Well, for the past five days I’ve been spending my time being poked and prodded by the good doctors and nurses (and various other folks) at Kaiser’s Zion hospital and leaving various essential fluids with those good folks. That’s why if you came by Folk Arts Rare Records looking for a copy of Dilly and his Dillpickles doing “Lye Soap Breakdown” between the 14th and the 17th of November, you were just going to have to wait and be content with something out of the free box (maybe an Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops on a 45). I guess some of you were content with fuzzy old Arthur, because all the free stuff was gone. At any rate this occasional visit to folks concerned with keeping vital parts in order, combined with a program I started to get my extensive reel-to-reel and video tape library of concerts at various festivals and such here in San Diego (San Diego Folk Festivals, Concert series at the Heritage, the Candy Company, Sign of the Sun, Orangos, Folk Arts Rare Records, Adams Ave. Roots Festivals and Street Fairs, In the Alley and a lot more stuff) reminds me that this project that started with a grant from the Grammy people in 2007. A grant that was supposed to encourage local business and government support. The Library of Congress and the Ethnomusicology Archives at UCLA signed on as cosponsors (no one in San Diego except a few devoted followers of the kinds of music presented and people who have been long time supporters of me.
So the plan is for all of this material to become a part of the UCLA archives and the Library of Congress Collection, where it will be posted on line where everyone can have access to it. To do that I have to sit down after the digital transfer is made and identify all the material (the song titles, the back up musicians, and the significance of the music). Right now we’ve done the music for 11 of the San Diego State Folk Festivals (1967 through 1977), the Folk Arts Rare Records concerts (mid-’70s), which continued at Orangos Restaurant, the Sign of the Sun bookstore concerts from the early 1960s, the Sam Hinton archives (with material that goes back into the 1950s), the Lou Curtiss field recordings collected at concerts, festivals, and folks’ living rooms, jam sessions, and whatever going back to my first tape recorder in the 1950s.
There are also a number of records, electrical transcriptions (ETs) of vintage radio shows (ranging from stuff from the Mexican Border Stations, including a lot of the great stuff from XERB in Rosarito Beach, some of Smokey Rogers great local country stuff, Town Hall Party broadcasts from Los Angeles and a whole lot more). The stuff being transfered comes out of a collection of nearly 4,000 reels and we’ve yet to determine additional material donated to include in the library. So far we’ve had material donated by Gerald C. Houck of Sign of the Sun concerts, Phil Gross with material from the In the Alley coffeehouse, material from Cliff Niman’s material from the late ’60s coffeehouse the Candy Co.; Clyde Tyndale donated a series of tapes made at various locations here in San Diego in the early to mid-1960s, and we expect to get more. It would be nice to get tapes from some of the Folk Heritage concerts, from coffeehouses like the Old Time Cafe, San Diego State’s Back Door, Drowsy Maggies, and others).
Still to convert from tapes from the Lou Curtiss Sound Library are music from nine more San Diego State Folk Festivals, videos from 15 Adams Ave. Roots Festivals (1994-2009), and various stuff from the Adams Ave. Street Fair during the same period (those are the ones I was connected with). There is music from three San Diego Blues Festivals that I tried to get started (in 1979, 1980, and 1985 – poorly attended but with some great music). Lots more occasional concerts we put on at various places, things we taped because no one else did, stuff I did on the radio at KPRI and KGB and, for the last 27 years, with KSDS (Jazz88.3 FM) every Sunday night at 8pm with “Jazz Roots,” interviews with musicians, and people related to the music scene.
You can find examples of a lot of this stuff on my two Facebook pages. First at Louis F Curtiss – I put up a wide variety of stuff including material already in the digital collection. The second page is the Lou Curtiss Sound Library page, keeping you up to date on the fund raising aspect of the project. This is so important. The Grammy folks expected that their original grant would get the first 400 DVDs copied from the old reel-to-reel recordings and would get some kind of angel in San Diego to help us finish the project. That just hasn’t happened. This archive has remained one of San Diego’s best kept secrets and roots music in San Diego remains the “step child of the arts.” Just once I’d like someone to stand up and ask one of the candidates for mayor what he thinks about support for the Lou Curtiss Sound Library Digital Project. We did 20 music Festivals at San Diego State University and we taped them all. They’d take copies of the tapes for their library but they don’t want to help fund the producing of them. The Adams Ave. Business Association was glad to have my help all those years with the Adams Ave Roots Festival and Adams Ave. Street Fair but they are not able to help with the funding of any of the digital project. I would think that having this material in the Library of Congress and in the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archives and available for download would be a feather in their cap. Every time a search is made of one of these archives, the names San Diego, SDSU, and Adams Avenue are going to come up. Could you ask for better free advertising?
Now, the problem comes down to the fact that I’m 74 years old and I have had some health problems. This has been a nearly life-long project for me. I really want to be around to finish it for generations to come. They deserve that and I deserve that. Go to one of the Facebook pages and check things out. Send a check if you can to Lou Curtiss at 2881 Adams Ave., San Diego 92116-1408 and mark it for the Digital Project. You’ll be giving a musical gift that will give back to our city for years to come.
We have copied upward of 700 DVDs now. Russ Hamm and myself and now my son, Ben, are keeping this thing chugging along with a few donations from some good folks that support us (about a thousand dollars). We sure need some kind of civic donation to take the pressure off. Talk to Bill Paul at the FB Digital Project page, or drop by Folk Arts Rare Records at 2881 Adams Ave. and talk to me. Thanks!