Dave Van Ronk was never willing to take his own legend seriously. He insisted he was simply in the right place at the right time. Van Ronk was steeped in black music before the folk revival started, and was able to bridge the gap between the black originators and the white revivalists with a wide mix of blues, ragtime, early jazz and jug band music. During 40 years on the folk circuit, that eclecticism was always the hallmark of his material. He was equally at home with Jelly Roll Morton or Joni Mitchell, a bawdy blues or a sophisticated Tin Pan Alley Tune. The famous voice, nicely grainy in its youth, later contained enough gravel to cover two miles of dirt road. But the frog in Dave's throat wasn't the only star of the show. The Van Ronk guitar was a much-copied style setter since the 60s, and his arrangements of classics like Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag (all four strains) are still played note for note, reminding us how wide his influence was. Much of Dave's best work was on Philo ("Somebody Else, Not Me" and "Sunday Street") and has now been reissued on Rounder. Our 1978 photo caught him with that famous "You ain't heard nothin' yet" grin. We think it's a good way to remember him.
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