Posts Tagged ‘New York folk music’

The 1940s folkie commune on West 10th Street

August 2, 2012

After traveling around the country in the 1930s making a name for himself as folk singer, Woody Guthrie arrived in New York City in 1941.

Here, he hooked up with fellow folkies, among them Pete Seeger, Bess Lomax, and Lee Hays.

Under the name the Almanac Singers, they and a rotating lineup of band members had kind of a loose collective going at this slender brownstone at 130 West 10th Street.

“Calling their house ‘Almanac House,’ the group of musicians earned their rent money by offering informal concerts in the basement of the building, charging their audience thirty-five cents per person,” states Exploring the Original West Village, by Alfred Pommer and Eleanor Winters.

In the forward of a book called Radical Walking Tours of New York, Pete Seeger says this about the communal home in the pre-World War II city:

“We lived at 130 West 10th Street off Greenwich Avenue in the fall and the first hootenanny in New York was held in the basement.”

At $100 a month, the rent was high, so they moved to cheaper digs on Sixth Avenue.

The Village wasn’t Guthrie’s only city neighborhood. Later in the 1940s he moved his family to a house on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island.

In 1952 he was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease at Brooklyn State Hospital, now Kingsboro Psychiatric Center.

[Top: Guthrie performing in a 1943 Life photo]