JOHN ULLMAN on the LIGHTNING HOPKINS Concert of Sat. Oct. 21, 1967 at Washington Hall (Interviewed by Paul Dorpat on Mon. July 9, 2012 at John's home in Fremont – or Wallingford, aka Freford or Wallmont)

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.

"To make music is the essential thing - to listen to it is accessory." Charles Seeger

Click to Hear the Interview with John.

[audio:|titles=John Ullman Interview 07-09-12]

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.

After our visit last Monday July 9, John found the poster for the concert he described.

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.

3 thoughts on “JOHN ULLMAN on the LIGHTNING HOPKINS Concert of Sat. Oct. 21, 1967 at Washington Hall (Interviewed by Paul Dorpat on Mon. July 9, 2012 at John's home in Fremont – or Wallingford, aka Freford or Wallmont)”

  1. Although memories not only dim with age, they also get surrealistically transmogrified, so what I remember may not be so, and you have the tape. But I must have told Paul the most important part of this story, which was, completely unbeknown to the audience, the Lightnin’ Hopkins concert was raided by the police twice. Here is a short version of that story which is included in the Seattle Folkolre Society 40th Anniversary slide show, slided 21-24. You can see that here: (click to start show.) I also told the story at Phil William’s memorial which was recorded by Doug Plummer. My remarks start at 53 minutes in.


    We may never know the real reason, but as Mike Russo began his opening set, four police officers showed up at our Lightnin’ Hopkins concert at Washington Hall. They informed our ticket takers, Phil and Vivian Williams and Lorenzo Milam, that they had come to shut down the event. But the first thing the officer in charge said was, “Phil, what are you doing here?” It turns out the officer was a fan of Phil and Vivian William’s bluegrass band and couldn’t understand how they could be the target of a raid. Phil, thinking quickly, asked who they had come to shut down. The police officer, who was pretty quick on the uptake, allowed they didn’t really know and suggested they should go back to the station to find out.
    At about 10:45 PM, the Seattle cabaret commissioner arrived to shut the concert down. He said it was because although it was legal to have 18 to 21 year olds in the concert hall while we sold beer and wine in another room, it was not legal to let young people dance.
    Alas, we did say people were encouraged to dance in our press release. However, the concert was so packed, that no one could dance. John Ullman told the commissioner to go upstairs and see that no one was dancing. A few minutes later he came down and again said he was shutting the concert down. John asked if he saw any dancing. “No,” he said, “but it said there would be dancing in the newspaper, so I’m shutting you down.”
    Just then the manager of the hall, a large Scandinavian woman, put her arm around the shorter, balding, rotund cabaret commissioner. “Orville,” she said, “These are nice people. They’re not like the fraternity kids, throwing up all over the place. Why don’t you just let them finish their show?” “Well, OK, Matilda,” said Orville, and he returned to policing Seattle’s night life. After paying Matilda an additional $50 cleaning fee, we breathed a huge sigh of relief at having escaped, however narrowly, a life of crime.

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