Ramblin' Boy

#152 / Video Extra

Whenever we want to get folky with it, there's always a great Tom Paxton song just a thought and a memory away. For decades now, we've lovingly sung Tom's wonderful "Ramblin' Boy,” as we do again here in a video that Pamela Bowen shot during a cozy evening at the Bowen House last week.

“Ramblin’ Boy” was the title song of Paxton’s 1964 debut album, but that was not the song’s first performance on vinyl. That honor went to one of Paxton’s (and our) heroes, Pete Seeger, who paid the young singer-songwriter the ultimate tribute.

A few years ago, Paxton — who, incidentally, is still out there rambling on the road, wowing audience at age 85 — recalled an evening back in 1963 at the Village Gate on Greenwich Village’s Bleecker Street when he timidly asked Seeger if he could play him a new tune. 

“Suuure!” said Paxton, affectionately immitating Seeger’s enthusiasm.

A few months after that, Tom was astonished when Seeger and his pioneering folk group, The Weavers, performed his new “Ramblin’ Boy” at their historic reunion concert at Carnegie Hall.

Ut-oh

Just one problem. Pete got the words wrong. Instead of Paxton’s lyric (“Here’s to you/My ramblin’ boy,”) Seeger sang, “Fare thee well/My ramblin’ boy.”

Paxton said he didn’t mind one bit. However, soon after the disc hit the record store shelves, he received a postcard from Seeger, who by then was visiting India with his family. The card carried Seeger’s signature sketch of a banjo and one word:

“Oops.”

Our Take on the Tune

Subconsciously, of course, Seeger’s slip got to the truth of the matter: young Paxton’s song was a perfect fare thee well. And that’s how it also has been honored in Flood World, where “Ramblin’ Boy” has become a way of saying our goodbyes.

It all began a dozen years ago, when our good buddy Bob McCoy passed away suddenly, and we lost one of our all-time favorite listeners.

The tradition continued a few years after that when we had to say so long to our dear companion, Joe Dobbs, after his 40 years with the band.

And nowadays, all our ramblin’ boys are in our thoughts whenever this tune comes around again. Here’s to you, Bob, Rog, Dave, Joe, Bill ….

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The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch
Authors
Charles Bowen