The Denver Folk Music Tradition

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The Denver Folk Music Tradition
Series Title:
The Denver Folk Music Tradition
Lamm, Richard D.
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
Publication Date:

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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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The Denver Folk Music Tradition | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 9:46:51 AM] Home The Denver Folk Music TraditionThe Denver Folk Music TraditionSubmitted by nwharton on 7-17-2012 10:45 AMAuthor: Paul Malkoski Publishing: Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012. Reviewer: Richard D. Lamm All societies have multiple subcultures that enrich those societiesoften out of sight of the general public. A complex, immigrant-receiving, diverse society has even more subcultures than normal, with a rich stew of customs, cultures, lifestyles, and hobbies that bubble below media or public attention. When Mark Obmascik wrote The Big Year, it became a bestseller as millions enjoyed and were enriched by the story of a bird-watching competition. Who would have thunk it: birdwatching? There are multiple other examples. We really dont understand the richness or diversity of our society unless we explore some of these subcultures. Too many Americans live their lives ignorant of the multiple fascinating lives and lifestyles of their neighbors. Paul Malkoski describes and traces the development of one such subculture. Folk music undoubtedly came to Colorado with the first human settlement, and certainly there were many instruments in those pioneer wagons. But in The Denver Folk Music Tradition Malkoski dates the real flowering of the folk music tradition to the arrival of Harry Tuft in 1961. (Full disclosure: I came to Colorado also in the fall of 1961 and have known and admired Harry Tuft for over fifty years.) Timing is not everything, but it is a lot, and Harry had the good sense and luck to recognize that Denver needed a folk music outlet. Harry, a Dartmouth graduate, was drawn in the mid-1950s to the folksong scene. First in his native Philadelphia, then up and down the East Coast, Harry absorbed folk culture and learned to play a mean guitar. With his friend Dick Weissman, Harry went to Chicago and was awed at the Old Town School of Folk Music where lessons in the guitar, banjo, mandolin, song writing, and folk dance were combined in performances and created an institution that survives to this day. Harry came to Denver in the period between the beatniks and the hippies as he likes to say, and took a large entrepreneurial risk in opening the Denver Folklore Center on Seventeenth Avenue. Though some nightclubs had done some folk music, Harry must have been among the few that thought folk music could sustain a business. It was rough, with long hours and a challenge at the end of every month to balance the books. Harry taught guitar, sold musical instruments and records, and started performingan activity that he engages in to this day. Harry had an infectious enthusiasm and a dedication to the folk tradition. Slowly EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanWhile on the Dominguez-Escalante expedition in 1776, Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco drew the first map of Colorado.


The Denver Folk Music Tradition | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 9:46:51 AM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us his business built and expanded. But this is not a biography. Harry Tuft is recognized as the Godfather of folk music in Denver (a designation that makes self-effacing Harry Tuft cringe), but Paul Malkoski quickly expands his book to capture the broader story of a fascinating subculture. There are many parts to this mosaic. Folk music played an important part in all the social and political movements of the 1960s. It helped popularize and energize the anti-war movement, and even those who think folk music is too white bread acknowledge its key role in the civil rights revolution. Folk music educated, inspired, organized, and focused the protest against the Vietnam War. It gave an outlet to the nihilism of the sixties. It was itself a more-or-less peaceful protest to the killing going on thousands of miles away in Asia. Even if your interests dont run to folk music, this is a compelling biography of an age. Malkoski traces the rise of folk culture in the 1960s and its shrinkage in the late 1970s. Music was central to so many of the issues in the second half of the twentieth century. The book is rich with personalities and events that shaped those times. One weakness in the book is that it omits the important contribution of the Denver Friends of Folk Music, which helped keep the tradition alive during some bleak years. The folk music tradition has ebbed and flowed over the last sixty years, but Malkoski is articulately describes its sustainability. Every generation is drawn to the guitar and to the music of the common man. The Denver Folklore Center gave birth to the Swallow Hill Music Association, which soon eclipsed the Denver Folklore Center. It fulfilled Harrys dream in a way one small commercial enterprise never could. Peopled by a colorful cast of characters who both performed and taught at Swallow Hill, this institution often itself an inch away from bankruptcyexists and enriches to this very day. Let me end reiterating a theme already touched upon. Many subcultures have fascinating and colorful stories that are worth knowing. But folk music was more than just another subculture. It was the energizing force and anthem of many of the great movements of our time: it lies waiting for the next great movement. Reviewer Info: Richard D. Lamm, who presently teaches at the University of Denver, served three terms as governor of Colorado. Lamm came to Colorado the same month that Harry Tuft arrived and has been on the nonperforming edge of the folk-music scene for fifty years. He and Harry Tuft brought to Denver such groups as the Mamas and the Papas in the 1960s. Lamm is the author or co-author of many books, including The Angry West: A Vulnerable Land and Its Future and Pioneers and Politicians: Fourteen Colorado Governors in Profile.