The Folksmen

... Pamela Stephenson
Harry Shearer .... Mark Shubb
Michael McKean ... Jerry Palter
Christopher Guest ... Alan Barrows



[Pamela Stephenson stands in front of the newsstand at Home Base addressing the camera.]

Pamela Stephenson: This week, Saturday Night Live is proud to present the reunion of one of the great folk groups of the early 1960s, the legendary Folksmen. Earlier this week, our cameras were there for their first rehearsal together in nearly twenty years.

[Cut to film segment. The Folksmen, three casually-dressed middle-aged men who vaguely resemble the popular old folk group The Kingston Trio, rehearse in what looks like a little college classroom, tuning their stringed instruments noisily.]

Alan Barrows: That's close enough, isn't it?

[Cut to solo interview footage of bespectacled guitarist Jerry Palter, the only member who seems to have kept all of his hair - and most of his sanity. SUPER: Jerry Palter]

Jerry Palter: There's nothing wrong with the - the rock 'n' roll and let the kids have a good time because, uh, er, that's what youth is. Youth is - is having a good time. [big grin] But man is an acoustic instrument.

[Cut to solo interview footage of bald but bearded stand-up bass player Mark Shubb, the most socially-concerned member of the group. SUPER: Mark Shubb]

Mark Shubb: Basically, we retained our thrust, I think, all the way through and that was, you know, the Folksmen were - were a good time -- and a lot more.

[Cut to solo interview footage of balding, bespectacled Alan Barrows, the mellowest, spaciest, most burnt-out of these sixties survivors. SUPER: Alan Barrows]

Alan Barrows: When folk music, uh, as we knew, ended, it was a nightmare for me. I - I-- It took me two years of just literal nightmares, waking up in the middle of the night and - and wrenching my neck, screaming, uh, to - to - uh, to - to get used to the fact that this was no more.

[As Barrows speaks, we dissolve to an old 1960s Folksmen album entitled TRAVELIN' - the cover image shows the young group with all their hair - it's on the "Hootsville" label and features their hit song "Old Joe's Place." Cut to rehearsal footage of the group in the little room. Barrows plays a zither and sings an extremely corny barnyard number:]

Alan Barrows: [sings]
The cow goes moo!
And the pig goes [snuffle]!
And the chickens go chick-a-dick-a-dee!
And the dog goes ruff!
And the cat goes meow!
It's a barnyard symphony!


[During this goofy ode, we pan over to Shubb on bass and Palter on guitar solemnly playing accompaniment.]

Jerry Palter: Makes me think about when the kids were - were young. You know, when Barry and you used to play together--

Alan Barrows: Well, I used to sing that song to Barry. Sure.

Jerry Palter: I'm sure he still remembers.

Mark Shubb: [bluntly] Makes me think that, er, they're going to boo us off the stage if we do that.

Jerry Palter: Right.

[Quick dissolve to later in the rehearsal:]

Jerry Palter: You know, we might want to start off with, is - the, uh--

Mark Shubb: Not - not--

Jerry Palter: Not "Old Joe's Place."

Alan Barrows: Not "Old Joe's Place."

Jerry Palter: No.

Alan Barrows: For God's sake--

Mark Shubb: Don't throw that at me.

Jerry Palter: The, um, the - the train disaster. "The Old '97."

Alan Barrows: "The Old 97," sure.

Jerry Palter: I think it's a great number.

Alan Barrows: Yeah.

[Cut to the trio (Barrow now on mandolin) as they play a rollicking version of "The Old 97" - Palter and Shubb bob their heads to the rhythm.]

Mark Shubb: [to Palter] Like riding a bicycle.

Jerry Palter: [sings]
Blood on the tra-acks, blood in the mine!
Brothers and sisters, what a terrible time!
Old Ninety-Seven went in the wrong hole
Now, in Mine Number Sixty, there's blood on the coal!


Alan Barrows: [joins in] Blood on the coal!

Mark Shubb: [joins in] Blood on the coal!

[All three voices harmonize beautifully and stretch the word "coal."]

Jerry Palter: [instructs the group] Really make that swell.

Alan Barrows: [nods, to Palter] Do you think we should--?

Jerry Palter: [interrupts, sings a verse]
Seventeenth of April in the year of Ninety-One
'Bout a mile below the surface and the West Virginia sunnnnnnnn
One shift was ending and the early shift was late
And the foreman ate his dinner from a dirty - tin - plate!


Mark Shubb: [cheesy deep-throated interjection] Hey!

The Folksmen: [all sing the chorus]
Blood on the tracks, blood on the mine!
Brothers and sisters, what a terrible time!


Jerry Palter: [breaks off singing, interrupts] You know what? [all stop playing] It's - it's - it's gonna - it's gonna start getting long though, I think.

Alan Barrows: Yeah.

Mark Shubb: [bluntly] It already did.

Jerry Palter: Yeah. Because we've got all those chorus repeats and all those verses and, uh--

Mark Shubb: Well, this is something I always wanted to say when we were doing it.

Alan Barrows: Cut the two middle verses.

Mark Shubb: Cut the repeats of the choruses.

[Cut to solo interview footage of Palter:]

Jerry Palter: When Albert Lilienthal called us and said, "Would you like to do this show?" I mean, just-- of course, he's a legend. He's the man who booked all the great folk acts. He's the man who established the Eighty-eight Cent Hoot at the Seaman's Institute and all these - these remarkable things. Giving young performers a place to start and everything. And here he was calling us "old fogies," you know, and it just-- I got such a kick out of it and I said, "I'm there."

[Cut to rehearsal footage of the group in the little room.]

Jerry Palter: You know the train is gonna crash into the mine. I mean, it's just--

Mark Shubb: If you know what's gonna happen, why sing - why sing the song?

Jerry Palter: Well--

Alan Barrows: But, you know-- But that's like saying, when you go - you go and see a movie like "Moby Dick," you know he's big.

[Cut to solo interview footage of Barrows at his mellowest:]

Alan Barrows: I've been teaching for, uh, thirteen years, at Swarthmore. I teach a creative writing course and, uh, I teach, uh -- not connected with university -- but I teach a yoga class on the side, uh, as well, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

[Cut to rehearsal footage of the group in the little room as they squabble politely over which song to sing.]

Jerry Palter: [to Shubb, who nods] I'd love to be able to do the Spanish song.

Alan Barrows: We could do the barnyard number. It's only a minute.

Mark Shubb: [to Palter] "Valencia"?

Jerry Palter: [patiently, to Barrows] Well, I don't think we're gonna do the barnyard--

Mark Shubb: "Valencia"? Now, if we do "Valencia," then I'd say cut all the verses because then we're telling a story--

Jerry Palter: [to Barrows] What do you think of that? What do you think of doing "Valencia"?

Alan Barrows: It's in Spanish! I don't remember my Spanish.

Jerry Palter: Well, I don't remember it--

Mark Shubb: You don't have to remember. We can fake it. But it's a Spanish Civil War song...

Alan Barrows: Yeah.

Mark Shubb: ... it says we're still concerned.

Alan Barrows: Yeah.

[Cut to solo interview footage of Shubb:]

Mark Shubb: Those were special times. Uh, we were doing something, we were saying something, we were - meaning something - to people and, uh, that means something to you. [indicates himself]

[Cut to rehearsal footage of the group in the little room:]

Alan Barrows: [to Palter] Can I do an instrumental, then?

Jerry Palter: On what?

Alan Barrows: We have time for that?

Mark Shubb: [to Barrows, a little contemptuous] You'd rather play than tell a story? Is that what you're saying?

Alan Barrows: I'd do-- Do both.

Jerry Palter: [to Barrows, reasonable] How 'bout this? Whatever number we do, we'll let you vamp for the first fif-- thirty seconds.

Alan Barrows: Okay. Sure.

Mark Shubb: [abruptly] It's so good to see you.

Jerry Palter: It's good to see you, too.

Alan Barrows: It's good to see all of us.

Mark Shubb: Yeah, it is.

Alan Barrows: It's been too long.

[The trio sits in stone silence for a long reflective moment before we dissolve back to Pamela Stephenson who is live in the studio.]

Pamela Stephenson: [cheerfully, to the crowd] And now, live and together for the first time in eighteen years, the Folksmen!

[Cheers and applause as we dissolve to the three musicians, seated on stools at Home Base, wearing Kingston Trio-like tan slacks, white socks, loafers and red-and-white striped shirts. A lighted sign hangs in the background - it should read EAT AT JOE'S but some of the bulbs are out so, instead, it reads EA A JOE' - The Folksmen play their upbeat hit song, "Old Joe's Place."]

Jerry Palter: [sings, wholesomely]
Whenever I'm out a-wanderin', chasin' a rainbow dream
I often stop and think about a place I've never seen


Alan Barrows: [sings, froggily]
Where friendly folks can gather and raise the rafters high


The Folksmen: [sing]
With songs and tales of yesteryear until they say good-bye!


Alan Barrows: [sings, froggily] Theeeeeere's aaaaaaaaa ...

The Folksmen: [sing the chorus]
... puppy in the parlor and a skillet on the stove
And a smelly old blanket that a Navajo wove
There's chicken on the table but you gotta say grace
There's always somethin' cookin' at Old Joe's Place


Jerry Palter: [sings, wholesomely, as the other harmonize behind him]
Now, folks come 'round 'bout evenin' time soon as the sun goes down
Some drop in from right next door and some from out of town


[Barrows plucks out a solo on his guitar as the others look on with feigned interest.]

Alan Barrows: [sings, froggily]
Weeeeelllllllll - eeeelllllll - There's a ...


The Folksmen: [sing the chorus]
... puppy in the parlor and a skillet on the stove
And a smelly old blanket that a Navajo wove
There's popcorn in the popper and a porker in the pot
There's pie in the pantry and the coffee's always hot
There's chicken on the table but you gotta say grace
There's always somethin' cookin' at Old Joe's Place


Jerry Palter: [sings, wholesomely]
Now, they don't allow no frowns inside, just leave 'em by the door
There's apple brandy by the keg


Mark Shubb: [sings, a deep bass]
And sawdust on the floor


Alan Barrows: [sings, froggily]
So, if you've got a hank'rin', I'll tell ya where to go


The Folksmen: [sing]
Just look for the busted neon sign that flashes--


Mark Shubb: [sings, a deep bass, points to broken sign] Ea' a' Joe'!

The Folksmen: [sing the chorus]
There's a puppy in the parlor and a skillet on the stove
And a smelly old blanket that a Navajo wove
There's popcorn in the popper and a porker in the pot
There's pie in the pantry and the coffee's always hot
There's sausage in the morning and a party every night
There's a nurse on duty if you don't feel right
There's chicken on the table but you gotta say grace


[Pause as all three take a deep breath and sigh as Palter pretends to wipe sweat from his brow]

The Folksmen: Whew!

The Folksmen: [sing]
There's always somethin' cookin' at Old Joe's Pla-a-a-a-ace!


[They finish big to cheers and applause. As the others continue to play a rhythm, Barrows rises and addresses the audience:]

Alan Barrows: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. We'd like to have everybody sing along now! So join us!

[Barrows sits and the trio blasts through an even faster version of the chorus, impossible to sing along to.]

The Folksmen: [sing the chorus]
There's a puppy in the parlor and a skillet on the stove
And a smelly old blanket that a Navajo wove
There's popcorn in the popper and a porker in the pot
There's pie in the pantry and the coffee's always hot
There's sausage in the morning and a party every night


Mark Shubb: Come on!

Alan Barrows: [waves to crowd] Come on, everybody!

The Folksmen: [sing]
There's a nurse on duty if you don't feel right
There's chicken on the table but you gotta say grace


[Applause before the trio finishes with their pause, deep sigh, and wiping the sweat from their brows:]

The Folksmen: Whew!

The Folksmen: [sing]
There's always somethin' cookin' at Old Joe's Pla-a-a-a-ace!


[ fade ]


Submitted Anonymously


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