Barbara and Graham Dean have produced one CD, ‘Tom Paine Blues,’ and plan to record another soon.
Barbara and Graham Dean have produced one CD, ‘Tom Paine Blues,’ and plan to record another soon. (Photo courtesy of Barbara and Graham Dean)

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Graham and Barbara Dean wear an awful lot of hats: activists, teachers, radio show hosts and versatile musicians.

The interest here is in the latter vocation. The Deans have been performing around the area since the early 1980s as a duo, The Lovedogs, and are still at it.

The Deans also host not one, not two, but three radio shows. Two, on WBCR, 97.7 in Great Barrington, are called "Common Sense Songs" on Wednesday nights from 8 to 10 p.m. and "Folk, Blues and Beyond" on Thursday nights from 7 to 10 p.m. The media moguls also have a radio show, "Mostly Folk," on WRPI, 91.5 in Troy, N.Y., every Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m.

As busy as they are, the Deans found time to sit down and talk music, influences and Jerry Garcia's legacy.

Berkshires Week: How did you two meet?

Barbara Dean: Well, we met at a spiritual studies course in England in 1975. It was a wonderful course, and during breaks I used to love to listen to Graham playing on the grounds of the estate we were on.

Graham Dean: I came to the States in 1977. May.

BD: And we got married and started a family.

BW: Obviously, you grew up on opposite sides of the ocean. Can you talk about your influences?

BD: I was from a progressive, left-wing family in New York City. A lot of what I listened to was political music: Pete Seeger, The Weavers, Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte.

GD: As a teenager growing up in England, I would say my primary influences were the Rolling Stones. They came along in 1962, and they were totally based in African-American music. The first time I heard Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied" was on a Rolling Stones record.

But in those early days, I also loved the San Francisco sound. In fact, I have to admit it, I was a Deadhead. Jerry Garcia was a great folk musician.

BD: People don't think of the Dead as folk musicians, but that's the way they started out.

BW: Who plays what in this group?

BD: Graham plays guitar and writes the songs, for the most part. I play electric bass. I've started writing songs, too.

BW: Where was your first gig?

BD: Back in the 1970s, the Rudolf Steiner School [in Great Barrington] used to regularly have a "coffee house" at the school. We started attending, and performing. And to our surprise, people really enjoyed it.

BW: Since then, you have played all over the area, correct?

GD: We've played in a lot of different places. The Guthrie Center, various open mike nights, even private house parties, which seem to be a more and more popular venue.

BD: It's somewhat controversial. There are venue owners who don't like it, because a house party takes away from their audiences. On the other hand, it's a great way to perform in an intimate space.

BW: What side of it do you two fall on?

BD: Well, we obviously don't want to bite the hand that feeds us, but I think it's a good idea, especially for new performers.

BW: What are you working on these days?

GD: We have plans to record another CD of our music, down the road. Right now, we're working with members of George Frederick Root's family on developing a program that would include his music.

BD: Root was a local boy, born in Sheffield, and he wrote 35 songs during the Civil War. "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp," was one, for instance. And he still has family here. We're working with them on a live program and, eventually, a CD.

Download the Deans' CD on CD Baby. For more information, email them at gbdean@earthlink.net.