From the extras on the DVD of A Mighty Wind:
And from the live performance filmed for A Mighty Wind:
The Folksmen are the inspired creation of actors/musicians/comedians Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. The band is a parody of folk music acts, much in the same way that the trio’s other famous band, Spinal Tap (coming soon) is a parody of heavy metal bands.
They were created for a Saturday Night Live sketch in 1984 when Michael McKean was hosting the show (and Guest and Shearer were cast members). For a time, the trio used to play The Folksmen as an opening act for Spinal Tap, which created a certain amount of confusion since many of their audience members didn’t get that they were the same guys.
Guest and frequent collaborator Eugene Levy later used The Folksmen in A Mighty Wind, a comedic film about the folk music scene filmed in a documentary style.
“Old Joe’s Place” was their fictional “hit” song and its a spot on parody of a certain kind of folk song – those ones about a rustic location where everyone hangs out and gets along. What I like about their parodies is that the songs sound perfectly normal until you dig into their guts. For example, in the last repeat of the chorus, there’s a throw-away line about how “there’s a nurse on duty if you don’t feel right” that is hilarious, except that it will breeze right by you. Furthermore, the lyrics make it clear that they’re singing about a “place they’ve never seen.” Anyhow, I guess my point is that they walk a very fine line between parody and tribute here and I really dig that.
One last clip. Here they are playing the song live on Letterman: