Prescott’s historic Elks Theater hosted The Peter, Paul & Mary Experience Friday night to a full house of appreciative fans. Folk music aficionados cheered and sang along as a talented quartet of local musicians, known as MacDougal Street West, worked thru the Peter, Paul & Mary catalogue of hits. Lead singer Mary Albert brought her clear, warm contralto to the role of Mary Travers. Baritone Ron Skelton and tenor Rick Shore sang the parts of Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow, while accompanying on guitar. Bill Rice played bass. Their rich harmonies filled the theater like magic.
In a two hour performance of the group's chart topping hits, including “Blowing in the Wind,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Puff, the Magic Dragon," “Lemon Tree,” “Early Morning Rain,” “It Ain’t You, Babe,” Woody Guthrie’s, “This Land is Your Land,” Pete Seeger’s iconic protest song, “If I Had a Hammer," to their number one hit single, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” it was all there and the audience loved it.
From 1961, when the trio was brought together as coffee house performers by Bob Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, until the 1970’s, Peter, Paul, & Mary earned seven gold album awards and one double platinum. They were arguably the most important folk music group of their time. Their breakout performance came in 1963, when they sang at Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” rally for civil rights on the Mall in Washington DC. They sang, “Blowin in the Wind,” and “If I Had a Hammer.” From that moment on, their music was associated with political protest and the revolutionary spirit of the 1960’s. Like Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and other folk musicians of the period, their music offered social commentary from a generally progressive point of view. Peter, Paul & Mary went on to endorse the Presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern and frequently performed for activist groups opposing nuclear power and climate change.
For many who remember the folk music revival of mid-century America, this is music that changed the social conscience of the times. The 1960’s were a period of social upheaval. For some members of that generation, the songs of Peter, Paul & Mary still evoke nostalgia for the idealism of the civil rights movement and anti-war activism of the 1960’s. For others, they stir more complicated memories of lost youth and causes that no longer have the same moral clarity they once had. But for everyone lucky enough to be at the Elks Theater Friday night, they experienced a wonderful performance of the music from a time when songs carried meaning and could inspire idealism and civic engagement.
MacDougal Street West is a Prescott-based folk music group who perform locally and throughout the southwest. They will present a Christmas show in Sedona on December 14th, and perform in Laughlin at Don Laughlin’s Celebrity Theater the week of January 15th. To learn more visit MacDougal Street West.