WRITER - MUSICIAN - FOLKLORIST
Patty Hall caught folk music fever as a teenager in the San Francisco Bay Area. Already a diligent plunker on her Dad's ukulele, she won a set of series tickets to the 1963 Berkeley Folk Festival from KPFA radio, and it changed everything. High on folk music, Patty scoured Berkeley record stores for any and all Folkways albums she could find; taught herself to play banjo, guitar, and autoharp; and made her performing debut at Hayward High School in a all-girl old-timey band.
As an undergraduate at UC-Santa Cruz, Patty caught another bugócollecting antiquarian children's books. She was especially intrigued with the lushly conceived books by a man named Johnny Gruelle, a talented author-illustrator whose own modest persona had been eclipsed by his most famous creations, Raggedy Ann and Andy.
Patty was inspired by writing of a different sort in the early 1970s, when she penned her first original song, "Organic." This topical ode to the health food feeding frenzy became an audience favorite, taking on a life of its own among folkies, Girl Scouts, and summer campers, and was eventually included in the songbook Here's to the Women!
In 1972, Patty entered the Folklore Graduate Program at UCLA. In between courses on Anglo-American folksong and fieldwork, she made the rounds on the Southern California folk circuit, performing a growing repertoire of original and grass-roots songs at folk festivals, coffeehouses, clubs, and on radio.
Meanwhile, Patty had also begun learning about her own grass roots, as a 4th-generation Californian whose ancestors had come from England, Germany, and Portugal to settle in Visalia and in the Mother Lode, long before the Gold Rush.
After receiving her M.A, Patty moved to Nashville in 1975 to work at the Country Music Hall of Fame, where, among other things, she led banjo workshops, produced albums of historical country music for Rounder and Foundation Records and wrote liner notes for the Franklin Mint and Time-Life Records.
Nashville was bliss for a songwriting folklorist, and Patty found herself quickly in the thick of it, performing and eventually co-hosting a women's writer's night near Music Row. But by the late '70s, her music was sharing the stage with a budding, if not more gainful career in the museum field. As Director of Education at the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), Patty trekked about the U.S., coordinating educational seminars on local history, folklore, and museum planning. Serious business it was, but on more than one occasion, she was known to have smuggled her banjo along, reminding weary seminarians that history can be fun too.
In the mid-1980s, Patty's modest collection of antiquarian children's books had grown into something more substantial. With an NEH grant in hand, and fueled by increasing curiosity, Patty decided to research and write about the life and times of Johnny Gruelle. The result was Johnny Gruelle, Creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy, an illustrated biography published in 1993.
More historical books followed, and Patty began touring the U.S., presenting programs about Gruelle and his characters at museums, libraries, bookstores, and schools. In 1998, she became historical consultant to the newly founded Johnny Gruelle Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum. And in 1999, Simon & Schuster invited Patty to begin authoring a series of Raggedy Ann and Andy "Ready-to-Reads" and "Board Books" for children, in which the old-fashioned Raggdys enjoy contemporary adventures.
A move back to California in 2000 rekindled Patty's passion for songwriting and performing her own music. Dusting off the old Martin, she began, once again, sharing her blend of original, traditional, topical, and children's songs with West Coast audiences and beyond.
After 25 years spent in the wilds of Music City, Patty Hall is delighted to be living, writing, and performing again in the great Golden State, where her roots run deep, new book and song ideas abound, and folk music is, thankfully, very much alive and kicking.
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