BOUND FOR GLORY, North America’s longest running live-music folk broadcast, is in the midst of its 44th season. This past winter founder Phil Shapiro marked his 65th birthday, and continuing through the summer will feature six broadcasts. The show runs Sunday night from 8 to 11, with live sets at 8:30, 9:30, and 10:30 at the Cafe at Anabel Taylor Hall at Cornell. It’s also broadcast on WVBR-FM, 93.5 and 105.5, and streaming on line at wvbr.com.
The social-commentator and humorist Rod MacDonald returns to Anabel Taylor Hall June 26; Illinois-based songsmith Andrew Calhoun stops by July 3; early bluegrass and old country songs are North Water’s specialty (July 10); local great and one of America’s foremost clawhammer banjo players Mac Benford will celebrate July 17; and Peter Siegel and Frankie Armstrong round out the schedule.
From August 7 to the 21st, Cornell resumes its Summer Break and Bound for Glory goes on a holiday. The 45th season begins August 28.
Jim Catalano spoke with Shapiro on the eve of his birthday.
Q: What are your thoughts on turning 65?
Phil Shapiro: 65 is a big milestone for me, and for a lot of people. This Sunday, 2/13, I will turn 65. I can ignore it, and I’ll still be 65. Or I can have fun with it, and…I’ll still be 65.
We perform music, old and not so old, in the American folk tradition. A lot of our songs have wonderful choruses. In general, the “Bound for Glory” live audience is really into singing along with performers, and we’ll be encouraging that this Sunday.
Q: What are your thoughts on doing it for 44 years? Has time flown by for you?
Shapiro: “Bound for Glory” is both a lot of magic and a lot of work. I can’t say that time has flown by, but I certainly remember that, long ago, I turned 33 1/3 on a Sunday night. 33 1/3 is the rotation speed of a phonograph record, and back then that’s where the music came from.
Any organization that survives this long has its share of good times and its share of crises. Right now, it’s fun to focus on the good times. I’ve had an amazing run, with a Who’s Who of North American, and occasionally even European, folk musicians of all sorts, playing for free in a small upstate New York town on a Sunday night.
Some of them are famous, some are not. But I will hold up the “Bound for Glory” performer roster as equal to any folk club in the country. I get some mighty fine people on the show. I don’t do [the show] alone. I have a wonderful crew, led by Terry Kelleher on the tech side, and by Jim Harper of the Friends of “Bound for Glory.” There are roughly 20 people who do something or other to keep this show on the air. We are all volunteers. I don’t get paid, the performers don’t get paid, the crew doesn’t get paid. Except in magic. That’s something we have plenty of.
Q: Any idea on how long you’ll continue to do the show?
Shapiro: Well, I certainly won’t be here another 44 years. I haven’t set a retirement date, but it will have to be pretty soon, a year or two out. I will really miss the show when I’m done, so I’m not rushing to leave. And I think the community will miss the show as well.