In the early 1960s SDSU Professor Emeritus Joel Henderson stayed for a while in Boston. "I was probably living the life," he says, "that Jack Kerouac wrote about." He took a room over the Golden Vanity, a coffee shop where he worked for room and board before he shipped off to Tangier. "You have to realize, in the '60s having a coffee shop was considered radical," he says. The Vanity was a haven for both the counterculture and folk music. "Joan Baez came in on Wednesday nights, barefoot, and she sang folk songs. I remember it well. We showed The Wild One every Wednesday, and it drew a motorcycle crowd."
Folk singer Carolyn Hester also remembers the Golden Vanity. She performed there, sometimes with Baez. "Joan was only 16 then," says Hester. When she left her native Texas for Greenwich Village in the '60s, Hester landed smack in the epicenter of the growing folk movement. Some say that she was denied major commercial success because she stayed traditional, but there is no denying her rightful place in the pantheon of folk. A World Folk Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Hester was there from the begin-ning. She turned down an offer to join a trio that ultimately became Peter, Paul, and Mary. Buddy Holly helped her land her first record deal. She hired an unknown 19-year-old named Bob Dylan to play harmonica on her third album. And in May of 1964, Hester became the face of the folk music generation when she was pictured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post for a feature story titled "Folk Music Fad."
"She was one of the originals," says Henderson, who now produces what he calls "concerts to make a positive change in the world." "She agreed to just come," he says. "There's no guarantee she's gonna make a penny on this. She liked the idea. She said, 'Let's just see how it goes.' "
CAROLYN HESTER, Smith Recital Hall, San Diego State University (across from Open Air Theatre), Friday, November 2, 7 p.m. 619-594-4090. $13.