Terri Thal —manager, promoter and friend of some of the seminal folk musicians of the 1960s — is 75 years old. (June 4)
When the artists were just starting their careers, Thal managed Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan (for a little less than a year), Tom Paxton (for about a year), Danny Kalb, Paul Geremia, Mark Ross, Maggie and Terre Roche, the Holy Modal Rounders and others.
After the late 60s, the folk music world shifted to rock. Thal changed too, switching to work for not-for-profit organizations in the early 1970s, most recently as executive director of a maternal-child health agency. Now, she is a consultant to not-for-profits, a writer and speaker, mostly about the 1960s folk music world.
She publicizes old-friend folksingers, recommends musicians to clubs and concert producers and designs programs that integrate folk music, history and local culture. She also protects land and water in Rockland County, where she lives.
Thal was born in Brooklyn. Her interest in folk music came partly from an American Studies honors seminar she took at Brooklyn College with historian John Hope Franklin that integrated historic events, music and literature.
Combining her interests, Thal’s political work during the late 1950s and the 1960s included “getting performers to appear at benefit concerts ─ or at civil rights rallies and anti-Vietman invasion efforts — for SNCC, CORE, the National Civil Liberties Committee and a lot of other organizations.”
“I brought a lot of issues to public attention, including the plight of people who had been released from prison; we held the first Impeach Nixon rally; and we helped a lot of people get needed services. I’m proud of that.”
In the early 1970s, she lived with Paul Solomon Orentlich, a sculptor and actor who had worked at the Kettle of Fish, the bar next to the Gaslight; and who earlier, had been part of People’s Artists, where he had developed musical arrangements for Cisco Houston and Woody Guthrie. After 27 years with Thal, Orentlich died of sudden heart failure.
Three years after Orentlich died, Thal and Martus Granirer, a land and water-saving advocate, moved in together. To her surprise, she learned that years before, as a photographer in the late 1950s, Ganirer had designed the cover of Dave Van Ronk’s first record album.
Van Ronk and Thal had hated it; Granirer had meant it as a spoof of other folk album covers of the time.
Photos by Frank Beacham