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January 2023
Vol. 22, No. 4
In Good Company

Recordially, Lou Curtiss

Mary McCaslin

by Lou CurtissFebruary 2018

We were putting on a Lightnin’ Hopkins concert at the Bifrost Bridge coffeehouse back in the late ’60s and needed an opening act. Conrad von Metzke who was really in charge of the thing got in touch with Ed Douglas at the Blue Guitar who recommended this young singer-songwriter named Mary McCaslin, whom he had heard at the Troubadour in LA. We brought Mary down to San Diego and that was the first time she appeared in the San Diego area. Shortly after that Mary came down this way to play at the Heritage in Mission Beach and from her home in the LA area started to appear on a more or less regular basis in the area. I brought her out to the fourth San Diego State Folk Festival and she more or less continued to come back on a regular basis throughout the 20 year run of that festival. Mary continued to write remarkable songs, which, if you knew her well, were extremely autobiographical in nature. It was always a pleasure to hear her to find out what was going on in her life and the lives of folks around her.

Mary’s team-up with Jim Ringer brought a country touch to her songs. Ringer also wrote songs and sometimes produced some startling duets. Mary and Jim were an important part of the concert series at Folk Arts Rare Records in the ’70s and toured all over the country. playing clubs and festivals and getting to be pretty well known coast to coast.

With Jim’s passing Mary continued to tour and some of her last performances were at the Adams Ave. Roots Festival here in San Diego.

Today she is retired and living in Hemet. Her music only continues with a series of CDs, including some early sides recorded for Capitol that have been reissued by Germany’s Bear Family label; an album on Barnaby, which was a label owned by Larry Murray; several CDs for the Philo label (now owned by Rounder Records) with a fine duet album with Jim Ringer; an album for Mercury; and one for Flying Fish. After that Mary put out several independent, homegrown CDs, which she sold at concerts. A truly remarkable performer. Mary was always a specialty in festival workshops with her tutorials on guitar tunings and songwriting. She always had a western touch to her music like a female Sons of the Pioneers. I’d love to hear Marty Robbins do Mary’s “Prairie in the Sky.”

Today it’d be nice if she could write songs for others. There are so many out there with good voices and just down right bad songs that they’ve tried to write. Someone needs to write words and guitar arrangements. It’d sure be nice if Mary could continue to do that in her retirement. Sort of an West Coast Cindy Walker.

Lou Curtiss

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