Recordially, Lou Curtiss

Lou’s digitization project is looking for lost tapes!

As our digital project moves along (we’re up to the 11th San Diego State Folk Festival now, which was in 1977) and as the word got out about all the tapes of concerts and festivals I’ve done (since 1967) being copied for the collections at the Library of Congress and the California Collection at UCLA, other folks have come up with tapes of their own to add to what we already had. From the beginning we had a bunch of tapes from the old Sign of the Sun bookstore concert series that took place in the early 1960s. Artists included Georgia Sea Island singer Bessie Jones, blind street singer and guitarist Gary Davis, Appalachian songstress Jean Ritchie, the Chambers Brothers (in their gospel singing days), the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers (San Diego’s first bluegrass band), Guy Carawan, Stu Jamieson, Hedy West, and a host of others. Those tapes came from the collection of Jerry Houck who used to work at the Sign. I’d still like to get missing tapes from that collection of concerts including Mississippi John Hurt, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Skip James, the New Lost City Ramblers, a great solo weekend with Mike Seeger, and others.

We also inherited a bunch of tapes from the Sam Hinton collection from his daughter Leeann, which includes radio and TV shows by Sam, going back to the mid ’50s as well as many tapes of concerts he put on at UCSD and elsewhere including Michael Cooney, Seamus Ennis, Jimmie Driftwood, Thomas Shaw and Clabe Hangen, Sandy and Caroline Paton, Alan Mills, and a host of others. Cliff Niman came forward with a bunch of tapes from the old Candy Company Folk Club mostly (he had some stuff from the Heritage and the Bifrost Bridge). Tapes are mostly from the late 1960s and include concerts by Jesse “Lone Cat” Fuller, Mary McCaslin, Hoyt Axton, Cliff Niman and Hilary, Ray Bierl, Pam Baker, Steve Gillette, Bob Kimmell, and others. Andrea Long came forward with tapes from her father, Cactus Soldi’s, collection (he owned and operated Valley Music in El Cajon along with the Bostonia Ballroom) that includes concerts by his business partner and music crony Smokey Rogers. Ed Cormier Jr. came forward with a whole pile of tapes made at various of the Folk Festivals backstage jam session. Stuff that we had no chance of ever getting to like Tommy Jarrell jamming with Kenny Hall and playing stuff he just didn’t play on stage (Tommy that is), or the endless jam sessions of Benny Thomasson great Texas fiddle. ’60’s fellow student Clyde Tyndale recently sent us some tapes made during his years in San Diego that include concerts by Sam Hinton, Michael Cooney, Kathy Larisch and Carol McComb, material from the great ballad singer Almeda Riddle, and an interview with original Carter Family member Sara Carter Bayes. And finally former San Diego folk songster brought us some tapes made at various clubs around San Diego (including In the Alley in North County). They include performances by Bob Webb, Pam Clark, Mick and Claire, the Floating House Band, Mimi Farina, Robb Strandlund, Bruce Frye, Jack Tempchin, Pam Smith, Kajsa Ohman, Kris Kristofferson, Bob Gibson, Harry Dean Stanton, and Roger Miller. Jack Van Olst also donated some tapes that included some excellent early Kathy and Carol stuff plus a bunch of fine finger-picking by Wayne Stromberg.

I keep hearing of other tape collections that are out there. For instance, I have none of the great music that was played at the Old Time Cafe or Drowsy Maggies and not near enough of the material recorded at the Heritage (I’d love to have some live Grady Tuck or Pam Ostergren or Zoya Smithton or Doug McKee and Pat Moss – Doug was one of those who taped a lot of stuff. I’d love to get in touch with him). There were a pile of other coffee houses and clubs that featured music going back to the ’50s that possibly someone thought to record. Clubs like Circe’s Cup, the Upper Cellar, the Y Knot, Jordan’s Alley, Pearl Street West, the Zodiac, the Ballad Man, the White Whale, the Kontiki, La Bohemme, and The Land of Oden, which became the Bifrost Bridge. It just goes on and on. I know there’s someone with a hand-help tape recorder who caught Tom Waits “live” at the Heritage coffee house, and I know for a fact that both Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt were taped at the Sign of The Sun because I was there and talked to the guy who was taping, but what happened to those tapes is another story. Maybe you know. Would you like to share that information? This stuff needs to be preserved. The Library Of Congress and the UCLA California Collection will make this stuff available on line. You can also check out good parts of it on my LOUIS F CURTISS Facebook page. If you’d like to help us pay for the project (those digital gold DVDs are expensive) you can send me a check marked for Digital Project payable to Lou Curtiss at 2881 Adams Ave., San Diego, CA 92116. Or you can send it to our Pay Pal account at >lou_curtiss@cox.net<. It’s a big project with a long way to go. We’ve copied music from nearly 800 reels with a couple of thousand (or those we know about) to go. Please Help. Thanks.

Recordially,
Lou Curtiss

  • September 2016

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