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December 2023
Vol. 23, No. 3

Recordially, Lou Curtiss


by Lou CurtissJuly 2017

Folk Arts Rare Records opened on July 31, 1967 and has been pretty much in operation since that time. So, we are coming up on 50 years of existence. We also started doing music Festivals (20 San Diego State Folk Festivals, 15 Adams Ave Roots Festivals, 15 Adams Ave.Street Fairs, five San Diego Blues Festivals, 15 Balboa Park Old Time Banjo & Fiddle Contests, and a whole bunch of concerts). A whole lot of these were taped and the tapes exist today. One of the ideas that Brendan Boyle, current owner of Folk Arts Rare Records, has is to take some of of these tapes down and put out a series of recordings. Thats where you come in. Over the years so many of you have attended our various festivals and perhaps would like to hear some of these folks again. You can let us know and we’ll see what we can do. Write Folk Arts Rare Records and let Brendan know who you want to hear.

Some of the folks who have played our festivals include: Olabelle Reed, Roscoe Holcomb, Cousin Emmy, Mike Seeger, Sam Hinton, Joe and Rose Lee Maphis, Silly Wizard, Norman Kennedy, Carl Martin-Ted Bogan-Howard-Armstrong, Boys of the Lough, Tommy Jarrell, Sam and Kirk McGee, Rose Maddox, Johnny Bond, Robert Pete Williams, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Hank Penny’s Radio Cowboys, Johnny Walker, Frankie Armstrong, Smokey Rogers, Vern Williams and Ray Parks, Ray and Ina Patterson, Ray Bierl, Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, Jean Ritchie Bob Bovee, Bodie Wagner, Big Jim Grifith, Pop Wagner, Martin Henry, Cliff Carlisle and Wilbur Ball, Sam Chatmon, Peggy Seeger, Bashful Brother Oswald, Hank Thompson, Fro Brigham’s Preservation Band, Howard Armstrong and Nat Reese, Frank Proffit Jr., the Balfa Brothers, Joel Sonier-Doc Guidry Cajun Band, Abu Talib, Debby McClatchy, Kenny Hall Band, the Sweets Mill Mountain Boys, the Gypso Gyppo String Band, Sady Courville and Denis McGee, Elizabeth Cotton, Merret Herring, Hally Wood, Janet McGuire, Judy Henske, Tracy Schwarz, Big Jay McNeely, Thomas Shaw, Holly Tannen, the Old Hat Band, Rita Weill, Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singersand just a whole lot more. We’d like to share some of these memories with you in this 50th year of shopkeeping and Festival organizing. I should also mention that I married my wife Virginia shortly after the second festival and we are coming up on 50 years, too.

I signed the lease that would last five years at 3753 India Street on July 1 in 1967 and I had three partners (Carol McComb, Stan Smith, and Gerrie Blake) who sort of lost interest after the first couple of years. I bought them out and continued on as a solo effort (adding Virginia when we got married). Along about the third year I made contact with Norm Pierce who ran Jack’s Record Celler in San Francisco who arranged to give me, on consignment, all the small specialty labels (Arhoolie, County, Testament, Delmark, Southland, Folkways, etc.), which immediatly put me in play in San Diego (as I could talk the music where so many others couldn’t). I was carrying kinds and types of music in a San Diego Record store that no one else did (blues, old time country, traditional folk Song, and various kinds of ethnic music. Sadly the India Store came to an end when the guy who owned that block came back and informed me that he was tripling my rent. I said, “I’ll be out in a month,” and I was.

I found a place up in Hillcrest at 3743 5th Ave. and started a new kind of shop. For the second five years of Folk Arts Rare Records we would be a concert hall as well as a record shop. We presented Sam Chatmon, W. Bruce Reid, Del Ray (who was known as Lani Kurnik in those days), Kenny Hall, U Utah Phillips, Tom Waits, Sam Hinton, Johnnie Walker, Thomas Shaw, Mary McCaslin and Jim Ringer, Patty Hall, Phil Gross, John Bosley, Jon Wilcox, Jane Voss, Jack Tempchin, and so many more. Along with that, I started on the radio first on KPRI and then KGB (long before my 25-year stint with “Jazz Roots” on KSDS). In 1977 my lease on 5th Ave. wasn’t renewed and I was shop hunting again, which brought me to 3611 Adams Ave., where I would stay for awhile. More on that later.

Lou Curtiss

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