The Folksmen


The Folksmen

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


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

Pamela Stephenson: This week, Saturday NightLive is proud to present the reunion of one of thegreat folk groups of the early 1960s, the legendaryFolksmen. Earlier this week, our cameras were therefor their first rehearsal together in nearly twentyyears.

[Cut to film segment. The Folksmen, threecasually-dressed middle-aged men who vaguely resemblethe popular old folk group The Kingston Trio, rehearsein what looks like a little college classroom, tuningtheir stringed instruments noisily.]

Alan Barrows: That’s close enough, isn’tit?

[Cut to solo interview footage of bespectacledguitarist Jerry Palter, the only member who seems tohave 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 timebecause, uh, er, that’s what youth is. Youth is – ishaving a good time. [big grin] But man is an acousticinstrument.

[Cut to solo interview footage of bald but beardedstand-up bass player Mark Shubb, the mostsocially-concerned member of the group. SUPER: MarkShubb]

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 lotmore.

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

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

[As Barrows speaks, we dissolve to an old 1960sFolksmen album entitled TRAVELIN’ – the cover imageshows the young group with all their hair – it’s onthe “Hootsville” label and features their hit song”Old Joe’s Place.” Cut to rehearsal footage of thegroup in the little room. Barrows plays a zither andsings 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 bassand Palter on guitar solemnly playingaccompaniment.]

Jerry Palter: Makes me think about when thekids were – were young. You know, when Barry and youused to play together–

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

Jerry Palter: I’m sure he stillremembers.

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

Jerry Palter: Right.

[Quick dissolve to later in the rehearsal:]

Jerry Palter: You know, we might want to startoff 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 traindisaster. “The Old ’97.”

Alan Barrows: “The Old 97,” sure.

Jerry Palter: I think it’s a greatnumber.

Alan Barrows: Yeah.

[Cut to the trio (Barrow now on mandolin) as they playa rollicking version of “The Old 97” – Palter andShubb bob their heads to the rhythm.]

Mark Shubb: [to Palter] Like riding abicycle.

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 thecoal!

Alan Barrows: [joins in] Blood on thecoal!

Mark Shubb: [joins in] Blood on thecoal!

[All three voices harmonize beautifully and stretchthe word “coal.”]

Jerry Palter: [instructs the group] Really makethat swell.

Alan Barrows: [nods, to Palter] Do you think weshould–?

Jerry Palter: [interrupts, sings averse]
Seventeenth of April in the year of Ninety-One
‘Bout a mile below the surface and the West Virginiasunnnnnnnn
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 terribletime!

Jerry Palter: [breaks off singing, interrupts]You know what? [all stop playing] It’s – it’s – it’sgonna – it’s gonna start getting long though, Ithink.

Alan Barrows: Yeah.

Mark Shubb: [bluntly] It already did.

Jerry Palter: Yeah. Because we’ve got all thosechorus repeats and all those verses and, uh–

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

Alan Barrows: Cut the two middleverses.

Mark Shubb: Cut the repeats of thechoruses.

[Cut to solo interview footage of Palter:]

Jerry Palter: When Albert Lilienthal called usand said, “Would you like to do this show?” I mean,just– of course, he’s a legend. He’s the man whobooked all the great folk acts. He’s the man whoestablished the Eighty-eight Cent Hoot at the Seaman’sInstitute and all these – these remarkable things.Giving young performers a place to start andeverything. And here he was calling us “old fogies,”you know, and it just– I got such a kick out of itand I said, “I’m there.”

[Cut to rehearsal footage of the group in the littleroom.]

Jerry Palter: You know the train isgonna 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 likesaying, 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 hismellowest:]

Alan Barrows: I’ve been teaching for, uh,thirteen years, at Swarthmore. I teach a creativewriting course and, uh, I teach, uh — not connectedwith university — but I teach a yoga class on theside, uh, as well, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

[Cut to rehearsal footage of the group in the littleroom as they squabble politely over which song tosing.]

Jerry Palter: [to Shubb, who nods] I’d love tobe 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, Idon’t think we’re gonna do the barnyard–

Mark Shubb: “Valencia”? Now, if we do”Valencia,” then I’d say cut all the verses becausethen we’re telling a story–

Jerry Palter: [to Barrows] What do you think ofthat? What do you think of doing “Valencia”?

Alan Barrows: It’s in Spanish! I don’t remembermy Spanish.

Jerry Palter: Well, I don’t rememberit–

Mark Shubb: You don’t have to remember.We can fake it. But it’s a Spanish Civil Warsong…

Alan Barrows: Yeah.

Mark Shubb: … it says we’re stillconcerned.

Alan Barrows: Yeah.

[Cut to solo interview footage of Shubb:]

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

[Cut to rehearsal footage of the group in the littleroom:]

Alan Barrows: [to Palter] Can I do aninstrumental, 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 whatyou’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 vampfor the first fif– thirty seconds.

Alan Barrows: Okay. Sure.

Mark Shubb: [abruptly] It’s so good to seeyou.

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

Alan Barrows: It’s good to see all ofus.

Mark Shubb: Yeah, it is.

Alan Barrows: It’s been too long.

[The trio sits in stone silence for a long reflectivemoment before we dissolve back to Pamela Stephensonwho is live in the studio.]

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

[Cheers and applause as we dissolve to the threemusicians, seated on stools at Home Base, wearingKingston Trio-like tan slacks, white socks, loafersand red-and-white striped shirts. A lighted sign hangsin the background – it should read EAT AT JOE’S butsome of the bulbs are out so, instead, it reads EA AJOE’ – The Folksmen play their upbeat hit song, “OldJoe’s Place.”]

Jerry Palter: [sings, wholesomely]
Whenever I’m out a-wanderin’, chasin’ a rainbowdream
I often stop and think about a place I’ve neverseen

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

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

Alan Barrows: [sings, froggily] Theeeeeere’saaaaaaaaa …

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 saygrace
There’s always somethin’ cookin’ at Old Joe’sPlace

Jerry Palter: [sings, wholesomely, as the otherharmonize behind him]
Now, folks come ’round ’bout evenin’ time soon as thesun goes down
Some drop in from right next door and some from out oftown

[Barrows plucks out a solo on his guitar as the otherslook 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 thepot
There’s pie in the pantry and the coffee’s alwayshot
There’s chicken on the table but you gotta saygrace
There’s always somethin’ cookin’ at Old Joe’sPlace

Jerry Palter: [sings, wholesomely]
Now, they don’t allow no frowns inside, just leave ’emby 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 togo

The Folksmen: [sing]
Just look for the busted neon sign thatflashes–

Mark Shubb: [sings, a deep bass, points tobroken sign]Ea’ a’ Joe’!

The Folksmen: [sing the chorus]
There’s a puppy in the parlor and a skillet on thestove
And a smelly old blanket that a Navajo wove
There’s popcorn in the popper and a porker in thepot
There’s pie in the pantry and the coffee’s alwayshot
There’s sausage in the morning and a party everynight
There’s a nurse on duty if you don’t feel right
There’s chicken on the table but you gotta saygrace

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

The Folksmen: Whew!

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

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

Alan Barrows: Thank you very much. Thank you.Thank you. Thank you very much. We’d like to haveeverybody sing along now! So join us!

[Barrows sits and the trio blasts through an evenfaster version of the chorus, impossible to sing alongto.]

The Folksmen: [sing the chorus]
There’s a puppy in the parlor and a skillet on thestove
And a smelly old blanket that a Navajo wove
There’s popcorn in the popper and a porker in thepot
There’s pie in the pantry and the coffee’s alwayshot
There’s sausage in the morning and a party everynight

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 saygrace

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

The Folksmen: Whew!

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

[ fade ]

Submitted Anonymously

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