"The Best Of Peter, Paul & Mary
Release Year: 1970 with LP version of album
Ten Years Together"
1962: at a Chicago luncheon honoring reservists returned from
duty during the Berlin Crisis
ON THEIR EARLY DAYS TOGETHER
PAUL: It's hard to remember what really came first. We did a lot of clubs in the
first two years.
PETER: I think we were performing less than six months in clubs before we
MARY: No, it was much more than that...
PAUL: No, we did concerts too, and then we had clubs to do. The first club
was the Lambs Club - Peter on stage with scarlet fever.
MARY: No, it was in Dayton, Ohio, 1961. The Racquet Club.
PAUL: Hey! What was our first concert, man?
PETER: Baseball stadium.
MARY: Baseball stadium?
PETER: Fort Lauderdale?
MARY: Fort Lauderdale? You're right, Fort Lauderdale.
PETER: No, it wasn't. Our first concert was in, ummm, where Lee Monroe came.
MARY: You're right. Smith College.
PAUL: Let's talk about Peter throwing up in Blackpool.
PETER: What kind of a thing is that to talk about!
PAUL: What do you mean? That was fantastic. You know, people always say to
me, "Gee, Stook, you must have some wonderful memories of ten years on the
road." And all I can think of is Blackpool. I'd never bombed before. I
mean, there has been qualitatively less response to me at one time than another,
but I had never bombed before Blackpool.
MARY: It's odd, things like that. People think a lot of funny things must
have happened. Well, a lot of funny things do, but I don't think you
remember them unless you come into a theater or a gymnasium and say, "Ohm,
Ohhh, I remember this place." A lot of it really wasn't funny. Not
then. A lot of it was only funny because if you didn't make it funny, you'd lay
down and cry.
PETER: The whole thing of breaking into the show business world was peculiar,
because it had nothing to do with the music we'd been singing or what was
happening between us and our audience at the Bitter End (which was the first
place we performed). For us, show biz was a strange world. We didn't know if the
people in it were nice or what we later called, um, what was it...meatsellers?
PETER: Yes, Fleshpeddlers. All we knew was one particular man who had been
the catalyst for our coming together in the first place and who was going to run
interference for us. His name is Albert Grossman and he helped us, for instance,
to get dressed when we first went to the record companies. That was when we
first decided to do only what we really belived in. When we began to go for
auditions, one company made us an offer, but they wanted us to change our
MARY: That was Columbia. They sent us an A&R man, very sweet, who showed
us a copy of "Red Rosy Bush." RE-written and programmed to be a
fantastic hit song, because it had all those things young people supposedly
wanted to hear. Well, I can't read music and I looked at it and said,
"What's that?" and the guy said, "Oh, that's a re-write of 'Red
Rosy Bush.'" And since "Red Rosy Bush" was probably my favorite
all-time song, I said, "ECHHHHH..." and we looked at each other after
the fellow left and we knew we would be in a lot of trouble with that company.
PETER: It meant we'd have a chance to "make it," but we'd have to
change our ideas about things. We discussed it and decided no. Then we were
offered commercials. It was just like "Hey! We don't want to do that. So
let's not." Clothes were a different matter. Paul and I felt for some
reason that we had to wear something similar. I guess it was an emotional
reason. It wasn't a commercial consideration.
PAUL: I think it was because we were influenced by all those groups who went
before. You know, when you get into show biz, you dress the same way.
MARY: And when we got it all together, Paul and Peter decided they were going
to have a neat look, with their beards. Later on, there was great static about
the beards, because the moment they re-entered the social structure, they were
different. I remember Max Gordon-he owned the Blue Angel and the Vanguard-said,
"Great group, but they really should get rid of their beards and maybe have
some candy striped jackets."
PETER: When we met Mary, she wore her hair pulled back like the painting of
her by Soyer. Then she changed to bangs. We were beginning to be aware of how we
looked. Mary had her hair and we had our beards.
PAUL: Modified Van Dykes, they called them.
PETER: It was a kind of identity, but it came naturally. And as for Mary's
hair, one of the things I always hated when I was in college was girls with the
beehive teased hair. And Mary really changed all that. Girls began wearing their
hair straight and long again. That was one of the beautiful things about Mary.
PAUL: We were so naive. We didn't know what to expect. We were so nervous we
sang flat at the audition for the Blue Angel.
PETER: What we did have though was a sense of complete involvement. Nothing
else interested us. And while ours wasn't a simple relationship and, heaven
knows, it wasn't always harmonious, it was real.
PAUL: The involvement also meant learning how to relate to an audience.
PETER: We learned that early, doing six concerts a week in the beginning. In
'62. Six a week and boy it was tough. There was a place in Colorado called Red
Rocks. It has a mountain trail that leads up to a natural amphitheater made of
red rocks. The kids, in order to get into the place start coming early. Well,
they had a lot of time on their hands and they were drinking beer. It was the
first drunk crowd we'd ever played for. And in the middle of the concert, a beer
can came sailing at the stage and missed Mary by a few inches. Mary burst into
tears and left the stage. I got furious and I really bawled them out. When I
stopped, the whole audience applauded. They were really behind us. No more beer
bottles and Mary came back.
MARY: From the first, there was always a relationship with our audience based
on content, not that business of indulging in love for the performers without
reference to their music. We found out about that in the first ten months of
touring and we learned how to build on it.
While on tour in Japan
ON CHANGES, MUSICAL AND OTHER
PETER: At first, we sang mostly traditional songs which had been revised by us
so that we could make them our own. At the time that we started singing, there
was nothing wrong with borrowing material from other performers. It was
considered a compliment. You're singing Tom Paxton's song? Tom Paxton would be
happy about that. Or if Tom or anybody would sing my songs, it would be a great
PAUL: Revisions were always made to make the songs immediate. In other words,
many times those traditional songs had archaic English which was all right and
sometimes we left the words that way. But somehow the emotion, the reason for
the song or the motives of the characters weren't clear because it was based on
some information that existed in the 1600's.
PETER: We started writing songs ourselves. Paul and I did and Mary wrote
PAUL: We'd always written actually-there were always a couple of our own
PETER: I think the beginning of it was really Bob Dylan. We were in the Gate
of Horn in Chicago and a demo was played in the bar downstairs of "Blowing
In The Wind" and we just flipped. We talked about doing it and I remember,
all of a sudden, an idea for an arrangement came to me. I walked into rehearsal
with it in Mary's apartment and everybody went for it. That was the first time
we ever made a song that was just a single. Before that, our singles were songs
out of albums and they were successful. But with this one, we ran into the
studio with this attitude: "We don't really care whether this thing is a
hit or not. We just want it to come out and be available."
What was important about "Blowing In The Wind" was that even though
"If I Had A Hammer" preceded it, it somehow became the first of the
so-called protest songs. Everybody made a big thing out of that, but it was
really an affirmation song. It was a song of caring and commitment and it
was hopeful. And it wasn't about teen-age dating behavior. Popular music sure
has changed since then.
MARY: I've never felt a real change in my music, mostly because it's very
much like myself. I know I've changed, but I'm never aware of change as it's
occuring or even in retrospect. I know I'm a much happier person today that I
was five years ago, but five years ago has faded and I can't recall what I felt.
So I can't recall change.
I can say that things have changed in the sense that we've all
learned. I've learned how to sing much better. Peter and Paul play much better.
We've experimented with many other musical points of view. It seems to me the
role of the artist is always a bit of a thief. You know, you listen to Bartok
and you say, "That's a nice change. I'd like to use that sometime," or
"That's nice. Look at that banjo thing." Well, we do things like that
and, just generally, that's why folk music is so different now.
PETER: There were people who were actually outraged at the change because, at
one time, there was a battle between the purists and the urban folk singers. And
one of the things the Beatles did was to wash away that snobbery. It used to be
that music was somehow divisible into higher and lower planes of validity.
That's all changed but, in the beginning, there were a lot of people who accused
us of copping out. My answer was, "Look, we have to grow. If we keep
singing in one particular way, we'll simply atrophy - emotionally and
MARY: The big argument of the purist was always, "Keep things as they
are - as they were." Which is an impossibility. You can't stop time and you
can't stop people from learning and feeling. You'd really have to isolate
yourself to do that.
PAUL: As far as specific changes, we had a certain command of music that
developed from playing with the guitars and making up the harmony. Then we
started to find out about writing vocal obligatos and parts for other
instruments. I think it happened around "Album" or "See What
PETER: In "See What Tomorrow Brings," we did some of that. But I
know that "Album" was really the beginning of using other instruments
and for us that was a radical departure because, at the time, people were
conscious of the group's sound. We never thought of the group's sound as
a tangible thing until we started to change it. Then we realized that we were
tampering with something.
PAUL: We really didn't know how to experiment. Some things were successful;
some weren't. But the idea was to try to use instruments just the way we had
used our voices so that somehow, they did add a mood or a flavor-as if there
were other voices singing in some kind of other way.
Mary and daughter Erika in Greenwich Village
ON EACH OTHER
PETER: Paul loves secret hiding places, but it goes beyond that. He has this
idea that he can construct something that'll work in a particularly wondrous way
and will change the universe as long as you deal with it like that. He's always
been that way. It isn't just being secretive. For example, when he and his wife
went to Mexico, he fixed up his car so that everything fit into everything else
and it was extraordinary. That car could do things most houses couldn't do.
PAUL: Creating with somebody is one of the most intimate types of
relationships. It takes incredible honesty. You need that if you want real
freedom and happiness anyway, but in a creative relationship, the honesty is demanded.
When you have that, you also have to accept each other and that's not always
easy because we're all of us grossly imperfect human beings. We're vulnerable
and we have human failings.
PETER: Milt once said, "If only you people could treat each other with
as much gentleness as you treat me." But then again, he understands the
nature of our relationship, that there's just more interaction going on all the
time and that there has to be. We're so close that we can sense when one of us
is trying to get to the other without other people having any idea what's going
on. That's true of everybody that's connected with the group - people who work
in the office, our manager and others. They're fond of each of us and they find
it hard to understand that we have can have really serious problems in
communicating with one another from time to time. But the problem isn't one of
casual communication. It's one of gut, bottom-line acceptance and sensitivity to
one another. That's more formidable than most people realize.
Sometimes you have to relax
ON THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND OTHER
PAUL: It's hard to remember exactly how we first got into the
Civil Rights movement but, actually, it was a logical outgrowth of our pasts and
PETER: Mary and I particularly grew up being a part of social consciousness
efforts. My mother was a teacher, one of the first members of the United
Federation of Teachers and Mary's mother was a journalist.
MARY: She was very involved in the formation of the Writers
Guild. Peter and I both came from very strong Union backgrounds, and I think in
those days that went hand-in-hand with Civil Rights and related things.
Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to ring true anymore.
I mostly remember being in Washington with Martin Luther King in 1963.
PETER: That's the most famous one historically, but we were a
part of other marches which were less well-known. There was the March on
Frankfort, Kentucky, for instance, and that was much more dangerous as I
remember. The Washington March had Senators; it had Congressmen and labor union
leaders. It was respectable. It looked so hopeful.
MARY: I remember being in Selma and being afraid, I think
everybody there was afraid. We all sensed the feeling of violence.
PAUL: The campus of Ole Miss' in '62 was the first real contact
PETER: I remember Mary losing her temper in the middle of
singing "If I Had a Hammer" there. Becasue all of a sudden, we all
realized that everybody was singing, "Yes, yes, if I had a hammer, I would
hammer out justice and I would ring the bell of freedom for white Protestant
PAUL: "Love between my white brothers and my white sisters
all over this land."
PETER: We realized that our songs were really spelling out a way
of life in a sense, not just a happy feeling, and that folksongs really were
songs of the people. And we got to know that it was going to take a long time to
get through to people about that.
MARY: We came to understand that what you can say through music
is one thing to talk about, but if you want there to be no mistake about the
interpretation of a song, there shouldn't be any mistake about the
interpretation or the emphasis in your mind. So, our life styles had to
be very direct, very solid on the issues, so that people would understand that
when we talked about freedom, we had a very definite view of what freedom and
PETER: I remember that our lives were threatened when we went
one place to do a concert - a bomb threat. And in Texas, I think it was, a
stink bomb did go off in the middle of a concert and we were picketed.
MARY: After we performed in Selma, the Junior Chamber of
Commerce in that town sent us rather nasty letters saying they didn't want us
there. And the only plus side of that stink bomb, if it was a reaction to our
participation in Selma, was that the National Headquarters of the Jaycees was
having a convention upstairs in this building where the stink bomb went off. And
the smell went through all the air conditioning ducts, so they got some of it
PAUL: You know, we'd been at the forefront of the Civil Rights
movement, but we went through a lot of changes. After the first few years - of
show biz and travel and being hooked on material things I started feeling
that something had been lost. What happened to me was that I wrote the song
"Good Times," and when I was writing it, my wife stuck her head
outside of the door of the bedroom at two o'clock in the morning and said,
"That song isn't about us, is it?" And I said, "No," but it
really was. It was about the life I was living and and about the group and how
the group was living and, somehow, I felt we weren't relevant anymore. There was
a human rights movement going on. Civil Rights was a part of that, butthere was
more and everybody was trying to find out what it was about. It had been going
on from time immemorial, but it seemed formalized, more or less, through popular
music and I felt we weren't there anymore.
In trying to define the gap, I wrote "The House
Song." "Postcards to Duluth" and "Hymn." Mary wrote
"Yesterday's Tomorrow" and Peter wrote "If I Had Wings." And
those personal searches began to manifest themselves in songs like "Mandella"
and some traditional tunes we rediscovered which made reference to death or war,
such as "Gone the rainbow, Gone the dove, Your father was my only love,
Johnny's gone for a soldier." Things began to come back.
MARY: Paul's search is not identical to mine or to Peter's. The
similarity is just that we're searchers. We're all looking to the best of our
abilities. I know that for our music, for our lives together to have meaning, we
must keep looking. Bust, most of all, I think we all believe that life can be exciting and productive if we keep trying to know and understand. We may try
different roads from time to time. But we always check back and share our
knowledge with each other in our music.
At a peace rally
Produced by: Albert B. Grossman & Milton Okun
Musical Director: Milton Okun
Engineers: Phil Ramone, Bill Schwartau
Bass: Dick Kniss, Bill Lee, Russell Savakus
Jacket Design: Milton Glaser
Inside Booklet Design: Push Pin Studios
Booklet Photo Credits: Barry Feinstein