Herb Cohen

By 1961 people were coming out in pretty fair numbers for folk acts, and whatever the case had been a few years before, it was no longer politics that was selling the tickets. What the audiences wanted to listen to was happy, engaging, relatively depoliticized music, and in most cases I had what they wanted.
Of all the pop-folk acts I booked, the Chad Mitchell Trio was perhaps the most political, and even their sharpest stuff was really light social satire, chosen more for its attention-getting features than anything else. Folk artists were there to entertain, and there was nothing wrong with that. (Of course, some purists on the left looked down on it. There was always some theorist willing to try to rein in this irrelevant, sectarian pursuit with some line or other.)
Herb Cohen, who had been active in the LA folk scene before he moved on to manage rock acts like Zappa and the like, talked with Ted a few years ago to help jog my memory. Here’s some of what he said about this.

After the Kingston Trio came out with its hit records, there were folk groups coming out of everywhere. Everywhere. See, after a certain point the whole thing was media-made. The Beat Generation was finished when you could go to I. Magnin’s and buy your weekend Beat clothes. As soon as anything becomes accepted and commercialized, it’s over. The same thing happened to folk music.
There was never really any big authentic folk music craze. It was just a musical form that was used and exploited. It had nothing to do with folk music in the sense of political and social music. It was really very hard for a group to be political living in Southern California, you know, in those days. I mean, what are they going to protest against, the weather? It started out as a political thing, but all of a sudden the record companies and the concert companies saw how much money you could make.
And then it was all over.
From there to rock and roll was just half a step, and then you’ve come to Jim Morrison, whose father was an admiral in the fucking Navy. So you’re talking about a generation so far removed from working-class attitudes and comprehension and background that their protest, you know, has absolutely nothing to do with the body politic as the generation before them knew it. If you asked them a political question they couldn’t give you a comprehensible answer. They wouldn’t know what you were talking about.

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