Gil Turner

+ {The New World Singers}

Although GIL TURNER (born Gilbert Strunk, May 6, 1933, Bridgeport, Connecticut) released no solo singles or albums in his relatively short time as a budding folk star, his name is synonymous with establishing the revival movement in the early 60s through founding the Broadside magazine (alongside Gordon Friesen and wife SIS CUNNINGHAM) and taking the mic as MC at Gerde’s Folk City venue in Greenwich Village.
Brought up by a German immigrant father and a devoutly religious mother, and having studied political science and social work as he trained to be a teacher of autistic children, Gil would find his own physical hardships as he contemplated life with rheumatoid arthritis; his 5-string banjo and 12-string guitar plucking (inspired by REV. GARY DAVIS) were lost to him by the mid-late 60s. With his compositions part of the Library of Congress music vaults (soon to be picked out by JUDY COLLINS, LEN CHANDLER, JOAN BAEZ, et al) and having laid down solo tracks for the `Broadside Ballads, Vol.1’ in ’62 with Blind Boy Grunt (aka BOB DYLAN), PETE SEEGER, MARK SPOELSTRA, PHIL OCHS, PETER LaFARGE, HAPPY TRAUM and The NEW WORLD SINGERS, Gil and his latter group released their one and only set for Atlantic Records, THE NEW WORLD SINGERS (1963) {*6}. Along with the aforementioned Traum and Bob Cohen, the LP never reached the heady commercial heights of his folk-music peers and the trio split; DYLAN wrote the liner notes. It’s worth mentioning that the “Broadside” LP featured NWS tracks `Blowin’ In The Wind’, `Bizness Ain’t Dead’ and `I Can See A New Day’, while Turner solo contributed `Benny Kid Parat’.
Moonlighting as an actor in the National Shakespeare Company (alongside Will Geer), he would work constantly with the Civil Rights movement, but all of his graft was overshadowed when he contracted hepatitis in the early 70s; he relocated to San Francisco where he underwent major treatment. Sadly, and tragically (after it seemed he might be recording for Elektra Records), he died September 23, 1974 – he was working in an acting role on TV series The Waltons, alongside his old buddy, Geer.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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  1. Patricia Leary

    He played in my coffeehouse circa 1966, The Heritage in Mission Beach. I was transported by his music, especially…Carry it On. He was a very special and gentle human being who should not have died as young as he did.

  2. Patricia Leary

    In fact… Gil Turner was just so beautiful and talented…I felt so privileged that I was able to meet him and love him and support him in the 60s.

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