Memphis (Tennessee), USA – The North American Folk Music and
Dance Alliance (Folk Alliance), announced Tom Paxton, topical singer/songwriter;
Clifton Chenier, Zydeco king; and Dr. Kenneth Goldstein, folklorist/producer, as
recipients of the 2006 Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards. The awards
presentation, a highlight of the annual conference, will happen at the 18th
International Convention’s first Folk Awards Show in Austin, Texas, on Monday,
February 13, 2006. Preceding the show will be the first Folk Alliance “Music
Business Awards” Banquet. Both events will be held at the Austin Hilton.The Awards, named for the Folk Alliance’s co-founder, the late Elaine Weissman
of the California Traditional Music Society, honor two artists and one business
person each year who have devoted their life’s work and talent to the
advancement of the performing folk arts.
“We are delighted to announce this year’s stellar recipients,” said Folk
Alliance Executive Director, Louis Jay Meyers. “On behalf of the board and
the membership, it will be a great pleasure to make these presentations. The
added poignancy of the award to Clifton Chenier puts a human face on the recent
tragedy for the music community in New Orleans and the larger communities of the
The undisputed “King of Zydeco,” Clifton Chenier blended the traditional French
and Cajun two-steps and waltzes of southwestern Louisiana with New Orleans
electric rhythm and blues, Texas blues, and big band jazz to create the modern
style known as zydeco. Chenier received a National Heritage Award in 1984, the
highest honor given by the National Endowment for the Arts to folk and
traditional artists. He also was the first Creole to be presented a Grammy on
Born in 1925 in Opelousas, Louisiana, to sharecroppers, Chenier learned the
accordion from his father, who played at dances. By the age of 16, he played
accordion with his brother Cleveland on frottoir [washboard] at house parties.
In 1955, he came to national attention with his hit, “A ‘Tit Fille” (Hey Little
Girl), a cover of a Professor Longhair song. Chenier then left day jobs —
ranging from working the sugarcane fields to driving trucks — and from the
1960s to the 1980s toured with his bands, the Zydeco Ramblers and the Red Hot
Louisiana Band until one week before his death in late 1987.
A documentary video of Chenier’s performances at the San Francisco Blues
Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and on Louisiana television
was released by Arhoolie Records.
Tom Paxton is probably the funniest of the topical folk singer/songwriters who
emerged in the 1960s. Born in Chicago, Paxton moved to Oklahoma as a boy and
later graduated from the University of Oklahoma. He joined the army and after
his service, moved to New York and began singing in coffeehouses. “Thirty
years ago Tom Paxton taught a generation of traditional folksingers that it was
noble to write your own songs…” says Guy Clark.
His first national release was
Ramblin Boy on Elektra Records in
1965. In addition to his own renditions, Tom’s songs were recorded by a variety
of fellow performers, including Peter, Paul & Mary, and Judy Collins. He
continued to write satiric topical material such as “I’m Changing My Name to
Chrysler” about the government bailout of the automaker, and “Little Bitty Gun,”
which spoofed Nancy Reagan. He also takes on serious topics such as his account
of “The Death of Stephen Biko,” as well as lyrical ones, such as “The Last Thing
on My Mind.”
“Tom Paxton embodies the spirit of folk music in the most beautiful sense.
Not just in his song crafting, his work ethic, his politics and his dedication
to people’s music, but also in his kind and generous heart. He’s the coolest.” – Ani DiFranco
Folklorist, and collector the late Kenneth Goldstein produced more than 200
albums for various labels, including such artists as Woody Guthrie, Cisco
Houston, Lead Belly,
Peggy Seeger, A.L. Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, Isla Cameron, and Lou Killen. His book,
“Guide for Field Workers” is a standard text for those in the field.
Kenneth saw records as a way of educating people about the music they were
hearing and wrote extensive liner notes. He became an advisor to the
Philadelphia Folksong Society in the formative years of the Philadelphia Folk
Festival, mixing “name” artists with lesser-known traditional artists whom
audiences might otherwise not have heard.
For nearly 30 years, he taught folklore and folklife at the University of
Pennsylvania, and held visiting appointments at universities in the United
States, Canada, and the UK. Throughout his career until his death in 1995,
Goldstein sought to make folk music and traditions available to the world at
Founded in 1989, the Folk Alliance, recently
relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, seeks to create new and better opportunities
for all those involved in the performance folk arts. With several thousand
attendees annually, the 18th Annual Folk Alliance Conference will offer a
complete view of the business of traditional and contemporary folk music and
dance through showcases, educational seminars, and the world’s only “all folk” exhibit hall and trade show.
In addition to producing the annual international conference, Folk Alliance
provides year-round services including arts advocacy for the field on a regional
and international basis, an on-line music business directory, newsletters,
classes, workshops, and regional events.
[Clifton Chenier photo courtesy or Arhoolie Records].