Archive for the ‘Jon Pankake’ Category


June 6, 2014

by Jon Pankake (from notes to “Out Standing In Their Field: NLCR 1963-1973”):


Little Sandy Review

January 3, 2013

Jon Pankake and Paul Nelson launched their vernacular music journal,
The Little Sandy Review, in 1960.

by David Lightbourne (from

Toward the end of 1959, from an off-campus rooming house at the University of Minnesota, in a strange little corner of Minneapolis across the Mississippi from Saint Paul called Dinkytown, came a small magazine without money or a marketing plan, ready to begin printing articulate monthly record reviews and pithy cultural commentary to a tiny readership. Initially quite inauspicious and eccentric-looking – a loving or caustic survey of current LPs from the rapidly accelerating folk, country, and blues Revivals – over the next half-decade The Little Sandy Review would gain recognition, influence, and notoriety in gross disproportion to its size – and even acquire near-scholarly authority – without ever losing its links with the main currents and common currencies of early-60s bohemia.

From the first mimeographed, pamphlet-size pulp issue in the winter of 1960, The Little Sandy Review brought its readers a new and refreshingly provincial overview of the commercial folk music establishment, a subculture of colorful and odd little record labels, mainly in the East, with inchoate and Quixotic strategies for promoting this new category of record albums – 10” and 12” 33 1/3rpm records that were just beginning to impact the 78 and 45rpm singles dominant market. Writing with one voice and co-authorship for their shared enthusiasm and mutual evaluation of the best traditional American music on vinyl over the previous five or ten years, co-editors Jon Pankake and Paul Nelson began their journey forward into the new decade shaped by the immediate past.

As the late Paul Nelson remembered in a January 2000 interview, “Jon and I had gone to see Pete Seeger at a concert in Iowa that previous summer, and we talked to him afterward and told him about our plan to start a folk music magazine, and asked him what he thought of the idea. When Seeger talked to you it was like he was looking right through you the whole time, as if addressing the masses or something. It was very disconcerting. We didn’t get an answer.” Jon Pankake, a longtime Seeger admirer, remembers the conversation slightly more charitably. As he recalls, “Pete said, ‘Hey, it’s a free country. You can print anything you want in America.’ We followed Pete’s advice.”

A tiny speck on a remote, distant, icy cusp, Pankake and Nelson, along with Tony Glover and Barry Hansen, had no idea where their modest expression would lead as they moved inexorably, rapidly, and individually from that obscure cusp to the epicenters of newly-dawning 1960s social ferment, political turmoil, radical movements, and cultural revolution. (more…)

Breathed Fire Through His Nose: Roots of Bob Dylan (pt. 2)

November 29, 2012

Clarence Ashley, Jon Pankake, Tex Isley.

from “Chronicles,” by Bob Dylan:

Jon Pankake, a folk music purist enthusiast and sometime literary teacher and film wiseman, who’d been watching me for a while on the scene, made it his business to tell me that what I was doing hadn’t escaped him. “What do you think you’re doing? You’re singing nothing but Guthrie songs,” he said, jabbing his finger into my chest like he was talking to a poor fool.

Pankake was authoritative and a hard guy to get past. It was known around that Pankake had a vast collection of the real folk records and could go on and on about them. He was part of the folk police, if not the chief commissioner, wasn’t impressed with any of the new talent. To him nobody possessed any great mastery-no one could succeed in laying a hand on any of the traditional stuff with any authority. Of course he was right, but Pankake didn’t play or sing. It’s not like he put himself in any position to be judged.

“You’re trying hard, but you’ll never turn into Woody Guthrie,” Pankake says to me as if he’s looking down from some high hill, like something has violated his instincts. It was no fun being around Pankake. He made me nervous. He breathed fire through his nose. “You better think of something else. You’re doing it for nothing. Jack Elliott’s already been where you are and gone. Ever heard of him?” No, I’d never heard of Jack Elliott. When Pankake said his name, it was the first time I’d heard it. “Never heard of him, no. What does he sound like?” John said that he’d play me his records and that I was in for a surprise.

Pankake lived in an apartment above McCosh’s bookstore, a place that specialized in eclectic old books, ancient texts, philosophical political pamphlets from the 1800s on up. It was a neighborhood hangout for intellectuals and Beat types, on the main floor of an old Victorian house only a few blocks away. I went there with Pankake and saw it was true that he had all the incredible records, ones you never saw and wouldn’t know where to get. For someone who didn’t sing and play, it was amazing that he had so many.

Elliott, who’d been born ten years before me, had actually traveled with Guthrie, learned his songs and style firsthand and had mastered it completely. Pankake was right. Elliott was far beyond me.

I sheepishly left the apartment and went back out into the cold street, aimlessly walked around. I felt like I had nowhere to go, felt like one of the dead men walking through catacombs. It would be hard not to be influenced by the guy I just heard. I’d have to block it out of my mind, though, forget this thing, tell myself I hadn’t heard him and he didn’t exist. He was overseas in Europe, anyway, in a self-imposed exile. The U.S. hadn’t been ready for him. Good. I was hoping he’d stay gone, and I kept hunting for Guthrie songs.

View related post.

Jon Pankake, Bob Dylan, and the NLCR

March 30, 2012


Ralph Rinzler, Bob Dylan, John Herald at the Gaslight 1962 © John Cohen

edited from

[Jon Pankake co-edited the music journal The Little Sandy Review in the early 1960s in Minneapolis, MN]

When Bob Dylan left Dinkytown, the Minneapolis neighborhood where he spent his one year at the University of Minnesota,, for New York City’s Greenwich Village, he went with Jon Pankake’s blessing. He also went with some of Jon’s most precious records-which he stole right off the shelves and put in his duffel bag. When Jon discovered the theft of his records he became enraged at this hobo vagabond minstrel and vowed to track him down and recover them.

Fast forward six months and Dylan was now sleeping on someone else’s couch-the Mayor of Greenwich Village. That would be Dave Van Ronk. Jon Pankake showed up at his door and when the purpose of his surprise visit became known, all hell broke loose. Pankake broke a bottle off at the neck and started swinging it over his head, aiming at the scruffy ne’er do well who had since become the talk of the town-based on his performances at Izzy Young’s Folklore Center and Gerdes Folk City, where he was now opening for the likes of Mississippi John Hurt and the new bluegrass sensation-the Greenbriar Boys. That didn’t mean squat to Jon Pankake-he came to get his records back.

It was just at that precipitous moment for modern folk music history, ladies and gentlemen, that Dave Van Ronk showed up, diffused the situation and saved Bob Dylan’s life. Jon got his records back, and a chastened Bob Dylan went on to write Blowing In the Wind and Masters of War, for which I think Van Ronk deserves no small credit. The records Jon Pankake retrieved from Dylan’s duffel bag were the first Folkways recordings of The New Lost City Ramblers, which he rescued and took back to Dinkytown.