Thursday, May 9, 2013

Imagine Denver 2020, Swallow Hill, Harry Tuft, Denver Folklore Center, Denver Folk Music in the 60s

Last night, I did another Community Forum for the Imagine Denver 2020 cultural plan.

The Forum was at Swallow Hill and being there I couldn’t help but think of Harry Tuft, the Godfather of Denver Folk Music. Swallow Hill Music grew out of the Denver Folklore Center, which Harry started in 1962. Harry and the Denver Folklore Center are still around though the location has changed.

Originally, the Folklore Center was at 17th and Pearl. It was ostensibly a guitar shop but was really a hangout and home away from home for folk musicians of the 60s. I was one and wandered in to the Folklore center in 1967. I remember it being funky, a bit dark and dusty with wood walls – I thought it was perfect. Next door, or maybe a couple doors down (my memory fades, it was, after all nearly 50 years ago) was the Green Spider Coffee House where many musicians who frequented the Folklore Center played. It was a typical 60s coffee house. Long and narrow with candles in bottles, etc. I played there with the string band of which I was part – The New Mobile Strugglers – quaint, huh? We were two guitars (six-string and 12-string) a bass and banjo.

Harry eventually took over the space and expanded it into a concert hall – yes the beginnings of Swallow Hill. Playing in the Hall or hanging out in the Folklore Center you would see the likes of Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Utah Phillips, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Doc Watson, Denver’s own Walt Conley, the list goes on.

Steven Fromholz was there as well. He wrote I’d Have To Be Crazy, which Willie Nelson recorded (you can hear Steven singing back up). I first met Steven at the Irish Pub and Grill, in Pueblo, when he was singing with Dan McCrimmon as Frummox. They recorded an album titled Here To There. There are some great songs on that album including The Man With The Big Hat. In the background of the song is some bar noise, glasses clinking, voices, etc. One of those voices is Harry Tuft.

The Folklore Center eventually moved to south Pearl Street where it remains today.

So, back to the Community Forum: I noted last night that the Folklore Center was and is the kind of creative business that supports arts and culture and which is supported by arts and culture; it represents the synergy that has a positive impact on the community as a whole.

The Imagine Denver 2020 cultural plan needs to reflect how that synergy can occur in a diverse and wide spread way.

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