Beloit College Magazine

Summer 2014 (July 10, 2014 at 12:00 am)

If I Had a Hammer


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July 11, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Pete Seeger

The death of Pete Seeger last January sent at least one Beloiter back to a memorable Friday night in March of 1956, when the folk singer, songwriter, and activist performed "Wemoweh" and other songs in Eaton Chapel during an evening "two-pointer" (students were required to attend chapel events for points throughout the semester).

Peter Mitchell'58 recalls Seeger as an instant success and describes the concert as a seminal event that turned many of his contemporaries into early folk music junkies, banjo and guitar players, and even makers of steel drums. 

"Everyone joined in the singing, and we were having a great time," recalls Mitchell, "even some of our more stoic faculty members."

Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society WHS-51637

Comments

  • July 25 2014 at 10:55 am
    Brian McMillen '71

    Pete Seeger's half-brother Mike and the New Lost City Ramblers performed at Beloit College in Eaton Chapel circa 1969. Don't remember the exact year, but it was a fun show. Although an old-time styled string band, Mike made a point that they do their music and he would not be doing any of his older brother's work. So both musical Seegers have made it through Beloit.

  • July 25 2014 at 11:34 am
    Jim Logie "59/60"

    in those days each student had to acquire a certian number of Chapel points per semester, some events were 1 point, others were 2, graduation could be held up if your points were not at the quota., when Pete performed , it was standing room only. Pete was a 2 point visit, one of the best I ever attended.

  • July 25 2014 at 12:52 pm
    Jim Patterson'57

    I brought him. The late Tom Schaefer '57 and I met his plane at Madison airport in a snowstorm. The morning before the concert he played and sang for a small group of us at English professor Sy Kahn's house.

  • July 25 2014 at 1:07 pm
    Judy Logue '60

    I agree with you, Jim. It was a night to remember. Made me a Weavers fan forever.

  • July 25 2014 at 1:21 pm
    Bill Metzger '57

    Yes, that was an almost magical evening. But if the Eaton Chapel concert were not enough, Pete Seeger was invited to the SAE house and gave a hour-long encore performance in our living room. I still remember some saucy lyrics to tunes he delighted us with that evening!

  • July 25 2014 at 2:04 pm
    John Carroll '65

    My big brother and BC Alum, Pat, took me to the Chapel to hear Pete. My memory is that Pete introduced "The Marvelous Toy" for the first time to the crowded Chapel. We were delighted !

  • July 25 2014 at 4:29 pm
    Chet Tschetter

    When hearing of Pete Seeger's death last January, I could not help recall, and to also tell others, of his concert at Eaton Chapel years ago.  It was a night well remembered to this very day, and I still have old 12" LPs to enjoy!

  • July 26 2014 at 7:12 am
    Bruce Bartleson '56

    Ditto Bill Metzger's comment about Pete coming to the SAE house after the chapel concert. Someone also tape recorded Pete's impromptu performance and many of us played it over and over, memorizing many of his bawdy songs. Later, as a geology professor I was able to entertain generations of students on field trips with his songs that we learned that night.

  • July 27 2014 at 12:43 am
    Michael Oseasohn 1973

    I came to Beloit College in 1969 and so I was not privileged to attend the Pete Seeger concert. Yet I was very moved to read the article in the College Newsletter about the concert. Pete Seeger was one of my heros and a most inspiring American who exhibited great courage in the face of adversity. The 1950's in the United States was not an easy period to express the views that Pete Seeger held and to write and sing those iconic songs. The fact that there was such a concert at that time at Beloit speaks well for the College and its integrity and courage as well.

  • July 27 2014 at 1:53 am
    Mary Ellen Florea Boyet '58

    Pete Seeger has remained a favorite for the rest of my life. That night in Eaton, he brought in a sawhorse and set it up in the front of the chapel, and put on it a rather large log. I forget which song he sang - maybe "If I had a hammer" - but it was well punctuated by mighty whacks of his axe on the log. I was sitting near the front and wood chips flew all over!

  • July 27 2014 at 8:07 am
    Frank McClellan

    Perhaps our SAE Reunion @ this fall's Homecoming should include some Pete Seeger music. What an iconic musician.

  • July 27 2014 at 3:10 pm
    Bill Eich

    I don't know how this happened, but I was asked to go down to the Bus Station to pick Pete up and walk him to the campus--which, as you can imagine, was a thrill for a freshman (and long-time Seeger/Weavers fan)!  I don't remember that much about the concert, but I sure remember everything about meeting him and our walk together up the hill.

  • July 31 2014 at 6:40 pm
    Jay Goodman 1961

    My classmate Fred Sorensen and I both remember Seeger at Beloit and sitting with him in Sy Kahn's living room.  Since we did not arrive until September 1957, the concert had to be during 1957-1958, unless he came to Beloit twice.  I later learned that he was doing these shows because he had been convicted of criminal contempt by the House Un-American Activities Committee and sentenced to a year in jail.  The conviction was later overturned, but meantime, he and The Weavers were blacklisted and temporarily disbanded.  Hence, he was out by himself on the college circuit!

  • August 7 2014 at 10:37 am
    Fred Burwell, '86, Beloit College Archivist

    It's wonderful to read all of the reminiscences about Pete Seeger. As it turns out, some rummaging through the Round Table reveals a second Seeger visit at 8 p.m. in Eaton Chapel on Friday, May 9, 1958 (a ticket cost 50 cents).  He first appeared at Beloit on March 23, 1956.  Professor Sy Kahn wrote a lengthy article on Seeger, published in the May 2, 1958 edition of the Round Table.  Here is his first paragraph: "Overheard as two student noticed an announcement of Pete Seeger's coming performance: 'Who's Pete Seeger?'  Answer: 'Ah, another hillbilly.'  In case there might be other students equally uninformed, I am moved to write a few words about a man who is one of the finest folk singers in the country and who has been playing and singing for more years than our students have years in their lives."

     I have my own Pete Seeger memories, too - my mother was a huge fan and took me to see him twice in the late 60's and early 70's.  I have all of her Seeger, Weavers and even Almanac Singers records.  And I've fallen in love with his old Rainbow Quest TV show (many clips on YouTube), which featured Seeger playing music and talking with a great variety of folk and blues artists.    

  • August 19 2014 at 10:38 pm
    Susan Uhlir Seager

    I remember Pete Seeger's performance. It was an amazing performance cementing my love of folk singers for life followed by a wonderful performance by the great jazz musician Dave Brubeck and at 78 I am still enjoying musical performances of all kinds of musicians and groups. Last Sat. my sister and I were given tickets by my daughters to go see the wonderful performance of Frankie Valli. We were awed by a great 2 and one half hour performance by this 80 year old singer, his band and the new Four Seasons. The Performing Arts Center of Orange County, Ca was sold out for at least a month before the concert and it was attended by people of all ages. Everyone was singing and dancing. I still love and listen to all kinds of music and attend all kinds of theater whenever I can. Thanks Beloit College for all of these memories.

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