job of making an album, doing a tour," Peter said.

But to everything there is a season . The trio twice found themselves joined for benefit performances last year. "We put in a day's rehearsal," Peter beams, and "It was electric! It was wondrous! We always had our most exciting moments when we were sharing what we had in the context of something we believed in."

The warmth of this reunion, at last undertaken, has exceeded their expectations. "If there was a mission that I had personally to come to the group for," offers Noel, "it was to see this healing take place within ourselves and with the other two. This has been a very gentle joining of the spirits." He sees the album as a record, "not in the vinyl sense," of what happens when three people who cared deeply about each other come together after eight years and find they are able to experience again what they have to share. "The word for it is 'synergy'."PP&M

What we are trying to express is wrenched forth from things much more fundamental than the anticipation of the marketplace," says Peter. "What emerges is what has to emerge, and that is the true nature of our interaction."
Mary amplifies these sentiments. "It is a reunion of the best sort. There is surprisingly little reminiscing and a lot of what we want to say about life now." She contemplates the way they have been able to "drop back into one another's lives, share what we have learned, say 'I love you' to each other and express such positive feelings. Maybe it is important at this particular moment to say that there can be that kind of continuity. Maybe that's a gift we didn't even anticipate."

© by Myrna Davis

Tour Director: Shelly Belusar
Tour Manager: R. Mac Holbert
Road Manager: Armando Hurley
Production Manager: Gleen Goodwin
Sound Engineer: Stan Johnston
Lighting Designer: Danny O'Bryen
Tour Program:
Design: Milton Glaser; Inc
Text: Myrna Davis
Photography: Matthew Klein
"March On Washington" Photograph: Barry Feinstein