Philly Folk Music Icon Gene Shay Hospitalized With Coronavirus

Gene Shay, an active member of the Philadelphia folk music community for decades, is hospitalized with COVID-19 complications, the Philadelphia Folksong Society said. Initially, the society had reported Shay had died.

Gene Shay
Philadelphia Folksong Society

What to Know

  • Gene Shay, a giant of the Philadelphia folk music scene, is hospitalized with coronavirus.
  • The Philadelphia Folk Festival founder and emcee is 85.
  • Shay has been a witty voice on WXPN 88.5 FM for decades.

Updated April 15, 11 a.m.: The Philadelphia Folksong Society says Gene Shay has not died of the coronavirus. He is hospitalized.

The society had initially reported Wednesday morning that Shay, the “Grandfather of Philadelphia Folk Music,” had died overnight from complications from the novel coronavirus.

However, the society updated its post later in the morning.

"Ever the practical joker, while our hearts are breaking and despite reports from family, individuals, and the media, GENE IS STILL WITH US," the update reads.

"Gene's family appreciates the outpouring of love and support at this incredibly difficult time," reads the post, "so please continue to share your love, and to keep Gene and his family in your thoughts and prayers."

The longtime radio personality (he was on air for over 60 years) is known for his wit and passion and as the founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, WXPN 88.5 FM said.

The Folksong Society called Shay “The Grandfather of Philadelphia Folk Music, Dean of America folk DJs and Emcee of the Philadelphia Folk Festival.”

Besides his 50 or so years with the Philly folk festival, Shay’s many musical contributions include bringing Bob Dylan to Philadelphia for the legend's first city show in 1963, writing the original radio spots for the Woodstock festival and hosting a longtime Sunday folk radio show on WXPN in Philadelphia.

“Born Ivan Shaner in in 1935, Shay debuted on Philadelphia radio in 1962 at WRTI, and hosted the Folk Show on WXPN from 1995 to 2015,” WXPN said in a post on The Key.

The Folksong Society urged fans and friends alike to share Shay memories, his jokes and photos on Facebook.

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