I was raised in an Air Force family – born in Bremerhaven, Germany, and then moving every year or two to: San Angelo, Texas; Okinawa, Japan; San Antonio, Texas; Bloomington, Indiana; Misawa, Japan; and so on, and on and on.
My mother had studied classical voice at the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington before I was born, and in Misawa she had her own show called Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard on Armed Forces Television. Accompanying herself on autoharp and supported by my eldest sister Malinda’s able harmonies, Mama sang old folk songs on the air with groups of elementary school children … including me. We sang at home all the time too, and Daddy brought home folk recordings from the Air Force library: Newport Folk Festival; Tom Paxton; Sam Hinton; Theo Bikel; The Clancy Brothers; Alan Arkin; The Kingston Trio; The Limeliters ...
Mama started taking guitar lessons in Misawa, but when we moved to San Antonio, Texas she didn’t have a teacher anymore, so her guitar wound up in the attic … where I discovered it when I was in the 6th grade, to my great delight (and, no doubt, my family’s misery for a while). By then Mama was teaching at the high school next door to my middle school, and she paid a freshman student $5 to give me a guitar lesson one day after school. I wish I remembered the fellow’s name. He taught me basic chords to James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain”, and the rest is history!
I played guitar every day from then on, teaching myself all the old folk songs and lots of popular singer/songwriter music too. In high school I started writing my own (dreadful) songs and performing publicly – solo, as a duo with my tennis team buddy Terry Carmichael, and in a short-lived band with Curtis Abate, Sid Flewellin, and Mike Mullins that we called “The Boston Massacre” … velvet tailcoats, ruffled shirts, knee britches … what in the heck were we thinking?
In college in Lubbock, Texas I caught my stride a bit as a songwriter and performed frequently at local venues, including a tiny little independent place called the “Hard Rock Café”. With master-folksinger and Pete Seeger acolyte John Darlowe Boswell, I helped found an educational folk music program called “Native Land” in the Lubbock schools shortly before I graduated and moved away from the high plains.
I went on to be a National Park Ranger in a long series of parks, met, married and had two children with a lovely young Park Ranger named Ellen (Music Enabler supreme), and then became a Special Agent with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management all over the western U.S. Throughout those 30 years of career and family focus I kept music and guitar and songwriting bubbling along in the background with the intention of hitting the ground running when I could retire and segue into music full-time.
And so I did, 16 years ago! I’ve toured the whole U.S. as well as overseas, and made lots of music friends, including my frequent songwriting partner Tom Paxton, and Steve Brooks, and Andy Corwin (who phoned me at about 3:00am while I was on tour in New Zealand to invite me to audition for The Limeliters.) A couple months later when Ellen and I got back Stateside, I passed the audition and joined the trio (the 13th member in the group’s 65-year history), and now here we are singing for folks and carrying on the proud tradition of American folk music!
- Daniel Boling