did much to popularize traditional folk songs for children in the late '50s and early '60s. The original
. In later years,
put out four records, each an honest effort to entertain and not exploit young children. The beguiling albums featured catchy tunes and innocent vocals from
The Baby Sitters
were started by the late Lee Hays
, the senior member of the Weavers
. As Hayes
put it on the liner notes of the first album, "There is more to music than listening. There is also LIVING it. When a kid has a big person who can make up songs with him, just for him, with perhaps his own name in the verses...then he is LIVING music." And the Baby Sitters
did just that in their albums. Take their first effort, The Baby Sitters
, released in 1959. In addition to their charming renditions of traditional songs such as "Over In the Meadow," The Baby Sitters
featured such tunes as "The Clock Song," where a young boy sings about what he does at each hour of the day. The Baby Sitters'
second album, Songs and Fun With the Baby Sitters, featured a large supply of traditional songs, as well as a great rendition of Woody Guthrie's
"Take You Riding in the Car." But, true to form, the album also contained several homemade, spur-of-the-moment songs such as "Play With Me" and "Did You Ever Hear." Once again, the Baby Sitters
taught by example.
Six years later, the Baby Sitters
were reconfigured to include Alan Arkin's
new wife, Barbara Dana
. They released The Baby Sitters' Family Album, which came to be known among them as "Adam's Record." Adam Arkin's eight-year-old exuberance comes through in songs such as "New Shoes" and "Lee, Adam, and Alan." The Baby Sitters'
final release, The Baby Sitter's Menagerie (1968), again showcased a mixture of songs and children. But the invented songs still steal the show. "Betty from the Golden Rule," a charming song about an adopted cat, does indeed sound like it was made on the spot, complete with cat comments. In this album, the young Arkins are now older and demonstrate what a decade of creativity can reap: Adam Arkin
even performs his own compositions. The Baby Sitters
retired from sitting after this album. Their driving force, Lee Hays
, died in 1981.
In 1991, Vanguard released a compilation CD, The Best of the Baby Sitters
, with 40 of the Baby Sitters'
most popular songs. Aging baby boomers snapped up the CD and played it for their own children (and grandchildren!).