A scholar and a balladeer, Paul Clayton (1931-1967) is credited
with the Top-Ten hit "Gotta Travel On" and was a key figure in the
mid-1950s rise of folksong to media popularity. Clayton
single-handedly brought hundreds of obscure folksongs to the
mainstream radio and recording market, and he influenced listeners
and friends from Dave Van Ronk to Bob Dylan, who considered Clayton
a mentor, "mindguard," and well of folksong. Paul Clayton and the
Folksong Revival is the first biography of the folk singer and song
collector. Using accounts from friends, family, and fellow
musicians, author Bob Coltman relates the breadth and depth of
Clayton's extraordinary life, from his birth into a singing family
and his teenage years as a radio singer and folksong collector, to
his establishment in New York as a folk performer and recording
artist, to his tragic early suicide. Clayton's recordings are also
examined, interspersed with his insights and adventures as a
performer and songwriter in the folk world. Gradually, Clayton's
achievements become overwhelmed by his disintegration as a drug
user, failing musician, and bipolar gay man, culminating in
eyewitness accounts relating to his tragic end. Presenting an
in-depth look at folk music in the 1950s, Coltman illuminates what
it meant to be a working, but not starring, folksinger in this
period. With quotes from a number of folksongs, a discographic
summary, and a bibliography, this volume brings to life this
intelligent, perceptive, and largely unknown scholar-folksinger.
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