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Fifty Miles from Times Square

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Fifty Miles from Times Square


This is an excerpt from John Cohen's 1972 film, used here by permission of the filmmaker.

caller: Herb Strickland
musicians: Bud Snow, Jay Ungar, Lyn Hardy, Abby Newton, Tom Allen

Fiddler Jay Ungar, seen in the dance footage, writes: "The dances were started by the Concerned Democrats in Putnam County, NY to raise money for the McGovern Campaign in 1972. Lyn Hardy, John Cohen, Abby Newton, Bud Snow, Tom Allen and I were the core band. We were called the Putnam County String Band. John renamed the concert version of our ensemble, the Putnam String County Band.

"I cut my teeth as a dance musician in that band mentored by Bud Snow, a fiddling carpenter. Bud was of PEI heritage and grew up in the English speaking part of southeastern Québec. He had played dances since he was a kid and knew hundreds of tunes.

"The dances were fun, wildly popular community events. Herb Strickland was a truck driver and a classic square dance caller. He was a died-in-the-wool Putnam County local, a descendent of European settlers and local Native Americans. Herb called with our band for the Concerned Democrats and with a Country Western band at the local Volunteer Fire Department dances.

"There were lots of sit ins which occasionally included singer/guitarist Don McLean of eventual 'American Pie' fame. Pete and Toshi Seeger would frequently come to dance. They'd met at a square dance in 1939. You can see them swinging as the dance winds down near the end of this clip.

"McGovern lost the election, but the dances kept going. Too much fun to stop."



film ©1972, John Cohen; used here by permission.

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