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Listen to Gene Shay and Michaela Majoun’s tribute to Pete Seeger

600x600Countless people can say Pete Seeger influenced them – as musicians, or as songwriters, or as folks with an empathetic view of the world around them.

Few can say that Pete Seeger was their friend.

Gene Shay of WXPN’s Folk Show is one of those few, and this morning he phoned into the XPN airwaves to share his memories of Seeger – who died yesterday at 94 years old – with Morning Show host Michaela Majoun. Listen to their tribute to Seeger below.

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The Week So Far: 10 must-read stories on The Key (incl. Jessica Pratt, Northern Arms, Gene Shay)

Father John Misty | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com
Father John Misty | Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com

Get caught up on the week’s shows with reviews and photos from appearances by Miguel, Pearl Jam and more [link]

Congratulations to XPN Folk Show host Gene Shay, who will be inducted into the Philadelphia Walk of Fame today [link]

Read XPN host Mike Vasilikos’s review of Dr. Dog‘s B-Room, this week’s featured album [link]

San Francisco’s Jessica Pratt performed unreleased songs for this week’s Folkadelphia Session [link]

The Wonder Years’ Nick Steinborn will release a solo EP next month; listen to a new song now [link]

Blayer Pointdujour & The Rockers Galore are throwing a Kompa party at The TLA with T-Vice in December [link]

Delco Pacers will celebrate the release of Stereo Streets at Milkboy on 11/14 [link]

Reef the Lost Cauze has announced a free show at Hard Rock Cafe tonight and a free song called “92 Flow” [link]

Northern Arms stopped by for a mysterious and powerful Key Studio Session [link]

Local rock band Rob, Lately has released a new EP called The Liar [link]

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Gene Shay, to be inducted into the Philadelphia Walk Of Fame tomorrow, talks with XPN’s Morning Show host Michaela Majoun

Gene Tomorrow, Thursday, October 24th, WXPN’s Folk Show host Gene Shay is being inducted into the Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame. The ceremonies, free and open to the public, are scheduled at Noon on 10/24 in front of the Doubletree Hotel along the Avenue of the Arts. Other inductees include producer and label executive Joel Dorn (“Killing Me Softly”); songwriting team Madara & White (“At the Hop”); producer-songwriter-publisher Jerry Ross (“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” with Gamble & Huff; “Venus”); producer-arranger-conductor Vince Montana Jr., (whose work with TSOP and the Salsoul Orchestra is legendary) John Davis & The Monster Band (who had the 1976 disco hit with a cover of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,”) and Macy’s Grand Court organist Peter Richard Conte. Gene had a chance to talk with WXPN Morning Show host Michaela Majoun about his career and told stories about his early years in the folk music scene, copywriting radio spots for Woodstock and an important phone call he made to Bob Dylan in the early Sixties.

Go here for more information about the events and awards luncheon.

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WXPN’s Gene Shay to be inducted in the Philadelphia Walk of Fame this Thursday, October 24th

Gene Shay and his wife Gloria
Gene Shay and his wife Gloria

This Thursday, October 24th, The Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame, along the Avenue of the Arts, will induct seven new Philly musical movers and shakers, including WXPN’s Gene Shay. A big congratulations goes out to Gene. We’re thrilled and honored to have Gene host The Folk Show on Sunday nights at XPN. Other inductees include producer and label executive Joel Dorn (“Killing Me Softly”); songwriting team Madara & White (“At the Hop”); producer-songwriter-publisher Jerry Ross (“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” with Gamble & Huff; “Venus”); producer-arranger-conductor Vince Montana Jr., (whose work with TSOP and the Salsoul Orchestra is legendary) John Davis & The Monster Band (who had the 1976 disco hit with a cover of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,”) and Macy’s Grand Court organist Peter Richard Conte. The ceremonies, free and open to the public, are scheduled at Noon on 10/24 in front of the Doubletree Hotel along the Avenue of the Arts. Philadelphia Walk of Fame Alumni, including Bobby Rydell, Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff, Kal Rudman, Earl Young (Baker, Harris & Young); Jerry Gross (The Dovells); Joe Tarsia; Dave Appel (of Cameo-Parkway) will also be there. Jerry Blavat, The Geator With The Heator is the MC and host for the events.

Gene, known as the “Grandfather of Philadelphia Folk Music,” and “the Dean of American folk DJs,” has been playing folk music on the radio since 1962 and was the co-founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Shay’s early interviews with Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, John Denver, Tom Waits, Phil Ochs, Bonnie Raitt and Judy Collins are legendary. He was the first to bring Bob Dylan to Philadelphia in 1963 for his debut concert. As an advertising writer and producer, he wrote the original radio commercials for Woodstock. He helped design the famous “smiling banjo” logo for the Philadelphia Folk Festival and came up with the name World Cafe for the show.

For more information about the ceremony and the PMA here.

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Philadelphia Music Alliance to honor the MFSB Orchestra, XPN’s Gene Shay, Joel Dorn, Salsoul Orchestra and others on 10/24

Yes, that's the legendary Gene Shay with his wife Gloria.
Yes, that’s the legendary Gene Shay with his wife Gloria.
The Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame, along the Avenue of the Arts, will welcome seven new inductees on Thursday, October 24th. In addition to the induction of the “Dean of American Folk DJs” – XPN’s Gene Shay – other inductees include producer and label executive Joel Dorn (“Killing Me Softly”); songwriting team Madara & White (“At the Hop”); producer-songwriter-publisher Jerry Ross (“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” with Gamble & Huff; “Venus”); producer-arranger-conductor Vince Montana Jr., (whose work with TSOP and the Salsoul Orchestra is legendary) John Davis & The Monster Band (who had the 1976 disco hit with a cover of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,”) and Macy’s Grand Court organist Peter Richard Conte. The ceremonies, free and open to the public, are scheduled at Noon on 10/24 in front of the Doubletree Hotel along the Avenue of the Arts.

The Philadelphia Music Alliance is using this ceremony as a means to renew the organization’s activity in the city. Founded in June, 1986 as a “community based, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Philadelphia as a vital contributor to the international music landscape,” the PMA has created a musical instrument donation program in partnership with the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, an annual piano competition, the Philadelphia International Airport Music Project, Music In The Schools, music education scholarships and grants, a speakers bureau, as well as music business seminars and workshops. The PMA’s Walk Of Fame has been on of the organization’s most high profile programs.

For more information about the ceremony and the PMA here.

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The Key’s Week of Folk: Gene Shay on what it’s like to be an MC

GeneThe Key’s Week of Folk is our series of interviews, reviews, artist spotlights, playlistings and general ephemera to get you ready for the 52nd Annual Philadelphia Folk Festival, happening August 16th to August 18th at Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville. In this installment, we talk with festival host Gene Shay about the art of MCing.

Gene Shay has always had his wittiness about him. His wits might be another story, especially presented with images like the one above – an actual calling card from his days as an advertising exec.

But having a clever and irreverent persona comes in handy for the founding MC of Philadelphia Folk Fest – and longtime host of The Folk Show on WXPN – especially when you’re the anchor onstage, guiding a field of thousands through a bustling concert. It might look seamless from the audience, but it’s actually wildly unpredictable.

“That’s where I came up with the idea of telling jokes,” Shay says, talking about one of his trademark devices to ease the transitions onstage. “Cornball jokes, getting groans, anything to lighten up the moment. Sometimes the crowd is out there in the cold, sometimes in the rain, sometimes waiting much too long for a stage set to get changed up.”

So Shay, 78, resorts to something that’s always been a passion – humor. Continue reading →

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Gene Shay takes us through the Philadelphia Folk Festival photo album

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Folksong Society

Five decades can contain a lot of history, especially in the world of folk music. Thankfully, Gene Shay has an incredible memory. With the 51st Philadelphia Folk Festival descending on Schwenksville this weekend, we sat down with Shay and a collection of photos from the Folksong Society archives to get a picture of where the festival began and how far it has come.
The scene you see above is Wilson Farm in Paoli, the location of the very first Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1962, and the three subsequent festivals through 1965. Shay remembers the owner of the land, C. Colket “Collie” Wilson, as a patron of the arts in the Philadelphia region. “The Pennsylvania Ballet needed a place to rehearse during the summer, and he said ‘I’ll build a stage.’ There was no canopy, no sides, just an open platform on cinderblocks. The dancers would come and rehearse, swim in the swimming pool when they were exhausted. And that was the stage he offered us. He thought it would be nice to have somebody out there other than the ballet. There was an old barn, that was built in the 1700s; it was in ruins when we were there, but people used to play guitar along its wall.” Continue reading →

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WXPN’s Folk Show host Gene Shay remembers the legendary Doc Watson

Photo by Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos via New York Times

“Doc was one of the most precise players I ever heard and saw.” WXPN’s Folk Show host and founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival Gene Shay is reminiscing about the guitarist and folk singer Doc Watson, who died today at the age of 89. Watson, blind since birth, died at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, having recently underwent abdominal surgery. “The most extraordinary thing about Watson’s playing,” recalls Shay, “was his quickness, how clean he would play, yet it was always filled with emotion and feeling. Whenever you watched Doc play, you always knew that he was taking every second of music and would do things that no other guitarist could do.”

“I got to know Doc Watson in a lot of unusual and memorable ways,” continues Shay, about the iconic Watson, founder of Merlefest and winner of numerous Grammy Awards. “He used to come by my radio show,” Shay continues, “when I was on the air on WHAT back in 1963 and 1964. Even though he played acoustic guitar, he would come by the station and was really fascinated with all the electronics and how things worked in the studio. I still remember when I met him for the first time. It was when he did a concert in Roosevelt, New Jersey during a Friends of Old Time Radio concert. Over the years we continued to always get together when he came through town, whether it was at the old Main Point or the Second Fret. There was an incredible local folk and blues scene back in the Sixties in Philly where I used to organize a lot of hootenannies. I remember once when he played he was seriously thinking about quitting doing music but he met this local guitarist named Jerry Ricks who Doc became really good friends with. Ricks was working at the Second Fret at the time and they developed a long term relationship that led to Doc sticking with the music. One of my favorite memories back in the day was when Doc Watson wanted to go searching for a socket wrench because Dave Bromberg told Doc that one of the guitarists from the Allman Brothers used a socket wrench to play slide guitar. So, there I was with Doc and his son Merle in town, and I drove them to a Sears in Radnor (Pennsylvania) where he tried to get fitted for a socket wrench. Doc was always a naturally curious fellow,” says Shay, “and obviously quite influential on so many incredible musicians over the years.”

Watson played the Philadelphia Folk Festival several times over the festival’s 51 years. He played in 2007 on the festival main stage and in April, 2011, Watson performed at the festival’s 50th anniversary fund raiser with David Holt. Below, watch several videos of Doc Watson from the several of those shows.

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My Morning Download: “The Darkness” by Rose Cousins


Canadian singer-songwriter Rose Cousins recently released her new album We Have Made A Spark. Since her debut in 2007, Cousins has won numerous folk music awards. On her new album she collaborates with some excellent, seasoned singer-songwriters including Rose Polenzani, Jennifer Kimball, Amy Correia, Anna Egge and Mark Erelli. Cousins is currently on tour but is not playing a date in Philly. She will however, be on The Folk Show with Gene Shay this coming Sunday evening at 8 pm. Below, in exchange for your e-mail address download the haunting and beautiful song, “The Darkness.”

Support for My Morning Download, from Flying Fish Brewing Company
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Philadelphia Folk Festival’s 50th Anniversary kicks off tonight, runs through Aug. 21st

Since 1962, the non-profit Philadelphia Folksong Society has presented the Philadelphia Folk Festival, a four-day music and arts festival that takes place annually during the third week of August. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the festival, which begins tonight, August 18th, and runs through Sunday, August 21st. The event is run with the help of 2,500 volunteers, and has grown to host over 5,000 campers each year on its 40-acre location at Old Pool Farm in Upper Salford Township (near Schwenksville, PA).

This year’s festival theme is “collaboration,” according to a press release from Artistic Director Richard Kardon. “Imagine the possibilities,” said the other Artistic Director, Jesse Lundy. “What if Arlo Guthrie is backed up by the David Bromberg Big Band? Perhaps Jorma Kaukonen and Roy Book Binder will discuss the impact and play the music of the Reverend Gary Davis. Or, maybe Tom Rush, Tom Paxton and David Amram will perform together.”

WXPN Folk Show host Gene Shay has played a large role in Folk Fest, and in the Philadelphia and national folk music scene as a whole. As one of the “founding fathers” of PFF, he was instrumental in producing the first festival in 1962, and has since served as the emcee/master of ceremonies for every year since. Shay has been called “The grandfather of Philadelphia Folk Music” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as “The dean of American folk DJs” by The Philadelphia Daily News.

The WXPN connections don’t end there. On Thursday night at 7:20, World Cafe host David Dye will hold an exclusive concert featuring Terrance Simien And The Zydeco Experience, Amanda Shires, and Joel Plaskett Emergency. The concert as well as interviews will be broadcast on WXPN and World Cafe. Only attendees with All-Festival with Camping tickets will be eligible to attend. There will also be a Philly Local Showcase hosted by WXPN’s Helen Leicht featuring Suzie Brown and Jim Boggia on Saturday at 1 p.m. on the Camp Stage.

The complete performance schedule is available online here. A listing of the main stage performers can be found below.

Friday, August 19th (Main Stage)

2:30pm: Hoots & Hellmouth, Birdie Busch, US Rails, Hogmaw, Philadelphia Jug Band

7:30pm: Justine Townes Earle, Roy Book Binder, Alexis P. Suter Band, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Tempest, Dennis Hangey, John Flynn

Saturday, August 20th (Main Stage)

4pm: David Bromberg Big Band, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

7:30pm: Arlo Guthrie, Jorma Kaukonen, Battlefield Band, John Hartford String Band, Angel Band, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, The Campbell Brothers

Sunday, August 21st (Main Stage)

4pm: Dan Bern, Tom Paxton, David Amram, David Wax Museum, Tom Rush, The Wood Brothers, The Levon Helm Band, The Great Groove Band

All-festival ticket prices are listed below. There are many other individual day and evening ticket options, including specials for youths, available at the PFF website. For more information on ticketing, click here. To purchase tickets, click here.

All Festival (all day and evening events from Friday to Sunday)  –  $138.00
All Festival Youth ages 12-16  –  $69.00
All Festival Child Camping –  $10.00
All Festival Youth Camping– $94.00
All Festival/Tent Camping (all events from Thursday evening to Sun plus tent camping access)  –  $188.00
All Festival/Vehicle Camping* (all events from Thursday evening to Sunday plus Vehicle camping access)  –  $188.00

*Vehicle camping requires the purchase of an RV Fee ticket for each camping vehicle entering the campgrounds  –  $30.00  If you camp with a friend who owns the RV, just purchase the All Festival/RV Camping ticket.