"The Best Of Peter, Paul & Mary
Ten Years Together"

Release Year: 1970 with LP version of album

1962: at a Chicago luncheon honoring reservists returned from duty during the Berlin Crisis




Paul 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 started...

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? Not meatsellers...

MARY: Fleshpeddlers?

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 repertoire.

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



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 compliment.

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 poetry.

PaulPAUL: We'd always written actually-there were always a couple of our own tunes.

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 artistically."

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 Tomorrow Brings."

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



Peter 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



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 backgrounds.

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.

PaulPAUL:  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 we had.

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 Americans."

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 justice were.

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 too.

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.


peace rally
At a peace rally


Album Credits
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