Sandy Paton: Traditional singer who helped lead the Sixties folk revival in Britain and the United States

In 1962 in the Western States Folklore Society's journal Western Folklore the critic John Greenaway declared Sandy Paton to be "the best interpreter of traditional singing in the English-speaking world, with the possible but not probable exception of Ewan MacColl." The American folklorist, folksinger and Folk-Legacy founder's dedication to traditional music played a vital role in the post-war upswing of folk music in both North America and Britain.

Sandy Paton was born in Florida, but large parts of his childhood, adolescence and early adulthood were spent travelling, initially because his father worked for the US National Geodetic Survey and he went where the work was. Paton's early story is a blur of temporary roots, hitch-hiking, making connections, acting and painting. By the first half of the 1950s he was playing hootenannies – "hoots" for short – in which amateur musicians and semi-professionals sang or played informally on open stages or parks for the fun of it.

While in Berkeley, California in 1957 he met his life-long partner Caroline. That November, the couple travelled to Britain, where they fell into the emerging folk scene, playing the Troubadour in Earl's Court and Twickenham's Eel Pie Island, and, more importantly, tape-recording traditional musicians. Over the course of their stay, during which their first son, David, was born, Paton made three EPs for the Collector label while the couple also recorded their Hush Little Baby EP for Topic Records, held back until Topic had sufficient funds for its release in 1960.

In September 1958 the Patons, with their six-month-old son and two friends from Chicago, hitched from London to Edinburgh, where they met the Scots poet-folklorist Hamish Henderson of the School of Scottish Studies. With an introduction and a borrowed tape recorder "the cowboy from Chicago" went to Aberdeen to record Jeannie Robertson – the kingdom's greatest ballad singer – and her daughter Lizzie Higgins. Together they recorded the "Scots Traveller" material currently available on Ballads and Songs of Tradition (2000).

Back in the US, Paton recorded for Elektra, still largely a folk- and ethnic-orientated label though not long from branching out with Love, the Doors and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Paton's repertoire on his 1958 LP The Many Sides of Sandy Paton exposed his debt to Britain. His repertoire was miles ahead of that of most US – and most British – folk acts with its splendid mixture of "Byker Hill", "The Overgate" and "Wild Mountain Thyme".

In 1961 the Patons and Lee and Mary Haggerty founded Folk-Legacy Records in Huntington, Vermont. Folk-Legacy declared its mission to make "available to the discerning public good field recordings of authentic traditional artists" leavened with recordings of "exceptional interpreters of traditional folk music and tales". The first release, Frank Proffitt of Reese, NC, was made at Proffitt's home that winter. Proffitt had earlier been the source of "Tom Dooley", which had been a hit for the Kingston Trio and Lonnie Donegan.

By December 1964 Folk-Legacy had released 18 records of traditional and contemporary folk music; 48 years later the catalogue had crept to over 120 releases. Its acts included Gordon Bok, East Anglia's Harry Cox, the complete set of Glasgow's Fishers (individually, Archie, Cilla and Ray), David Paton, Sandy and Caroline Paton, Jim Ringer, Edna Ritchie (Jean Ritchie's older sister), Hobart Smith, Rosalie Sorrels, Art Thieme and Hedy West. The majority of these had Paton's fingerprints all over them, whether from him working the microphone or taking photographs.

Charles Alexander Paton: folklorist, folk singer and record label owner: born Florida 22 January 1929; married Caroline (two sons); died Sharon, Connecticut 26 July 2009.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments