Plank Road Folk Music Society 


Autumn, October 2020 |
In This Issue
Plank Road's Regular Events in conjunction with Two Way Street: 

Please join us for our "virtual" get togethers online, via Zoom -- co-sponsored by Two Way Street Coffee House. Be sure to check the Two Way Street website, Plank Road website or Facebook page for details and links to each event.

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!
2nd Tues. |  7-9 pm
A monthly opportunity for musicians to perform songs for each other, within a song circle.
Bring Your Own Song!

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

Coping with COVID-19

Spanuellos entertain special-needs teens and adults during Coronavirus

"We felt the need to do something beneficial for others during this difficult time."
Fred and Carol Spanuello found a wonderful way to enjoy their love of music while helping a group of special people during the pandemic -- without leaving their home. 
Carol shares their experience:
"We performed our first virtual weekly show, "Music Mania," for Lincolnway Special Recreation Center in New Lenox on April 13th and finished on July 27th --
including over 150 songs!  It's a wonderful organization for special-needs children and adults. We responded to a request from Anna Stange, who was looking for musicians to perform via Zoom for this group."
The Spanuello's home "broadcast studio"
"Our first show included us demonstrating seven instruments, and included a brief history of each. We tried to incorporate a theme each week which was challenging as we progressed. Some of the themes included subjects such as rain, summer, food, patriotic, dream, transportation. Anything from Woody Guthrie to show tunes were included."  

"Fred and I had a wonderful time selecting songs each week and discovered songs we had never performed, so this was sometimes a bit of a stretch with arranging and learning new songs each week. We really dug into Fred's books of over 400 songs as we tried to meet the "theme" challenge each week."  
Fred and Carol are shown performing in this Zoom screen image.

"It was fun being able to pull from so many instruments, including flute, guitar, mandolin, harmonica, bass harmonica, upright bass, bass ukulele, ukulele. In all we performed over 150 songs over the weeks. We really enjoyed seeing some of the viewers with their instruments as well. I'd always announce the history of the song and let them know the key we were playing in so they could play along if they wished.
"We really enjoyed volunteering for this effort. It was so early in the pandemic and we felt the need to do something beneficial for others during this difficult time and this opportunity filled that need."
- Carol Spanuello

The year 2020 -- What a long, strange trip it's been.
Coping with COVID-19 . . . how are we all doing?

What a year . . .  a world-wide pandemic that has turned our lives upside down . . . bizarre and unprecedented political shenanigans . . . nationwide social unrest . . . not to mention tornados, hurricanes, massive wildfires . . . and virtual Plank Road sing-arounds. Just a few of the events we've experienced so far this year.
Let's talk.
What are some of your experiences, thoughts, fears and reflections about the pandemic? Are we used to face masks and social distancing? Staying home, cancelling vacations, missing friends and restaurants? Worrying about elderly parents, or whether it's safe to send your kids to school? Longing for in-person Saturday sing-arounds?
We'd like to publish some of your thoughts in our next issue, January 2021, as we embark on the new year. If you'd like to comment on your feelings and experiences during the coronavirus, just drop us a line at (You can request to be anonymous, if you prefer.) 

Two Way Street update
Two Way Street announces staff changes . . .
Welcome Joel Simpson and Jennifer Ashley as new co-directors! 
Two Way Street Coffee House, the venerable Downers Grove folk venue and long-time partner of Plank Road, recently announced staff changes. Tim Kendall, who has ably served as 2WS director since Dave Humphreys retired in late 2017, decided he'd like to step down from the day-to-day responsibilities. And that's when Joel Simpson and Jennifer Ashley offered to assume the roles of co-directors of Two Way Street. 
As members of Plank Road, Joel and Jennifer want to build on our long and successful relationship with Two Way Street. They are keenly aware of the potential the two organizations have as we work together.
"I am looking forward to working with Jen and Joel," says Bob O'Hanlon. "Their enthusiasm and creativity are contagious and we are all anxious to watch them in action, and partner with them whenever possible." 

Meet Ashley & Simpson . . .

"It is a great honor to become director of a place that has been such a special part of my life.  I'm looking forward to carrying on the history, tradition and feeling of community that I've always felt at Two Way Street."  
- Joel Simpson

"The welcoming atmosphere and great people made me fall in love with Two Way Street instantly, and I'm thrilled to be part of such an amazing folk institution."    
- Jennifer Ashley
 As most of you know, Joel and Jennifer are the popular folk-duo Ashley & Simpson. They've attended many Plank Road events, and have performed at numerous venues such as Two Way Street, Fox Valley Folk Festival, Danada Fall Festival, Folk Alliance Region Midwest (FARM), as well as Lilly Kuzma's Folk Festival broadcast, and more. In addition, they operate Randomosity Records, an independent record label in Downers Grove.
Joel's history with Plank Road goes way back. His father, Ron Simpson, was an early member of Plank Road in the 1990s. In fact, Ron was one of the artists who performed on the cassette music collections produced by Plank Road. (See article about reissued albums, above.)
We're excited to welcome Jennifer and Joel in their new role at Two Way Street, and look forward to continuing our valuable partnership with them. 

A little history from Dave Humphreys . . .
"I founded 2WS in 1970, and retired officially at the end of 2017 as Director. Tim became Director at that time, although we had been transitioning for more than a year. Tim had been my assistant at 2WS for many years. He is remaining on staff at 2WS as Assistant Director. 

Joel Simpson came often to 2WS as a young child. His dad, Ron Simpson, often performed at 2WS, frequently in a duo with Roscoe Champ, and son Joel began by singing along. Both Ron and Roscoe have passed, but Joel performs widely in a duo with Jennifer Ashley, as well as running a record company and teaching guitar. 

Joel and Jennifer are now Co-Directors of 2WS -- and the coffee house is in good hands!"

We get letters . . .
We get letters . . . sometimes.
We don't often get letters, but when we do, we print 'em!  Especially if they're complimentary. Thanks Dottie and Connie for your nice comments.

The (July) issue looks great!  I learned so much music history reading it today. Thanks to all who made this another grand issue of QuarterNotes -- it is sure to be uplifting to our members!
-   Dottie Lee
Nice Quarter Notes!!! (And I sent it to my two sons!) I am so grateful to be part of PRFMS!
-   Connie Lawlor


Trini Lopez
Trini Lopez, who had worldwide hit records in the early 1960s, died August 11 from complications of COVID-19 at age 83. His blend of American folk, Latin and rockabilly music captivated listeners worldwide. His secret: arrangements that people could dance to.
Lopez's two biggest records, "If I Had a Hammer" and "Lemon Tree," had both been hits for Peter, Paul and Mary several years earlier. But Lopez's versions soared even higher on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, with "Hammer" reaching No. 3 in the U.S. and  No. 1 in 36 countries. 
Lopez capitalized on the popularity of folk music at the time, and punctuated many of his songs with joyous hoots and trills drawn from Mexican folk music. He emphasized his ethnic heritage at a time when many Latin performers kept theirs hidden. "I'm proud to be a Mexicano," he told The Seattle Times in 2017.
Trinidad Lopez III was born in Dallas. When Trini was 11, his father bought him a $12 guitar from a pawnshop and taught him to play. "That was the biggest reward of my life," he said.
Trini began performing for coins on street corners, playing traditional Mexican songs. He took inspiration from the hits of blues artists as well as early rockers like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly.
Lopez's pivotal break came after he landed a steady gig at P.J.'s, a Los Angeles hangout for Hollywood stars. Frank Sinatra saw his show and arranged for his record label to sign him. Inspired by the energy of the shows, the studio decided to record Lopez's first album live at P.J.'s -- including the sound of the audience clapping along to every song.
Lopez was also an accomplished guitar player, and in 1964 Gibson Guitars invited him to design two instruments -- which are now collectors' items. Lopez also appeared on TV specials and in several movies.

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........


Several venues are hosting live stream events.  When I checked last week, I even saw that The Brashlear Barn was planning a live concert with limited attendance!
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

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 

Songs about mines and miners

Coal Miner and family

In no particular order 
Do we remember to think of the miners when we turn on the lights?  Have you ever visited a coal mine company town?  check this out - Eckley Miners Village  next time you visit Wilkes-Barre

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 
October, 2020
Fall is here and Plank Road has been busy behind the scenes, working to provide some interesting things for our members, during this long Covid ordeal. Obviously, we are still doing our events via Zoom, rather than in person, and several annual activities have been cancelled, but here is what will happen in the fourth quarter.
First, I want to acknowledge Plank Road 's 35th anniversary of our founding. It happened in 1985, in Brookfield, IL, and many of the original group are still around -- Dave Reynolds, Mark Dvorak, Jones Family, Lagerstrom family, Len and Gail Clark, Marianne Mohrhusen, just to name a few. I always say that it is hard to maintain any organization or activity for 35 years, and here we are, still growing, adding new members and new events.
Please mark your calendar for an upcoming virtual concert/workshop led by Mark Dvorak on Saturday, November 14. This is billed as an event for Plank Road members (although, as usual, everyone is welcome to join us).
Another project that we are excited about is the release of some old music that was created by a group of Plank Road members in 1995. This music was recorded on cassette tapes, and we are working with Joel Simpson to update the format, and release these songs to many streaming services, so anyone can hear them.
There is more information about both of these events elsewhere in this issue of QuarterNotes. 
So, although we can't see you in person, we are always thinking about you, and trying to present activities that we can all enjoy, considering necessary precautions. 
Have a nice holiday season, stay healthy, and think about better times ahead, when we can once again enjoy each other's company in person.

Bob O'Hanlon 

"Vintage" Plank Road Tapes Going Digital


Plank Road to re-release digital versions of folksong albums.
Listen to "long-forgotten" recordings from the mid-1990s by some legendary Plank Road members!  

"I once was lost, but now am found..."

Twenty-five years ago a group of Plank Road performers got together in a professional recording studio and produced two cassette albums of great folk music. Many of the artists are still around -- and still performing. George Mattson, Mark Dvorak, Dave Humphreys, Cathy Jones, Jill Lagerstrom and Dale Stallman, just to name a few.
These tapes were forgotten, perhaps never to be heard again. But then Joel Simpson came up with the idea of updating and releasing them. He got in touch with Bob O'Hanlon and proposed that Plank Road look into having the tapes converted to a digital format. Then offer them -- free-of-charge -- on over 200 streaming services like Spotify, Amazon, SoundCloud, Apple and more, so we can all listen to them whenever we want through a phone app or computer. They'll also be available on video platforms like YouTube and Instagram. 
A member "bonus" to celebrate our 35th Anniversary.
After meeting with Joel, Bob and the Plank Road board agreed this would be a nice benefit for our members -- and a perfect fit with our mission statement, to preserve and promote traditional folk music. It's also a great way to look back at our long history as we recognize Plank Road's 35th Anniversary.
The original producer, Maurice Smeets, who has the master tapes, was contacted and agreed to help. Production is now underway, with Joel Simpson leading the process. The first album is expected to release around mid-October, with the second album a month or so later. We'll let you know as soon as they're available.
Take a look at these labels from the original cassettes and see how many great old songs -- and familiar performers -- you recognize. Imagine how these songs will sound in a clean, pristine digital format. Oh yeah!


"Folks will be able to use their choice of platform and simply enjoy their listening experience -- except they won't have to flip the cassette!"    - Joel Simpson

Virtual Workshop and Concert
November 14 . . . save the date!

A Plank Road Afternoon with 
Mark Dvorak.

Exciting news for Plank Road members! As part of our 35th Anniversary celebration, and as an extra benefit for members during this long pandemic shutdown, Plank Road is presenting a special event by Mark Dvorak on Saturday, November 14, from 2 - 4 PM. Mark will be live-streaming a combination mini-concert and workshop. And it's free to Plank Road members!
Join guitarist, banjo player and singer-songwriter Mark Dvorak for an afternoon of song, instruction and Q & A. Dvorak will perform a short selection of songs from his most recent release, Let Love Go On, and respond to questions about technique, repertoire, practice tips and songwriting. 
Here's how it works . . .
Final details are still being worked out, but this is the plan:
  • Several days before the event, a link will be provided in an email to the membership, as well as on the Plank Road website and Facebook page. 
  • With your computer, smart phone or tablet, simply click on the link to access the presentation. 
  • Sit back in the comfort of your home and enjoy!
Mark will invite participants to submit questions or requests via email. You can ask about instrumental techniques, songwriting tips, weird chords, vocal approaches, recommendations about instruments and accessories -- whatever you're curious about. Or, you can request a favorite song for him to play.    
Check our website and Facebook page in November for complete information!
Remembering Michael Smith
Michael Smith, a "gentle force in folk music."
Chicago's legendary singer-songwriter, famous for "The Dutchman." 
Michael Peter Smith, once called by Rolling Stone "the greatest songwriter in the English language," passed away August 3, at his home in Chicago. Starting in the 1960s, he sang and composed rich and challenging songs that have been recorded by dozens of performers. He was best known for writing "The Dutchman," which was popularized by Steve Goodman, and recorded by many other artists.
One writer said many of his songs created emotional realities that "let you feel along with his characters." He never became a household name like Goodman or John Prine, but was a "prodigious talent" who wrote many hundreds of songs. 
Smith was born in New Jersey where he discovered the guitar and rock'n'roll. His family later moved to Florida, and while in college, he became interested in folk music. He, like so many of his generation, was influenced by the Kingston Trio and Harry Belafonte.
In 1976 Smith moved to Chicago where he became a regular in the city's folk clubs. When work dwindled, he became inactive for several years, but continued to write songs that were played and recorded by others. He performed only occasionally over the years (including at Two Way Street) but continued to release albums, most recently in 2018.
Michael Smith was 78.

Vicki Ingle remembers Michael Smith: