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Interview with Ed Sciaky   Print

March 17, 1967

Note: This is the March 17, 1967 interview broadcast as a portion of the WMMR retrospective on January 29, 1974. (Transcribed by Lindsay Moon)

ED Sciaky: You kind of draw the line, then, between what you want for yourself in the way of promoting yourself as a singer and the idea of getting your song pushed and played and more or less the commercial end of the record business.

JM: It's two different hats. You see, I have my own publishing company so from a publisher's point of view, I'm excited that one of the songs in the catalog is doing well, you know. They're going to do what they call a crossover, when a song changes fields, like, I don't know, there have been some songs like "Running Bear Loved Little White Dove." Do you remember that crazy thing?

ES: Yeah, yeah.

JM: Well, that was a country song that jumped over into the pop charts. And they're hoping they can do the same thing with this recording, and I think with the proper promotion that RCA can give it that it will do that.

ES: But that's RCA's decision now what they want to do, is that it?

JM: As soon as it's in the Top 10, they begin a new campaign with ads and billboards that says things like "Just in From the Country" or "Those Nashville Cats are at it Again" (laughs) or something tricky like that, you know.

ES: I noticed -- I was looking at a lead sheet of "The Circle Game," I believe, and the lyric didn't exactly match what you were singing. Do you change your songs?

JM: The way I sing "Circle Game," it has evolved. The way Tom sings it and the way Ian & Sylvia sing it is the same as it is on the lead sheet. Now I changed it because I at one point went to Chicago and cut it as a single. And I was going to, you know, try and have somebody buy up the rights and promote it. And it didn't work out well because "Circle Game" is not ever going to be a rock and roll song. Ian & Sylvia found that out with their version, and I tried to do the same thing. It has to be kept down. It has to be a ballad. It's very tempting.

So in the process of rocking it up, we had to eliminate a couple of choruses, and when you put a verse back to back then the melody became tedious, so I did that (sings) "So the ladaladalada" -- "so the years spin by and now the child is 20 -- now the boy is 20."

ES: What was it in the original?

JM: Oh, I can't even remember. I've been singing it that way now for half a year. I can't remember the words. Listen to the Ian & Sylvia record and the way Tom does it. That's how it used to be.

My favorite club to work when I go off to Detroit is a place called The Sipping Lizard in Flint, Michigan. And it's just a small town and it's just a small coffeehouse that began with this family's sons being interested in folk music and having friends over on the weekends. And soon they had about 150 kids in their basement, and Jackie the mother had to start charging them admission, because they were eating her out of house and home. (Laughs.)

So they moved the club into a pool hall, and it's marvelous, it really is, the enthusiasm. And the thing that's great about it is the age breakdown, because you get college professors, and you get young kids, and you get whole families. I had one little girl come toddling up to me one night, and she was part of a family that ranged from five years -- there was a five-year-old girl, and a seven-year-old girl, and a nine-year-old girl and then the mother and the father. She said, "Would you play "The Urge for Going"? And I looked at her and I said, "Well, how do you know that song?" She said, "Oh, well, I'm learning it on the guitar."

So the whole family is taking guitar lessons and the fellow who's teaching them guitar is a friend of mine, the son of the club owner, and he's teaching them how to play all my songs and the open tunings and things the way I do it. So I have a following from seven to seventy in Flint.

ES: That's great. That's a great way to spread your fame, have little kids --

JM: Oh, I love that town.

ES: -- playing your songs.

JM: Yeah, it's really fun.

ES: Tremendous. How would you rate -- you said you rated Philadelphia audiences as good but not really responsive. How do they compare to other audiences throughout the country? Are other audiences more responsive than Philadelphians?

JM: Every town is different. Fayetteville, of course, because I'm a girl and the audience is mostly all army types, is a very enthusiastic audience, you know. We had people -- my husband Chuck too. They were also very enthused about him and they used to give us standing ovations after every song and things after we'd been there for a while. But that was, you know, very openly responsive.

Here I think that the people are just as appreciative, and you're always warned before you come to Philadelphia that Philadelphia audiences are really hard to play to. I don't think that it's that. It's just that you have to set a different standard, because they really aren't as a rule as responsive as audiences in other cities. And yet someone will come up who sat deadpan all the way through your show after the show and say, "Wow, I really enjoyed it." So you just have to take it into stride.


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mjb784533 on 2014-Mar-06 at 15:14:03 GMT-5:
While this may have later been aired on a WMMR retrospective, this is not a WMMR interview. It was recorded for WRTI-FM and aired on Ed Sciaky's "Broadside" program. I remember this interview well because I was there. I was the recording engineer. Also discussed were recording contracts and the fact that already there were recordings of her club appearances all over the country just like the recordings we had made. Made openly and with permission, I might add
mjb784533 on 2014-Mar-06 at 15:09:37 GMT-5:
While this may have later been aired on a WMMR retrospective, this is NOT a WMMR interview. It was recorded for WRTI-FM and aired on Ed Sciaky's "Broadside" program. I remember this interview well because I was there. I was the recording engineer.
deeva716 on 2010-Mar-09 at 18:10:38 GMT-5:
This is exquisite! Hailing originally from Philadelphia, I remember the late, great Ed Sciaky and The Second Fret very well. He was a terrific interviewer and always was tapped in to the talent of the time like no other DJ - his programming was proof of that. And the Second Fret was a hotbed of the best music around. How appropriate that Ed be the one to interview Ms. Joni. Musical genius meets programming master. Now, those were the days.....thanks for making this interview available.
barry78520 on 2010-Feb-11 at 08:14:09 GMT-5:
How special it is to hear Joni's voice from so many years ago. Sweet and smart. Being originally from Flint Michigan it was exciting to hear her talk about her love of the folks (and obviously there love for her) at a place called the Sipping Lizard. Her roots are my roots. There her music, her life is may life.