(June 24, 1933 – June 11, 2017)

By Mitch Greenhill (via Facebook, with permission)

Rosalie SorrelsI first met Rosalie Sorrels in 1964, the start of a long musical and personal relationship. I was on my first trip west, performing here and there, including this one concert in Salt Lake City, where Rosalie headed a local presenting organization. After the concert she threw an epic party at the “big fine house” she later evoked in her song Travelin’ Lady. (Six years later, my band Frontier accompanied her on an album of the same name.) The party was rich in food, particularly a green chili dish that was a specialty of the house. And rich too in musicians, including a baby-faced songwriter, just out the armed forces, named Bruce Phillips. He sang a few new compositions, including If I Could Be the Rain. Some years later he reinvented himself as U Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest.

I said good-bye the next morning and moved on to my next gig, in the mysterious town of Ketchum, Idaho. Rosalie and family bid me farewell, but then secretly outraced me to Ketchum, where they greeted me as I arrived. I performed in the pulpit of the church where Rosalie’s grandfather once preached. It had evolved into a bar, with a swing on the pulpit. One of the patrons was a shy Wall Street Journal stringer named Hunter Thompson, whose later notoriety would extend beyond the liner notes that he wrote for Travelin’ Lady.

A year later we were both booked at the Newport Folk Festival’s “New Folks” concert. I accompanied Rosalie on her set, and then we drove to Vermont to record her album If I Could Be the Rain, featuring that song that Phillips sang at that party back in Salt Lake. We recorded in a living room, live, around a single microphone – part performance, part intimate conversation.

And so it went in our serendipitous relationship: 50 years of music, food, companionship and fortuitous meetings. Whether in her mountain cabin, or in a homey bar like Spec’s or the Lion’s Head, or on a concert stage or in a recording studio, she was always present, musical, and observant, with a keen ear, a sharp eye, and a big appetite for life. She will be missed.

Mitch Greenhill is president of FLiArtists/Folklore International. His father Manny Greenhill founded the company in 1957, as a means to present Pete Seeger and other artists. Mitch’s son Matt continues the tradition. The company has represented Doc Watson, Joan Baez, Taj Mahal, and many others. Mitch has released several albums as a performing artist, including with his current band, String Madness.