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  • J. Poet

Q & A with Barbara Dane: Forever Moving Forward


Barbara Dane was 22 years old when she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1949, but she’d already developed her big, expressive voice singing on picket lines in Detroit.

“In high school, I'd gone into the Barlum Hotel Coffee Shop, with a racially mixed group of friends to see if they’d serve us,” Dane says. “When they didn’t, we started picketing and singing, and I found out why I had my voice.”

In San Francisco, Dane hosted the first televised folk music show—Folksville USA—on KGO TV, initiated the first world music radio program on KPFA and opened a nightclub called Sugar Hill: Home of the Blues. She also knocked out audiences in local clubs with her soulful repertoire of jazz and blues tunes.

She was one of the first white female artists profiled in Ebony, the pioneering African American magazine. The article called her “the blue-eyed blonde that was going to save the blues.” Dane signed with Capitol Records, but when her outspoken support of the Civil Rights Movement became a barrier to mainstream success, she started her own label and found a home on indies like Folkways, Tradition and World Pacific.

She was part of the traditional jazz revival, performing with New Orleans giants George Lewis and Kid Ory, as well as Turk Murphy, Jack Teagarden and Louis Armstrong, who quipped, “Did you get that chick? She’s a gasser!” Read more...

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