Born March 3, 1933, in New Bedford, MA, Paul Clayton
maintained a lifelong interest in the folk song tradition, particularly sea shanties and whaling songs, and was an avid collector of folk tunes. He first heard the old sea shanties from his grandfather, and by fiften years old he was singing them himself, along with other folk material he collected, on a series of radio shows. After earning a pair of degrees from the University of Virginia (where he studied with folklorist Arthur Kyle Davis, Jr.), he collected extensively in the Appalachians, and was instrumental in the first recordings of such traditional folk artists as Etta Baker
and Hobart Smith
was a fixture in the Greenwich Village scene during the folk revival, and went on to record several albums of traditional material for the Folkways, Tradition, Riverside, Electra, Monument, and Stinson labels. The melody to his song "Who'll Buy You Ribbons When I'm Gone," in turn based on the traditional song "Scarlet Ribbons for Her Hair," provided Bob Dylan
with the melody line for "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," and led to a brief legal skirmish between the two singers in the mid-'60s, which was apparently settled amicably. Clayton
died on March 30, 1967, reportedly by taking an electric appliance into his bathtub, thus ending a life, although beset by drug use and depression, that was full of the joy of songs and singing.