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Monday 24 Jun 2024

Sr Folk Musician
David Simmonds

The traditional music community is mourning the passing of Richard "Everybody" Haverstock, a figure of some prominence in the early days of the folk music boom.

Born in Superior, Wisconsin, he was busy studying commerce at college in Des Moines, Iowa when he was fortunate enough to hear a 1959 concert performance by the Kingston Trio. "Hearing "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley" changed my life," he would later say. Indeed, he immediately traded in his loafers and argyle sweater for a button down, striped shirt and sandals, and headed straight for Greenwich Village, hoping to be a part of what he fondly referred to as "the happening scene".

An early stint as a waiter at the Purple Onion Cafe ended abruptly when, in his enthusiasm to join Burl Ives in the final chorus of "Little White Duck", he spilled coffee on Pete Seeger's lap. Seeger was apparently moved to use phrases found only in some of the more esoteric recordings of Oscar Brand.

Drawing on his life savings and the goodwill of family, he opened his own coffee house, "The Thirsty Cabbage", which flourished for several days. "My one regret" he said later "was telling this young singer from Minnesota to get a haircut and put some sing along choruses in "Oxford Town." I could have booked him for 6 months, but you can't look back".

Despite these early setbacks, Haverstock soon became a fixture on the local folk music scene. He was a talented instrumentalist in his own right - having auditioned for a job playing recorder with Peter, Paul and Mary, and later for a job playing triangle with the Rooftop Singers. He also produced a solo L.P. -- "Walk Right In, but Wipe Your Feet!" -- which is today almost impossible to find. While it did not launch him into national prominence as he had hoped, the record did reach number 37 on the Wisconsin Folk Music Charts, and is thought to have racked up sales almost equal in number to the relatives for whom he had to buy Christmas presents. Haverstock later settled into a comfortable job as a hosiery salesman, which he freely admitted "supports my folk habit."

However, he was best known -- and acquired his nickname -- as an enthusiastic audience member. He was the person who could be counted on, at every concert he attended, and on virtually every song, to call out "everybody!!" at the beginning of the finale chorus. In fact, so widespread was his reputation that he was given a complimentary trip to Ireland by the Clancy Brothers on the eve of their historic New York concert recordings. There is a Canadian angle too. Leonard Cohen once singled him out after he encouraged "everybody" to join in the final stanza of "Suzanne."

The last years of Haverstock's life were marred by tragedy. In 1999, he was arrested and charged with causing a public nuisance after charging the stage in a fury when a young singer announced he was going to play "Oh, Susannah, by James Taylor". He was released on a promise to keep the peace, but never seemed to recover his equilibrium. Earlier this year, he heard about Bruce Springsteen's plan to record "The Seeger Sessions", and, assuming his trademark cry would be required, showed up for the recording session. However, an unfortunate misunderstanding caused him to wander into a closet and inadvertently lock himself inside it. His body was found several days later by a janitor.

New Jersey state police investigated the circumstances of his death, but concluded there was no basis to lay charges. They noted there had been entreaties from a "whole mob" of Springsteen supporters about the adverse consequences of a criminal proceeding. They also observed that if there had been foul play, Haverstock's feet would have been encased in cement, and that their entire budget for charts and diagrams had been used up in the ongoing hockey betting investigation. Police also issued an urgent appeal to the public to stop making fun of their uniforms, noting they had been commissioned from a leading industrial designer.

Many prominent folk musicians attended his funeral, some staying right until his casket was lowered into his cemetery plot. "I just wish I had heard him play with Paul Simon," said folk legend Art Garfunkel.

True to his trademark personal style, Richard Haverstock's tombstone reads: "Will he ever return, no he'll never return ...." He was 67.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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