The History of Broadside Magazine
Hugely influential in the folk-revival, Broadside Magazine was founded in 1962 by Agnes “Sis” Cunningham and her husband, Gordon Friesen, as a small mimeographed publication. The magazine reflected the times. It was often controversial, and was the subject of questions in one of Bob Dylan’s many news conferences, as seen in the Martin Scorcese documentary on Bob Dylan released in 2005. Issues of what is folk? what is folk rock? and who is folk? were roundly discussed and debated. At the same time, Broadside nurtured and promoted important singer-songwriters of the era.
By the end of the seventies it had virtually ceased publication. In 1982 it was revived by Norman Ross, President of Clearwater Publishing (a publisher of microfilms and reference books) after the firm had microfiched the entire backfile, and Jeff Ritter, a musician and folklorist.
Broadside in the eighties, published by Ross and edited by Ritter (a musician and grad student at the time), covered multiple movements and songwriters including: Arlo Guthrie, Billy Bragg, Charlie King, Holly Near and more. The revival of the Newport Folk Festival coincided with this era and many singer-songwriters who began at this time continued their involvement with the music industry.
After Ross and Ritter had published 35 issues, Sis Cunningham wanted it back. After publishing 5 more issues she gave up and the magazine ceased publication for good. Microfiche of the entire collection of Broadside are available in many libraries and can be purchased from Lexis-Nexis, which acquired Clearwater Publishing in 1987.
Dozens of the songs recorded for Broadside, or which were published in the magazine over its lifetime, were released by Folkways/Smothsonian Records in 2000 as “The Best of Broadside” in a 5-CD boxed set. Approximately half a dozen other discs, originally issued on vinyl by Folkways Records on a special Broadside Label are also available from Folkways/Smithsonian.