Recordially, Lou Curtiss

A Long Time Here!

Folk Arts Rare Records opened its doors at its original location (3753 India St.) on July 31, 1967. By next July yours truly, one of the original owners and for 46 years the only owner (with my wife Virginia and son Ben) will be winding things down toward a retirement at our home in El Cajon where I can listen to my own extensive record, tape, CD, and videocollection and hopefully someone else can take over Folk Arts Rare Records and keep it doing what it’s been doing these past 47 years.  I plan to write this column as long as I’m able; do my radio show (JAZZ ROOTS: Sunday Nights from 8pm to 10pm on KSDS 88.3FM and on the web), a possibly write a book about myself, doing festivals and concerts, walking picket lines, and generally trying to make this city and world a better place to live in and one that has more appreciation for our musical Roots.

So what happens to Folk Arts Rare Records. Well, I’d like to see someone who has the kind of wide musical taste that I have take it over. I’d be glad to stick around and help out some but I just don’t want to pay the rent, utilities, and various other fees it takes to keep a business going.  I can talk music all day long with folks that want to do so, I can make recomendations and help put folks in touch with stuff they might not have heard. I just don’t want to be the head guy any more. I can certainly help with the transition. If anyone out there is interested in taking over what I think is a major landmark of the Southern California music scene, drop by and talk to me. I’d sure like to see Folk Arts Rare Records last for another 47 or so years. I’m at 2881 Adams Ave. in San Diego.  It’d be nice if someone could add to the legacy of 56 music festivals that Folk Arts Rare Records has been involved with as well.  So many kinds of music were first heard by the general public at one of the San Diego State Folk Festivals, or at The Adams Ave. Blues Festival, or the Adams Ave. Street Fair, or The First San Diego Blues and Black Music Heritage Festival, or the First San Diego Sea Chanty Festival, or the Balboa Park Old Time Banjo and Fiddle Contests. All of these were all or partly organized by myself and Folk Arts Rare Records. I’d like to see that legacy continue. San Diego really needs that kind of Musical Diversity and I don’t see anyone doing that kind of discovery kind of booking here these last few years. It’s a shame.

So many of the folks that we brought would never have been heard in our part of the country if not for these festivals and concerts. Bluesmen like Robert Pete Williams, Weldon “Juke Boy” Bonner, John Jackson, Blind Joe Hill, Abu Talib (AKA Freddie Robinson), Elizabeth Cotton, Rev. Gary Davis, Robert Lowery, Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong, Sam Chatmon, Bukka White, Mance Lipscomb, Johnny Shines, Howard Armstrong and Nat Reese, John Hogg and locals like Thomas E Shaw, Robert Jeffery, Bonnie Jefferson, and Tom Courtney and Henry Ford Thompson, Fro Brigham, Jesse Wilkins Jr., Joe Murphy, and lots more. We brought the first Cajun musicians to San Diego with Joel Sonnier, Doc Guidry, The Balfa Brothers, Mark Savoy, Sady Courville and Dennis McGee, Michael Doucet, J.B. Labbie and D.L. Menard (there’s a local cajun festival but it very seldom brings real traditional Cajun music). We were the first to bring real Appalachian and Traditional Old Timey music here with Sam and Kirk McGee (who started on the Grand Ole Opry in 1925), Lily Mae Ledford, The England Brothers, Leonard Emmanual (The National Hollering Champion), Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Clyde Davenport, Merle Travis, Jean Ritchie, George Tucker, Ray and Ina Patterson, Wade and Julia Mainer, Cliff Carlisle and Wilbur Ball, Nimrod Workman and many more.

We brought music from the British Iles, Ireland and Canada including The Boys Of The Lough, Frankie Armstrong, Dave Surman, Stan Hugill, Jon Bartlett, Sandy McIntire, Silly Wizard, Joe and Antoinette McKenna, Kevin Keegan, Graineog Ceilidhe Band, Siamsa Gael, Michael Pratt, Bob Stewart, Jean Redpath, Louis Boudroult, Louis Killen, and a whole lot more.  We brought Country and Western artists like Rose Maddox, Johnny Bond, Doye O’Dell, Smokey Rogers, Hank Penny, Joe and Rose Lee Maphis, Patsy Montana, Slim Duncan, Janet McBride, Hank Thompson, Bashful Brother Oswald, Charlie Bailey, and Old Timey Revival like Mike Seeger, The Strange Creek Singers, Alice Gerrard, The Highwoods String Band, The Possum Hunters, Stu Jamieson, The Gypsy Gyppo String Band, Dr. Humbeads New Tranquility String Band, The Old Hat Band, Hank Bradley, Jody Stecher, Any Old Time String Band, Kenny Hall, and so many more.  Add to all these lots of Folkmusic performers whos music ranged from very old time to much more recent, traditional Mexican music, middle Eastern music, Oriental music, Eastern European music.  NOBODY’S GETTING THESE KINDS OF MUSIC TOGETHER IN ANY FESTIVAL IN SAN DIEGO SINCE THEY DECIDED I WAS TO OLD TO DO IT. And it’s too damn bad. This city had a pretty good musical reputation for DIVERSITY at one time but that’s gone out the winder.

Folk Arts Rare Records was opened so that there’d be a headquarters for all this outside work and a place folks could find lots of rare and old time phonograph records as well. It can still be that if someone who loves music like I do comes along and makes it that once again.

Lou Curtiss

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