Touching the Music: Charles Seeger

Charles Seeger, Yale University, 1975, courtesy of the William R. Ferris Collection, Southern Folklife Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Touching the Music: Charles Seeger

by William R. Ferris
Southern Cultures, Vol. 16, No. 3: Roots Music

"Pete thumbed his way all over that triangle from Maryland to Florida to Texas. Whenever he saw someone carrying a banjo or guitar, he would cotton up to them. And if they knew anything he didn't know, he'd just find out what it was, learn to do it, and then go on to the next."

On May 12, 1975, I spent a memorable day with Charles Seeger (1886–1979) on the Yale University campus. We met as he walked across the campus green with his elegant, long stride, carrying a first edition of The Social Harp that he donated to the Yale Music Library. Seeger generously agreed to do an interview with me during which he recalled the history of his family and his discovery of American folk music. At the age of 89, both his eloquence and his vivid memory were striking.