Carolyn Hester

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Carolyn Hester
Birth name Carolyn Sue Hester
Born (1937-01-28) January 28, 1937 (age 79)
Origin Waco, Texas, United States
Genres Folk
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1957–present
Labels Columbia
Associated acts Bob Dylan

Carolyn Sue Hester (born January 28, 1937) is an American folk singer and songwriter. She was a figure in the early 1960s folk music revival.


Carolyn Hester's first album was produced by Norman Petty in 1957. She made her second album for Tradition Records, run by the Clancy Brothers, in 1960. She became known for "The House of the Rising Sun" and "She Moved Through the Fair".[1]

Hester was one of many young Greenwich Village singers who rode the crest of the 1960s folk music wave, helping launch Gerde's Folk City in 1960. She appeared on the cover of the May 30, 1964, issue of the Saturday Evening Post. According to Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times, Hester was "one of the originals—one of the small but determined gang of ragtag, early-'60s folk singers who cruised the coffee shops and campuses, from Harvard Yard to Bleecker Street, convinced that their music could help change the world." Hester, dubbed "The Texas Songbird," was politically active, spearheading the controversial boycott of the television program Hootenanny when Pete Seeger was blacklisted from it.[2]

After failing to convince Joan Baez to sign with Columbia Records, John H. Hammond signed Hester in 1960. However, Hammond had a different recollection of events. In his autobiography, John Hammond on Record, he maintained that he passed on Baez "because she was asking a great deal of money while still a relatively unknown artist." That same year Hester met Richard Fariña, and they married eighteen days later. They separated after less than two years.

In 1961, Hester met Bob Dylan and invited him to play on her third album, her first on the Columbia label. Hammond, her producer, quickly signed Dylan to the label.[1][3]

Hester turned down the opportunity to join a folk trio with Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey. With Mary Travers the trio found stardom as Peter, Paul, & Mary. Hester collaborated with Bill Lee and Bruce Langhorne, but she concentrated exclusively on traditional material. In the late 1960s, unable to succeed as a folk-rock artist, she explored psychedelic music as part of the "Carolyn Hester Coalition", before drifting out of the music industry of the period.[1]

Hester has disputed David Hajdu's depiction of her marriage to Fariña in his book Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña. She has also claimed that there are exaggerations in his description of the relationships among Dylan, Baez, Hester, and the Fariñas. She has denied that Fariña was as close to Dylan as some rock historians claim and has strongly disputed that Fariña was in any way responsible for Dylan’s success, as Hajdu suggested.[2] Hajdu also suggested that Hester had an ongoing rivalry with Baez and her sister Mimi. To this day, Hester maintains that, on the contrary, she did not and does not know Baez well and that they were never rivals, personally or professionally.[2]

In 1969, Hester married the jazz pianist-producer-songwriter David Blume, the composer of the The Cyrkle's 1966 Top 40 hit "Turn Down Day." Together Hester and Blume formed the Outpost label. They also started an ethnic dance club in Los Angeles.

In the 1980s she returned to recording and touring. She and Nanci Griffith performed Bob Dylan's "Boots of Spanish Leather" at Dylan's Thirtieth Anniversary Tribute Concert at Madison Square Garden in 1992.[1]

In 1997, Hester toured Germany for the first time. Her tour manager was Dirk Stursberg of M&K Management. As a friend, she visited his home and bought a Teddy from his wife's company, the Teddy Atelier Stursberg. A year later, Hester played in a festival in Denmark.

In 1999, Hester released a Tom Paxton tribute album. She appeared on the A&E television Biography of Bob Dylan in August 2000.

Blume died in the spring of 2006. Hester closed the dance club, Cafe Danssa, a year after her husband's death.

She continues to perform and tour with her daughters, Amy Blume and Karla Blume. They recorded her album We Dream Forever, which was released in 2010.[4]


  • Scarlet Ribbons (1957) (Coral, LP)
  • Carolyn Hester (1960) (Tradition, LP)
  • Carolyn Hester (1961) (Columbia, LP)
  • This Life I'm Living (Columbia, LP)
  • That's My Song (1964) (Dot, LP)
  • Carolyn Hester at Town Hall, one (Dot, LP)
  • Carolyn Hester at Town Hall, two (Dot, LP)
  • The Carolyn Hester Coalition (Metromedia, LP)
  • Magazine (Metromedia, LP)
  • Music Medicine (Outpost, cassette)
  • Warriors of the Rainbow (Outpost, LP and cassette)
  • From These Hills (1999) (Road Goes on Forever, CD)
  • A Tribute to Tom Paxton (2000) (Road Goes on Forever, CD)
  • We Dream Forever (2009) (Crazy Creek Records, CD)

Reissues of early work[edit]

  • Carolyn Hester (1994) (Sony), CD reissue of Carolyn Hester (originally on the Columbia label)
  • Carolyn Hester at Town Hall (1994) (Bear Family), CD reissue of both Town Hall albums
  • Dear Companion (1995) (Bear Family), CD box set reissue of Carolyn Hester (originally on the Columbia label), This Life I'm Living and That's My Song with outtakes and alternate recordings
  • Texas Songbird (1995) (Road Goes on Forever), CD reissue of Warriors of the Rainbow and Music Medicine
  • The Tradition Album (1995) (Road Goes on Forever), CD reissue of Carolyn Hester (originally on the Tradition label) with four new tracks
  • The Tradition Years (1996) (Empire Musicwerks), CD remaster of Carolyn Hester (originally on the Tradition label)
  • The Carolyn Hester Coalition (2008) (Phantom Sound & Vision), CD remaster of the Metromedia LP
  • Magazine (2008) (Phantom Sound & Vision), CD remaster of the Metromedia LP
  • Carolyn Hester Introduces Bob Dylan (2013) (Jasmine Music), double CD including Scarlet Ribbons, Carolyn Hester –1960, Carolyn Hester – 1961, and Bob Dylan (his debut album); the CD concludes with Dylan's first electric single, "Mixed Up Confusion" / "Corrina, Corrina


  1. ^ a b c d Unterberger, Richie; Leggett, Steve. "Carolyn Hester biography". Allmusic. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Blumenfeld, Hugh. "Negatively 4th Street: A Talk With Carolyn Hester". The Ballad Tree. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  3. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 98. CN 5585. 
  4. ^ Thompson, Bob (January 12, 2005). "The Ballad of Carolyn Hester: Four Decades After Stardom Passed Her by, She's Singing Her Heart Out". The Washington Post: C1. 

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