Notes From The Balcony

Progressive Reflections on Post-Modern Living in a Multifaith Age

A Tribute To Mary Allin Travers

I think the thing that is so special about folk music is that it is a reaffirmation of the celebration of the

human spirit and human life.

– Mary Travers (1936-2009)


Welcome to the New 12th Gate Coffee House

Mary Allin Travers died at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut on Wednesday. She was 72 and had battled leukemia for several years. . She was born on Nov. 9, 1936 in Louisville, Ky., the daughter of journalists who moved the family to Manhattan’s bohemian Greenwich Village. She quickly became enamored with folk performers like the Weavers, and was soon performing with Seeger, a founding member of the Weavers who lived in the same building as the Travers family.

With a group called the Song Swappers, Travers backed Seeger on one album and two shows at Carnegie Hall. She also appeared (as one of a group of folk singers) in a short-lived 1958 Broadway show called The Next President, starring comedian Mort Sahl.

Travers joined forces with Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey in the early 1960s.

The trio mingled their music with liberal politics, both onstage and off. Their version of “If I Had a Hammer” became an anthem for racial equality.

In 1969, the group earned their final Grammy for Peter, Paul and Mommy, which won for best children’s album. They disbanded in 1971, launching solo careers — Travers released five albums — that never achieved the heights of their collaborations.

Over the years they enjoyed several reunions, including a performance at a 1978 anti-nuclear benefit organized by Yarrow and a 35th anniversary album, Lifelines, with fellow folkies Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dave Van Ronk and Seeger.

The videos that I share tonight are a mix of old and relatively new. They feature both the trio and involve some solo performances as well.

Our first video was recorded live at Sydney Stadium in May 1964. Single Girl

This next video highlights the trio singing their first hit. If I had a hammer – recorded in 1990 live in concert in Japan. Everybody knows this song.

All right, let’s get it over with……Puff.

This video is a bit of a different take, after 26 years, they’ve sung it so many times. The audience photos at the end are precious – especially the young man

Back to Japan, Bob Dylan’s still timely song The Times they are a changin’

Over the last few years, this song was always performed when they were on stage. This 2003 recrding of Don’t Laugh at Me was sung as part of a Thanksgiving Day tribute concert for Harold Leventhal at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Back once more to Japan for 1990 version of John Denver’s Leaving On a Jet Plane

+You will not be surprised at how we close tonight. Do sing along – Nobody is listening!

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Mary Travers –  Rest in Peace!


Helpful Links:

PPM Website with statements by Peter and Paul reflecting on Mary’s lifew and death.

NPR announcement

NPR story

Wikipedia article


For previous Saturday Night Music performances – See Center Stage


2 Responses to “A Tribute To Mary Allin Travers”

  1. lorna said

    John, thank you so much for putting this together. I was so sad when I heard of her passing this week, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity (although it’s probably been about 12 years) to hear them perform live in our area.

    The show which your Puff the Magic Dragon and Where have all the Flowers Gone are from is one I video-taped when it was on PBS, and has been played so much it is probably in danger of breaking the next time I play it. It is often played while I am cleaning house, and traditionally for many, many years, is not only the music for cleaning for Thanksgiving, but is also played as the background music during Thanksgiving (followed by a recording of one of their Christmas concerts). So both my daughters have grown up with Peter, Paul and Mary as well.

    Even to this day, if I listen too closely to the words of Puff the Magic Dragon or Don’t Laugh at Me, I get teary-eyed. It was nice seeing Don’t Laugh at Me signed while it was being performed. Holly Near often has (or used to anyway) someone signing during her performances, and I am always mesmerized watching it – it is so beautiful.

  2. richard said

    Peter Paul and Mary,what can i say,they were my every thing,their songs,words helped me through my life as a child,my hero’s,my world.
    The one song that helped me change my life from a frightened little boy into who I am now is “if i had a hammer”
    i would gladly swap places with Mary,she should still be here in this world.
    sleep peacefully Mary,I miss you but will NEVER forget

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