George S. Britton often likened himself to the grasshopper in Aesop's fable, singing away while the ants around him were hard at work.
Mr. Britton, who entertained generations of folkies with his guitar, Elizabethan lute, and repertoire of songs in 10 languages until he was in his 80s, died of Parkinson's disease Feb. 12 at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse. He was 94 and lived in Miquon.
"The privilege is in doing what I want to do." he once told an Inquirer reporter. "That's heaven on earth."
Mr. Britton performed at schools, colleges, hootenannies, and Philadelphia Orchestra Children's Concerts, and on television and radio. He sang "Sermons in Song" at churches and wrote a folk Mass and an ecumenical service. He also produced several albums, and his recordings featuring Pennsylvania Dutch songs are in the Smithsonian collection.
He made a decent living thanks in part to his wife, Charlotte Klemp Britton, who handled bookings for him and other folk artists. She also managed the George Britton Folk Studio in Lafayette Hill, where, for 20 years, Mr. Britton taught youngsters ditties such as "Casey Jones" and "Froggy Went a-Courtin' " and basic three-chord guitar progressions.
He and his wife met when they were counselors at Miquon Day Camp and married in 1953. All four of their children and several of their grandchildren are accomplished musicians.
"Going back to Ireland, we're six generations of musicians," daughter Wendy Young said.
In 1957, Mr. Britton and his wife founded the Philadelphia Folksong Society with several friends, and five years later members started the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Mr. Britton performed at the first festival, which became an annual event. The Brittons were also among the original partners of the Main Point coffeehouse in Bryn Mawr in the 1960s.
Mr. Britton who once described himself as "a mediocre talent with, maybe, an exceptional voice," hadn't planned on becoming a folksinger. Instead, he considered a career in opera. Growing up with eight siblings in Reading, he sang in church choirs and earned money for voice lessons caddying and selling newspapers.
During World War II, he was a machinist at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and for General Electric.
In 1945, inspired by Burl Ives' radio broadcasts, he acquired a guitar. His first professional gig was with the Meyer Davis Orchestra in California. Later he entertained at trailer and mining camps in California with an old-time minstrel, Ed "Uncle Remus" Bonnell.
Back in Philadelphia, he performed at festivals, Renaissance fairs, coffeehouses, and schools.
Like other folkies he participated in social-justice causes, entertaining at political and peace rallies. His chance to have a daily 15-minute radio program was vetoed by station officials because he was a union member.
Mr. Britton also was an environmentalist. He and his wife built a solar house in Miquon in 1984.
"Charlotte and I wanted something that didn't look weird but was relaxing," he told a reporter in 2002. The layout of the house wasn't as energy efficient as it could have been, he said, "but Charlotte wanted to be able to see the woods, and life is compromise."
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Britton is survived by sons Kerry and Timothy, daughter Ellen, a sister, and seven grandchildren.
A song celebration will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. April 11 at First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, 1710 Bethlehem Pike, Flourtown.