On today’s show I speak with folk musician and pioneering radio host Oscar Brand, who celebrated his 90th birthday earlier this year. Happy birthday Oscar!
Oscar Brand is the host of Folksong Festival on WNYC, a radio show which he has hosted since he got out of the army in 1945. I believe Folksong Festival to be the longest running radio program with a single host in the world! Oscar has had many many incredible guests on the show over these many years, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, Jean Ritchie, Bob Dylan, everyone you can think of and more…an amazing program. It was great to hear his reminiscences of these people and the history of his program as we recorded this interview at his home in 2008.
Brand is a man of many talents, he is a very well known folk singer and a great wealth of songs on every topic imaginable, including bawdy songs and campaign songs! He was a founder back in 1959 and then the MC of the Newport Folk Festival. As an MC he was lucky enough to introduce both Jean Ritchie at her debut performance at the first ever Hootenany at Irving Plaza back in the 40’s, and then in 1959 introduced Joan Baez to a mass audience in her first appearance at Newport. Oscar is an old old friend of Down Home Radio founder Henrietta Yurchenco. They had the first folk music radio programs in New York back in the 1940’s.
A big thanks to Steve French for editing the audio of this interview.
You can hear Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival program by clicking HERE.
[George Pickow, Jean Ritchie and Oscar Brand at WNYC in New York City, 1947]
A Special Treat:
On Thanksgivings over the years Oscar Brand would always have whatever traveling folk singers that happened to be in town over to his house for Thanksgiving dinner. In 1966 he had Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Jean Ritchie, Ralph Rinzler, Mike Seeger and Almeda Riddle and others at his house. Oscar broke out his tape recorder and they made some really great recordings, posted here as an extra special treat! – He airs these recordings on his show every year at Thanksgiving, but here they are now, recorded from one of his broadcasts.