Pete Seeger oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Beacon, New York, 2011-07-22.
And I was staying with a man who had been beaten up very badly, Joe Gelders, uh, and, uh, he also knew, “Stay out of the way of Bull Connor.” He lived about twelve miles north - seven miles north? No, I think it was twelve miles north, and I stayed with him and, uh, his teenage daughter, Marjorie. She later on married a man named Friends, Marjorie Friends, and I think she only recently died.
PS: Wonderful person.
JM: But Bull Connor had lots to do with -?
PS: Well, he was, in effect, the mayor, [dog barks] because he had his own people [dog barks] [15:00] and he kind of told them what to do. And it was he, using violence, that really opened the eyes of the country of how terrible, uh, that whole system down there was.
JM: That’s right. That’s right, yeah.
PS: We have neighbors here, uh, and we didn’t realize things like this could happen in America. When they saw the hoses pointed at the people, and people rolling around on the ground, unable, trying to keep the hose from hitting their face, and, uh, the dogs biting the children.
PS: And that was Bull Connor’s work.
JM: Yeah, yeah. I wanted to ask about another, another, uh, another element of your visit to Highlander in ’57 when you met Reverend King and Reverend Abernathy and Rosa Parks for the first time. I think that may have been the occasion that they first heard you play, “We Shall Overcome.”
PS: I didn’t know how to play it right, but I did sing it. Zilphia had taught me the song when she was North in 1946, I believe, almost ten years earlier. Uh, and I printed it in our little song magazine, uh, People’s Songs. I didn’t print it right. What really made the song spread was Guy Carawan and Frank Hamilton learning to put it in a special kind of rhythm. It’s called 12/8 time. You know, when you have four beats per measure, and if you want to make the notes faster, you usually double them. So, instead of 1-2-3-4, it’s 1-and-2-and-3-and-4. But 12/8 time means that you triple each one of those beats: 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.