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Allan Block: Fiddler, Poet, Sandal-maker

Allan Block-Andy May-01

Allan on fiddle backed by Andy on guitar. c. 1980 in Massachusetts. Photo by Deborah Robson.

My friend, Allan Block, was a colorful person – very much an individual. He was a great fiddler, a fine musician, and a wonderful poet and leather craftsman. Part of what made Allan so unique was that he was able to be all of these things and run a business at the same time. His sandal-making shop was an established part of New York City’s West Village for many years. And on Saturday afternoons, it became the meeting place for one of the best Old-Time Music jam sessions in the Northeast USA.

Allan Block at Indian Neck, c. 1967. From the Ronald D. Cohen Collection, Southern Folklife Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Allan Block, c. 1967.

Allan was a very intelligent man, and he had high standards when it came to his music. But he was also kindhearted, which meant that younger players like me and my friend Kenny Kosek could find a place in the mix of players at his shop on Saturday afternoons and, as Bill Monroe might have said, “be part of something.”

Playing music with Allan and the many great players I met through his music, became one of the highlights of my teenage years. There were friendships made that have lasted a lifetime, and they started right there in the sandal shop.

Allan Block - Alive and Well and Fiddling - LP cover

with: Buchwald, Claudio; Fegy, Dick; Lee, Lorraine; May, Andy; McDowell, Nancy; Schwab, John. (1977). Alive and well and fiddling. Living Folk Records, Cambridge, Mass (Full Credits)

Allan left New York City for rural Southern New Hampshire towards the end of the ’60’s. When I headed out to live in New England in 1970, he and I continued our friendship. We worked together many times over the years playing dances, clubs and the occasional concert set, or just got together to visit and play music. During this time, I played guitar for him on his Alive and Well and Fiddling LP on the Living Folk label.

When I moved to Colorado – and later to Tennessee, the visits became less frequent, but a phone call to Allan was all it took to strike up the old friendship.

Allan left this world in October 2013. He was 90 years old. I miss him. Rest in peace ol’ buddy.

A Handful of Videos:

More info:

Blurb in Ralph Lee Smith‘s book, Greenwich Village – The Happy Folk Singing Days – 50s and 60s

Allan’s obituary in Sing Out!

Allan’s obituary in the NY Times

Allan’s obituary in the Boston Globe

Allan’s obituary in The Old-Time Herald

Remembering Uncle Alan by his niece, Melissa Block, on NPR. With audio.

Allan’s Sandal Shop

Allan Block Memorial, Jalopy Theater, NYC. November, 2014.

Allan Block discography