Remember Melanie, the Folkie Who Sang About a “Brand New Key”?


Editor’s Note: In light of Melanie’s recent passing, we’re sharing this 2017 interview we did with a pal who managed her tours back in the day.

Many remember folk singer Melanie for her hits “Brand New Key” (otherwise known as “the roller skate song”) or “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma.” But her catalogue actually runs much deeper than those classic radio favorites and includes gems like “Beautiful People” and “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain),” a song she wrote after delivering a powerful performance at Woodstock. Rock and roll tour manager Regis Boff got his start working with Melanie and literally had a front-row seat to those fervent performances almost every night. That is when he wasn’t dog sitting for her backstage.

Q: First off, how did you get your start in the music business?

A: Well, I was driving a cab in New York City and I was miserable. I had a former professor who had a contact at the United Nations and he got me a gig with folk singer Melanie (Ed. note: Melanie was a UNICEF spokesperson, at the time). So, she hired me as a ligger, which is mainly a term used in England but essentially means “a guy who basically lugs everything around!”

Q: Besides the lugging around, any not-so-glamorous duties you were called on to do, especially in those early days with Melanie?

A: When I first started with Melanie we did a mini-tour as a warm-up to her UNICEF tour (1972 dates in Europe and Eastern Europe). We were in Cleveland and she came and asked me to stay down in the dressing room with her two dogs to watch them as she played. So the first show I ever did, I never even saw. And also on that first tour, she came up to me and essentially asked me to buy her Tampax. I barely knew what it was. I was just this kid from Pittsburgh. She sends me out in a place like Des Moines and I’m in the dark in a city that’s practically empty trying to buy a woman sanitary napkins. So, those were two of my first experiences in the music business!

Q: When he did eventually see her perform…

But I have great affection for Melanie. At the end of her shows, she would always invite the audience to come sit around her like a hootenanny. And I’m kind of big, so I would wander out and sort of sit behind her because she had no security. We eventually came to play my hometown, Pittsburgh, and she did that same thing. So, I come out and I sit down and everyone’s singing and clapping and it’s really nice. I look right in front of her and I see a guy I played football with in high school, who was the meanest, baddest guy I’d ever known. He was just sitting there singing away, just as sweet as can be. I’ll always remember that as being a really great thing.

Colm Clark

PS. Regis Boff went on to have quite the career working with some of the ’70s biggest acts. Check out our posts on his time with Genesis and The Who.

Photo: Melanie, Public Domain

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Colm Clark is a freelance writer, musician and composer (a.k.a. Crush Limbo) whose music has appeared in TV and film and whose songs have been sung on New York theater stages. Despite all this (if posts to social media are any indication), his proudest recent accomplishment was getting a backyard fire started with wet logs. Twitter: @malstranger

7 comments on “Remember Melanie, the Folkie Who Sang About a “Brand New Key”?

  1. James Baldwin

    Melanie BS (before Scientology), those were the days. It must have been fun following Melanie around, sounds like you had a great experience. I remember sitting at her feet in awe of her voice. Was so cool.

  2. Dwight

    I dont eat znimals and they dont eat me:-)

    • When this song came out, I envisioned an editorial-style cartoon showing a wold licking its chops and thinking “that’s what YOU thought, Melanie.”

  3. Brian Rex Wood

    Played on stage with her and her son, late 90s in Michigan. We sang one of my songs….way cool.

  4. Loved hearing Melanies songs going back to wood stock lay down candles in the rain my favorite,and brand new key.

  5. She made even better, heartfelt, emotional songs on her first album. Momma Momma, In The Hour, Bobo’s Party, Close To It All…….all WONDERFUL!!

  6. Still touring!

    Friday, August 11 at 7 PM – 9 PM PDT

    Fox Theater 241 Main Street Salinas, Ca 93901 United States

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