Rainbow Quest: Pete Seeger’s Strange, Magical 1960s Show
“What’s good about folk music,” wrote Pete Seeger in a 1974 issue of Sing Out! magazine, “is that it is not show business. … It should be the fiddle or guitar, bongo drum or harmonica that’s brought out after supper dishes are cleared away and families make their own music, rather than switching on the magic screen.”
But for a brief period in the mid-1960s, Seeger hosted his own program on the “magic screen.” The show was called Rainbow Quest (named after a line in one of Seeger’s songs). Despite the colorful title, it was filmed in black and white, in a New Jersey studio with no audience, and broadcast over a Spanish-language UHF station. Seeger’s wife, Toshi, was listed in the credits as “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.”
Even with this bare-bones production, Seeger clearly found the new medium disorienting. “You know, I’m like a blind man, looking out through this little magic screen,” he said at the start of the first episode, gazing awkwardly into the camera. “And I—I don’t know if you see me. I know I can’t see you.” Over the next 10 minutes, he alternated between noodling gorgeously on his banjo and explaining his distrust of the “little box” that sat in every American living room, killing ambition, romance, and human interaction.