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Category: Hidden Folklorists

Hidden Folklorists: Harry Payne Reeves, the Mysterious Cowboy Singer Daca

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Learn about the fascinating character "Daca," a bookseller in New York who taught Alan Lomax the cowboy classic "Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle." Daca contributed ten songs and a sheaf of tall tales to the Library of Congress. He was a cowboy in the 1910s and a bookshop owner in Bohemian Greenwich Village in the 1920s and 30s, while he moonlighted by singing cowboy songs on the radio. He had a master's degree in Spanish and was an expert on European fables. He also went by at least three names (Harry Payne Reeves, David Daca, and Harry Reece). Daca was a fascinating forerunner both of Woody Guthrie, another cowboy singer who arrived in New York just as Daca left, and of Bob Dylan, a trickster who concealed his identity with aliases and gave evasive answers to interviewers. In this way, he laid the groundwork and established some of the norms for the folk scene in Greenwich Village. Read his story, hear his songs, and find out about a little known "hidden folklorist"--all in this blog post!