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Noel Paul Stookey: One & Many

By Robert Bao, Editor

  • Published: 02/18/2013
Noel Paul Stookey


          Before the Beatles swept the world of popular music in 1964, the top musical group in the nation was arguably Peter, Paul and Mary.  In November 1963, the folk trio had three LP albums in Billboard’s Top Ten and six of their singles attained gold status (more than 1 million copies sold).  One member of the trio, singer and songwriter Noel Paul Stookey, attended MSU for three years prior to the group’s founding in 1961.  A half century and 45 albums later, at age 75, he is still going strong as a solo artist.  In 2007 he released three new CDs and recently released One & Many to celebrate the trio’s 50th anniversary.  “Folk music carries its own instruction,” says Stookey, who lives in Maine.  “The lessons I learned are not just about lifestyle, but also about developing spiritual curiosity.  I’ve been incredibly guided by the legacy of this music.”  Growing up in Birmingham, Noel chose to attend MSU, where he learned some life lessons.  “MSU taught me that I could do well if I focused,” he says, citing a history course where he managed a B after flunking it the first time.  Noel says he blossomed outside the classroom, where he honed his skills as jazz singer, entertainer, raconteur and emcee.  He emceed such major events as the Water Carnival and the Homecoming Dance.  He and his group, the Corsairs, recorded a song on one side of a 45—with a song by football player Clarence Peeks on the other.  A member of Delta Upsilon, Noel recalls serenading dorms, fraternities and “lots of open windows” to get a fraternity brother elected class president.  “My reputation was such that as a junior, I was third in voting in the Ugly Man Contest,” he beams proudly.  He left MSU after his junior year when his family moved to Philadelphia.  Two years later, he moved to Greenwich Village, met Peter Yarrow and Mary Travers, and formed one of the most iconic music groups of the era.  “I operated mostly outside of academics,” he muses of his college years.  “I’m not proud, but it shows there are alternative ways of finding opportunities in life.”

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