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July 2024
Vol. 23, No. 10

Recordially, Lou Curtiss

How I Got My Start

by Lou CurtissOctober 2020

It was that big pile of 78 rpm records my folks had that started things off. Both Mom and Dad liked country and western, and I grew up with the likes of Gene Autry, Roy Acuff,  Sons of the Pioneers, Hank Snow, back to Frank Marvin and Haywire Mac and as recent as Hank Williams. After I came to California in 1952 my Dad bought me an old Silvertone guitar and my uncle Tony gave me a Gretch (so I had two guitars). It was natural to start learning songs. Pretty soon I was sitting in on Open Mics and doing a lot of partys. I first played Johnny Cash songs with Dexter Sykes (“Give my love to Rose” is still a favorite). After I moved to SDSU I teamed with Terry Huston (we called ourselves the Lysaders). We did a lot of Weavers stuff, some stripped shirt stuff, and, of course, country music. We did TV (a daytime show on KGTV) and started doing open mics and occasional gigs at local coffee houses like the Upper Celler and Circe’s Cup. We even did a parade on a Newspaper Float singing Vern Partlow’s “Newspapermen Are Such Interesting People” over a five-mile parade route. After about a year we drifted apart and The Lysaders were no more. I never did know what LYSADER meant. Terry says I made it up, but I often enough blamed it on him. I think the reason was probably that the newspaper that called us the THE LICE EATERS.

I met Curt Bouterse in an African History class and we talked about forming a Folksong Society, which we did in 1962. The original group included Nicolette Axton, Jerry Houck, Clarke Powell, Keren Williams, Wayne Strongberg, Warren Strongberg, Jack Van Olst, Gillian Theobald, and several others. We met, instruments in hand, in the Rose Arbor behind Scripps Cottage at SDSU.

Thus, the Red Mountain Ramblers were born, which included Dennis Squier, Alan Glasscoe, Ned Getline, Peggy Fallon, Patty Prickett, Larry Fumo, and Rex Morris. We held down a weekly gig at The End coffeehouse on Grand Ave. in Pacific Beach for damn near eight months. This time it all ended with a summer walk-around by about two-thirds of the band. I had a long day’s journey into Texas, which I’ll talk about later. The Greyhound bus pulled into the station just in time to get registered and meet a bunch of new band members. This new band was titled the Old Reliable Jug and String Band; members included Virginia Chodas (whom I would later marry), Stan Smith, Tim Smith, John German, Pat Griffith, Mike Tozer. Ray Bierl added “and Janitorial Service” to the name and we liked it and kept it. Like all college bands, with the summer comes other things to do. With the fall (Virginia and I were now married) Brian Steeger joined us in the Famous Krudd Family. Six Months later we teamed with Joe Gwaltney as the Lower Washington Street Woolthumpers. Six more months and we teamed up with W. Bruce Reid as The Old Home Town Band. Since then we’ve pretty much remained a duo. I guess we’ll stay that way.

Lou Curtiss

Reprinted from the San Diego Troubadour, April 2017

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