The Weavers, the first and most influential modern-day folk singing group, first appeared in 1948 as The No-Name Quartet, founded by close friends Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, as well as two younger members of the New York folk scene, Fred Hellerman and Ronnie Gilbert. The Weavers took their name from an old German play about 19th century textile workers. In 1950 they recorded a version of "Goodnight Irene" by their friend Lead Belly, who had just died. It became a nationwide hit and assured the quartet a major label deal with Decca and extensive tour offers; there was even discussion of an NBC TV show. When The Weavers were targeted as subversive during the McCarthy political witch hunts, their career began to fall apart and they disbanded in 1952. Three years later they staged a successful comeback concert at Carnegie Hall, and though Pete Seeger left the group a couple of years later, they continued to perform into the 1960s.
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Note: A reunion concert at Carnegie Hall in 1980 brought a dying Lee Hays together with the original members for a last time. A documentary of the reunion, The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time (1982) was directed by American Roots Music producer/director Jim Brown and is available on video.
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