Folk musician Peter Stampfel moved from the Midwest to New York in late 1959, just a few months before Dylan arrived in the city. They were each under the spell of 1952’s Anthology of American Folk Music, a six-album set that was compiled by Harry Smith, another downtown dweller. By collecting folk, blues, and country songs from 1927 to 1932, the Anthology provided much of the source material for the folk music revivalists. “For almost the first time,” Van Ronk recalled, “it gave us a sense of what traditional music in the United States was all about, from the source rather than from second-and third-hand interpreters. The Anthology has eighty-two cuts on it, and after a while we knew every word of every song.” Stampfel recalled that there were two main schools of folk at the time: the traditionalists, who valued “authenticity,” and the more polished performers who could be heard on the radio. “Each camp felt that the other was being apostate,” he said. “It was the people who had heard the Harry Smith anthology and the people who hadn’t heard the Harry Smith anthology, that was the dichotomy.” In 1961, Stampfel was living on MacDougal Street and playing more traditional roots music at local coffeehouses. Two years later, in 1963, he founded the Holy Modal Rounders with Steve Weber, then expanded the lineup to include drummer and playwright Sam Shepard during the second half of the 1960s.
From Chapter 4 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore