Hedy West was the First Lady of the Folk Music Scene of the 1960's. No less an authority than A. L. "Burt" Lloyd - yes, the A. L. "Burt" Lloyd - said she was "by far the best of the lot."
Hedy's most famous song (although many who know of the song have never heard of the composer) was "500 Miles". In the late 50's and into the 60's the tune was a staple of mainstream performers and groups like the Kingston Trio, Johnny Rivers, Lonnie Donegan, Peter and Gordon, and Sonny and Cher. The song still appears in the repertoire occasionally when a band wants a brief respite from their normal discordant electrified blastings in those overly choreographed extravaganzas so often courteously dubbed "a concert."
Yes, some musical curmudgeons may maintain "500 Miles" is an "adaptation" of traditional railroad folksongs like "Ruben's Train". But why is Hedy's song less of an original composition that that of - quote - "serious composers" - unquote - who used traditional folk tunes in their compositions? We are, of course, referring to composers like Aaron Copeland , Manuel De Falla, and Ralph Vaughn Williams.
Hedy's choice instrument was the five string banjo which she played in the traditional "frailing" or "clawhammer" style. Her banjo playing and traditional rural singing fit well with songs like "Cotton Mill Girls" and "Pans of Biscuits" in performances far superior to the normal discordant electrified blastings in those overly choreographed extravaganzas so often courteously dubbed "a concert."
Careful readers will note the repeated use of the past tense. Sad to say, Hedy is no longer with us. She died in 2005 at age 67.