Folk duo to perform March 7 at Gillie Senior Recreation Center

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Carl Yaffey (left) and Bill Cohen are the Folk Ramblers.

An impromptu performance by the Folk Ramblers duo at the Gillie Senior Recreation Center last month has led to a formal invitation to appear Friday, March 7.

The Folk Ramblers, formed by Clintonville residents Carl Yaffey and Bill Cohen after the latter retired from a long career as a radio reporter covering the Ohio Statehouse, will perform at the center, 2100 Morse Road, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Admission is $10.

Cohen, who plays guitar, and Yaffey, who plays banjo, will lead senior center members in a singalong of folk and other tunes the members of their audience might remember from when they were young.

These will include If I Had a Hammer, Puff the Magic Dragon, Kumbaya, This Land Is Your Land and Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, among others, Cohen said. He called them songs people "of a certain age recall from summer camp, church retreats and backyard bonfires."

"It's lovely music and fun to sing to," said Yaffey, who currently plays banjo with local bands Grassahol, the Timbre Wolves and Bohemian Highway.

"People, at least some people, like surprises," Cohen wrote in an email relating how the March 7 performance came about. "So in January, Carl Yaffey and I just showed up, unannounced, at the Gillie Senior Center on Morse Road. Carl took out his banjo, I took out my guitar and we just started playing familiar folk songs.

"Within a couple minutes, the staffers, volunteers and members of the center who had gathered for other activities were singing along to tunes like Michael Row the Boat Ashore, Cottonfields and This Little Light of Mine.

"Since everyone was smiling and laughing about what a nice surprise it was, we asked them if they'd like us to come back for a full-scale two-hour singalong that might attract dozens of folks."

"Boy, did they react," Yaffey recalled. "Their eyes got wide; big smiles.

"I think it's nostalgia for a lot of people," he added. "It was a happy time, listening to the folkies. Of course, there were the bad things, the war and that stuff. The music was wonderful."

"Carl and I have been playing folk music for more than half a century, separately," according to Cohen. "He and his banjo have been in many different groups over the years ... and I've put on a variety of musical programs, mostly as a soloist.

"In the last few months, though, we've decided to work together on some projects, mostly singalongs that feature tunes from the modern folk music revival of the 1950s and '60s."

Future gigs for the Folk Ramblers will include singalongs at Maple Grove United Methodist Church to raise funds for ALS research, Covenant Presbyterian Church to help support the Mid-Ohio Workers Association at North Congregational United Church of Christ to benefit a mission project in Nicaragua.

Using their pooled talents and long careers in folk music to benefit good causes just feels right, Yaffey said.

"Both of us are at a point where we don't have to make a mint off singing, not that you could with folk music," he said. "The only way to make $1 million playing folk music is to start with $2 million."