Fresno Folklore Society

A Non-Profit Corporation for the Traditional Arts

Fresno, California

Artist Profile

Gene Bluestein!

Gene Bluestein, In Memoriam

Gene Bluestein at Berkeley 

photo: Gene Bluestein at The Berkeley Folk Festival in 1964.

Gene Bluestein (1922 - 2002) was an English professor, musician, folklorist, and social activist. Influenced by the folk music revival, he taught himself to play banjo, performed as a musician, and provided educational programs on folklore and folk music in his classroom, on the stage, and on television. For most of his career, he taught English at California State University, Fresno, where he started and facilitated the Folk Artist in Residence Program.

In 1974, while on sabbatical in France, he formed a folk music band with his four children called the Bluestein Family, which performed for over 20 years. The collection consists primarily of materials relating to the folklore and performing career of Gene Bluestein. Included are field recordings made by Bluestein, Bluestein's educational programs on folk music, recordings of performances by Bluestein and the Bluestein Family, and recordings of other performers.

The field recordings are mostly from Bluestein's doctoral research on Appalachian folk music and narrative and feature Cal Owens, Billy Edd Wheeler, Anna Barnett, Buell Kazee, and Fiddlin' Bill Jones, as well as Moses Asch, the founder of Folkways Records. The educational programs on American folk music include lectures, performances, interviews, and television programs. Recordings of the Bluestein Family include solo recordings by family members and in other groups.

There are also recordings of a number of other folk musicians in performance, including Mike Seeger's Traveling Folk Festival, featuring Tommy Jarrell, Blanton Owen, Mike Seeger, Dennis McGee, Sady Courville, and Marc Savoy, and participants in the Folk Artist in Residence Program that Bluestein started at California State University, Fresno, including the Balfa Brothers, Bessie Jones, Kenny Hall, Richard Hagopian, Lydia Mendoza, and Jean Ritchie. Other items include recordings of Pete Seeger in concert, 1956 and 1957, and a 1969 benefit concert for playwright and social activist Marvin X (also known as Marvin Jackmon and El Muhajir) by the Fresno Folksong and Poetry Quartet (Gene Bluestein, Philip Levine, Robert Mezey, and Peter Everwine).*

* From the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina, Collection # 20379-z, "The Gene Bluestein Collection"

for more information:

Selections from his "Songs of the North Star State"

Gene Bluestein, "The Farmer is the Man (Who Feeds Them All)"

Gene Bluestein, "Oleanna"

Gene Bluestein, "Paul Bunyan"

Gene Bluestein, "Toiler's Serenade"

  Photo by Evo Bluestein