CD's to date:
Songs of the West
From the liner notes of the 1962 album Songs of the West.
Dave Fredrickson is a unique folksinger in that he is half real folk and half-urban folksinger. He brings to his songs the style of the old cowboy singers such as Ken Maynard and a repertoire that includes songs learned from traditional singers, including some in his own family, from old cowboy records, from recent Folkways and Library of Congress releases and from books. This kind of variety is what characterizes Fredrickson's life, but on this score, he shall speak for himself. Recently, he wrote of himself in a letter:
"I was born in Berkeley, California in 1927 but moved to Redwood City, a suburb of San Francisco, when I was about 5 or 6. Moved back to Berkeley in 1944 to start college and except for a year in the Navy and 3 or 4 in Walnut Creek (a suburb of Oakland) have been in Berkeley ever since.
My father ran a small one-man business repairing typewriters and my mother
was a registered nurse. Both however come from rural backgrounds, my father from Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada where he was a cowboy and agricultural worker until he joined the Navy in WWI, my mother from the San Joaquin Valley in California where her family was one of the early settlers.
As a boy my primary social ties were with my mother's extended family (I had dozens of cousins) and I spent just about every vacation period, summer, winter, spring, since I was old enough to be away from home by myself on a farm of one of my uncles. I ended up learning a little bit about dairy farming, but much more about music, for the San Joaquin Valley was one of the areas settled by the migrants from the dust bowl regions in the 30's, hence the music was all around me and I was singing since very young. I sang unaccompanied most of the time, until about 1947 when I hauled out my father's old mail-order guitar (as a young man he played guitar, mandolin, and fiddle at country dances) and learned a few chords.
When I started college in 1944, I learned that "Okie" music as it was called, was not much in favor, and I turned to folk music, starting with Burl Ives, naturally. Suddenly I discovered Woody Guthrie on record and went back to my "Okie" and "hillbilly" and "cowboy" singing, but equipped, I believe, with more taste and discrimination. I do not consider myself to be a folk-singer; more I am a singer of old-time songs. They were the songs I grew up with (some even old-time then) and as time passed they have become old-time. New songs I learn (new for me) are almost all from the older days (the songs and days aren't actually so old, but no longer as popular as they once were.)
I graduated in anthropology in 1948, did a year or two of graduate work, quit school, drove a taxi-cab for five years, drove trucks off and on for three, alternating with being a helper for a fellow who sprayed insecticide, shrubs and plants and weed-killer on weeds (he was a pacifist). For the past couple of years I have been self-employed, doing odd jobs, modeling for art classes, giving guitar lessons and occasionally singing a job for pay. I am married and have two girls ages five and seven and a half. I have been singing for my own pleasure for twenty-five years or more, and some of these years I like to believe that some other people got some pleasure from it. But regardless of who listens, it is highly probable that twenty-five years from now, granted the physical possibility, I'll still be singing for my own pleasure."
Anything else of importance, Fredrickson's singing will be able to tell you. I first heard Dave on a week-end junket he made to sing at a club in Aspen, Colorado. The quiet warmth of his personality, the almost otherworldly moral core, the integrity of the man, all those strike one on meeting him, and it is some of these qualities that infest his singing. Consistently, comments on his songs when complimented upon them, would be, "You should hear Ken Maynard sing that one" or "Have you heard Woodie's version of that one." Dave, I think you will agree, quietly takes his place beside anyone with whom you might compare him.
by ROGER ABRAHAMS
In the notes, references will be made to the following books: Laws, Malcolm, Native American Balladry, Philadelphia, 1950. Laws, Malcolm, American Balladry from British Broadsides, Philadelphia, 1957.
Coffin, Tristram P., The British Traditional Ballad in North America, Philadelphia, 1950.
Lomax, John, Cowboy Songs, New York, 1930 edition Thorp, N. Howard, Songs of the Cowboys, Boston and N.Y., 1921.
Randolph, Vance, Ozark Folksongs, Columbia, Mo., 1950.
John William Fredrickson, Dave's grandfather. Circa 1910 in Wyoming.
Dave's father, Raymond Fredrickson. Circa 1915 in Wyoming.