John Ullman, one of the founders in 1966 of the Seattle Folklore Society, often introduces his correspondence with a quote from Charles Seeger. We use it here as a fitting caption to a picture of the then 19-year-old Reed College sophomore John playing his guitar a few years past with New Mexico’s Candy Cane Cliffs a backdrop. John, I know, is very fond of the Southwest but he has lived most of his post-doctorate (yet another in genetics) here in the Northwest – for the most part in Portland and Seattle.
Click to Hear the Interview with John.
There is a vibrant connection between the above photo of John Ullman and the Lightning Hopkins concert that he helped bring off with aplomb, as you will conclude from the interview. John’s guitar is the same kind of guitar – a Gibson J-50 – that Lightning Hopkins played at his concert here in 1967 and no doubt many others. John has reviewed the interview below and was somewhat surprised by the smoothness of its flow. We were not. He is well-spoken and so is is also well-constructed for more interviews, which down the line we hope to do on subjects like the Folklore Society, the University District folk clubs in the 1960s, the Piano Drop and Sky River Festivals (there he will share a stage with many) and the molecular geneticist’s take on sex, drugs and rock and roll. With his review John noted one regret. He wished that he had explained that the reason he and others drove to Portland for folk concerts was because of his alma mater. Reed College was producing them in the early 1960s – an inspiration to do the same here with Seattle’s own folk society. This will come up again in one or another interview with John.
A day later with the help of Phil and Vivian Williams, also founders of the Seattle Folklore Society and producers of its concerts including this one with Lighting Hopkins, these two snapshots of Hopkins were found. Portland player Mike Russo is at the piano. John explained that Russo, who began the concert with his own set, came up to play piano for Lightning near the end of the Texan’s set. Another photo showing the elated condition of the ethnically mixed, sold-out crowd will be found – hopefully – later and brought on as addendum.
To conclude, here’s a before and recent after or “now” (by Jean Sherrard) of the venue where Lightning played in 1967: Washington Hall.
Postscript: The above interview is in “fulfillment” for it was promised in one of our earlier weekly blog postings of HELIX. Thanks to Bill White for editing the John Ullman tape (digits rather), although it did not require much cutting. Soon I hope to interview John about something he has written about recently as a reporter; which is the fate of all those writers who once, like he, were published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.