The Old-Time Herald Volume 8, Number 8


Remembering Derroll Adams

by Gérard De Smaele, Patrick Ferryn, Tucker Zimmerman

American banjo player and singer, Derroll Adams (1925-2000) spent more than half his life in Europe, a good part of it in England, and the major part of it in Belgium where he settled down in the ’60s. In the reconstruction of Europe following World War II, the countries became the scenes of technological and intellectual revolutions. For many young people America became a model. For a number of these young artists, meeting Derroll Adams and his musical partner, Jack Elliott held a true fascination. It was often their first contact with American folk music and a very important experience in their lives.

After the war, England became the host country of many American musicians like Alan Lomax, Peggy Seeger, Tom Paley, and Ralph Rinzler (who was also a student in Paris). Later in the ’60s, prominent banjo players and figures of the old-time music scene toured throughout the Continent. Mike Seeger with the New Lost City Ramblers, Roscoe Holcomb, Cousin Emmy, and Ralph Stanley appeared in folk clubs across Europe. In the ’70s Art Rosenbaum, Bob Carlin, the Red Clay Ramblers and many others also played these clubs. Bill Keith, Tony Trischka, Béla Fleck, Joe Val, and Del McCoury often visited Europe to the delight of the growing number of fans of bluegrass music. Oak Publications and Folkways records were available in music stores. In France, Folkways records, with liner notes in French, sold under the label Le Chant du Monde.

In general, the folk revival shaped a new generation of folk artists and inspired new musical genres. If the folk boom of the ’60s has been partially forgotten by the younger generation, the traces these artists left behind are still visible and vibrant. See for example the Swiss Jens Krüger, the Italian Rafe Stefanini, the Czechoslovakian Prucha Banjo Company and many more folk music lovers in Europe. The name of Derroll Adams stands out as one of the most important of these pioneers of the European folk revival. In partial retirement from the music circuit since the end of the ’80s, he was celebrated in Kortrijk, Belgium in 1990 (see discography) and annually maintained himself as an important guest of the Tønder Folk Festival in Denmark. In July 2001, he was the posthumous star of the Brosella Folk Festival ( in Brussels, Belgium, and an album with his best friends’ contributions was released in 2002. Belgian film producer Patrick Ferryn will soon complete his tribute to Derroll with a 90-minute documentary film.

Here are three articles and supplements about Derroll Adams by Belgian banjo player Gerard De Smaele, filmmaker Patrick Ferryn and American song-writer and composer Tucker Zimmerman. Thanks to Danny Adams-Levy and her daughter Rebecca for their support and valuable help.

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