Woodstock Folk Festival honors Lee and Joann Murdock
26th Annual Woodstock Folk Festival
12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, July 17
Woodstock Square in Woodstock
Suggested donations: individual $15 / family $25 / seniors and students $10
Updated: August 12, 2011 4:32PM
When the recipient of a ‘lifetime achievement award’ is nowhere near ‘old age’ and very much in the midst of a sustained and vibrant career, it can only mean that the quality and volume of contributions to date have been exceptional. This is certainly the case for Joann and Lee Murdock of Kaneville.
The Murdocks will be honored at the 26th Annual Woodstock Folk Festival July 17 as co-recipients of the “Lifetime Achievement Award.” Lee will be honored as a singer songwriter; Joann for her work in arts management.
This year’s Woodstock Folk Festival will present Main Stage performances by: Doug & Telisha Williams; Lee Murdock; Albert and Gage; Claudia Schmidt; Tangleweed; Pat Wictor; and Old Sledge. The event will be co-emceed by Chuck VanderVennet and Rich Warren.
An Open Mic at the nearby Stage Left Café will feature young guitar phenom, Macyn Taylor, and a foot percussion workshop by Colin O‘Brien. A children’s area will include performers Gary Plazyk and Amy Beth, and Liz McCoo.
Married for 32 years, Joann and Lee Murdock have become an established, respected, and cherished part of the folk music scene in the Midwest and beyond.
The two met in Iowa. “We were the original ‘Friends,’” said Lee, referring to the popular TV series. “I had just graduated from Drake University and was selling guitars in a store in Des Moines, had an apartment with a couple of friends, when some girls moved into the apartment below us and the six of us pal’d around together. One (of the girls) was Joann.”
Over the years, Lee has become a singer/songwriter/guitarist who has concentrated his repertoire and recordings on songs of the Great Lakes, while Joann has worked tirelessly behind the scenes as an artist manager for Lee and other select performers. Her “Artists of Note” agency boasts such folk stars as Tim Grimm, Kim and Reggie Harris, and Michael Smith.
“We are lucky in that we work at something we have a passion for,” said Joann. “Being an artist-manager is a creative experience, and to have a role in the growth of the performer is rewarding. I apply things I learn from each artist, as each artist has special capabilities. I’m always the person in the background, but I appreciate being recognized. With Lee, the Great Lakes repertoire has distinguished him. But at first he resisted focusing on it, thinking it might be limiting.”
Lee began performing in the mid-’70s in Chicago, playing mostly blues and popular songs. But he was drawn to folk music and the maritime tradition.
“I just happened upon the Great Lakes material after performing for 10 years,” said Lee. “It opened up my eyes as to what my calling was.”
Sixteen recordings later, Lee has produced a body of work that does more than entertain with superb vocals and musicianship. His repertoire reaches into history with songs collected or composed to bring back stories of old and he’s revived shanties and ballads long forgotten, at the same time, including new stories to carry the traditions forward.
“A lot of the songs I perform, I feel compelled to give the listener some type of framework for, and the notes (included with) the CDs help move people along on this sense of place,” said Lee.
Most recently, he’s composed a soundtrack to accompany the documentary film, “Unsolved Mysteries: The Shipwreck of the Thomas Hume.”
Lee also performs and has recorded other material, from classical and ragtime instrumentals, to traditional Irish and Civil War songs. An album planned for possible release next year will likely include songs about the Civil War and the War of 1812.
“It will be less thematic and more general,” noted Lee.
Joann enthused about the interplay of Lee’s music and his audience: “What is really exciting is to listen to Lee when he’s on tour, and meet people who are descendants of a merchant sailor or a lighthouse keeper, or from places like Beaver Island. I often help people in figuring out which of Lee’s CDs to buy, as each has its own perspective.”
More information on Lee Murdock and his music at www.leemurdock.com; information on Woodstock events at www.woodstockfolkmusic.com/folkfestival.