Ralph Rinzler (1934-1994), founding director of the Festival of American Folklife, worked over the years with a host of gifted musicians and folklorists, doing fieldwork, issuing recordings, and presenting concerts. These people collectively advocated and participated in numerous revivals. The Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert Series pays tribute to Ralph and his work by honoring long-time colleagues and likeminded advocates, and the traditions that they have touched.
The third annual memorial concert in 1997 highlighted the revival of Southern old-time and string band music. It traced the development of the revival, the new life, of Southern traditional music over the preceding four decades and of the community of musicians and dancers that developed with it. Among the string bands at the 1969 Festival were the brothers J.E. and Wade Mainer from North Carolina, playing with Steve Ledford. The 1997 Rinzler concert offered special recognition to Wade Mainer and his wife Julia on the occasion of Wade's ninetieth birthday.
Mike Seeger was Curator, and Kate Rinzler was Program Coordinator. The Ralph Rinzler Memoral Concert was made possible with support from the Friends of the Festival, the Ruth Mott Fund, Bob Dylan, the Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Funds, Homespun Tapes, County Records, the Woody Guthrie Foundation, Sugar Hill Records, Kate Rinzler, and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.