This album is both a return and a debut. The return is of Jackie Washington, Vanguard Recording Society artist and one of the most popular performers at Cambridge’s legendary Club 47 in the heyday of the 1960s folk revival. The debut is of Jack Landrón, an Afro-Puerto Rican actor, singer, and songwriter who has appeared in theater, film, and television and written several musical shows, but never made a record. Both are the same person, born Juan Candido Washington y Landrón, but if this album brings back memories for Jackie Washington’s old fans, it will also bring surprises. Washington was known for his onstage wit and charm, and his sensitive reshaping of ballads and songs from a wide range of folk traditions, but not primarily as a songwriter.
Landrón notes that he had a very different background from most people on the sixties folk scene. “I’m a Puerto Rican black man, and folk music was not something I discovered at Club 47. It was part of my daily life and the lives of my family and neighbors. I’d heard gospel music and R&B hits blared from speakers in the record stores where they sold tickets to those artists’ shows. I was familiar with the music of people like Clara Ward and the Ward Singers, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and the Blind Boys of Alabama. At the parties I attended I heard records of Johnny Ace, the Clovers, and Ruth Brown. At home we listened to Ramito, Tito Rodríguez, and Los Panchos. I listened to the Grand Ole Opry religiously, and my mother’s kitchen radio brought the music of Bing Crosby, Kate Smith and Vaughan Monroe into the house.”
“I loved folk music, but I also liked Dean Martin and Bing Crosby. I loved Harry Belafonte, I loved Eartha Kitt, I loved Pearl Bailey. And I could listen to all of that at the same time, I did not think it had to be separated or pigeonholed. I sometimes got labeled as being too “slick,” because I liked the fact that Harry Belafonte looked good and all the women wanted to sleep with him. I liked the fact that black people didn’t have to be exotic trifles. And that thinking influenced the persona of Jackie Washington, the folk singer.”Excerpted from “A Comeback and A Debut” – by Elijah Wald
Get “Curbside Cotillion” on CD and Digital Download
A Boston Folk Legend Reappears (Boston Globe, January 26, 2013 by James Reed)
Caffè Lena’s First Performer Jack Landron Returns After 53 years (Troy Record, January 30, 2013 by Don Wilcock)