Shaking her hair in the part of Mary of Peter, Paul & Mary Remembered, has been the highlight of Donna Wilson Probes’ musical career. She and the other three members of Peter, Paul & Mary Remembered have announced the retirement of the group. The Traverse City based ensemble, consisting of Lawrence “Doc” Probes, Jim Hawley, Donna Wilson Probes and Dave Swan, enjoyed a 12-year run as a musical tribute to the iconic trio of the ‘60’s & 70’s.
“We now spend six months of the year in Florida,” Probes says, “Keeping the momentum up is more of a challenge. Everyone is moving on to wonderful new chapters in their lives – grandparenting and new musical opportunities. It is time to call it a wrap.”
The inspiration for the group came in 2009. An evening dinner with the Probes’ and Hawleys ended with a musical jam. The trio started singing a Peter, Paul and Mary song. Hawley’s wife, Annie, exclaimed “You guys sound just like them! You should form a tribute band.”
In 2010, the group was formed. “What happened to us is much like what happened when Peter, Paul and Mary first sang together in Stookey’s grungy New York flat,” says Doc Probes. “They described it as ‘pure magic.’ That’s what it felt like when we started singing their songs together.”
Hesitant to start a tribute band without the blessing of the original artists, the band was able to speak directly with Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey at Interlochen Center for the Arts following their show in 2010. This meeting occurred right after Mary Travers’ passing in 2009 due to Leukemia. “Stookey and Yarrow expressed happiness at the idea of their legacy being carried on,” says Probes. “And so, we recruited a stand-up bass player and launch the band.”
“I remember clearly when Doc recruited me when I was playing with TC Celtic shortly after PPMR was formed.” Says David Swan, the bass player of the group. “I never could have imagined a dozen years of playing shows together. And I really never imagined the friendships that would emerge.”
“PPMR gave me a chance to use my classical music training at Interlochen,” says Doc Probes, “I was able to transcribe all of the Peter, Paul & Mary arrangements so that we could carefully learn the music from a score.” He adds that the music is not simple folk songs, but rather often highly developed music with complex harmonies, chord structures and counter melodies. “Analysis of the arrangements is what has created the authentic sound we’ve been able to achieve,” adds Probes.
Carrying on Peter, Paul & Mary’s tradition of using music as an instrument for social change, the group has participated in many fundraising events over the years. “We’ve helped to raise over $250,000 for humanitarian causes,” says Probes. “Everything from homeless shelters to food pantries, and of course our many times on the Grand Traverse Pavilions stage to help the Pavilions Foundation have made this musical run so incredibly gratifying.”
“Donna and I grew as musicians during our 12 years in partnership with Jim Hawley.” Says Doc Probes. “As a former Nashville player and touring artist, he is an incredible musician who always relates to the audience in a warm and personal way.” He adds, “We had many jam sessions and dinners together with our children and grew to be a true musical family.”
The highlight of their time together came in 2016 when they shared the stage with Peter Yarrow at Blissfest. “Yarrow is a very warm and generous individual.” Says Probes, “He welcomed us with hugs of appreciation for carrying on the legacy and the music.”
So, in the words of the Bob Dylan song “The Times They are a Changing,” Peter, Paul & Mary Remembered will move on from an incredible season of musical accomplishment.
Peter, Paul & Mary Remembered