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Don McLean

McLean's grandfather and father were also named Donald McLean. The Buccis, the family of McLean's mother, Elizabeth, came from Abruzzo in central Italy. They left Italy and settled in Port Chester, New York, at the end of the 19th century. He has other extended family in Los Angeles and Boston.

As a teenager, McLean became interested in folk music, particularly the Weavers' 1955 recording At Carnegie Hall. Childhood asthma meant that McLean missed long periods of school, particularly music lessons, and although he slipped back in his studies, his love of music was allowed to flourish. He often performed shows for family and friends. By age 16 he had bought his first guitar (a Harmony acoustic archtop with a sunburst finish) and began making contacts in the music business, becoming friends with folk singer Erik Darling and Fred Hellerman, both members of the Weavers. Hellerman said "He called me one day and said I'd like to come and visit you and that's what he did! We became good friends - he has the most remarkable music memory of anyone I've ever known. McLean recorded his first studio sessions (with singer Lisa Kindred) while still in prep school.

McLean graduated from Iona Preparatory School in 1963, and briefly attended Villanova University, dropping out after four months. While at Villanova he became friends with singer/songwriter Jim Croce.

After leaving Villanova, McLean became associated with famed folk music agent Harold Leventhal for several months before teaming up with personal manager Herb Gart for 18 years. For the next six years he performed at venues and events including the Bitter End and the Gaslight Cafe in New York, the Newport Folk Festival, the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., and the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Concurrently, McLean attended night school at Iona College and received a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1968. He turned down a scholarship to Columbia University Graduate School in favor of pursuing a career as a singer/songwriter, performing at such venues as Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, New York and The Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA.

Later in 1968, with the help of a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, McLean began reaching a wider public, with visits to towns up and down the Hudson River. He learned the art of performing from his friend and mentor Pete Seeger. McLean accompanied Seeger on his Clearwater boat trip up the Hudson River in 1969 to raise awareness about environmental pollution in the river. During this time McLean wrote songs that would appear on his first album, Tapestry. McLean co-edited the book Songs and Sketches of the First Clearwater Crew with sketches by Thomas B. Allen for which Pete Seeger wrote the foreword. Seeger and McLean sang "Shenandoah" on the 1974 Clearwater album.
 

 

70's Rock

American Pie

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