Volume 79, Number 16 | September 23 - 29, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Mary Travers, 72, a member of folk-singing supergroup

Mary Travers, of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, who lived most of her life in Greenwich Village where her career in the famed group took off in the early 1960s, died Sept. 16 in Danbury Hospital in Connecticut at age 72.

She was born in Louisville, Ky., and moved to the Village with her mother and father when she was 2 years old.

She attended Little Red School House and its affiliate Elisabeth Irwin High School in the Village, graduating in 1955. As a high school student she was a member of the Song Swappers, a group that sang backup for Pete Seeger on his three Folkways records that came out in 1955, according to her obituary in The New York Times.

Folk singing was her hobby, but she was extremely shy and had to be coaxed by friends like Fred Hellerman of The Weavers and Theodore Bikel to perform in Greenwich Village folk venues. In 1958 she appeared in the chorus and sang one solo in Mort Sahl’s “The Next President,” which had a short Broadway run.

Albert Grossman, a manager who was putting together a folk trio, suggested to Peter Yarrow that Mary Travers would be a good addition, “if you could get her to work,” according to the Times obituary. Yarrow and Travers met in her MacDougal St. apartment, harmonized on a union song, and decided their voices fit. Mary suggested a friend, Paul Stookey, who was singing and doing stand-up comedy in the Gaslight on MacDougal St. and he became the third member of the group.

Peter, Paul and Mary began performing in Folk City in 1961 after rehearsing for seven months with their arranger, Milt Okun. Their first album came out the following year and their career soared. Their albums “Moving” and “In the Wind” rose to the top of the charts in 1963. “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” became some of the signature songs of the 1960s. The group disbanded in 1970 and Mary took up a solo career, releasing five albums, the last in 1978. 

She died of complications from chemotherapy for a bone marrow transplant for leukemia that she had several years ago. In recent years she made her home in Redding, Conn.

Her fourth husband, Ethan Robbins, two daughters, Erika Marshall of Florida and Alicia Travers of Connecticut, a sister, Ann Gordon of Oakland, Cal., and two grandchildren survive.

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