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The Almanac Singers: original protest singers

Updated on February 25, 2017

Why I'm making this page about the Almanac Singers

Aside from the fact that they were an American folk music group and I really love American folk music, I'm making this page about the Almanac Singers first of all because they are one of the most overlooked groups in music history, and secondly because they sounded great and thirdly because their songs had both meaning and purpose. The Almanac Singers were started in the 40's by Pete Seeger who just died and Woody Guthery, and they eventually morphed into the Weavers in the 1950s. The group concentrated on songs of protest, particularly for the labor movement which had started in the 1900s with Joe Hill. They sang Hill's songs and those of other protest writers. Read more about their start below, then check out some of their great albums and finally read about their end.

The start of The Almanac Singers: - (info. gleaned from Wikipedia)

  1. In March 1940, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie met at...a benefit for displaced migrant workers.
  2. 1940 or 1941, Millard Lampell, Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie began playing together informally.
  3. in February 1941, Seeger, Hays, and Lampell sang for an American Youth Congress at Turner's Arena in Washington, D.C. The sponsors had requested songs built around the slogans "Don't Lend or Lease our Bases" and "Jim Crow must Go"
  4. The group decided to call themselves the Almanacs based on Lee Hays' statement that back home in Arkansas farmers had only two books in their homes: the Bible, to prepare them for the next world, and the Almanac, to tell them about this one.
  5. They played at parties, benefits, unions meetings, rallies, and informal "hootenannies."

    For more, listen to Pete Seeger talk about the Almanac Singers from YouTub below:

Pete Seeger talks about The Almanac Singers, etc. (2006)

The Almanac Singers, circa 1940
The Almanac Singers, circa 1940 | Source
songs for John Doe
songs for John Doe

The Almanac Singers' first album:

In February or March of 1941 The Almanac Singers recorded an album called "Songs For John Doe" on three 78s, consisting of six songs following the Communist Party line urging non-intervention in World War II. This album was short-lived due to Hitlers Attack in June.

Take a listen to the Almanac Singers' first album:

Subsequent albums by The Almanac Singers:

Their second album, released in July 1941, was a collection of six labor songs: "Union Maid", "I Don't Want Your Millions Mister", "Get Thee Behind Me Satan", "Union Train", "Which Side Are You On?", and the eponymous "Talking Union".

Take another listen:

Get these great songs by the Almanac Singers on CD:

Talking Union and Other Union Songs
Talking Union and Other Union Songs

GET THEIR ORIGINAL UNION PROTEST SONGS AND OTHERS ON THIS CD

 

The Almanac Singers' traditional folk albums:

Later in 1941 they recorded 2 traditional folk albums without political content:

1.. Their first traditional folk album consisted of sea chanteys, Deep Sea Chanteys and Whaling Ballads

Sea Shantys
Sea Shantys | Source

And 2. Their second traditional folk album consisted of Sod-Buster Ballads (songs of the pioneers).

The Almanac Singer's next album supported the U.S. war effort.

Surprisingly (as they had previously concentrated heavily on anti-war protest songs), following the Pearl Harbor attack, the Almanac Singers began singing anti-Hitler songs, and when the U.S. entered the war in Dec.of 1941, the Almanacs recorded a new topical album for Keynote in support of the war effort, Dear Mr. President, It was popular for a while but soon faded as "newspapers began printing stories reminding music fans of the Almanacs' pre-WWII anti-establishment protest songs.See the AboutMusic article in the link list below.. This album is no longer available, but you can download the song from Amazon Mp3:


Take another listen to the Almanac Singers:

Get both types of traditional songs on this one CD:

Sea The Soil & The St
Sea The Soil & The St

OR GET THEIR SEA CHANTIES AND SOD BUSTER BALLADS ON THIS TRADITIONAL CD

 

The end of The Almanac Singers: - (info. gleaned from Wikipedia &AboutMusic:)

  1. From the start, due to their pro-union and anti-war songs. The Almanac Singers were looked upon with suspicion by the right wing.
  2. Army intelligence and the FBI determined In 1942 that the Almanac singers and their anti-draft message were a seditious threat to recruitment and the morale of the war effort.
  3. The Almanac Singers were hounded by hostile reviews.
  4. Each member of the Almanacs was quite politically active in Left Wing politics, and the group was oftentimes a sounding board for the Communist party.
  5. Their Communist ties were exposed and gossip items appeared in the New York tabloid press for the rest of their performing career.
  6. In 1944.They recorded their last album, "Songs of the Lincoln Battalion." . So far, it can't be found on Amazon, iTunes or eBay.

  7. Eventually, due to public hostility, they had to change their name. They resurfaced in 1950 with some new personnel, as "The Weavers."

Complete General Recordings
Complete General Recordings

OR Get this COMPLETE RECORDINGS CD. As Amazon says, it " is an essential document of folk music's history and a great chance to listen to these classic numbers in a raw, unadulterated form."

 

The changing political leanings of the Almanac Singers

According to the AboutMusic article in the link list above, up until World War II, the Almanac singers were quite left-wing in their politics, often serving as a voice for the communist party, but after the attack on Perl Harbor, they were decidedly anti-Nazi.

What do you think?

Was it fair for the Almanac Singers to have to end their career due to their politics?

Please vote in my poll:

Should the Almanac Singers have been forced to quit due to their political leanings?

See results

Why or Why Not?

Tell why or why not. Please tell why you voted as you did in the comment capsule to the right. below. It's only for this. For additional comments, use the 2nd comment capsule below (after "related hubs":)


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