Lawrence Older

Additional bio material and music from Lawrence Older appear in the Fiddlers & Dance Tunes section.

Nicknamed “The Adirondack Minstrel” for his multiple talents as a singer and instrumentalist, Lawrence Older (1912-1982) knew the woods work of the southeastern foothills circa early-mid twentieth century as well as anyone. He lumbered most often by himself or with just one other person, keeping himself company with the songs, ballads and fiddle tunes he learned in large part from his very musical family. 

The rare traditional singer who also loved to play the fiddle, Older and his music were  unique in at least two ways: he would accompany his songs and ballads with a modern folk/country guitar style, and he would actively seek out song material and information on his family repertoire through research, interviews with older woodsmen, and informal gatherings with Folk Revival singers and musicians.  He straddled the line between the old traditional music and modern (1960s-era) folk music and folklore scholarship perhaps more than any  other Adirondack musical tradition bearer.

Lawrence seemed to gravitate to the songs that had a local connection.  Some of these were purely local, speaking of Adirondack woods work and lumbercamp events, whereas many others were old songs of British or early American origin handed down in the region through his family for generations.  He was recorded by song collector Marjorie Lansing Porter in the 1950s, and by folk music collectors/scholars Caroline and Sandy Paton in the 1960s.  The Paton’s recordings were released on their Folk Legacy Records label in 1964 under the title Adirondack Songs, Ballads, and Fiddle Tunes.

The 1960s - 1980s found Lawrence performing around the Northeast at folk music coffeehouses and festivals, college campuses, folklore events and more. He often performed together with his wife, Martha, who played an Appalachian dulcimer. He was the subject of a short documentary film by Jack Ofield in 1977 entitled Adirondack Minstrel and continued to perform until a year before his death.