Author

Martin F. Kohn

A forerunner of bluegrass but not as fancy, old-timey music isn’t just for old-timers — although songs about moo cows, bowlegged roosters, and Jennie Jenkins, who won’t wear white because the color’s too bright, aren’t exactly the stuff of MTV. The songs on Old Timey Songs for Children, a 1959 album, were old even before the New Lost City Ramblers — Mike Seeger, Tom Paley, and John Cohen, with their fiddle, banjo, guitar, and autoharp — recorded them.

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Wild West recordings

Ready for something beyond Bart Simpson and the Ninja Turtles? Maybe it’s time to rediscover cowboys and Native Americans, or as I used to call them, cowboys and Indians. Things have improved since I was a kid in the ’50s; in today’s song and story recordings nobody shoots anybody or scalps anybody or talks in demeaning monosyllables. Instead the emphasis is on music, folklore, humor, and history. Intended for the ear and not the eye, these songs and stories may be enjoyed pretty much as they were by their original listeners. And now, it’s roundup time.

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Yesteryear tapes

”Yesteryear,” said the 9-year-old, learning a new word from an old radio program. ”When was yesteryear?”

Yesteryear was when we were 9 and listening to Westerns and serials on old-time radio, only nobody called it old-time radio then. Today, the term generally refers to family favorites of the ’50s and early ’60s. Newly issued audiotapes of those shows sell extremely well and are especially useful on car trips with children.

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Tom Knowlton and Mark Baldwin’s I Love Camp contains songs, skits, chants, and cheers commonly heard at camps, but you won’t have to suffer through ”99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” Prepare, though, to endure chestnuts like ”Junior Birdsmen” and ”John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt.” More appealing is the radio skit in which one station breaks in on another (”The pitcher winds up and fires the ball into ze mixing bowl”), and the spoonerized tale of the three bears who live ”weep in the doods in a little louse made out of hogs.” Tom and Mark nicely evoke summer ca

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Apprentice silversmith Johnny Tremain, a teenage Type A if ever there was one, loses the use of his right hand in an accident but finds is soul in liberty’s cause in Revoltutionary War-era Boston. As E.L. Doctorow would later mingle fictional characters with historic figures, so, in 1943, did Esther Forbes seamlessly place Johnny and other figments of her imagination among Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams.

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The best Grammy-winning Children's music

The best Grammy-winning Children’s music

To Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, this year’s Grammy winners for Best Recording for Children, congratulations. Their Little Mermaid was a hit with both reviewers and audiences. Grammy has honored kids’ records ever since the awards began in 1959, but the judges’ tastes haven’t always reflected critical or popular opinion.

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Christmas and Chanukah tunes

Christmas and Chanukah tunes

Jingle bells, jingle bells; fa la la la la; dreidel, dreidel, dreidel. The holidays summon forth many of the same songs year after year, and even the words sometimes seem to repeat themselves. The oldies are goodies all right, but if you’re looking for more than the usual Christmas or Chanukah tunes, here are tidings of comfort and joy-records that go beyond the traditional. Just give a listen.

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