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Folk Arts Rare Records

Interviewed by: Glen Mickowski “Mick” Adams Avenue Herald April 2005

The Smell of Music

Music as an entertainment medium has an unique genre depending on what style you favor. If you visualize the various stimuli that come to mind when you conjure up R & B… Country… Rock & Roll… or classical music, I’ll bet smell doesn’t even enter the picture. Well, if you’d like to include the sense of smell in your musical repertoire, you’ve got to visit Lou Curtiss at “Folk Arts Rare Records” at 2881 Adams Ave. Blvd. in Normal Heights.

Lou has recently re-established himself at this new address after leaving his former location after 27 years. Upon entering this musical museum, one is immediately struck by the heady smell of vinyl wafting from the thousands of records which are stacked from ceiling to floor. Old music posters and faded photo’s with cryptic commentary complement the silent ebony disks, adding a rich history of people and places to the music they once made.

Thirty seven years ago 3 partners started the Folk Arts and Rare Records business, one partner was into jewelry, the other pottery and Lou into music. As Lou puts it, his other 2 partners lasted about 6 months and the rest as they say is history. In the recent move, Lou estimates about eight (8) TONS of records made their way from the old location to the new. Now I figure an LP album or 78 recording weighs about as much as a Big Mac Quarter Pounder, so by my calculation that’s about 64,000 albums!! By the way…. this does not include Lou’s personal collection which is in excess of 90,000 hours of recorded music.

It seems music was to be Lou’s destiny. Lou arrived in San Diego with his parents by way of Seattle in 1951 as a strapping 12 year old with a penchant for music. Lou said his parents wanted to live in the country, so naturally they settled in what was then the vast wilderness of Imperial Beach. Being large for his age, Lou had no difficulty in frequenting the local bars in San Diego which served the then growing Navy population. Since the sailors came from all over the country, they naturally grew up listening to all types of different music. Seizing on an opportunity, one enterprising entrepreneur opened various bars offering specialized music and libation for each client segment. Soon San Diego had an eclectic selection of bars offering the best of R & B, Soul, Gospel, Country, Big Band and Folk music from which to choose…Lou had found his element.

Lou’s community activities started in 1967 as the host of the San Diego Folks Festival which was held at SDSU and lasted for 20 years. In 1993 Lou joined the Adams Ave. Street Festival and has been a proud supporter ever since. Additionally, for the last 18 years, Lou has shared his love of music as the host of a weekly radio show on KSDS 88.3 FM from 8-10 PM Sunday nights.

I asked Lou how he felt about the transition of music technology…records to 8 track, 8 track to cassettes, cassettes to CD’s. He was pretty stoic with his answer, informing me that records and magnetic tape give a warmer sound while CD’s are somewhat dryer. He says he never liked 8 track tapes..(perhaps that’s why they didn’t catch on) and with a wry grin, says that CD’s were made for folks too lazy to turn over records. Still, records are being pressed by the recording companies and according to Lou, are as durable as CD’s if properly taken care of. But there is a disturbing trend on the horizon — some artist’s recordings are only being released on CD, is it only a matter of time before records go the way of the 8 track?

Ironically, when asked about his favorite musician or recording, Lou was somewhat cagey with his answer. It seems Lou’s favorite is the one he’s listening to at the moment, which is not a bad thing given you have 90,000 hours to listen to. I also queried Lou on computer generated music, the making of music without any instruments or musicians, this gave him pause until he answered thoughtfully, “I’d like to learn how to be able to do it…but then NOT do it”. How many of us would say the same?

For the Adams Ave. Herald…Mick

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