Preserving the Catskill folk songs of Grant Rogers

Grant Rogers

Walton native Grant Rogers (1907-1979) didn’t consider himself a folksinger; in 1965 he told Folk-Legacy song collector Sandy Paton that folksingers were “fellers like Burl Ives or Pete Seeger,” and that he was merely “a stonecutter that makes up songs.” Ironic, considering that Rogers was exactly the sort of person whom Seeger would have honored with that description. He was a self-taught guitarist, fiddler, square dance caller, amateur historian and songwriter who made up tall tales about the Catskills and set them to music – among them “The Legend of Slide Mountain,” which attributes the naming of that summit to an ornery, much-married homesteader who chased off her husbands with a shotgun whenever she tired of them, leading eventually to a human landslide when a sheriff’s posse abandoned an ill-considered effort to apprehend her.

Both Seeger and Rogers were regular visitors to Camp Woodland, near Phoenicia, which was a hotbed of traditional song-collecting and -swapping from 1939 to 1962. One byproduct of recently reawakened interest in Camp Woodland’s influence on the 1960s Folk Revival is the creation of the Grant Rogers Project, a collaborative effort dedicated to preserving the musician’s legacy. A new online archive of information about Rogers’ life and times, including video and audio clips of some of his performances and some interesting material about the influence of the building of the Cannonsville Reservoir on the culture of the western Catskills, is now up and running at www.grantrogers.org.

Fiddler supreme Jay Ungar, who toured while in his 20s with Rogers as part of the Traveling Folk Festival, will perform with Molly Mason and Ira McIntosh this Sunday, December 2 at 2 p.m., when the Ashokan Center hosts a Catskills Folk Lyceum program about the Grant Rogers Project. Speakers from project principals Music on the Delaware and the William B. Ogden Free Library will give an educational presentation. Admission is free, and refreshments will be served. The Ashokan Center is located at 477 Beaverkill Road, off Route 28A in Olivebridge. For more information contact Ginny Scheer at vscheer@juno.com or (607) 326-4206 or visit www.catskillsfolk.blogspot.com.

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Catskills Folk Lyceum’s Grant Rogers Project
Sunday, Dec. 2
2 p.m.
Free
Ashokan Center
477 Beaverkill Rd.
Olivebridge
(607) 326-4206
www.grantrogers.org

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