Monday, July 27, 2009

Sandy Paton, RIP

Sandy Paton, a well-regarded traditional folk musician, and founder of Folk Legacy Records of Sharon CT, died yesterday after years of suffering with emphysema.

I didn't know Sandy well, though I met him several times. I knew his music, and the music he played and produced with his family, and of course I knew the many classic traditional and contemporary recordings he produced with Gordon Bok, Bill Staines, Cindy Kallet and the trad folk supergroup, Bok, Muir and Trickett.

I came to know Sandy's music, and Sandy's label through Bill Domler who recruited me as a folk DJ at WWUH. Bill loved the Patons, and their music, and was so inspired by their album of singalong traditional folk, The Golden Ring, that he started a coffeehouse, The Sounding Board, which still runs strongly, three decades later. The Patons played the Sounding Board annually.

The music Sandy and Caroline played and recorded was real, honest-to-god folk and traditional music. Music that had been passed down through generations, hand to hand, until all the burrs had been worn off. Sandy played and preserved the music with a nerdy passion, that we promoters and seekers of edgy, electrified and singer-songwriter type folk music would sometimes scoff at. I confess to a bit of scoffing myself, but I've grown (or grown up) to believe and understand, that without "nerds" like Sandy, we wouldn't have the rich reserve of folk songs and tunes that each successive generation seeks out to learn, love and perform.

Sandy's Folk Legacy label, like folk music itself, has survived the fashionable ups and downs of pop music and sustained an evergreen catalogue of folk songs. What Sandy, and Caroline, have done, and have left us, is important, though not necessarily sexy enough to command headlines.

Sandy left this old world a better place than he found it, and not much higher praise could be given to anyone who has finished trodding its dusty paths.


Kevin L. said...

The very least I can write at this moment is that I'm sorry to hear the news of this loss to the families -- The entire Paton Family, as well as their huge family of friends, folk fans and musicians.

I could write volumes about Sandy Paton, and the few in our American music history like him. The few who have made a remarkable difference in others' lives through their own talents, perserverance and business savvy. But this comments page won't handle the volume. So I'll say my piece as short as I know how.

Sandy (and Caroline) have both, perhaps unknowingly, built their own legacy by preserving some of the 'rootiest' grassroots folk music traditions (on their family-owned record label) you'll ever hear. For ages to come music historians, fans and new generations of musicians will surely find a Folk-Legacy vinyl LP record and study it...the music and the extensive, often encyclopedic liner notes inside.

The Paton's own music they made was as pure and homespun as true folk music gets. I believe the artists they recorded throughout the decades reflected their musical ideals as well.

The Patons always seemed to be, well, just people. People you might not look twice at if you passed them on the street. But Sandy was, and Caroline is, a bit more than "just people".

Ed says: "...I've grown (or grown up) to believe and understand, that without "nerds" like Sandy, we wouldn't have the rich reserve of folk songs and tunes that each successive generation seeks out to learn, love and perform."

I understood that (in a slightly different way), too. I first realized what that "understanding" is while sitting in the company of other musical greats through the years. I never took them for granted. Saw every performance and accepted every invitation to join them that I could. I love history...especially music history and respect to no end those who actually made it.

I had the pleasure of playing bits of music with Sandy & Caroline throughout the past few decades at workshops and festivals. I always sat there in awe. Not always so much in awe of the music they were making at that particular moment as much as, I think...I was more in the moment, in awe of what they represented historically. I remember just sitting there knowing I was looking at, and listening to, part of our New England music history.

Sandy was a no-nonsense dude. Reminded me of Len Domler at times. He said what he thought needed to be said. No more, No less. He was what he was, and that was plenty enough for me.

I always enjoyed Sandy's company. I can only hope he enjoyed mine half as much.

Rick said...

Well said Ed.

Bob said...

Well put, Ed. Old songs, well-sung can be life changers -- and so can a community that springs up around them, thanks to folks like Sandy, Caroline & the Domlers.

Bob (formerly of Hartford, now sw Virginia)