Tom Paxton was born in Chicago in 1937 and spent his childhood in Oklahoma and Arizona. Wikipedia says that he was given his first stringed instrument, a ukulele, at the relatively late age of 16.
AllMusic’s profile goes over the same ground, of course. Its strength is that it separates different subgroups within the folk scene and points out that like Pete Seeger — but unlike Dylan — Paxton never aspired to be a rock star. He kept happily (and almost certainly less financially successfully) tied to his acoustic guitar. He also didn’t burn out and is still going strong at age 76.
Both songs here are beautiful. “I Miss My Friends Tonight” is above. It’s as sad as the title sounds. The closeups are of Liam Clancy and Eric Bibb. At the beginning of another YouTube clip from what seems to be the same performance, Paxton remarked that following those two is quite a challenge. He adds, however, that he once followed Black Sabbath at a concert in Germany, so nothing scares him. He doesn’t say why the promoter thought pairing the two acts–and having Black Sabbath open–was a good idea. “Ramblin’ Boy,” below, was performed with Seeger on the latter’s “Rainbow Quest” television show.
Anyone interested in the Village scene in those days should take a look at Paxton’s website. He offers interesting and heartfelt reminiscences of working — it was more than work, really — with Phil Ochs, Seeger, Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt. My guess is that the movie “Inside Llewyn Davis” is a fair recreation of the times, though I found the focus on such a depressing main character odd. In any case, a character in the film clearly is modeled after Paxton.
Note: The version of “Ramblin’ Boy” mentioned in this post is no longer on YouTube, so I’ve replaced it with “The Last Thing on My Mind.”