Cutout Bin: The Goldwaters' Liberal-Baiting Folk Songs

The Goldwaters

Sing Folk Songs to Bug the Liberals (1964, Greenleaf)

The 1964 presidential election was a pivotal point in our nation's history. After years of the liberal leadership and acronym names of JFK and LBJ, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater sought to take the country in a new direction. Could he win the presidency in the shadow of John F. Kennedy's massively popular legacy? He would need help.

The Goldwaters were the brainchild of two brothers from Nashville, Mark and Buford Bates. They put conservative, anti-JFK, anti-Democrat lyrics to old public-domain folk songs, which were becoming all the rage among young liberals thanks to groups like the Weavers and the Kingston Trio. (If you've seen the Spinal Tap of folk music, A Mighty Wind, you get the idea.)

The Bates brothers tracked down a few old friends known to have some musical interest, and after calls to a few school chums, the four-piece was complete. The songs were written and recorded, and after just a few re-writes in the wake of JFK's assassination, Folk Songs To Bug the Liberals was released.

The album cover is a classic. Four squeaky-clean-cut young men, sporting matching AuH20 sweaters (get it?) get their banjo on in a bourgeois-bedecked living room. The album wavers from somewhat clever satire to bad jokes and head-scratching allusions to forgotten talking points. (Listen to it at the link below.) Much of the topics are familiar, however - welfare, the liberal media, the national debt, foreign wars. The songs are interspersed with a canned laugh track that has uproarious laughter and cheering at particularly unfunny occasions.

The release of the Goldwaters album caused an immediate sensation in the Goldwater campaign. The band went on tour, playing at political speeches and rallies in support of Goldwater. Thousands of records were sold. As November approached, the Goldwaters began receiving radio airplay and even a clip on the Huntley-Brinkley Report. The band attracted a following, including a group of cowgirl-clad ladies called the Goldwater Girls.

The Goldwaters were on track to become superstars, the next Peter, Paul, and Mary. But history had other plans. In the 1964 election, Barry Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson in one of the worst landslides in presidential history. The Goldwaters packed away their banjos and matching sweaters, never to be heard from again. In a recent interview with the Conelrad music blog, lead singer Ken Crook admits, "I have played the album for very few people. I have had entire relationships, including marriage, where the other person has no idea of this part of my life."

Click here for the Conelrad website, with interview, pictures and song clips.

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Nick DiFonzo