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July 2022
Vol. 21, No. 10

Recordially, Lou Curtiss

What I Remember About the San Diego Folk Song Society

by Lou CurtissSeptember, 2011

Someone asked that I do a bit on the San Diego Folk Song Society and I have been in and around that organization since about 1958 or so (or at least 1958 was when I first went to a meeting). I had just been struck with a case of Folkscare-itis with some country western thrown in and heard about this group that met in each other’s homes and made music. I guess Sam Hinton, who helped to start the organization had moved on, but that first time out I met Johnny Walker, Ed Cormier, Reed Moran, and several other faces that I would see again later.

1959 and 1960 was my great trek to New York City to become famous (which I didn’t) but I got to go to the Newport Folk Festivals those two years, washed dishes at the Gaslight Cafe and for a short time at the Fat Black Pussycat (both Greenwich Village folk clubs) and when I got back to San Diego in the summer of 1960 there was still a San Diego Folksong Society with most of the same people and when I went out to San Diego State the next year I met Curt Bouterse and we started a branch of the Folksong Society out there. A lot of the people in that group were also in the original Folksong Society (or at least came to some meetings of both), including Wayne Stromberg (fine blues guitar picker) and his brother Warren (old timey banjo picker); folk songster Corkey Woerner (who was the original SDSFSS president and later on the SDFSS president); Nicolette Axton who played fine old Carter Family type stuff; Larry Murray who played dobro with the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers Bluegrass Band and who later went to Hollywood and formed a band called Hearts and Flowers; and Clark Powell who played the dobro and five-string banjo in a group called the Kern County Boys. Clark also played music with Wayne Brandon and Ray Kellog (lots of Roy Acuff stuff) and sometimes he and I played music together.

The San Diego Folksong Society got so big at one point that besides the group at SDSU, it split into about three groups that met three times a month. So there were four meetings to go to each month. I was traveling during the 1960s so I was in and out of contact with the Folksong Society. They put together a Folk Festival in 1965 out at Cal Western University in Point Loma featuring Hedy West, Sam Hinton, Stu Jamieson, Bess Lomax Hawes, and the Kentucky Colonels (that location is where Point Loma College is today). When we started our own series of festivals in 1967 they were always a help. Along about the early ’70s I remember Sandy Dutkey becoming an important wheel that kept the Folksong Society turning, and John Slaughter came along about that time too. By that time I was getting more involved with the SDSU Folk Festival and Folk Arts Rare Records, so I don’t remember much about the inner workings of the Society. I have been voted a lifetime honorary membership five times over the years and members of the Society have been lifetime working partners in the San Diego folk scene. I can’t imagine a San Diego folk scene today without memories of Johnny Walker, Ed Cormier, Reed Moran, and later of course Tanya Rose. Also of course there’s Sam Hinton who got the whole thing off the ground. For well over 50 years there’s been a SAN DIEGO FOLKSONG SOCIETY, which has become important part of the city’s music scene. May it continue for many years more.


On Sunday, October 2, I’m hosting a special live edition of my JAZZ ROOTS radio show that will take place at the music Auditorium on the San Diego City College campus. It’ll be my 25th year doing JAZZ ROOTS at KSDS and this one will feature a special live show with Yale Strom and Hot Pastromi, the San Diego Cajun Playboys, Chet and the Committee Blues Band, John Bosley & Jeffrey Joe, Allen Singer and Dane Terry, and Nathan James, with more to be announced. Don’t miss this show and help with compiling the digital copies of tapes made at the San Diego Folk Festival, The Adams Avenue Roots Festival, the Adams Ave Street Fair, the San Diego Blues Festival, concerts and workshops and banjo and fiddle contests that I have been involved with. Copies will go to a special Lou Curtiss Collection at The Library of Congress and also to the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology and hopefully an eventual Folk Life archives here in San Diego.


Lou Curtiss

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