Fred Hellerman was the guitarist and baritone voice of the Weavers, the folk revival band that formed in 1948. Hellerman (May 13, 1927-September 1, 2016) was credited with coming up with their name, borrowing it from a pro-labor play of the 19th century. Last year, another member of the Weavers, Ronnie Gilbert, also passed. You can read my post here.
The Weavers rose to national fame in the early 50s, propelled by their #2 hit rendition of the Hebrew folk song “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena.” Their active support of labor and civil rights movements put them on the wrong side of the House Committee of Un-American Activities, and they were blacklisted from TV shows and radio until the end of the McCarthy era. A celebrated Carnegie Hall concert in 1955 reignited their career.
Hellerman played a significant, if less known role, in folk music beyond the Weavers. He was producer of Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant album and was a credited session guitarist on Joan Baez’s debut album. He has many songwriting credits: perhaps his most lucrative is “I’m Just a Country Boy,” which he co-wrote for Harry Belafonte under the pseudonym Fred Brooks. Hellerman songs have been recorded by Don Williams, Tony Bennett, The Kingston Trio and Roberta Flack, to name a few.
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