University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

When the University of Hartford was incorporated just over 50 years ago by business and community leaders, they envisioned a center of education and culture for Greater Hartford. Read more...

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History of The Folk Next Door

A Short history of the Folk Next Door
by Ed McKeon

     In 1992, WWUH Folk Music Director Ed McKeon and folksinger and promoter Bruce Pratt approached the WWUH executive committee with a scheme that would recognize unrecognized "folk"musicians while raising money for a volunteer-staffed, community supported radio station that could always use a little more cash. And have a little musical fun in the process.
     The idea was this: hold a concert, invite 15 musical acts who would donate their time and the use of their music, record the concert, use the gate money to pay for a pressing of a CD and cassette release, and release a recording called The Folk Next Door. As you have guessed, the WWUH Executive Committee said yes.
     The first concert, held in the Wilde Auditorium was a huge success. The concert sold out. The acts were astonishingly good. And both the musicians and the audience seemed to love the experience. The cassettes and CDs flew out the door, prompting a re-pressing (the one and only - a printers error will tell you if you have a first edition. On the original, Hugh Blumenfeld, Last Fair Deal and Amy Davis and Danny Gardella appeared on the last page of the CD booklet. On the corrected edition, Folk Next Door printed backwards appears on the last page of the CD booklet.) And the music was played on stations throughout the country. Highlights: the "surprise" visit by Richard Shindell, John Whelan's wandering squeezebox, the debut of Donna Martin, Don Sinetis chorus and shanty men and women.
     The next year we named the concert "Honey Hide the Banjo, Its The Folk Next Door again". It made a great T-shirt, but was way too long for most DJs to wrap their lips around. The 1993 concert was to be an all-day affair, starting outside with a free concert, with an evening paid event. Rain forced us inside after the third act and threw off the schedule till the concert ended around 2 a.m. Once again, the music was splendid, although the audience was not entirely happy, or entirely awake by the end of the affair, and on the way we lost a Chinese brother. The CD was heard, eventually, on airwaves as far away as New Zealand. The video version of the concert is still playing on local cable access stations. Highlights: the unofficial hoot hosted by Hugh Blumenfeld, The Nields, and Bruce Pratt as we changed stages, Dar Williams opening the evening show, Kate McDonnell soloing, everyone asking "who is that guy" after J.P. Jones played, the Gospel Stars of Hartford tearing the house down, our visit from folk great Eric von Schmidt.
     In 1994, we pulled in the reins and had a "Hoot." With fifteen acts again, the evening regained a sense of sanity, and the Folk Next Door machine was gassed and humming. Everyone seemed to know what to do, where to do it, and our innovative red light let the acts know when they were out of time. Highlights: Madwoman in the Attic dropping a verse without anyone noticing, Pete Lehndorff knocking them dead, Jeter Le Pont getting the audience involved.
     In 1995 we received the most audition tapes ever for our sixteen open slots, and some came from as far away as California. Our musical guest who traveled the longest distance to appear was Andrew Calhoun, the exceptional singer-songwriter and proprietor of Waterbug Music.
     Highlights: Andrew Calhoun as standup comedian, Gred Greenway employing the rhythm and voices of the audience, and Traver Hollow killing them in the wee hours.

[Editor's Note:  There were many more highlights in the next four years, but unfortunately  the last Folk Next Door Concert was held in 2000.   Due to the time consuming job it had become, and many other variables related to such a massive undertaking, the FND series has come to a close.   Hopefully you will enjoy the shows which are still available on Tape & CD and recall those great evenings of entertainment.]