Letter from home

By Nate LeBlanc

“From time to time, excellent material is recorded but, for one reason or another, is never released. This is a case in point.” Jac Holzman, founder, Elektra Records

Today we have a gem from forgotten folk artist Clarence Cooper. His version of “900 Miles” has been a mixtape secret weapon of mine for years. To me, it’s a perfect song, powerfully delivered and unusually dynamic for a traditional folk ballad. Cooper had a brief but interesting career, delivering his lone album in 1955 when Elektra LPs were still released on 10″.


He was also in the Tarriers, a folk combo founded by the actor Alan Arkin. I discovered Cooper and this incredible recording through this Elektra sampler record from 1957 that I pulled from my grandfather’s collection after he passed.

This is the only picture I could find of Mr. Cooper, from a 45 released in France containing his “Negro spirituals.” Any further information or copies of his other recordings would be greatly appreciated.


Here’s the song, I hope you enjoy it. Dig the way the guitar augments the whistle, the active bass, and the palpable sense of longing in the lead vocal.

LISTEN TO “900 Miles”


14 thoughts on “Letter from home

  1. I LOVE Clarence Cooper! I’ve really been getting into his Tarrier’s stuff recently, and have managned to track down some of their rarer material like “Hard Travelin'” and “Gather ‘Round” etc. I’m going to try and find a copy of these, though. Thanks so much for posting.



  2. Forgot to mention, this song “900 Miles” is the exact same tune as the Kingston Trio’s song “The Wanderer”.



  3. Thanks Mark! Feel free to pass along anymore Clarence carter tracks/info to us as you get them. Many thanks!


    1. By the way, do you actually own a copy of “Goin’ Down the Road?” If you do, would you be willing to make a CD copy for me in exchange for a CD of his rare Tarriers material?


      1. Hey has anyone ever come across a copy of goin’ down the road? 900 miles became a bit of a dj stable at our night in Birmingham Uk…(i wonder if clarence ever thought 24 yr old white boys from Brum would be dancing to 900 miles in 2010!)

        Finding a copy of Goin’ has become pretty much the holy grail!


  4. This great site is actually exciting. You deliver right up several terrific details concerning the write-up. The idea will be my first time in this article within this internet site therefore good quality work…


  5. Hard Travelin’ is probably the best Tarriers album in my opinion no offense to Eric Weissberg he’s one of my favorite banjoist but I always dug Erik Darling’s swing he brought into the groups


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