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The Weavers

From Academic Kids

The Weavers were an immensely popular and influential folk music quartet from Greenwich Village, New York, United States.

The Weavers group was formed in 1947 by Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman and Pete Seeger. A fifth member, Eric Darling, sometimes sat in with the group when Seeger was unavailable. The name came from a play of the same name by Gerhart Johann Robert Hauptmann. After a period of finding themselves unable to find much, if any paid work, they finally achieved a performance slot at the jazz club the Village Vanguard. This led to their discovery by arranger Gordon Jenkins and their signing with Decca Records. The group had a big hit in 1949 with Leadbelly's Goodnight Irene, backed with the Jewish traditional folk song Tzena, Tzena.

The Weavers sang traditional folk songs from around the world, as well as blues, folk, gospel music, children's songs, labor songs and ballads from the US, selling millions of records at the height of their popularity. They were the direct precursors of two even more popular folk groups that followed them in the 1950s and 1960s, The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary.

The Weavers avoided the more controversial songs in their repetoire, as well as avoiding performing at controversial venues and events, and the leftwing press derided them as having sold out their beliefs in exchange for popular success. However, despite their caution, they were nonetheless placed under FBI surveillance and blacklisted by the US government during the McCarthy era. The Weavers were targeted because of their history of singing protest songs and folk songs favoring labor unions as well as for the leftist political beliefs of the individuals in the group. Anti-communists protested at their performances and harassed promoters. The Weavers were an easy target because of their fame and popularity on the radio and with the record-buying public. Their popularity diminished rapidly, and the group's record contract was terminated.

Pete Seeger continued his solo career after the group disbanded in 1952. In 1955, the group reunited to play a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall, a venue whose management was unaware of the controversy surrounding the group. The concert was a huge success, a recording of which was issued by Vanguard Records and led to their signing to that record label (by the late 1950s, folk music was becoming popular and anti-communism was fading). Seeger left the group to return to his solo career, and the Weavers continued without him. After Eric Darling left the group, he was replaced by Frank Hamilton and then Bernie Krause.

Ronnie Gilbert has had a solo career as well. Additional reunion concerts were staged in 1964 and 1980.

The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.

Discography

  • The Weavers' Greatest Hits
  • The Weavers at Carnegie Hall (Live)
  • The Weavers at Carnegie Hall (Live) Vol. 2
  • Wasn't That a Time! box set
  • Best of the Vanguard Years
  • The Weavers Reunion at Carnegie Hall: 1963 (Live)
  • The Reunion at Carnegie Hall, 1963, Pt. 2 (Live)
  • Reunion at Carnegie Hall No. 2 (Live)
  • Rarities From the Vanguard Vault
  • Kisses Sweeter Than Wine (Live)
  • The Almanac
  • The Best of the Decca Years
  • Ultimate Collection
  • The Weavers Classics
  • Best of the Weavers
  • Gospel
  • Goodnight Irene: Weavers 1949-53 box set
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • The Weavers on Tour (Live)
  • Wasn't That a Time! video

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