Plank Road Folk Music Society 


Summer, July 2020 |
In This Issue
Plank Road's Regular Events
in conjunction with 2WS

The Covid-19 crisis has severely curtailed our usual activities and events. 
Until further notice all our regular "in-person" Saturday sing-arounds, Country/Western sing-around and monthly BYOS sessions held at Two Way Street are cancelled.  
In the meantime, we're hosting "virtual" get togethers online, via Zoom. (See article on right for details.

Barn Dances at 2WS are also cancelled until further notice. 


Some Friday night concerts at 2WS are being streamed live -- see their website for information. 



1st & 3rd Sat. |  2-4 pm
Vocal instrumental jam and sing-along with songbooks and leader.

Country and Western 
4th Sat. |  2-4 pm
Sing along with your favorite C&W songs.

2nd Tuesday Song Circle  -- BYOS!
Two Way Street Coffee House
2nd Tues. |  7-9 pm
A monthly opportunity for musicians to perform songs for each other, within a song circle.
Bring Your Own Song!

Plank Road String Band Practice
2nd Sat.  |  2:00-4:00 pm 
An old-time string band practice for intermediate/advanced players.   
from Sept to April

Last Thursday Open Mike 
Last Thurs. of every month   |  7-9:30 pm
A monthly unplugged open mike for high school and college age students only.

Live Music
Please read this note from our friends at 2WS

Help the Musicians: Keep the Music, and Their Incomes, Flowing
Dear Friends,
During these difficult times, know that Two Way Street Coffee House has the interests of musicians at heart. We are committed to helping the musicians whose acts we have had to cancel and hope that you will continue to support them and others in the folk music community whose income has plummeted.
There are many ways to help. Musicians are hosting online live showcases, reaching out through performances to which the public can make donations, and selling CDs online.
Just Google the names of  your favorite musicians to see if they are hosting online performances and learn how you can help them financially. 
Also, "Undiscovered Music" is an online site that has a list of upcoming live acoustic concerts, with ways to donate to the acts:
Please consider a donation to the American Federation of Musicians Emergency Relief Fund (ERF). 100% of all donations to the AFM Local 1000 ERF will go to working musicians in need. To contribute, visit:
The folks at FARM (Folk Alliance Region Midwest) posted these resources for emergency funding for artists and event producers on their websites:
Visit the FARM website for updates as they occur:
Thank you for your continuing support,
Two Way Street Coffee House

Looking Ahead

Old-Time Barn Dance

Barn Dance

NOTE: Barn Dances have been cancelled until further notice. Please check our website and Facebook page for updates.

Looking Back
We hear a lot about "virtual" these days . . .
And that includes Eric Lambert and Bluegrass!
Once again, multi-instrumentalist and well-known folk and bluegrass artist Eric Lambert hosted a bluegrass sing-around -- but this time it was a virtual event, online via Zoom. 
May 30th was one of those rare fifth Saturdays, but restrictions against public gatherings presented a challenge. Fortunately, Eric offered to try it online, with help from Denise Davis and Ron Leaneagh. 
As each singer led a song, all other participants were "muted" in order to reduce background interference. But, as bluegrass fans know, instrumental breaks are a key element, and thanks to Ron on the "mute" and "unmute" buttons, people were able to take instrumental leads. Not quite the same as an in-person live event, but it worked out quite well!
If you attended the event and haven't had a chance to make a contribution, please consider doing so through PayPal at
NOTE: Our next 5th Saturday is August 29. Watch for email notices, or check Plank Road's website or Facebook page for details.  
Ralph Peer 

Why didn't I think of that?
 By Andy Malkewicz

Ralph Peer
Ralph Peer..... who is he???  Only the man to launch the careers of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. Producer, engineer, and traveler, he led the move of the recording industry from classical and opera, to American roots music.
He was born May 22, 1892, in Independence, MO, where his father's furniture business also sold phonographs and gramophones, and as a teen, worked the store's stockroom, eventually ordering new machines and records for the store. During high school, he spent his summers working at the Columbia Phonograph Company's Kansas City offices, joined the company upon graduation, and showing promise, was transferred to the Chicago headquarters. In 1919, he joined General Phonograph Company's Okeh label cutting ballads, classical, blues, and Jazz discs.
In Aug 1920, Peer and a musical supervisor created Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues," considered the first record geared to African-American audiences and sold in excess of a million copies proving there was a market for what Peer called "race" records. He soon became recording director of Okeh's new "race" series, making Okeh a force rivaling market leaders Victor and Columbia. 
Peer exhibited an uncommon knack for recognizing new talent. 

He signed jazz pianist Fats Waller, and blues singer Sara Martin with the first guitarist, Sylvester Weaver, backing a blues vocalist on record. In March 1923, Peer was visited by the self-proclaimed "world's greatest harmonica player" William Henry Whittier. This led to the release of the first official country music recording, Fiddlin' John Carson's "Little Old Cabin in the Lane."  It sold over a half million copies and Okeh was now into what Peer dubbed as "hillbilly" music.
Recognizing the possibilities, he started traveling the U.S. with portable recording equipment, and in 1923 visited Atlanta, Chicago, and St. Louis, with stops along the way finding little known acts, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman, and more. He continued his travels, advertising in local papers, paying artists $25 per selection, and securing copyright protection for original songs recorded during these sessions. 

Peer encouraged artists to write their own songs.
He was the first label exec to encourage his recording artists to write their own original songs and avoid copyrighted material, pocketing most of the royalties himself. It was so lucrative Peer became a millionaire, while the average yearly income was only $700. He left Okeh, joined Victor Talking Machine Company, and assumed control of all copyrighted work created under his supervision.
In 1927, in the Virginia border town of Bristol, TN, Peer recorded 76 songs by 19 different performers, including the Carter Family, and Jimmie Rodgers (the Singing Brakeman).  After leaving Bristol, Peer migrated to Savannah, GA, where he produced waltzes, blues and Caribbean island music. He also produced the first racially integrated session ever documented.  He also courted the pop market with Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia on My Mind," and more.  
Peer continued his business acumen, dealing with BMI, while ASCAP was at odds with the radio industry. By the early 1940s his Southern Music Company's large catalogue of songs even included international music and became quite lucrative. In the 1950s, these songs grew in value with the advent of rock & roll, as acts such as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, the Platters, the Rolling Stones, and others made its old songs new again.  
During his life he continually recognized, and found the markets for various roots music, that flourishes to this day. As his interest changed, he became director of the American Horticultural Society in 1959, and died in Los Angeles on January 19, 1960. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1984.

John Prine
"There are two kinds of people in this world. Those that love John Prine, and those that kick themselves for not loving him sooner."       
- Anonymous Tweet

COVID-19 claims revered singer-songwriter John Prine. 

There has been so much written and said about John Prine, that it's hard to know where to begin. He died on April 7 in Nashville of coronavirus complications. He was 73. Following are a few reflections -- including quotes from Prine himself . . .
"I wrote 'Sam Stone' and 'Hello in There' on the route (as a mail carrier in Maywood). When you're a mailman on the same route for a couple weeks there is nothing to do. You just try to drop the right mail at the right house and make sure you're on the right street. ... I likened the mail route to being in a library without any books. You just had time to be quiet and think, and that's where I would come up with a lot of songs."
            - John Prine
"Prine's stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mind trips to the Nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs."
            - Bob Dylan
When Prine heard Dylan's comment, he told the Chicago Tribune in 2010, "Proustian existentialism? I can't even pronounce that."
"My friend and hero John Prine, wrote 'Angel From Montgomery' and so many other songs that changed my life. He's a true folk singer in the best folk tradition, cutting right to the heart of things, as pure and simple as rain."
            - Bonnie Raitt
"I was kidding with John one time. I said, 'John, when I talk to people like the air-conditioning guy or the plumber, they say, "I tell ya, the guy I like is John Prine." They don't care about the other (singers).' And John said, 'Yeah, and I'm also big with pest-control people.' "
            - Ed Holstein
"We've lost not only one of the greatest singer-songwriters that the world's ever had, but in my mind one of the only ones, because of the voice. There aren't a lot of people that actually have their own voice, that don't sound imitative in any way. That was John. In songs about death, betrayal or loneliness, it seems to always include a light sense of irony or humor or absurdity -- everything mixed together in life, the way that it is. You just feel who he is when you're listening to his songs on a record. There's nothing between that brain and your heart when you're hearing his music. It's like the greatest magic act in all of singer-songwriterdom."
            - Robbie Fulks
"I'll get some of my best ideas behind a steering wheel rather than behind a guitar."
            John Prine
"He sings rather quietly, and his guitar work is good, but he doesn't show off. He starts slow. But after a song or two, even the drunks in the room begin to listen to his lyrics. And then he has you."
            - Roger Ebert
"(The Ryman Auditorium) is the place where the new John Prine -- older now, scarred by cancer surgeries, his voice deeper and full of gravel -- is most clearly still the old John Prine: mischievous, delighting in tomfoolery, but also worried about the world."
            Margaret Renkl (New York Times)
"John and I were 'New Dylans' together in the early 70s. (He was) a true national treasure and songwriter for the ages."
            - Bruce Springsteen
"It gets pretty, then it gets ugly, and then it gets pretty ugly,"            
            - John Prine (Commenting on his "gruff and unsteady" voice.)
"Can we please have a new Genre of Music officially recognized? Simply known as Prine?"
            - Anonymous Tweet
A reflection on John Prine
By Mark Dvorak
By the time I first picked up a guitar John and his songs were already there. It seemed they'd always been there. He grew up working class, not too far from where I grew up and somehow that resonated.
John became one of my musical suppliers -- lots of us were doing his songs as best we could early on. And then a day came when I realized how complete his writing voice was. How complete was his performing style. And what came with that realization was a thought that something else deep and profound was also going on beneath all his joking around and cornball-country simplicity. It was around that time I became serious about learning to develop my own writing and style. It's as if John was asking all along, "Ain't it kinda fun to find out how to be yourself?"
And I found myself headed to Tennessee one summer and took the long way, through Muhlenberg County in western Kentucky, not far from the Tennessee state line. The little town of Drakesboro is a place from where many guitar pickers have come and are honored. Mose Rager is from there and he showed everybody the Kentucky thumb-style picking including Ike Everly, father of the famous Everly brothers. Merle Travis grew up in the next town over, Greenville, which is a little bigger.

The quiet streets of Drakesboro are named for many of those famous Kentucky pickers. The main road into town is Highway 431 and the stretch of it through Drakesboro is named John Prine Avenue. The Paradise Fossil Plant is right there, or used to be, and you can order pie and a cup of coffee at the Paradise Cafe right there on the corner of Prine and Rager.
When I arrived at the little festival the next day, John and his songs, Drakesboro and fingerpicking guitar were on my mind. I closed my set that afternoon with John's great song, "Paradise." An old-timer waved over as I climbed down off the stage and asked about that last song I did. He said he knew all the songs from this part of the country and had never heard that one before. He about fell over when I told him it was written by a mailman from Chicago. He didn't believe me at all -- but I did send him a copy of it.


Bill Withers

Soul legend and three-time Grammy winner Bill Withers died March 20 in Los Angeles. He was 81. He is best known for timeless songs during the 1970s and 80s like "Lean on Me," "Lovely Day," "Use Me" and "Ain't No Sunshine." 
Withers released eight albums before walking away from the spotlight in 1985, but left an indelible mark on the music community and the world at large. His family released a statement describing Withers as "a solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large. With his music he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other."
Withers was born in a small coal-mining town in West Virginia, and struggled with a stutter, saying he had a hard time fitting in. After nine years in the Navy, he relocated to Los Angeles to start his musical career. 
His 1972 hit, "Lean On Me," became an inspirational anthem to those rising up after tragedy, or a rallying cry of togetherness and resilience in times of trouble, from earthquakes to hurricanes and other natural disasters. In 2020, "Lean On Me" quickly emerged as an anthem of hope and solidarity in this time of COVID-19, protest and social unrest.
Withers was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Little Richard
Flamboyant singer-instrumentalist Little Richard, whose high-voltage, keyboard-shattering R&B singles kick-started the '50s rock 'n' roll revolution, died May 9 in Tennessee. He was 87 (although some sources say he was older). 
Richard's manic 45s -- "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up," "Jenny Jenny," "Keep A-Knockin'" and "Good Golly Miss Molly" -- became major crossover hits in pop music and influenced many succeeding generations of rockers. Elvis Presley covered four of Richard's hits in his breakthrough year of 1956. The Beatles -- who shared a stage with him on a 1962 U.K. tour -- paid explicit homage to his style.
He was born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, GA and was nicknamed "Little Richard" as a boy because of his diminutive stature. Richard left home and school at the age of 15, and edged his way into secular music in traveling medicine shows and vaudeville units, and soon joined the Southern R&B "chitlin' circuit."
In 1957, at the height of his popularity, he quit rock 'n' roll, and undertook a new career as an evangelical minister and gospel singer. He made a splashy return to rock on his '62 tour of England and cashed in on the rock 'n' roll revival of the '60s and '70s, but returned to religion again in 1977. He was an inaugural inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and a 1993 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award honoree. 
Pompadoured, mustachioed, slathered with pancake makeup and mascara-painted eyes -- and graced with an ego as outsized as his personality and his voice, the daringly androgynous musician established himself as the wildest performer of his musical era. The rock 'n roll world will never forget that famous lyric --"Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom!"

Get Out of Your House -- Go Hear Some Music!

Soon the sun shall rise again (hopefully in the east). Let us not forget our friends when once again we can........


NOTE: Due to the current health crisis, most events at the following venues are cancelled. Check their web sites for details.
Two Way Street Coffee House
If you are near Downers Grove, please visit the  Two Way Street Event Calendar page for an up to date listing of the featured performers.

Maple Street Chapel Folk Concerts
If you are near Lombard, please visit the Maple Street Chapel Folk Concerts website to see a current listing of upcoming performers.

If you are near Hinsdale, please visit the Acoustic Renaissance website for a list of upcoming performers.

For those of you closer to the Wheaton area, please visit the Acorn Coffeehouse located in the Burning Bush Art Gallery at:
216 N. Main St

Tobias Music logoTobias Music concerts

Every once in awhile, our friends at Tobias host music in their new(ish) music room

OTSFM logo

The Old Town School of Folk Music presents folk music artists throughout the year if you suddenly find yourself near 4544 N. Lincoln Avenue.

Did you know that many of our local libraries also host occasional music events throughout the year? Harpeth Rising, Mark Dvorak, Chris Vallilo, and Lonesome Eagle all have been featured at several of our libraries in the past years.

Lisle Library's Friends of Lisle Library Concerts
are offered on a regular basis. You can check their calendar at:

 The Brashler Barn 

Located at 17560 S. Gougar Road, Lockport, IL 60441
Friends and Family Venue - Not a Public Business
No smoking, no alcohol, no pets, no children under 14 

A Special Thanks to our Membership Contributors!!

Sustaining Member
  • John J. Allan
Supporting Members ($50 - $199) 
  • Dan and Mary Anderson
  • Bill and Mary Boylan
  • Tony Janacek
  • Paul Klonowski
  • Dottie and Gerry Lee
  • Bill and Sandhya Matthews
  • George Mattson
  • Gregg and Elizabeth Morton
  • Bud O'Connor
  • Joe and Pam Schumacher
  • Jen & James Shilt
  • Carol and Fred Spanuello
  • Gary Steffenson
  • John Wolaver
New Members!
Say Hi to:
  • Betsy Anderson
  • Kevin Conlin
  • James Kezerle
  • Richard Krueger
  • Jill Lagerstrom
  • Mike Lake
  • Steve Langford
  • David Rockett
If you would like to become a member or just need to renew, here is a link to the renewal form that you can print and mail.
New Music 

Top 10 Indie Folk Albums
Once again from Paste Magazine, we have a list of new folk albums to present   

  1. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois (2005)
  2. Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
  3. Elliott Smith: Either/Or (1997)
  4. Phoebe Bridgers: Stranger in the Alps (2017)
  5. Gillian Welch: Revival (1996)
  6. Nick Drake: Pink Moon (1972)
  7. Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)
  8. Bright Eyes: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (2005)
  9. The Avett Brothers: Emotionalism (2007)
  10. Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt (2013)

If you have come across some new or little known artists that you think others might enjoy, please drop us a line.

2020 PRFMS Officers
Bob O'Hanlon - President
(630) 325-7764

Bill Lemos - VP, Secretary

Stephen Davis - Treasurer

2020 Board Members
  • Dave Humphreys
  • Kristen Fuller
  • Jennifer Shilt
  • Jim Gilroy
  • Dottie Lee

QuarterNotes Contributors

Stephen Davis
Bob O'Hanlon
Bill Lemos
Andy Malkewicz
Jen Shilt 

and thanks to the folks who took and shared their  photos!!!

President's Message
President's Message 
July, 2020
I hope this message finds everyone in good health. My family and I are doing well, meaning no virus cases, and we are following all current rules and guidelines. But, we are all hoping to get out and get going with our lives as soon as it is deemed safe and advisable.

Plank Road is still active throughout the phases of the pandemic; always cautious and safe, but doing what we can to keep our members involved in some music activities. How do you like the virtual sessions? While they are not perfect, we find them a nice way to stay connected and play some music together.

We are closely watching the Illinois "phases of reopening," and thinking ahead as to how we will proceed as things change. What will Phase 4 mean to us? We aren't sure yet. Some of our favorite Fall music events have already been cancelled, The Fox Valley Music Festival, and the Danada Fall Festival, where many Plank Road members perform on their music stage.

Our question is, when will we be able to gather together to play and sing? Keep watching our web site for updates, but we haven't scheduled anything yet. An outdoor session seems like a reasonable starting point, but that has a unique set of challenges. Be assured that we are constantly thinking about what to do next, and when. 

In the meantime, stay safe and stay in touch. Play your instruments; maybe learn some new songs.
Bob O'Hanlon 

Plank Road Goes Virtual 

A whole lotta Zoomin' goin' on!
Plank Road's popular events have gone "virtual"

The Coronavirus has thrown a monkey wrench into what we once called "normal," with quarantines, face masks, social distancing . . . and major disruptions of our day-to-day lives. Then came social unrest -- followed by a plague of locust? (OK, it was really just the 17-year locust, which are really cicadas. And they're gone now.)
While the pandemic is nothing to make light of, there has been a welcome glimpse of light when it comes to Plank Road's cancelled events, such as our Saturday sing-arounds. Thanks to:
  • George Mattson
  • Denise Davis
  • Timothy Kendall
  • Ron Leaneagh
  • Bob O'Hanlon
  • Dottie Lee
With their efforts, we've been able to gather -- virtually -- via the Internet and Zoom.
Sure, there are some issues with sound. For example, we can't all sing together -- only the person leading the song is "live" while the rest of us are muted. But for everyone participating, we can still sing and play along from the comfort of home. The only difference is nobody else can hear you. Which might be a good thing?
More virtual events every month . . .

  • Twice-a-month Saturday Sing-arounds, led by George.
  • Bob's 4th Saturday Country/Western Sing-arounds.
  • 5th Saturday Bluegrass sessions with Eric Lambert.
  • Once-a-month Tuesday evening BYOS sessions with George.
And on June 19, Two Way Street presented its first live virtual concert with Eric Lambert and Char, followed by a concert by Heather Styka on June 26.
Lots going on! All you need is a computer, a tablet or a smart phone. Just look for emails from Plank Road and Two Way Street with links to Zoom, or check the schedules on our website or Facebook page. 

While it's not quite the same as live-and in-person, it's a wonderful option during these strange and difficult times. Plus, you get to see all your old Plank Road friends -- and you don't have to wear a mask!

Revised Website
Announcing the revised, refreshed (and really cool) Plank Road website!
Got extra time on your hands? Tired of watching TV or working puzzles? Take a break and check out Plank Road's refreshed website. It's more intuitive