Recordially, Lou Curtiss

Looking Back (like that’s what I don’t usually do)

Well for some 10 years I’ve pontificated (and occasionally bitched and moaned) on the pages of the SAN DIEGO TROUBADOUR. I’ve told you stories about going to see Hank Williams, meeting Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff, getting to know ROSE MADDOX, CLIFF CARLISLE, WADE MAINER, and a whole lot more fairly well. I told you about gathering seaweed from the Pacific Ocean for Harmonica Frank Floyd, my Dad riding a freight train with Bob Nolan, spending time back stage at TOWN HALL PARTY and HOMETOWN JAMBOREE (where I, at 13 years old, was smuggled into Tennessee Ernie’s dressing room by Molly Bee, who was also then 13). I’ve told you some about hunting for old records in the South while at the same time I was doing work for the Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee and about meeting up with the folks who would later get the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival together while walking a picket line in New Orleans. I talked with them about doing a festival in San Diego and they talked with me about doing a festival in New Orleans. As It turned out I got mine going in 1967 and it was the early ’70s before they were underway. I talked about earlier Folk Festivals in San Diego like the one in 1965 out at then Cal Western University (where Pt. Loma Nazarene is today) and another festival called the San Diego Folk Festival that took place way back in 1944, which featured as its headliner the great Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly). It was a benefit concert for the Lincoln and International Brigade vets of the Spanish Civil War

In 10 years we’ve gone through a lot of San Diego Music History. We talked about rockabilly with Jody Reynolds, Johnny and Dorsey Burnette, and Eddie Cochran at the College Inn in San Diego, about Smokey Rogers, Roy and Don Hogsed, Slim Dossey, and Terry Preston (who would later change his name to Ferlin Husky) in the country music clubs (add the Maddox Bros and Rose to that list). Guys like Merrill Moore who fell somewhere in between with that hot piano. We’ve talked about the old time jazz guys, R&B, and blues guys. Slim Gailliard, Fro Brigham, Eugene Porter, Little Willie Littlefield, Joe and Jimmie Liggens, Teddy Picou, Ervin “Big Daddy” Rucker, Robert “Rock Me” Jeffery, Bonnie Jefferson, Les Gumbs, Walter Fuller, Ella Ruth Piggee, Rita Moss, Thomas E. Shaw, Louis Major, and so many others. We talked about the places like the Bostonia Ballroom, the Crossroads, the Honey Bucket, the Palladium (later the Pacific Ballroom), Ward’s Jazzville, and that guy named Kennedy who owned seven or eight clubs downtown that catered to Navy guys who liked various kinds of music (he had a rock club, a blues club, a doo-wop place, a honky tonk country, and a country boogie and a rockabilly place, probably a jazz place too).

Talked a lot about folk songs, Coffee Houses, Folk Festivals, banjo and fiddle contests, the Great Folk Scare (when folk song tried to become pop). You all know about my involvement with music festivals and concerts so I won’t dwell on them here. Suffice to say it was a damned lot of fun doing them and I’d like to do more. Some of the best music I’ve heard by local artists has been in coffeehouses like the Heritage in Mission Beach, the Ballad Man in La Jolla (got to see Josh White there once), the Upper Cellar, Circe’s Cup in the college area (the Candy Company, too, although it was a little farther out on El Cajon Blvd), the Land of Oden and the Bifrost Bridge in La Mesa (two incarnations of the same building), and maybe best of all a little bookstore called The Sign of the Sun (on College Ave near El Cajon Blvd.) that did concerts for an all too short of a time. I got to see Mississippi John Hurt, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, the New Lost City Ramblers, Rev. Gary Davis, Skip James, Jean Redpath, Hedy West, Mike Seeger, Jean Ritchie, Bessie Jones, the Chambers Brothers, and lots more. Maybe of all the places I got to locally, this little bookstore was the most influentual on what I later came to do.

Now I know I’m glitzing over a lot of stuff here, and there’s probably some of the things I wrote about that I should have mentioned (that’s for all you Troubadour archivists to start digging for). I’ve been promising a couple of readers that I’d do a column on serious record collecting. What to look for, how much it’s worth, and so forth. There’s a lot of that on my Facebook Page (Louis F Curtiss) and also on a couple of FACEBOOK FORUMS (the Real Blues Forum and the Real Country Music Forum). There’s also some mighty fine listening to do on all three pages. I will get on that record collecting piece and it’ll be in these pages.

Til then be real good to each other.

Allen Singer
Allen Singer, folk songster, song leader of the San Diego Folksong Society, on the board of San Diego Folk Heritage (and the guy who seemed to get things done with that organization), pivotal to the organization that brought about the Poway Train Song Festival, and the Sam Hinton Memorial Folk Festival each year, suffered a major heart attack Tuesday, September 13 and passed away the following Saturday. A lot of us who knew Allen and worked with him on various projects here in town realize, or are coming to realize that there is a very large hole in the musical soul of this city that’s going to be very hard to fill. His support for me and the various projects I’m involved with has always been top notch. Just about a week ago he came by Folk Arts Rare Records to talk with me about getting back to being involved with the Adams Ave. Roots Festival. He had set up a meeting to talk with Scott Kessler and other Adams Ave. Business Association folks. I told him I was trying to keep my big mouth shut on that subject and we talked about bringing San Diego Folk Heritage into the running of that Festival which would suit me fine. This was a very special man that we lost. RIP Old Buddy.

Recordially,
Lou Curtiss

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