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11 August 2009

Mike Seeger (1933-2009)

During Paul Nelson's five-year tenure at Mercury Records, when he wasn't busy trying to sign the New York Dolls, he was responsible for the release of two solo, traditional folk albums by Mike Seeger: Music from True Vine (1972) and The Second Annual Farewell Reunion (1973). Seeger, founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers, passed away last Friday.

Paul and Seeger had known each since 1960 or so when the Ramblers, who were fans of The Little Sandy Review, had visited Paul and Jon Pankake in Minneapolis. When LSR was sold to Barry Hansen in 1964 and the focus of the journal shifted from folk to rock, it was Seeger who wrote a letter objecting to the change.

When I spoke with him in 2007, Seeger wanted to make sure that I understood that he wasn’t anti-rock & roll. "I want people to understand, for instance, when Bob Dylan went electric at Newport, that was the best music I thought I'd ever heard him play and I loved it. I can understand the connection." What he objected to "was the abandonment of everything that went on during the first three or four years for popular music."

Mike Seeger in 2003

Seeger was saddened to hear of Paul's death. "I've seen Jon down through the years, and I'd always ask, 'Well, how's Paul?' and there just didn't seem to be any Paul." He said, "He gave us a lot while he was here."

So did Seeger.

Copyright 2009 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.

29 July 2009

The Little Sandy Review

Over at The New Vulgate (Issue No. 4), the first part of Dave Lightbourne's "The Little Sandy Review and the Birth of Rock Criticism" is now online. Beginning in Minneapolis in 1960, Paul Nelson and his University of Minnesota pal Jon Pankake began publishing The Little Sandy Review, the first magazine devoted to traditional folk music.

Lightbourne, a Wyoming-based musician who was friends with Paul, does a fine job placing the elegant Little Sandy into historical context and makes a good case for it being the first music fanzine. His piece is actually the introduction to a work-in-progress—a book chronicling the entire history of The Little Sandy Review.

Issue No. 27
Cover photo of Koerner, Ray & Glover
by Paul Nelson
Speaking of works in progress—or rather, works no longer in progress—good news: after nearly three years of research and more than 100 interviews, the manuscript for Everything Is an Afterthought is in the publisher's hands. Again, my apologies for neglecting this journal these last several months, but the time away from here was well spent wrapping up the book.

More to follow . . .

Copyright 2009 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.

22 April 2007


This journal is dedicated to the life and writings of the critic Paul Nelson. Intended as a resource center, providing links to online material written both about Paul and by him, this site will also provide provide regular updates about my upcoming book, tentatively titled Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson

For years I'd carried around the idea of collecting Paul's writings under one cover. The book was still intended as an anthology when, over a year ago, I wrote to Paul and proposed that we work together to collect his best work. It had long been my belief that having his work relegated largely to back issues of sundry music magazines was a disservice not only to his fine writing but to his potential readers. Paul was touched by my proposal (as much an unabashed fan letter as it was a business proposition) and wanted to do the project -- when he got feeling better. 

Since his death last June, the book has taken on an added biographical dimension. Focusing on -- but not limited to -- those dozen or so artists whose work Paul returned to regularly during his career, Everything Is an Afterthought will also include little known background information about the pieces presented, including commentary by Paul's friends, family, and many of the artists about whom he wrote.

If you're not familiar with Paul Nelson or you want to learn more about this fascinating man's history, follow the links under the heading About Paul Nelson. There you'll find tales of his days both inside and outside the recording industry: including his Minnesota years, where he co-founded The Little Sandy Review and became friends with Bob Dylan; his five-year tenure at Mercury Records, where, among other things, he signed the New York Dolls to their first record contract, befriended Rod Stewart, promoted a young David Bowie, and wrangled Jerry Lee Lewis; and his five-year stint as record reviews editor at Rolling Stone

As well, I'll periodically add links under Paul Nelson's Writings, samples of the work for which he'll be most remembered.

But even that's debatable. Because, despite all the varying versions of incidents and timelines that I've encountered in interviewing over 70 of his friends, family, and colleagues, one thing remains constant: Paul Nelson the man. He's remembered almost universally as someone who, despite his idiosyncrasies, was kind and gentle and a loyal friend. That he spent the last twenty years of his life withdrawing from almost everyone is accepted by those who knew him best. There is understanding in their not understanding.

I'll regularly post here as the book progresses and alert you as new links are added. Comments and questions are encouraged. My hope is that, in addition to creating an ongoing dialogue about the man, his work, and his legacy, Paul Nelson's writing will finally receive the recognition and the wider audience it deserves.

Copyright 2007 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.

May 2011


© 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 by Kevin Avery


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