Way Out in Idaho
By Gary Oberbillig
My wife and I were too young to have been beatniks and too old to be considered hippies when they made an appearance on the national scene in the 1960s, but we were devout VW-driving, guitar-strumming, full-voiced singers—folkies to the core. And we fondly followed the great performers of the glory days of the hootenannies and folk festivals not all that long ago.
Through folk music, we were privileged to meet an aviary of other singing birds, and some became lifelong friends. Perhaps the most famous Idahoan among them was Rosalie Sorrels [see “Rosalie Sorrels,” IDAHO magazine, April 2004], whom I was fortunate to get to know as a teenager through her mom, Nancy Stringfellow, owner then of the largest bookstore in downtown Boise.
Already I was an avid folk music buff, and Nancy became a kind of mentor to me, often saving new folk music hardcovers for me when they came to the bookstore.
When I first met Rosalie on one of her trips up from Salt Lake City, she had just recorded her album of the songs of the Mormon pioneers, backed up on guitar by Jim Sorrels, her husband at the time. She was in the early stages of her rise to folk song eminence as she wrote, concertized, and traveled the country collecting songs, accompanied by her five kids. It was a tough road.
She racked up the miles and years in her old gas-guzzler Ford Econoline with the bald tires. She was directly in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and other rambling musicians who had paid their dues as they looked for work during the bleak 1930s.