Wednesday, April 1, 2015

BOB PORCO gets ink in THE HALF QUART PRESS

Reprinted with permission from:


Half Quart Press
Quarterly Newspaper about the the 4th Street Court and other such stuff…

April 1, 2015
By Ennis Fedderjon

I had agreed to meet Bob Porco for an interview at the West 4th basketball courts in Greenwich Village. It's actually closer to the corner of 6th Ave and 3rd, and directly across the street sits the Fat Black Pussycat. In an age long ago, it was once world famous, Folk City.

Mike Porco owned it and Bob sees the building as a shrine. DJs and digital juke boxes provide all the tunes these days, but when Bob's grandfather owned it, live music ruled the day. Everyday. And the acts were always the best musicians the Village had to offer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~




I actually met Bob in June of 2010 when he produced the Gerde's Folk City 50th Anniversary Concert. Porco was surprised to learn that I had attended. I arrived in the 2nd hour and was still given several more hours of entertainment.  A large crowd were pleasantly surprised to see one 'blast from the past' after another grace the stage in honor of Mike Porco and his famed Folk cabaret.

Eric Weissberg, Sylvia Tyson and Roger Sprung gave the stage to The Roches, Erik Frandsen and Frank Christian. It was a long Monday night. I can excuse the younger Porco for not remembering my face.

As I arrived at the courts to meet Porco, Bob had already warmed up by shooting around with a local kid. I gave a shout, reminding him about our interview schedule. He started talking right away.

Bob Porco- The 50th was a fluke! No way could I book 3 dozen performers for one night ever again. 

Ennis Fedderjon- I think there were more than 30 songs performed that night. 

BP- More like FORTY-five, Bob corrects. Thank goodness I recorded the whole night.

~~~~~~

Filmmaking was not part of Bob's skill set. He works uptown as a personal trainer, but he noticed the importance of capturing once in a life time gatherings. 

BP- I had started to contact the musicians who played Gerde's one by one, just to introduce myself and take notes for a book on Mike Porco. The 50th Anniversary party reared its head and took over my life for a while. After that, I just went back to what I was doing.

What he was 'doing,' at first, was just making friends with his grandfather's friends and letting them know someone out there cared for Mike Porco. He wasn't expecting what he found.

BP- Everybody, all of them, were smitten with their memories, just at the mention of his name. They all recalled his name with a smile. When they heard that I wanted to do a bio on him, they couldn't wait to talk. 

In the first three years by Bob's count, he would do interviews and take notes on paper to later transcribe at home. The book writing process never materialized, nor did it do Mike Porco and Gerde's justice.

BP- It's a story about music and musicians. Yes, it's about Mike Porco, but it's a story about the Revival and it's best explained with audio. It's much easier to let Odetta give an example of her style than have me pontificate over it.

Porco changed gears from producing a book on his grandfather's club to producing a film in 2013. His first call for an interview on camera: Izzy Young.

BP- Without Izzy, who knows what Mike Porco may have become. My grandfather was a smart businessman. He would have eventually caught on and gotten musicians in Gerde's. But hiring the best musicians in America from day one, only Izzy could make that happen in those days.

~~~~~~

The legend is clear and well known. Izzy Young was the first to book acts at Gerde's for Mike Porco. Within 5 months, Izzy was out but not without providing the Village with Blues legends Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry for 5 of the last six weeks under Young.

By May of 1960, Mike ran the show. He had help, though. Future music rep, Charlie Rothschild, and New York Times critic Bob Shelton were the ones to re-christen the club in June of 1960. The "Fifth Peg'' would now be known around town as Folk City.

Porco the elder also had help judging talent from the inside. Village musicians, smelling a payday around the corner, worked with Mike to make booking suggestions, and offered their services to establish what they all envisioned: a working room with a salary for troubadours from around the nation.

That actually happened. Rothschild booked Ed McCurdy, Dave Van Ronk, Cisco Houston, Pete Yarrow, Rev. Gary Davis and scoured the Square for the brightest talent. The country was made aware that Folk and Blues was spoken at Gerde's. Mike Porco and his 75 seat club, somehow, was able to maintain that lofty standard for the next 20 years.

~~~~~~~~~

The folklore surrounding Folk City is the stuff of myth. Bob Dylan AND Simon and Garfunkel started there. Judy Collins AND Lucinda Williams established their names in Village cement from their Folk City gigs. Phil Ochs AND John Hammond were signed fresh after a booking there. The names pile up quickly when talking with Bob, who relishes the thought of his grandfather serving them food and wine along with everything else he did for them.

BP- He fronted Dylan his Union dues and actually signed as his legal guardian until he was 21. That's special.

EF- I also hear that Mike Porco was the last club owner in the Village to invite Phil Ochs into his bar and routinely set him up for nights at the Waverly Hotel. 

BP- That's true. My life is so much more fun because Dylan crossed the Hudson and gigged around New York rather than Boston or some place else. He came to see Woody. So I guess I have to thank Marjorie Guthrie for settling in Brooklyn.

Folk legend Woody Guthrie and Mike Porco, a cabinet maker from Calabria, took vastly different paths, but both wound up influencing the Washington Square scene. Looking back, they very nearly had an identical group of friends. It's all part of the history that took place here. I asked Bob how a feature film could possibly tell the entire story.

BP- It's not going to be easy, believe me. They've all been so gracious in giving me great details about what it was all about. I'm not making this film, really. They're telling me what the recipe is. Arlo (Guthrie) and José Feliciano and Izzy, they're the best ones to explain most of it. So I just let them speak and I'm doing my best to sew it all together and have it be entertaining at the same time.

~~~~~~~~~



Porco thinks he's gonna stay at the courts to shoot a few more baskets with the locals. Before we part, I asked him how he would describe his upcoming film.

BP- I like to think of it as a film where 'something happens.' I can't put out a film all about stuff that's already happened. Big deal! What the viewer is gonna want to see is a film where 'something happens' in the end.

EF- So what's it going to be?

BP- It's not finished yet, but I know that musicians of all stripes will be inspired to stick to their craft, to use their gift. It will inspire those on the fence about entering the music business to be honest with their own dreams of becoming a singer. And somehow, I envision that music will once again be used to change how we think as a society. You'll hear the same songs, in some cases, from the 1960s, but with today's artists and today's themes. Music, to me, is the only tool that can unify people when the going gets tough. And it's tough and rough right now. I have a responsibility to show the world how Dylan and Baez and Phil Ochs did it, just to prove that it can be done. It really is about preserving a way of life and freedom of speech more than a genre of old songs.

EF- That's a mouthful, to say the least. It's a tall order for a film to be a spark for social justice nation wide.

BP- Well, whatever positive vibes it brings about, then I've done something. If I tell a story that leaves you flat, then it doesn't deserve attention. But if tomorrow's Bob Dylan gets inspired and begins to really study the Blues and Traditional Folk songs. And really studies poetry, and writes anthems turning apathy into empathy, then maybe this crazy world will be in a better way 20 years from now. Who knows?

EF- Thanks, Bob

BP- My pleasure

~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Gerde's Folk City doc 'Positively Porco' is in production and is slated for an early 2016 release.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

THERE'S ONLY ONE IZZY YOUNG, THANK GOODNESS

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the man who brought music to GERDE'S FOLK CITY

There's a man named Israel G
He descended upon the Village from the Bronx
His store fit inside a glove

He bequeathed his opinions
and told endless tales
He resides in a century beyond us
and all the decades past

Like Santa or Johnny Appleseed
He relayed music as his gift to millions
Born to be remembered

:::::

Here are some pictures I look at often… Part of the Gerde's Folkumentary® called……..

















POSITIVELY PORCO TRAILER

Dear Ol' Stockholm
Steve Kaiser Quartet



Thursday, March 5, 2015

PETER, SUSAN and a guy named DAVE



House concert at Peter Yarrow's home in NYC, 3.4.15
Starring Bethany and Rufus, Peter Yarrow

In my own, sometimes tedious and mostly comical, foray into 'crowd sourcing,' I've attracted funds from supporters. Three folks, who funded the last 'rocket hub' fiscal push, were named Peter Yarrow, Susan and Dave. Three…. (all friends)

It was a no-brainer to return the favor and donate to his daughter and Rufus in their effort. I preach, ''SUPPORT LOCAL ARTISTS'' to others, so I did. I bought a ticket to a house concert and their new CD.

Peter supported me with currency, but he didn't have to. I mean, part of my movie is about his involvement with Folk City. The artists shouldn't pay for a movie about themselves, but he felt differently.

I could never repay Peter Yarrow. He has been donating strong words of encouragement to me in kind letters since I met him and told him of my intentions to craft a story about Mike Porco. It was really self serving karma by giving to Bethany and Rufus. They returned the favor already with a great night of music like you've never heard before. 

So it all feels right. Positively Porco doesn't need to have a successful ''crowd source'' résumé. It just takes one. Person. Group. 

(more later…enjoy the pix)


Rufus Cappadocia

Peter Yarrow

Bethany Yarrow, Peter Yarrow


Pete and Bob



The answer my friends, is sitting on the stairs, the answer is sitting on the stairs





My building doesn't supply weapons in the hallway,
but Yarrow's neighbors are way cool with it


TRAILER BELOW


Friday, February 20, 2015

THE FOLK PROCESS- PORCO STYLE

Me with two hands on Richie Havens
©bobporco, Vincent Vok photo

HAPPY CHINESE NEW ERA!

Exactly 5 years ago……

I was at the bar that was once Folk City on 3rd St with Vincent Vok. We were just talking. And he said, 'If you build it they will come.' He was right.

And later that night Vincent barged his way backstage at Carnegie Hall using, of all names, mine.

He was right on that scheme, too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2.20.15

exactly 5 years ago, on 2.20.10, I woke up and got ready for my second day of work.

I was meeting with Happy Traum

and Eric Weissberg to interview them in person. I was just armed with a pen and paper for my interviews back then, but for some reason, I recorded Happy and Eric with my old DV cassette recorder. I saw it once. It's around here somewhere….

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Exactly 5 years ago on February 19, 2010, I got the grand idea to host a 50th Anniversary concert for Gerde's Folk City.

It was quite a day. Unlike any other. And many of my days have since have also been quite unique.

Vincent Vok told me, "If you build it, they will come."

The party went off without a hitch, thanks to help from friends.

Later in 2010, I continued to informally interview many of Folk City's stable of artists. In 2011, not much happened. In 2012, I hosted a monthly concert at the Gaslight in Macdougal Street. In 2013, I started filming the documentary in Gerde's. In 2014, I marched on with the material I've gathered on Mike and Gerde's.

Along the way, cool things have happened.

One day, I ran into Peter Yarrow on Bleecker Street. Another day, I was invited to Arlo Guthrie's house to interview him. Another day, I spent an afternoon with José Feliciano. What happens tomorrow is anyone's guess. Joan Baez may fall in love with me... but I'm stretching it.

I have an idea of what may take place tomorrow.

Even if you don't believe in sending distant "POSITIVE VIBRATIONS" as my Rasta friend says, maybe just give it a try.

I was involved in- not one- but TWO meetings where the future of Positively Porco was sent down the road with more rubber under the cushion. It's all good. But I thought I'd ask for an extra dose of "good."

This isn't an "oh by the way, I happen to be raising funds for the film" kinda post. Just a mention that, your good wish will only translate in more entertainment for YOU some day in the future. You're welcome.

The film is a part of it but it includes more concerts, benefits for kids' music lessons and just more good-deed-doing in general. It's the Folk process- Porco style.

Five years ago, I didn't plan to meet Terre Roche, Suze Rotolo and Richie Havens all in one day. That's just how it happened. 

Don't be shy. Think Porco.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As Uncle Bobby said on a recent album: "If ya see me go by/ put up a prayer"

Positively,
Bob



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




2.20.15

Richie Havens didn't make the 50th Anniversary. Neither did Suze.  Richie was touring and toured on until a year ago. Suze was ill, and that was the only day I met her. Just that day. Day one.  






(blog post under construx……..

Monday, February 2, 2015

MIKE PORCO arrived in NYC Feb 2, 1933



Yes, yes…It's become well known that Mike Porco was once one of the baddest ass characters from the 1960's Folk and Blues Revival. He owned and ran Gerde's Folk City and what makes it more unbelievable is that he never took the stage in his club to perform, he never recorded music and he never wrote songs. But what a baddass!!

Why??
Because he was the honest club owner in Greenwich Village. From what I hear, the only one. His fair treatment of all musicians kept them coming back for work year after year. People relied on Mike for work and he kept the doors open for 20 years thusly providing crowds with top shelf entertainment.

He is remembered fondly for a thousand other reasons. That's just one of the topics that will make POSITIVELY PORCO the most feelin'est goodest film you will ever partake in when you see it in 2016. The film stars Mike Porco and Gerde's Folk City. All his good friends report the whole truth to me on film and in the process, tell and teach me what it's all about.

Oh, and there's a ton of music that came out of Folk City. Hard to believe that a carpenter/cabinet maker from Calabria would one day be credited with practically inventing the 'Open Mic' free-for-alls that we so commonly see today. New York's Greenwich Village didn't have one until Charlie Rothschild, Robert (don't call me Shapiro) Shelton and Mike came up with the idea.

''Call it a Hootenanny,'' they said.

Here's Mike reciting the rules for the open mic:


The story of the Hoot….that's another story.

What most people don't know is that Michele Porco had a most unwelcome start to his life in America. Despite that, he 'made it.' 

I'm positive he didn't envision, that in 1985, the City of New York would proclaim September ''Folk City Month'' and that he would be the Pope of Greenwich Village during his time there. And I'm sure he didn't think there would become a not-so-distant correlation between he, Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson.  

yes, the actual SS Conte di Savoia


It all started with a journey on the Conte di Savoia. Mike Porco stepped foot in America 82 years ago today. Reports of his shadow went undocumented.

Below is my first 'Mike Porco Report.'





PS!

This is the final push for crowdfunding. Of course, instead of a dozen "producers" making it possible for me to hire the right people, I prefer that only one or a couple of people step forward and say, "Bob, we got a fucking winner here."

Feel free to back this movie. A little or a lot. It will go a long way. And if you are not seeking a bumper sticker or a t-shirt, please share it with those who may be interested. Many thanks!!!!

Here is the portal for funding

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Strugglin' Downhill with John Cohen



THE HOOT is a great concept. It's a community-based Folk Fest (aren't they all?) spearheaded by Mike+Ruthy, the fantastic songwriting duo from West Hurley, NY. Both have Roots and Blues in their soul and have made a great career with their skills. As friends of my own, I've watch them morph into local stars and visionaries while they raise a family together and produce infectious records. LOCAL is the key word here since West Hurley is a stone's throw from Woodstock and its surrounds.

The Hoot takes place in the Winter and Summer at the Ashokan Center where Ruth's father, Jay Ungar is music honcho. Of course, Jay and Molly are national treasures in their own right, and the family connections spread far and wide throughout the community. The 'community' includes folks like my daughter, Angelina, and me. We were there this weekend along with, what seemed to be, the ENTIRE Ulster County community. Frigid weather didn't stop hundreds of families and other music lovers from all around descend on Ashokan to enjoy several intimate performances, both in the great hall and in the intimate Pewter Shop: a small cabin where it's standing room only.

I'll post pictures from yesterday's highlight for me- A front row seat to watch friends of mine play with a friend of my grandfather, Mike Porco. John Cohen is known by thousands of Greenwich Village aficionados as Folk Revival original and one who was at Gerde's in 1960 when music first arrived. To see him performing with tomorrow's Folk Music preservationists was certainly a treat.

Amy Helm stood behind me as we watched the Downhill Strugglers: John Cohen, Eli Smith, Jackson Lynch and Walker Shepard.
















Be sure to check out the trailer for the Folkumentary under construction.
It's about Mike Porco and Gerde's Folk City: