A personal & musical history...
Hi! My name is Rik Palieri,(pronounced Pal-air-re). It's an Italian occupational name that means the shovel maker. I come from a family of storytellers with ancestors from both Poland and Italy.
I sing and perform both original and traditional songs on a variety of folk instruments, including the banjo, 6 & 12 string guitars, mouth bow, Native American flute and a collection of rare Polish bagpipes.
I have performed in some famous places like The 40th Philadelphia Folk Festival, The Vancouver Folk Festival, The Port Fairy Folk Festival, Cafe Lena, The Hudson River Revival, The Bitter End, The Blue Bird Cafe, and Trumps Taj Mahal. I've also performed in little known venues like "Bojangels" (out in the heart of the Australian Outback), The Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas, The Poor Man's Shanty in Phoenix, Arizona and The Polish Coal Miners Union Hall in Southern Poland. I have appeared at festivals, clubs and radio shows in Australia, Poland, France, Spain, Germany, Scotland, Canada and in every state in the USA except Hawaii.
In all my shows I feature a fun evening of fast banjo picking, exotic instruments, sing-a-longs, original song writing and a little bit of yodeling. I also like to sprinkle my songs with stories.
I grew up listening to stories and songs around my mother's kitchen table and fell in love with music at a young age. In grade school, I experimented with a baritone horn in a drum & bugle Corps called The Black Hawks. I spent most of my weekends marching in parades. One of our greatest shows was at the 1964 New York World's Fair. We marched around the grounds and performed at the New Jersey Pavilion, billed with "Sam The Sham and the Pharoahs".
When I was fifteen, I taught myself the 5-string banjo from Pete Seeger's book. In no time I was having hootenannies in my basement and performing in local coffee houses, at festivals and on radio shows.
After high school, I hoboed across America, playing my guitar and banjo for nickels and dimes and collecting songs wherever I went. I learned a variety of banjo styles from Erik Darling, Leadbelly songs from Rev. Frederick Kirkpatrick and Union songs from "Almanac Singer" Sis Cunningham.
In the mid 70's I joined up with Pete Seeger and The Hudson River Sloop Singers. I organized and directed The Festival of Blueberries in Perth Amboy NJ, and became a regular performer at Clearwater events. Back then, The Sloop Singers were a small rag tag army of singing environmentalists that often shared the stage with Pete Seeger. We sang at river front festivals, The Clearwater's Pumpkin Sail, and even sung once as Pete's backup chorus on stage at Carnegie Hall. I was recorded singing with the Sloop singers chorus on two albums, "The Great Hudson River Revival" on Flying Fish and The Hudson River Sloop Singers "Broad Old River".
One day in the late 70's I came across a photo of a Polish Bagpiper in an old National Geographic. After a long search I found a set of Polish pipes and was later invited to perform at the 1980 Rzeszow world festival in Poland. At the festival I won a contest, met Polish piper Jozef Broda, and was awarded the title of "Outstanding Solo Musician".
In 1984-85 I received a fellowship from the Kosciuzko Foundation for the study of the Polish Bagpipe. I lived high up on the mountains in the village of Istebna, a folk community in southern Poland. In Istebna, I learned the secrets of piping from Broda and the last remaining pipers. The Mountaineers taught me not only the bagpipes but also the wooden flute, clay ocarina and long wooden trumpet. They also gave me a new name, "Ryki", The Song Of The Elk. While in Poland I performed with Broda on National Polish TV and later joined him and his group for a tour of Southern France.
After my fellowship, I returned to America to make my first album called Last Of The Gypsies, an eclectic collection of American, Polish and original songs. The success of this album gained my acceptance to the Vermont Arts Councils programs. As part of the Touring Arts and the Arts In Education Programs, I keep traveling through the hills of Vermont introducing students to multi-cultural music, folk arts and ethnic diversity.
In 1991-94 I took on the ambitious idea of performing in 1000 schools across the USA. I worked for The National School Assemblies and Dakota Assemblies. I traveled the blue highways in all the lower 48 states and became a "Road Warrior", living and traveling with my Polish Sheepdog Koza in our VW bus. While traveling around the country, I rode horses with cowboys up in Idaho, sat in a sweat lodge in South Dakota and learned how to play the Ozark mouth bow from Jimmy Driftwood in Arkansas.
In 1993 I released my first CD of all original songs "The Music In Me" on Straight Arrow. Through the magic of the internet my songs "Freezing in North Dakota", "Chalk Cat" and "It's Up To You To Carry On!" began to pop up on radio play lists around the world! Even NPR's "Car Talk" featured my song "Radiator Man" on one of it's shows.
During this time I started working with Lot Polish Airlines and developed The Polish Folk Arts Tour. We brought dozens of American Tourists to Poland to learn about Polish art, music & dance from the masters. I helped promote this tour by writing and starring in Lot's TV commercials, promotional videos and travel ads.
Back in Vermont, Promised Land Records signed me to produce two albums: "Rik Palieri Live At Burke Hollow School" and an album of Polish bagpipes called "Ryki Song Of The Elk". Soon after its release this album was cataloged by the Library of Congress for their folk archives.
In 1996, I was sponsored by The Green Mountain Coffee Roasters of Vermont for a National Coffee House Tour. I toured the USA, singing and brewing up free coffee in colleges and coffee houses from coast to coast. Later that fall I worked for The Alaskan Marine Highway Ferry and performed concerts along eastern Alaska, then flew out to more remote areas by float plane.
Late in the fall of 1997, I released my fifth album called "Panning For Gold". This CD has hilarious liner notes by my old pal, Utah Phillips, and contains some of my most requested songs, such as "Plant a Tree", "Ghosts on The highway", "You're Just A Car", "Child Of The 60's", and "Pandora's Box".
Back in 1998, I was surprised to see that ABC TV's 20/20 used a short clip of me playing at the National Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa. On that day my phone almost rang off the hook! In 1999, I joined up with my pal U. Utah Phillips's outfit the Rose Tattoo and started performing with them at folk festivals and concerts.
By the year 2000 I was traveling back and forth to the UK hanging out with gypsies at the Open Roads Festival in Scotland and doing a spot on BBC TV over in Nottingham, England. Back at home I started working on a TV show of my own called the "Song Writer's Notebook on VCAM channel in Burlington. So far we've aired about 80 programs featuring some of the best known song writers like Pete Seeger, Utah Phillips, Tom Paxton, Mary Macaslin, Ellis Paul, Sara Lee Guthrie, as well as specials about Gypsies & Hobos, Folk Festivals, the Folk Train, Aston Martin Cars and the CF Martin Guitar Company.
In 2001, I recorded a new CD "Hard Traveling" with my old friend Gareth Hedges, returning back to my roots singing many of our favorite old folk songs. At the moment, I've just started writing a book of my travels due for 2002.
Well, there's lots more stories to tell, but it's time for me to load up my truck and hit the road. Perhaps I'll make it out to your community someday and you'll hear some of my songs and stories first hand!
Road Warrior and occasional writer for Sing Out,