The Norman Transcript

Columns

February 2, 2014

Pete Seeger’s visit to Norman came with a price

NORMAN — When retired OU professor Bob Goins learned of the death of 94-year-old folk singer Pete Seeger this past week, he went to his personal archives on a treasure hunt. There it was. After more than 50 years, a copy of a poster Goins created while an OU student promoting Seeger’s appearance in Norman.

He thinks it was in 1956 or 1957 because the concert came about the time Seeger and dozens of other writers and musicians were blacklisted by the U.S. Congress for alleged communist leanings. Goins had finished his time in the military in 1954 and was in graduate school.

The Oklahoma legislature was also sniffing around on campus in hopes of ferreting out those left-leaning professors.

“He (Seeger) was on the blacklist therefore the university wouldn’t let him come to the campus and perform,” recalls Goins, a Norman native who retired from the OU College of Architecture. “Joe McCarthy’s era had tainted much of the country.”

———

That sentiment didn’t stop Goins and his friends from inviting Seeger to Norman. They followed his anti-war and pro-union music and heard Seeger was to perform in Stillwater. Perhaps they could entice him to Norman since he was in the state.

Yes, he would do a stopover in Norman, but the hosts would have to put up $200 and find a friendly venue. Between them, the friends couldn’t come up with $200. Goins, back from the Korean War, had recently purchased a 1954, two-tone Oldsmobile hard-top. He had an idea.

“I was really hooked on his music so I offered to mortgage my car at City National Bank,” Goins recalls. “I got my $200 back through ticket sales.”

———

Seeger, born in New York, enrolled at Harvard but dropped out after a couple of years seeking work as a journalist. He decided composing songs was more fun than writing news stories and he traveled the country in pursuit of people who could teach him folk songs.

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