In 1965, young folk musician Tracy Newman, who had performed with the New Christy Minstrels, landed a children’s television program on WNET in New York, which later became PBS. The program, What’s New, featured Tracy introducing the guitar and banjo to her young audience and performing several popular Folk songs, such as “Pick a Bale of Cotton,” “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” and “Cripple Creek.” At the time of the great Folk Music boom of the 1960s, Tracy also performed a well-received Beatles medley at the Bitter End in New York, where she also often served as MC. There she met the likes of Woody Allen, Spanky & Our Gang, The Bitter End Singers, The First Edition, The Mama & Papas, The LimeLiters, Bud 5 Travis, and Phil Ochs, who became a close friend.
Tracy went on to a wonderful career both as a singer/songwriter as well as a television writer. She wrote for such programs as Cheers, According To Jim (she was co-creator and executive producer) and Ellen, for which she won an Emmy for Ellen DeGeneres’ ground-breaking coming-out episode in 1997. That side of her career was launched thanks to being one of the original members of The Groundlings.
In the early 2000s, she formed the band the Reinforcements and recorded a series of albums such as A Place in the Sun in 2007 and I Just See You in 2012, along with a host of special children’s albums.
In May of 2023, during her NAMM Oral History interview, Tracy was shocked to learn that her children’s program in the 1960s was often mentioned in other interviews in the collection and prompted the organization to award her their 2023 Believe In Music Award! Congratulations and well deserved Tracy!
Click here to view Tracy's interview.
Dan Del Fiorentino
NAMM Music Historian