Tom Paxton, Clifton Chenier, and Kenneth Goldstein, To Receive Lifetime Achievement Awards at the 18th North American Folk Alliance Convention

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The North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance (Folk Alliance), announces Tom Paxton, topical singer/songwriter, Clifton Chenier, zydeco king, and Dr. Kenneth Goldstein, folklorist/producer, as recipients of the 2006 Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards.

The awards presentation, a highlight of the annual conference, will happen at the 18th International Convention's first Folk Awards Show in Austin, Texas, on Monday, February 13, 2006. Preceding the show will be the first Folk Alliance “Music Business Awards” Banquet. Both events will be held at the Austin Hilton.

The Awards, named for the Folk Alliance’s co-founder, the late Elaine Weissman of the California Traditional Music Society, honor two artists and one business person each year who have devoted their life’s work and talent to the advancement of the performing folk arts.

“We are delighted to announce this year’s stellar recipients,” said Folk Alliance Executive Director, Louis Jay Meyers. “On behalf of the board and the membership, it will be a great pleasure to make these presentations. The added poignancy of the award to Clifton Chenier puts a human face on the recent tragedy for the music community in New Orleans and the larger communities of the Gulf Coast.”

The undisputed “King of Zydeco,” Clifton Chenier blended the traditional French and Cajun two-steps and waltzes of southwestern Louisiana with New Orleans electric rhythm and blues, Texas blues, and big band jazz to create the modern style known as zydeco. Chenier received a National Heritage Award in 1984, the highest honor given by the National Endowment for the Arts to folk and traditional artists. He also was the first Creole to be presented a Grammy on national television.

Born in 1925 in Opelousas, La., to sharecroppers, Chenier learned the accordion from his father, who played at dances. By the age of 16, he played accordion with his brother Cleveland on frottoir [washboard] at house parties. In 1955, he came to national attention with his hit, “A ‘Tit Fille” (Hey Little Girl), a cover of a Professor Longhair song. Chenier then left day jobs — ranging from working the sugarcane fields to driving trucks -- and from the 1960s to the 1980s toured with his bands, the Zydeco Ramblers and the Red Hot Louisiana Band until one week before his death in late 1987.

A documentary video of Chenier's performances at the San Francisco Blues Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and on Louisiana television was released by Arhoolie Records.

Tom Paxton is probably the funniest of the topical folk singer/songwriters who emerged in the 1960s. Born in Chicago, Paxton moved to Oklahoma as a boy and later graduated from the University of Oklahoma. He joined the army and after his service, moved to New York and began singing in coffeehouses. "Thirty years ago Tom Paxton taught a generation of traditional folksingers that it was noble to write your own songs...” says Guy Clark

His first national release was “Ramblin' Boy” on Elektra Records in 1965. In addition to his own renditions, Tom’s songs were recorded by a variety of fellow performers, including Peter, Paul & Mary, and Judy Collins. He continued to write satiric topical material such as “I’m Changing My Name to Chrysler” about the government bailout of the automaker, and “Little Bitty Gun,” which spoofed Nancy Reagan. He also takes on serious topics such as his account of “The Death of Stephen Biko,” as well as lyrical ones, such as “The Last Thing on My Mind.”

"Tom Paxton embodies the spirit of folk music in the most beautiful sense. Not just in his song crafting, his work ethic, his politics and his dedication to people's music, but also in his kind and generous heart. He's the coolest." - Ani DiFranco

Folklorist, and collector the late Kenneth Goldstein produced more than 200 albums for various labels, including such artists as Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, Lead Belly, Odetta, Peggy Seeger, A.L. Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, Isla Cameron, and Lou Killen. His book, "Guide for Field Workers" is a standard text for those in the field.

Kenneth saw records as a way of educating people about the music they were hearing and wrote extensive liner notes. He became an advisor to the Philadelphia Folksong Society in the formative years of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, mixing “name” artists with lesser-known traditional artists whom audiences might otherwise not have heard.

For nearly 30 years, he taught folklore and folklife at the University of Pennsylvania, and held visiting appointments at universities in the United States, Canada, and the UK. Throughout his career until his death in 1995, Goldstein sought to make folk music and traditions available to the world at large.

Founded in 1989, the Folk Alliance, recently relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, seeks to create new and better opportunities for all those involved in the performance folk arts. With several thousand attendees annually, the 18th Annual Folk Alliance Conference will offer a complete view of the business of traditional and contemporary folk music and dance through showcases, educational seminars, and the world's only "all folk" exhibit hall and trade show.

In addition to producing the annual international conference, Folk Alliance provides year-round services including arts advocacy for the field on a regional and international basis, an on-line music business directory, newsletters, classes, workshops, and regional events.

For more information, or to register for the conference go to the or call 901/522-1170.


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Cash Edwards