When artists like Travis Edmonson are asked about which performers had the greatest influence in getting the great folk boom of the fifties and sixties going, invariably, one of the first names mentioned is Stan Wilson. Before Stan Wilson passed away in June 2005, Travis Edmonson wrote the following recollection, telling a few of the reasons why this is so.
By Travis Edmonson
Stan Wilson was the first real folk singer I ever saw and met.
It was the fall of 1954. My friend Max Manning and I had jumped a freight train in Tucson, and went to see the whole wide world, and were really not ready for what we ran across, and in particular, for how Stan Wilson mesmerized us in San Francisco at the little hungry I (the first hungry I).
As his sweet guitar trembled, cried, wailed and whispered into our receptive youthful ears and hearts, it built a permanent place which nothing else would fill.
Artistically, he was like a son of Josh White's. His style was very much the same, and that made it easier for us to become very good friends.
What I did not at first realize, was that Stan was riding on a magic vehicle - folk music - that was soon to become my very own.
There's no question that Stan laid the foundation and was responsible for the entire folk movement of the fifties and sixties. He took on the precepts of his mentor Josh White, and then went wild with them, meeting the favor of all who attended his shows. He played all over the place, but especially in San Francisco.
Stan Wilson had impeccable taste as well as great rapport with both his guitar and his audiences - incredible charm for those he played to. He exuded sex appeal, and had the perfect personality for what he did.
Soft spoken, but capable of great highlights of emotion, he not only sang his songs, he told a great story too. However, as a balladeer, Stan wasted little time on theatrics.
A fascinating guy, Stan Wilson remains a great storyteller. The drama of his songs and stories was enchanting, as I was to learn in the years that followed. I think the key to the public reaction to Stan's folk singing was intensity. The lock, of course, was the public's need to know how each story ended up.
What always impressed was how the Stan Wilson shows went off like clockwork, the only variation being the material. His audiences were inevitably hushed, respectful and mannerly.
Years later, when I was a well-known folk singer, Max was to remind me of the old days when we'd first heard Stan Wilson singing. He asked me if I had learned anything from Stan. And I answered quietly, "just everything."
And Stan Wilson on Travis Edmonson
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