Show #6: PAUL EVANS - Full Audio & Transcript
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The following interview with folk music legend Paul Evans was broadcast June 8 & 11, 1963 from New York City on worldwide short-wave radio. This historic radio interview was transmitted from the studios of Radio New York Worldwide on the show Folk Music Worldwide hosted by newsman Alan Wasser.

Featuring four song performances: "Passing Through"; "Wearing of the Green"; "British Grenadiers"; and "Mr. Hangman". Transcript includes full song lyrics.


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MEL BERNAM (ANNOUNCER): Here is Radio New York Folk Music Worldwide. A program devoted to the best in folk music throughout the world. Showcasing the top performers and authorities in the field. Now your host for Folk Music Worldwide, Alan Wasser.

ALAN WASSER (HOST): With us today is Paul Evans (bio), a popular folk singer and also a popular record star in the non-folk area. Just to give you a sample of some of his folk music, let's play a song called "Passing Through" as arranged by Paul Evans and sung by Paul Evans.

[Song performance 1 of 4: "Passing Through" by Paul Evans]:


I saw Adam leave the garden
With an apple in his hand,
I said, "Now you're out
What are you gonna do?
Plant my crops and pray for rain,
Maybe raise a little Cain,
I'm an orphan now and only passing through."

Passing through, passing through,
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue.
Glad that I ran into you.
Tell the people that you saw me passing through.

I saw Jesus on a cross
On that hill called Calvary.
"Do you hate mankind for what they've done to you?"
"Speak of love, and not of hate.
Things to do, it's getting late,
We've so little time we're only passing through."

Passing through, passing through,
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue.
Glad that I ran into you.
Tell the people that you saw me passing through.

I shivered next to Washington
One night at Valley Forge,
"Why do the soldiers freeze here as they do?"
He said, "Men will suffer, fight,
Even die for what is right,
Even though they know they're only passing through."

Passing through, passing through,
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue.
Glad that I ran into you.
Tell the people that you saw me passing through.

I was at Franklin Roosevelt's side
Just a while before he died,
He said, "One world must come out of World War II,
Yankee, Russian, white or tan,
Lord, a man is just a man,
We're all brothers and we're only passing through."

Passing through, passing through,
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue.
Glad that I ran into you.
Tell the people that you saw me passing through.

Tell the people that you saw me passing through.

[end of music]

ALAN: Paul, how'd you first come across that song?

PAUL EVANS (GUEST): Probably just by hearing it sung at parties, Alan. Most of these songs I think I've come across the same way.

ALAN: How much of that is rearrangement by you? How much is as it was?

PAUL EVANS: Well, when I...the reason it says arrangement by...actually I haven't made any special attempt to connive it. Y'know to make an arrangement so that I could just put it down as arranged by.

Most of it is done because I sing it differently, I guess, than other people do and I guess...that's one great thing about folk music. Everybody has their own versions of different songs.

ALAN: Do you know the story of how that song came to be written and what it means?

PAUL EVANS: Well, all I know about the song, quite frankly, is that it's a new song and I think folk songs are always being written and it's just a me it's a great number, it's very inspiring.

ALAN: It's an American Song.

PAUL EVANS: Yes. Oh, definitely, yes.

ALAN: Written by Pete Seeger, I believe.

PAUL EVANS: I don't know if he wrote it, but I know that he made it popular. And The Weavers, I think The Weavers are the ones really responsible for it.

ALAN: Do you do many non-American songs as well?

PAUL EVANS: Yes, of course, folk music goes back so far that it has to go back before there was an America.

ALAN: What other countries do you take your music from?

PAUL EVANS: Well, I make no attempt to take them from one country or another in this album that we're looking at now. "Folk Songs of Many Lands," my album. I have them from Ireland. I have some Welsh folk songs, English, Israeli, as I look and quite a few American songs.

ALAN: Well, now here I see on the album "Wearing of the Green," now that's an Irish song from way back, isn't it?

PAUL EVANS: It's an old song and I'm sure it's one of the bitter Irish songs. And I think it's important to say that when I think of the Irish people, I usually think of a gay, happy people having a ball at a party.

But as I look through folk books and I listen to people sing Irish songs, I find that they're very bitter songs and generally they...the ones that are against war, I've never heard such really biting lyrics. And this song, of course, is as a result of the war there, the Orange and the Green.

ALAN: Well, let's hear that song now as arranged and sung by Paul Evans.

[Song performance 2 of 4: "Wearing of the Green" by Paul Evans]:


Oh, Paddy dear, did you hear the news that's going 'round?
The shamrock's been forbid by law to grow on Irish ground
Saint Patty's Day no more will keep, his color can't be seen
For there's a bloody law against the Wearing of the Green.
I met with Napper Tandy and he took me by the hand
And he said "How's Ireland doing and where does she stand?"
"She's the most distressful country that I have ever seen
They're hanging men and women there for the Wearing of the Green."

And if the color we must wear is England's cruel red
Sure Ireland's sons will ne'er forget the blood that they have shed.
You may pick the shamrock from your hat and cast it on the sod
But 'twill take root and flourish there, though underfoot 'tis trod.
When laws can stop the blades of grass from growing as they grow
And when the leaves in summertime their color dare not show
Then I will change the color too I wear in my caubeen
But 'til that day, please God, I'll stick to the Wearing of the Green

For if at last our color should be torn from Ireland's heart
Her sons, with shame and sorrow, from the dear old sod will part
I've heard a whisper of a country that lies far beyond the sea
Where rich and poor stand equal in the light of Freedom's day.
Oh, Erin, must we leave you, driven by the tyrant's hand
Must we ask a mother's welcome from a strange but happier land
Where the cruel cross of England never shall be seen
And where, thank God, we'll live and die, still Wearing of the Green.

[end of music]

ALAN: Now that song sounds awfully anti-British, in a way. Yet, I see you do songs that are "British Grenadiers"...

PAUL EVANS: Uh-huh. Well, I guess we try to even the score. No, I...the song "British Grenadiers" we picked for this album because I've never heard the lyrics sung.

I've heard it since this album was out and I probably could have heard it before if I had, y'know, I had looked deep enough. But It struck me when I found a lyric on this, that I'd never heard the lyrics sung before. I know the melody so well and yet I had never heard the lyric and it's a great stirring lyric and I enjoyed it.

ALAN: Did you, well, how did you find it if you had never heard it sung before?

PAUL EVANS: This I heard when I was in college at Columbia and I, again, I was at a I guess a hootenanny and we were all sitting down in the lobby of...oh, it was probably Livingston Hall back in college days a matter of fact, I heard this song, now that I think about it, first by an Australian boy and we knew him as an Australian because he always wore that tilted hat with the one side flapped over.

ALAN: Well, let's hear "British Grenadiers" to even up the score with "Wearing of the Green."

[Song performance 3 of 4: "British Grenadiers" by Paul Evans]:


Some speak of Alexander, and some of Hercules
Of Hector and Lysander, and such great names as these
But of all the world's great heroes
There's none that can compare
With a tow, row row row, row row
To the British Grenadiers

When e'er we are commanded to storm the palisades
Our leaders march with fuses, and we with hand grenades,
We throw them from the glacis about the enemies' ears
With a tow, row row row, row row row
For the British Grenadiers

And when the siege is over, we to the town repair
The townsmen cry, "Hurrah, boys, here comes a Grenadier"
Here come the Grenadiers, my boys, who know no doubts or fears
With a tow, row row row, row row
For the British Grenadiers

Then let us fill our bumpers, and drink to the health of those
Who carry caps and pouches, and wear the louped clothes
May they and their commanders live happy all their years
With a tow, row row row, row row
To the British Grenadiers

[end of music]

ALAN: Paul, you're also quite big in the popular field, as well. Do you plan to do more in folk music, or more in popular, or...

PAUL EVANS: Well, right now I'd like to establish myself, of course, back on the record field. And I've had some success as you've mentioned in it. I had some songs out, Seven Little Girls (Sitting in the Back Seat) was a big hit for me and Happy Go Lucky Me.

And as a matter of fact, I did have an arrangement of a folk song that was high on the charts here in America and I believe overseas, too. The song Midnight Special the southern jail song and that was a kick to do because I've always sung this song and it was nice to see a folk song, for me, get popular.

But, again, I have to work on these pop things because, right now, everybody's doing folk material and I think it would be too hard for me to establish myself as a folk singer. I think you notice throughout this entire album it's...there's no attempt to be ethnic on this album. We've had drums on the selections and we used an organ on some of them and they've been arranged and there's no attempt to just sing them with guitar and voice.

This is the way I feel folk material and I've gotten into discussions about this with people who love folk material and they say, "How could you do this with folk songs?" Well, this song Midnight Special that I had out, had a back beat and I just don't see any reason that there shouldn't be a back beat to it.

As a matter of fact, I think if it can bring folk songs to the teenage population more, I think then it's great and I really enjoy having this song out. So, we know that you'll notice the same thing throughout all these songs. They all have some kind of a beat, some kind of instrumentation a little different than the other one on this.

ALAN: You're running into the same kind of problem that we do the sort of overlapping of some folk music with some popular music. How do you define the difference. I mean, how do you decide, if just for your own mind, rather this song is a folk song or a popular record?

PAUL EVANS: Well, me a folk song should be a little more free and easy than a pop song is. Pop songs probably are more contrived than a folk song is. And many of these songs lyrically, you can't say the same thing in a pop song.

I'm sure the lyric of Wearing of the Green I couldn't get away with in a million years if I tried. And some of these songs, I think later in the show we're gonna play Mr. Hangman and you'll notice when we play that the lyric, it is a love song, but, I mean, it's strange, it's a strange love where this fellow sings that he's about to be hanged he sees his mother coming along and he says, "Mother will you save me, or have you come to see me hang?"

She says, "Yes, I've come to see you hang." And the father says the same thing, and finally his sweetheart comes and saves him and this is a very strange love song. I don't think you could get away with that in a new pop song.

ALAN: Do you do any topical songs, as long as we're talking about this kind of lyric. I mean...

PAUL EVANS: None of my own. I've done them. There's, let's see, as I look through the album, there's nothing particularly topical on the album.

There's no reason that there wasn't. I don't shy away from them. I do them when I do a club date and they're...they're usually a good crowd getter-upper, you know. Gets things stirred up and they're fun to do.

ALAN: Usually on these club dates do you do anything noticeably different than your records. I know we were talking to Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Paul Stookey made a point of how different his concerts are than would appear from his records. Do you usually stick to the music or do you clown around some, or what?

PAUL EVANS: Well, I clown around. I don't usually...when I do a concert, I don't usually have anything prepared. And occasionally I'll stutter and I'll stammer, but I find that in concert, not at clubs.

Now in clubs, people, I guess there's a more sophisticated audience in any club, any place than at a concert. Now concerts are more free and easy than are the club dates.

ALAN: Well, let's take a break for a moment to get this message through but we'll be back talking to Paul Evans popular folk singer and popular music star on Folk Music Worldwide on Radio New York Worldwide.

(commercial break)

Well, now back to Paul Evans. Paul, how did you first learn about folk music? How did you get started in it?

PAUL EVANS: I got started in it because my sister, although never really a professional folk singer, I mean she never did it a living. She taught me how to play guitar and how to sing and...

ALAN: Did you get "Mr. Hangman" from her or is that...

PAUL EVANS: Yes, this happens to be one of the songs that I've always sung, I guess. Quite a few of these songs are songs that I've been singing for a long, long time and had the opportunity to put them in an album and did so.

ALAN: Well, let's play that song and then come back and try and get some further background on it.

PAUL EVANS: All right, fine.

[Song performance 4 of 4: "Mr. Hangman" by Paul Evans]:


Slack your rope Mr. Hangman, slack it if you will
I think I see my father comin' over yonder hill
Oh, Father have you brought me gold and have you paid my fee
Or have you come just to see me hangin' from the gallows tree?

I have not brought you gold, nor have I paid your fee
Yes, I have come just to see you hangin' from the gallows tree

Slack your rope Mr. Hangman, slack it if you will
I think I see my mother comin' over yonder hill
Mother have you brought me gold and have you paid my fee
Or have you come just to see me hangin' from the gallows tree?

I have not brought you gold, nor have I paid your fee
Yes, I have come just to see you hangin' from the gallows tree

Slack your rope Mr. Hangman, slack it if you will
I think I see my sweetheart comin' over yonder hill
Sweetheart have you brought me gold and have you paid my fee
Or have you come just to see me hangin' from the gallows tree?

Yes, I have brought you gold, and I have paid your fee
I couldn't bear to see you hangin' from the gallows tree.

[end of music]

ALAN: Paul, before we talked about that song and we mentioned the material in the lyrics and now we've just heard it, I'm just wondering, where did that song come from originally?

PAUL EVANS: Well, this is one of these strange things that I love about folk material. I really don't know where this particular song comes from because I've heard the same lyric, vaguely, the same thing about this poor chap who's gonna be hanged and again spurned by everyone but his sweetheart. I've heard it in Irish folk songs, I've heard it in Welsh. I've heard it from the European countries.

This, I believe, is early American, this particular version, but that's so great about folk songs. I'll pick up maybe a new book or I'll hear somebody singing and I'll say, "I know that song. Why do I know this song?"

And I'll realize I've heard it, but in an entirely different form, but the same, the same stories. That's what so great about these folk songs. These stories have lasted for years and years.

ALAN: Do you enjoy doing these folk songs more than pop music?

PAUL EVANS: I get a different kind of enjoyment out of it. Because the audience, for instance, is different on the pop music, basically my audience thus far in pop music has been almost strictly a teenage audience whereas what I, for instance, what I've gotten out of these songs, out of pop songs I've basically have gotten commitments to do teenage shows.

But through this folk album, for instance, I've gotten commitments to do concert work, which has been basically a college crowd. And that's a different kind of appreciation. I suppose that college audiences are generally quieter than teenage audiences.

ALAN: But I imagine no less enthusiastic.

PAUL EVANS: No, I know. I did a show up in Canada recently, as...this is funny, I was up in Fredericton in the middle of the winter. You see I get jobs in Florida in the summer and Canada in the winter. And we were up and it was a record-breaking low in Fredericton.

Thirty-seven below zero. And we were up there and we did a show and it was freezing. Golly, we got up there and there were no hotel reservations made, for somebody had goofed. So, first we had to find a place to stay and it was freezing up there. So, finally, I was...with my teeth chattering, I worked to an audience, it was a college, I believe it was St. Thomas' up there and they were...they went crazy.

I guess they appreciated the fact that it was so cold and that it was hard to work. We were indoors and I guess the heating wasn't working because it was still cold. I think the only thing that kept me warm was the warmth of the crowd and it was really...that was really a stirring and enjoyable performance for me.

ALAN: Well, this has been a stirring enjoying performance for me. I'm afraid we're out of time. I've really enjoyed interviewing you and I want to thank you very much Paul.

PAUL EVANS: Thank you, I appreciate it. So long.

MEL BERNAM (ANNOUNCER): This has been Folk Music Worldwide. Devoted to the best in folk music throughout the world and spotlighting top performers and authorities in the field. If you have any suggestions, request requests or comments why not write in to Folk Music Worldwide, Radio New York WRUL, New York City 19 USA. This has been a Music Worldwide presentation of Radio New York Worldwide.

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