Camp Favorites

Philochscamperscampfavorites

This was released in either 1962 or 1963 on Cameo Records. Phil is not credited on the album, and until the release of David Cohen’s book, it was not widely known that such a record existed.  Even then, although it was known that he had made such a record, it was not known what the title of the record was. David Cohen was finally able to identify that this was indeed Phil’s first commercial record.

You can now listen to Camp Favorites. (10 of 12 songs)

Track Listing

“The Welcome Song” (Traditional – 1:46)
“We’ll Build a Bungalow” (Traditional – 2:02)
“Polly Wolly Doodle” (Traditional – 2:08)
“Gee Mom” (Traditional – 2:13)
“Patsy Ory Ory Aye” (Traditional – 2:11)
“Cannibal King” (Traditional – 2:21)
Side two
“Hambone” (Traditional – 3:11)
“Friends Friends Friends” (Traditional – 1:49)
“I’ve Got Sixpence” (Traditional – 2:00)
“A Thousand Years Ago” (Traditional – 2:10)
“Adam and Eve” (Traditional – 2:05)
“Hand Me Down My Walkin’ Cane” (Traditional – 2:01)
Musicians
Phil Ochs — vocals
Other unknown vocalists
Dick Weissman — banjo

Another Side of Phil Ochs
	by David Cohen
	Copyright 2000


	"I don't believe you.  Liar!"

        Those were the words on the tip of my tongue as I heard Michael
Ochs reiterate his assertion -- that there was a long lost Phil Ochs
album.  Well, not a Phil Ochs album exactly...

        It was 1998 and I was interviewing Michael Ochs, the well known
record and photo archivist for a book about his brother, Phil Ochs.  As
part of my research for this book I had scoured every reference source I
could find -- articles that Phil had written, articles about him, concert
reviews, album reviews, interviews and live tapes spanning 1961-1975.  I
had immersed myself in his music and was fairly confident there was
nothing significant that I had overlooked.

        Ok, we all know what pride cometh before now don't we?

        I asked Michael if he wasn't putting me on, playing a joke on the
stodgy old archivist.  He assured me he wasn't and repeated the few bits
of information that he had gotten from Phil.

        As Michael told me, "I was writing a bio on him and was asking if
his first record was "All The News" or the New  Folks album on Vanguard.
He laughingly told me about his 'real' first record.  He swore me to
secrecy when he told me about his early scrambling days in the
pass-the-hat clubs of the Village."

	Soon after Phil had arrived in the New York City, in September 1962, he
had appeared on an album of camp songs, standards, real Koombaya time.  As
Michael recalled, "Phil was offered fifty dollars to record some campfire
favorites in one session and was guaranteed that his name would never be
used on the album."

	Michael thought that the album must have been released on a budget 
label, Forum, Parkway, Time, Cameo or any one of a dozen others.  He was
just sure that it wouldn't have been on a major label.  The time frame was
pretty tight.  It would have had to have been between Phil's arrival in
the Village in September of 1962 and the release of his first album on
Elektra, All the News That's Fit to Sing, in April 1964.

        I was astounded that Michael didn't have a copy.  He told me that
Phil had never told him anything more about the album.  In fact, Phil
never even kept a copy for himself.  Michael had tried to locate the
album, utilizing his considerable connections in the music business.
Eventually, he got sick of getting second rate camp song albums and gave
up the hunt.

        I'll admit enjoying a challenge and thought that with the research
tools I had to hand that I could probably find the album.  I ran into a
whole series of dead ends.  I didn't know the name of the album or of the
performer's name under which it was listed.  I found dozens of campfire
albums.  Some were from the wrong time period.  Others were by
established performers and were ruled out.  Some fit all the criteria,
but when I was able to listen to them they were sorely lacking in Ochs'
dulcet tones.

        The deadline for my book started to loom ever larger so I put the
search aside.  Once the book was published I felt I needed a little space
from Phil Ochs and so shelved the quest, resigning myself to the fact
that the album would most likely remain a 'footnote to history', as I had
labeled the mystery at the end of the discography in my book .

        Still...it stayed in the back of my mind and when I was looking
through my old papers I came across my original notes...the game was once
again afoot.  I started from scratch.  The area with the most likely
prospects seemed to be the record label.  At least it was more limited
than the hundreds of possibilities for album title and performer.  A
search on the internet located the very informative Both Sides Now
website at Both Sides Now 
which has very extensive discographies for dozens of labels.  The 
discographies also include descriptions and histories of the labels.  I 
was immediately able to discount many of the labels as legitimate 
possibilities if, for example, they only released jazz recordings.  Once I 
had pared the labels down to a workable number I started scouring each one 
in turn for possible clues.

        One after another each label came up empty.  Until I hit Cameo,
a Philadelphia budget label better known for Bobby Rydell, Dee Dee Sharp,
Chubby Checker and a young Clint Eastwood (Rawhide's Clint Eastwood:
Cowboy Favorites) it had been on Michael Ochs' original short list of
possibles.  A quick text search for 'camp' turned up a hit.

        Campers -- Camp Favorites (Cameo C-1047) 1963.

        So far everything seemed right.  The subject, the cheesy performer
listing, the label, the year. More searching failed to find any other
albums by 'The Campers', another good sign.  I was getting more excited,
but a search of used record sites on-line failed to find any copies for
sale.  Undaunted, I turned to another venue.  If the record could not be
bought, perhaps it could be borrowed.  The Worldcat Library Union catalog
(a sort of uber-catalog that includes the catalogs of hundreds of
libraries) located a copy, at the Bowling Green University.

        I was even more excited because I knew a music librarian who
worked at Bowling Green, Bill Schurk.  I had been in touch with Bill in
conjunction with some research for the Ochs volume and had found him to
be both knowledgeable and helpful.  I immediately emailed my suspicions
to Bill and waited, impatiently.  A day later I had my answer.  Bill had
listened to the album and there was no doubt, "Whoa, Nellie!!  Well, you
are correct.  It IS Phil's voice ringing out loud and clear!!"  Or, as
Sonny Ochs remarked once she heard the album, ""It's definitely Phil and
quite a humorous find on your part. I can't imagine what he was thinking
when he did it."

        Once I had gotten over the initial excitement I pressed onward in
my quest.  The sleeve only listed one performer by name, the excellent
banjo player, Dick Weissman.  I soon was in touch with Dick, hoping he
could give me a little more insight about the album.  Unfortunately,
since he had recorded it thirty years before he couldn't remember too
many details.

        Dick recalls being approached by an A&R person from Cameo while
he was in New York (which certainly makes sense since Phil was also
living there at the time), perhaps Dave Adelman.  Dick only did the banjo
tracks which were completed in one or two sessions and never was in the
studio with the vocalists.  The recording was done in New York.  Dick
thought that Happy Traum might have been another one of the Campers, but
a call to Happy proved that this was not the case.

        The album itself is very straightforward.  Over Dick Weissman's
banjo, Phil and an unidentified female vocalist lead a group of younger
singers perform songs which are probably familiar fare to many campers of
the 1940's and 1950's.  Most of the time the songs are performed group
style, but occasionally Phil or the mystery woman will take lead for a
verse.

        Amongst the chestnuts included on the setlist are: The Welcome
Song ("You stick with us we'll stick with you, we'll see each other
through and through"); We'll Build a Bungalow ("We'll build a shanty down
in shanty town"); Gee Mom ("The biscuits up the mountain they say are
mighty fine, but one dropped off the table and killed a pal of mine");
Friends Friends Friends ("The years may come and the years may go"); I've
Got Sixpence ("I've got sixpence jolly jolly sixpence"); Adam and Eve
("Hey Eve, you're dynamic, you could start a panic...If any guy needs a
harem I've got more ribs and I'll share em") and Hand Me Down My Walkin'
Cane ("I robbed a train and I got in jail and there ain't no one to go my
bail cuz all my sins are taken away").

        The liner notes are thoughtful, well-crafted and low key, "and
for all, it will provide countless hours of listening pleasures...achieving
effects rarely produced or heard on any recording."

        It's all a long way from Talking Vietnam, Bound for Glory or Too
Many Martyrs and certainly no real surprise that Ochs was happy to take
his paycheck for the session and leave it at that.  If Phil's early work
was JFK, his midrange LBJ and his later work Nixon, this album is pure
Ike.

         Perhaps it's not strange that no one noticed this before, as
Michael Ochs remarked, "The album was probably sold only in bargain bins
for the same type of people who would buy polka  or square dance music as
a genre only.  This type of record had a very limited shelf life and I
doubt if many copies were pressed, let alone sold."

        Prospects seem dim for any sort of re-issue. Allen Klein bought
Cameo in the 1960's and changed the name to Abkco (Allen B. Klein Co.).
In spite of repeated promises since the 1980's for CD releases from Cameo
masters nothing has been forthcoming.  If Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker
are locked away in the Abkco vaults it seems very unlikely that a Phil
Ochs curiosity will escape.

        Now, to find that song Phil wrote for the Cleveland Indians...

Campers -- Camp Favorites (Cameo C-1047) 1963

Side 1
The Welcome Song [1:46]
We'll Build a Bungelow [2:02]
Polly Wolly Doodle [2:08]
Gee Mom [2:13]
Patsy Ory Ory Aye [2:11]
Cannibal King [2:21]

Side 2
Hambone [3:11]
Friends Friends Friends [1:49]
I've Got Sixpence [2:00]
A Thousand Years Ago [2:10]
Adam and Eve [2:05]
Hand me Down My Walkin' Cane [2:01]

	All songs credited as "Traditional", Wyncote Music ASCAP. 

	[Please note -- I can't help with any requests for copies of the
	album -- sorry!]

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