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April 15, 2020

Philadelphia Folk Festival founder, WXPN mainstay Gene Shay alive but in hospice from COVID-19 battle

The music legend, 85, helped organize Bob Dylan's first show in the city in 1963

Music Radio
Gene Shay COVID-19 Philadelphia Folksong Society/Facebook

Gene Shay, a staple of Philadelphia's folk music community, is recovering from COVID-19 after spending weeks in the hospital. Shay co-founded the Philadelphia Folk Festival and was a longtime host on 88.5 WXPN.

Philadelphia folk music icon and longtime 88.5 WXPN host Gene Shay continues to battle with COVID-19 despite reports of his death, the Philadelphia Folksong Society said Wednesday morning. However, the 85-year-old founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival is in hospice care.

There had been reports Shay had died after spending weeks in the hospital. A Facebook update from the Folksong Society referred to Shay as a "practical joker" and said he's "still with us."

Shay hosted WXPN's "Folk Show" from 1995 to 2015 and has a storied history in Philadelphia radio, as recounted over at WXPN's The Key. He played a key role in organizing Bob Dylan's first Philadelphia show on May 3, 1963.

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From its inception in 1962, the Philadelphia Folk Festival thrived at its locations in Paoli, Schwenksville and Upper Salford. 

In 2013, Shay was inducted into the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame. For his final show at WXPN, he was serenaded with a rendition of "Turn, Turn, Turn" by 111 musicians from the Philadelphia folk community.

The Philadelphia Folksong Society, where Shay once served as board president, will continue to provide updates on Shay's condition.