Photo by Margaret Webb
Thanks for visiting my website. Writing and music continue to
be at the forefront of my work this year, and I'm pleased to
announce that Dave Peloquin and I will be appearing at this
year's edition of the wonderful Portsmouth Maritime
Folk Festival, which is held over the last weekend in
September. Please check back for further information in the
months to come!
SEA MUSIC IN KENNEBUNK
I will be presenting a concert of maritime music, including
the worksongs (shanties) used by mariners under sail during
the 19th Century, as well as the off-watch songs with which
they entertained themselves. This program will be held at 7
p.m. June 14, 2013, at the Brick Store Museum, 117 Main Street,
Kennebunk ME 04043. For more information scroll down to June
call (207) 985-4802.
FORTHCOMING: THE FLAMING COAST: SHIPS, SONGS & SALTPETRE,
WITH A HISTORY OF THE GUANO TRADE
I'm at work on a new
maritime history book. It's called The Flaming Coast,
and will be an overview of the 19th-Century nitrate and guano
trades on the west coast of South America and the ships and
sailors who sailed to those far-distant ports. Both guano and
sodium nitrate were important components in the manufacture of
commercial fertilizers and munitions; and despite all the bad
jokes, these two fundamental materials made it possible to feed
many thousands of people, particularly in Europe, who would
otherwise have starved to death; as well as providing much of
the power that fueled every conflict from the mid-19th Century
through World War II.
CAMSCO Press will
publish The Flaming Coast in the spring of 2013, and I
hope it will find a wide audience among ship lovers and all of
you who are interested in merchant seafaring and shanty-singing.
If you have letters, photos or manuscript material that could be
of value in my research, please feel free to contact me. And if
you would like to be notified of the availability of the
publication, please e-mail me and I will place you on a special
mailing-list (all private, and never sold). Thank you!
Woody's a Hundred!
Last year marked the
100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie's birthday. Dave
Peloquin and I had a wonderful time meeting so many folks at our
a'Hundred" programs. We'll continue to feature Woody's songs
now and in the
future. Thanks for your appreciative response to our programs! --
for more later this year.
Thanks to all who have purchased and enjoyed my newest CD, Red-Devil
Speedway. It's a album of some of the great traditional American
folk songs and banjo tunes, played on guitars and banjos, and all
great fun. It's been called an "informal second volume" of
my banjo CD, Full Circle: The Solo Banjo Sessions. But
there's a lot more on it, including old-time and bluesy guitar
picking, and vocals. You can purchase this album from cdBaby and
Elderly Instruments, as well as directly from this website. Log onto
You can find my other CDs by entering "Bob Webb"
in the sites' general search box.
My newest CD is called Red-Devil Speedway, and I've
promised that I would explain why I chose that name. First, I
wanted to convey a sense of urgency, of speed. These old songs are
dying out, in their original way, and I wanted to make sure an
authentic rendering was put on record. But also, I grew up in
Southern California, in a town that once had a dangerous board-track
speedway. During the 1920s, people paid admission to see both cars
and motorcycles race -- sometimes to the death for their drivers and
mechanics. When I was very young, my father and older brother
and I attended a flat track over in Venice, so I got to watch midget
cars, stock cars and motorcycles race. I was thrilled by the sounds,
and by the eternal going-around on the circle.
The actual expression "red-devil speedway" comes from an
article in a magazine called Out West. In the March 1904 issue,
a writer named Charles F. Lummis pointed out what he considered to
be the folly of building a road from San Diego to San Francisco
that would connect all the old Spanish missions, which were by then
nothing more than charming ruins. It was intended that tourists
would drive their carriages from mission to mission, since the
Padres had placed them exactly one day's horse-ride apart. Lummis
pointed out that drivers of the speedy new machine called the
"automobile" would soon discover it was the shortest route
from the north to the south. He feared that it would become "a
thousand mile speedway for red-devils." And so, I'm afraid, it
After we designed the CD, we quickly realized that the
cars spin backwards. But it doesn't matter; they go so fast
it's all a blur, anyway. By the way, those are real 1925-era
race cars; a Miller Special; a front-wheel-drive racer whose
designer's name eludes me; and, bringing up the rear, a Model-T Ford
with a hand-built "torpedo" body. Pretty classy; and also
pretty dangerous -- just like folk music.
SOUNDS LIKE OLD TIMES
Dave Peloquin and I hope to acquaint you with our CD, Sounds
Like Old Times. We took a look back at the old-time,
"hillbilly," mountain, country music that influenced all the major
performers of the 1930s through early 1950s, and released some of our
favorites. There are banjo and guitar pieces, with some mandolin
for good measure, and harmony singing. We have included songs both famous
and less well-known by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Alton and Rabon Delmore
(the Delmore Brothers), the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. To their
greatest hits, we’ve added some traditional tunes on banjo and guitars, and
a more recent composition (about coal mining) by Billy Edd Wheeler. Fifteen
tunes in all.
We do keep a mailing list. If you want to receive our occasional
e-mailings about upcoming concerts and new album releases, please click on our
"Contact Bob" tab, and send an e-mail with the simple words:
"Mailing List." We’ll keep you informed!