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Almanac Singers

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Biography

The Almanac Singers were a group of folk musicians who achieved brief popularity in the early 1940s. Members Millard Lampell, Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie began playing together informally after Seeger and Hays had been playing at left-wing political functions for a time. Mainstream national success began after the American Youth Congress meeting in Washington D.C. in February of 1941. Others who sang with the group at various times included Sis Cunningham, (John) Peter Hawes and his brother (Baldwin) Butch Hawes, Bess Lomax Hawes (wife of Butch), Cisco Houston, and Arthur Stern.

Politics and music remained closely intertwined with the members’ political beliefs, which were far-left and occasionally led to controversial associations with the Communist Party USA. Their first release was an album called Songs For John Doe, would urged non-intervention in World War II, and was made with the help of Eric Bernay (of Keynote), Joe Thompson (of NBC), Nicholas Ray (future film director) and Alan Lomax (musicologist). The second album was Talking Union, a collection of labor songs, many of which were intensely anti-Roosevelt.

More recordings followed, but blacklisting and internal friction soon drove the group apart. Seeger and Hays founded communal homes called Almanac Houses, but the group fell apart soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Hays and Seeger went on to form The Weavers in 1947.

Discography

Original Studio Albums

1. Songs For John Doe (Almanac Records, 1941).
2. Talking Union (Keynote, 1941).

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