When I was a teenage musician in NYC in the 1960s, Izzy Young was one of the people who occupied a place pretty much in the center of the folk music world. He owned the Folklore Center, which he had opened in the late ’50s (I think) on McDougal Street. There, he sold a variety of books and LP records embracing a wide range of folk and ethnic music. Izzy was passionate – about folk music, about poetry, about politics, about social justice… about many things.
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. 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 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.”
I often hear folks using Paris in the 1920’s as an example of a time and place of great artistic atmosphere and importance. I wasn’t there, but I believe that it was so. I lived in New York City in the 1960’s, however, and I also believe that New York back then had a similarly powerful atmosphere and importance.