Iconic photos of a changing city, and commentary on our Collections & Exhibitions from the crew at MCNY.org
Registrar! Tell us about the time you traveled to the edge of the rainforest to pick up a guitar?
“take off your thirsty boots and
stay for a while
Your feet are hot and weary
from a dusty mile
And maybe I can
make you laugh, maybe I can try
I’m just looking for the evening,
the morning in your eyes”
Thirsty Boots – Eric Andersen
It started with a simple phone call, an inquiry into the cost of shipping a guitar from Honolulu, Hawaii to New York City. The first estimate was prohibitively expensive, the second and third even more so. Suddenly the option I had first mentioned in jest to my colleagues–“why don’t I go get it?”–seemed plausible, even necessary.
So it was decided. In two weeks I was to travel to Hawaii and hand carry Eric Andersen’s 1963 Gibson Hummingbird guitar back to NYC for display in the City Museum’s exhibition, Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival (June17 – November 29, 2015).
I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Singer-songwriter Eric Andersen (b. 1943) came to the attention of audiences in New York City in 1964, after singing at venues such as Gerdes Folk City and Gaslight. Andersen’s song “Thirsty Boots,” about the civil rights movement’s Freedom Rides, was a hit. He wrote the chorus to the song on a napkin, pictured above. Recently found, we are glad to showcase it alongside his guitar.
The guitar made its way to the Museum in May. I landed in Hawaii after a ten-hour direct flight from JFK Airport. My first stop was to pick up the car rental, the second stop was the hotel, and the third was, and no shame here, the beach. To rest my hot and weary feet. Naturally.
I had the weekend to explore before the return flight. This may seem excessive to those unfamiliar with couriering art and objects; it is, however, common for a trained professional to travel with valuable artwork and this delicate work cannot be rushed. It is customary and necessary to have time to recuperate from travel, to ensure the safety of the object in transit.
In short, it was a wonderful two days: I heard tales of sharks, watched the surfers, and climbed to the top of a volcanic crater. The highlight of the trip, however, was when I went to pick up the guitar. The Hummingbird was Gibson’s first square shoulder dreadnought guitar, introduced in the 1960s. Eric Andersen’s is a gorgeous example, currently in the hands of his daughter, Sari Andersen.
A singer-songwriter in her own right, Sari was reluctant to part with the guitar, rightfully so. It is a beautiful instrument both to the eye and ear–still used, well loved, and with a rich past.
After an insightful conversation over tea Sari insisted that she play a song or two on the guitar before I left.
We said our goodbyes and I headed directly for the airport, holding the instrument close and carrying the memory of the music with me the entire trip back to NYC and to the City Museum. I didn’t imagine at the start of preparing for the exhibition the rainforest would be in my future. Yet as always, music takes us on journeys not to be expected, enabling us to see the evenings, and the mornings, in each others’ eyes.
Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival, is on view until November 29, 2015. Focusing on the growth of folk music in New York City during the 1950s and 1960s, the exhibition features original instruments, handwritten lyrics, fliers, posters, album covers, and other assorted ephemera from the era. Visit with, learn about, and sing along to Pete Seeger, Jean Ritchie, Phil Ochs, Odetta, Lead Belly, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, and Eric Andersen, just to name a few.