If my mother asks for me
Tell her death done summoned me
I’m going to meet her at the station when the train comes along.
– Mike and Peggy Seeger (American Folksongs for Children, Rounder 1977)
A great name in traditional music passed on August 7, 2009. Mike Seeger was the younger brother of the famous folk icon Pete Seeger, and a founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers. Though not originally from the mountains of Appalachia, Seeger did a great deal to pass on and preserve the music of our region. John and I were fortunate enough to visit with him a few times.
We were looking for a traditional music CD for Deladis and found his American Folksongs for Children. It is one of many recording he has done of traditional music for children. This one he did with Peggy Seeger. The liner notes are a great primer on appropriate music for children. Deladis was around eight months old at that time and really responded to a song with the line “Rose, Rose, and up she rises.” She smiled and squealed, hearing her name in a song, circling our living room floor.
That June at Appalshop’s Seedtime on the Cumberland, Mike Seeger was a special guest. I took the CD we had bought Deladis in hopes that I could get him to sign it for her. I am horribly shy when it comes to certain things, and though Mike Seeger was out and about all during the festival mingling with the crowd, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for the autograph. I got my dad to do it. He’s not scared of a thing, and doesn’t care a bit to embarrass himself in front of anyone. He took the CD with that sly smile of his and walked right up to Seeger. I watched with Deladis in my arms from my little perch behind John’s art tent. Seeger signed the CD smiling and laughing with my dad. Then, I saw both men looking around, and my dad motion for me to come over. It is easier for me to be introduced then for me to introduce myself, so I went on over. We shook hands, and then, Seeger took Deladis by the big toe and sung to her her song. She smiled a glistening grin. My heart was melted.
Earlier this summer, John was contacted by Mike Seeger and company to be a part of some recording they were doing to document old-time mountain banjo music in the mountains of eastern Kentucky for the Smithsonian museum. George Gibson was their primary focus, and having learned a lot from him, John was added to the list. Seeger and his wife spent several days on the creek recording John, George and our friends playing banjo tunes in the various Kentucky styles. Seeger said he remembered singing to Deladis when he met her again running in the yard by the cabin. We talked a little on organic gardening and carrots, and again they were off to document.
It is a mysterious thing how quickly one can be full of life and then be taken by death. It is a strong reminder to me that my work on self is so important. I’m not afraid of death in terms of being taken from earth. I want to be certain that everyday I have here counts for something. I’m not a fan of wasted time. Mike Seeger did very important work here and I’m sure he loved it. It is so important for us to be passionate about our work. As I sit now, listening to the CD of folksongs, my heart is light and my work is easy. God bless Mike Seeger.