Friday 3 May – “If You’re Not Doing Anything Friday” – the San Francisco Folk Music Club

So I’m getting my fabulous ride home from the Union Chorus on Thursday when Glen, the man sitting next to me says “If you’re not doing anything Friday the San Francisco Folk Music Club is meeting. It’s 885 Clayton Ave at 8pm. I’ll be there. It’s been meeting since 1968 every other Friday.”

This is what seems to happen in San Francisco more than anywhere else I’ve been – people say “If you’re not doing anything…. there’s this – and what about this – and can you come to this?”

So I go. Why not? It’s a steep climb from Haight Ashbury which is still crawling with the druggy – peacenik – transvestism  of the 60s but also features a purple Ben & Jerry’s whose motto is PEACE LOVE AND ICE CREAM.Image

885 Clayton is the home of Faith Petric, now 97. She started it way back when but now  there is a committee who organises the entire thing and a lovely thing it is too. A big old wooden San Francisco home, one room is singing, one room is jamming. It’s free but food is a dollar.  In our room I counted 8 guitars, 2 banjos and a mandolin. There is always a theme and people find songs and learn them on this theme. Tonight’s theme is FRIENDSHIP. You can sing a song a capella, asked to be accompanied (though you probably will be anyway. As soon as anyone starts singing, all the guitars start picking, and harmonies develop). You can request a song, or ask everyone to sing a song. There is no clapping after the songs. You go round and round the room til eventually everyone gets exhausted and goes home. Faith sits in state, Queen of proceedings. She goes to bed at 10 and is sung off in style. She is adored and cherished.


I sat next to Rick who told me: “I went to the first two sessions of this in 1968. Then I got wasted, into drugs, and for 40 years was lost, man. Then I got clean, came back to San Francisco, and vaguely remembered this place. I knocked on the door, and said “Did there used to be a folk club here?” Faith said ‘Every other Friday.’ I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been coming every since.”

The singing is everything between patchy and fabulous. It’s hard to leave. But just before I do, Rick says, “If you’re not doing anything Sunday……….”


4 thoughts on “Friday 3 May – “If You’re Not Doing Anything Friday” – the San Francisco Folk Music Club

  1. Enid Irving

    Sounds SO great – and you are really entering into the spirit of things – my research in the US was much more formal and although I longed (and expected) to be invited out by the people I met – on the whole I wasn’t… so a lot of sitting alone in hotel rooms – if I’d known all this was happening… I’m so glad you found out!!! Much better now LOVE E

  2. Singing Seniors Post author

    As I say, in San Fran there is just so much. It’s Sunday morning and half of me is feeling guilty that I haven’t zoomed over to Oakland to see the most amazing older Gospel choir someone mentioned last night…….after I had done the harmony singing in the afternoon someone else had told me about….. but I’m knackered! Anyway, the Gerontology Fellowship is probably a little bit more formal, isn’t it? Sorry about the hotel rooms. Glad you’re better.

  3. Johanna Merry

    Not sure if this comes up as a comment or a reply so bear with me if its in the wrong place. Just wanted to say we are avidly reading the blog in our house and are inspired by the way you are throwing yourself into this adventure and savouring every second of the experience. I have already learnt stuff about our field just from reading the blog and am very excited about hearing more when you return and putting some of this incredible work into practice. One thing that’s really struck me is the discipline around timekeeping, attendance and learning songs. In the centres I’ve worked in all if these are much looser than you describe. Often theres a different group every week! I think its a question of expectations. If you expect those things and set that tone from the outset then maybe people will follow. I think maybe I’ve been far too casual about this in my sessions to date! Looking forward to fabulous new choirs springing up all over London upon your return. What a great vision to strive for.

    1. Singing Seniors Post author

      It’s interesting. The timekeeping thing was big in New York – it’s still good here but the thing I’m noticing out here is that there is SUCH enthusiasm for music, such passion to try anything, go anywhere, listen, join in, sing. Music seems to be at the heart of the city. It is joyous. But I love the fact that the Fellowship has allowed me to go and look at other people running sessions and at their expectations and different cultures. We are so used to our own little culture. Travel broadens. And how!


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