A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Where Have All The Folkies Gone?

Hey, Baby Boomers! Did you know that the theme music from "Bonanza" actually has lyrics? They go like this:
"Hoss and Jo and Adam know/every rock and pine/No one works, fights or eats/like those boys of mine."
The chorus, of course, is mostly instrumental: "Dum da da dum da da dum da da dum Bonanza/Dum da da dum da da dum da da dum dada dum dada dum dum dum."
I found this out from Ed Labowitz, who is ¼ of the quartet The Folk Collection, which will appear Aug. 6 at the Freight & Salvage in downtown Berkeley. The "Bonanza" theme is part of a medley of great TV western theme songs of the 1950s and '60s, which they perform in three-part harmony.
Among them: "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" ("Born on a mountain top in Tennessee/Greenest state in the land of the free."), "Wyatt Earp" ("Brave, courageous and bold") and "Rawhide" (Rollin', rollin', rollin'/Though the streams are swollen/Keep them dogies rollin'/Rawhide/Hah!").
They also sing classics from the folk music boom of the same era, including hits by The Kingston Trio, The Limeliters, The Brothers Four and The New Christy Minstrels.
"We're not a cover band," he says. "We don't try to imitate these groups. We've taken the songs we grew up with and weaved them into our own show, while respectfully recalling those who wrote and performed these tunes."
In addition to being eclectic, the group is also ecumenical. Guitarist Tony Unger is an associate Baptist minister and fellow guitarist Mike Sirota is a cantor at two synagogues in Southern California.
In a happy irony, Labowitz is an entertainment lawyer who numbers among his clients, both past and present, many of the groups whose songs he sings, including The Kingston Trio and The Limeliters.
"These guys were my idols," he says. "And now I not only represent them, I get to sing their music. It's a dream come true."
Singing, humming and clapping along with the music is not only permitted, it's strongly encouraged. And bring the kids and grandkids.
"We get a real kick out of watching teenagers, who reluctantly come to the show as a favor to their parents or grandparents, leave smiling and humming tunes we sang," says bass player Bob Packham.
* * *
Remember Eddie and Shirley Jones, the elderly couple in West Oakland whose home was foreclosed last April?
It could have been a death sentence for the 10 feral cats they had been feeding in their basement because that basement was the only home the cats had ever known.
But an Alameda volunteer group called Island Cat Resources and Adoptions came to the rescue, humanely trapping the cats and offering to find them new homes.
But who would offer their backyards for these hapless creatures to live in? Although they were feral, they weren't wild or aggressive - just shy. All they needed was safe outdoor spaces in which they could live out their natural lives.
So I turned to you readers for help. And, as usual, you came through with flying colors. All ten 10 kitties have been placed in backyards throughout the East Bay.
"We miss them and talk about them all the time, but we can't have any animals where we're living now," says Shirley. "Please thank everyone for having compassion for them."
But there are always more homeless cats. Some, especially kittens, are tame enough to be placed directly in new homes. Others, like the cats in this story, are too shy to live indoors but perfectly capable of thriving in someone's backyard.
If you can offer your home or yard to one or more of these sweet, gentle creatures, please visit the ICRA website at www.icraeastbay.org or call 510-869-2584. And if you can't, that's also the place to make a much-needed financial contribution.