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Caffe Lena 60 Episode 5 1964

Dave Van Ronk
Dave Van Ronk

Nicknamed the Mayor of McDougal Street, he was an important figure in the American folk music revival and New York City's Greenwich Village scene in the 1960s. His name? Dave Van Ronk.

This is the fifth episode of Caffe Lena: 60 Years of Song. Each week, we advance a year as we hear significant artists who played the Caffe that year, followed by a recent discovery. Thank you to Sarah Craig at the Caffe for her help compiling of the lists of artists and songs.

Trying to sum up a character larger than life like Dave Van Ronk seems next to impossible, but his influence on artists, and folk music, is perhaps as big a legacy as one might hope for. Did you know, they were nearly known as Peter, Dave and Mary? The inspiration for "Inside Llewyn Davis," he supported radical left-wing political causes and was arrested during the Stonewall Riots. Famous was his companion jug of Irish whiskey on stage; he befriended many musicians including Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Patrick Sky, Phil Ochs, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Joni Mitchell.

One of the more recent Caffe discoveries would be Jeremy Wallace whose early inspiration, the late Dave Van Ronk, served as a mentor and friend during Wallace’s formative years as an artist, introducing him to the music of LEADBELLY, KOKOMO ARNOLD, FURRY LEWIS, and CHARLIE PATTON. After 18 months, Van Ronk told Jeremy he had shown him everything he could. “You got it in you to be a musician, but it doesn’t mean anything. If there’s anything else you can do besides this, do it. The business will break your heart.” Thankfully, Wallace didn’t take the advice.

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