Ewan MacColl is that rare combination of traditional and revival singer at one and the same time. Born in Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland on January 25, 1915 (on Robby Burns' birthday), MacColl learned most of his songs from his father and other members of his family, as well as from Scottish and English neighbors of childhood days. "My old man was the best singer I ever heard," he says. Unlike so many traditional singers whose music was kept alive in relatively isolated rural areas, the MacColl family was a product of the industrial age. His father was an iron-moulder who worked at his trade irregularly as a result of being blacklisted for trade union organizing activities. His mother, from whom he also learned many songs worked on and off as a charwoman in all the industrial cities of England and Scotland as the MacColls moved from town to town trying to escape the penalties of the father's trade union activities. One writer has called him the "Folksinger of the Industrial Age." During the 1930's, MacColl found himself in the burgeoning British workers' theater movement. His natural political inclinations, together with an instinctive flair for drama and song led him to the "agitprop" performing groups of the depression era whose stage was more often a street before a factory gate or a union meeting hall than a formal theater. In the years since then, he has become the leading presenter of folk songs on British radio and television, either writing or appearing in more than 50 different BBC programs. Song-writer, recording and concert artist (he has toured throughout Europe and Canada), Ewan MacColl is a towering figure in the world of folk music.
The trip which brings Peggy Seeger to Newport marks her first visit to the United States since 1957. Darkhaired, pretty Peggy Seeger, daughter of folk musicologists Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, has spent the last three years traveling throughout Europe and Asia while maintaining residence in England. At the World Youth Festival in Moscow in 1957, together with Guy Carawan, Peggy Seeger was the voice of American folk song. For the past few years she has collaborated closely with Ewan MacColl, sharing joint concert programs and accompanying the great Scottish, folksinger on concerts and recordings.
Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seerar appeared at the 2nd Annual Newport Polk Festival at Newport, Bhode Island, in the simmer of 1960. These biographical notes are reprinted from the official program of the 1960 Newport Folk Festival.