He doesn’t sing and he only occasionally strums his guitar, but Jon Pankake’s contributions to folk music could net the University adviser a Grammy at the music awards ceremony next month.
Pankake, a College of Liberal Arts pre-major adviser, received a 1997 Grammy award nomination with nine other writers for a booklet of essays that accompanies the American Anthology of Folk Music.
The anthology, first released in 1952, is a collection of more than 80 of the oldest American folk songs. Pankake said these songs influenced musicians such as Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan.
“It’s music from a lost America,” Pankake said. “These songs left an imprint on the blues, early jazz, hillbilly and square dance music. They are a window into the past.”
In order to make the recordings more accessible, the anthology was re-released by the Smithsonian Institute last year.
Pankake’s essay, “The Brotherhood of the Anthology,” is one of three essays written about the collection in the accompanying booklet. In total, nine writers had works such as poems and song histories included in the booklet.
Writings of Jeff Place, who works in a Washington D.C. record store, were also included. Place said other writers discovered Pankake through the advisor’s “Little Sand Review,” which is a nationally known newsletter in folk music circles.
Pankake’s essay details experiences with folk music and the anthology. A folk music concert he and a University classmate attended in the 1960s first sparked his interest in the earthy and acoustic music.
“In the case of my own questing youth, my discovery of the anthology at the age of 21 quite literally changed my life,” Pankake says in the essay.
Art Geffen, an associate English professor, said he liked Pankake’s essay so much he wrote him a praising e-mail after reading it.
“I felt Jon had articulated much better than I could the impact that this collection has had,” Geffen said. “It is the greatest, most influential collection of folk music.”
Geffen said he is pleased that the project is up for a Grammy, and the nomination is a significant achievement for folk music.
“To be nominated for a Grammy says that Americanization is turning back to this kind of music,” Geffen said.
“It’s bringing people out of the coffee house acoustic period,” Place added. “Our nomination is like the Oscars. It’s going to give us a new line of profile.”