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Harry Tuft Sells Denver Folklore Center

GUEST,TomC 17 Aug 16 - 11:22 AM
Joe Offer 17 Aug 16 - 11:57 AM
Joe Offer 17 Aug 16 - 12:05 PM
Joe Offer 17 Aug 16 - 12:11 PM
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Subject: Harry Tuft Sells Denver Folklore Center
From: GUEST,TomC
Date: 17 Aug 16 - 11:22 AM

Harry Tuft, owner and operator of the Denver Folklore Center since 1962, has sold his iconic store. Read all about it in the link.

Denver Folklore Center Sold

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Subject: RE: Harry Tuft Sells Denver Folklore Center
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Aug 16 - 11:57 AM

Here's the text of the article from the link above. Links have a tendency to die after a time, so we like to have music information preserved here.

Harry Tuft sells Denver Folklore Center to longtime customers

Swallow Hill Music Association members Saul Rosenthal and Claude Brachfeld take reins of iconic guitar shop

PUBLISHED: August 15, 2016 at 6:31 pm | UPDATED: August 15, 2016 at 6:33 pm

Harry Tuft dropped his bomb over lunch with a pal.

It was time to sell or walk away from the Denver Folklore Center, the more-than-a-music-store institution that has nurtured acoustic music in Colorado since the golden-throated musician Tuft founded it in 1962.

That was a Tuesday in January 2015. Three days later, that pal, the guitar-playing Saul Rosenthal, had a plan.

"He didn't think it was right that the Folklore Center would go away," Tuft said.

It's taken more than 18 months, but on Tuesday Rosenthal and Claude Brachfeld expect to finalize their purchase of the store that has hosted the biggest names in folk, from Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Bob Dylan to Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and Bill Monroe.

"I saw an opportunity and I realized we can't lose the Denver Folklore Center," said Rosenthal, who has played music with Tuft and been a customer of the South Pearl Street store for decades. "We are very excited to be able to follow Harry, as best as one can follow a legend, and do the best we can to keep that store and the community it serves moving forward and growing."

"I'm going to keep making music," he said.

There's a collective sigh of relief among the state's acoustic players that Tuft is passing his golden guitar to friends of the Denver Folklore Center.

"They both have a respect for the history of the store and the legacy and the value that it continues to provide to the community," Tuft said.

An independent guitar shop is a rarity in today's world and the Denver Folklore Center is much more than a shop. Tuft in 1979 founded the Swallow Hill Music Association as his shop hosted superstars and fostered the next generation of folk and bluegrass greats. Innovative banjo master Pete Wernick, mandolinist and fiddler Tim O'Brien and the late Charles Sawtelle, one of the first managers of the Denver Folklore Center, formed the influential Hot Rize after long jam sessions on the shop floor.

The list of Tuft employees who continue to grace stages is long. Tuft counts all of them as close friends.

“If there's one accomplishment I could claim from my years at the store, it is the fact that so many of the people who worked for me still regard me as their friend,” Tuft said.

There was a plan a few years ago to maybe sell the shop to the Swallow Hill Music Association but that never reached fruition. Rosenthal, who serves on the Swallow Hill board, said any changes to the shop will be transparent. Maybe some technical improvements to the point-of-sale system and some other modernization but certainly no sweeping overhauls.

"We don't want to change the spirit or the culture of the place," said Rosenthal, who, with Brachfeld, is leading a small group of silent investors. "It's a very warm and inviting and comfortable environment and none of that is going to change."

Paul Lhevine, the chief executive of Swallow Hill Music Association, said the sale to Rosenthal and Brachfeld bodes well for his musical community. But they have a broad, bright spotlight to fill.

“Harry, he's the godfather of our folk community," Lhevine said. "The Denver Folklore Center is a big part of the ecosystem and our music community. Saul and Claude are the right people to be carrying on and honoring Harry's legacy."

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Subject: RE: Harry Tuft Sells Denver Folklore Center
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Aug 16 - 12:05 PM

...and an article from the Denver Post on the 50th anniversary of the Denver Folklore Center:

50 years later, Denver Folklore Center's acoustic vibe resonates

PUBLISHED: May 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm | UPDATED: May 1, 2016 at 2:48 am

On Mondays and Tuesdays, Harry Tuft comes in to work a little late — and he takes Sundays off, because his modest music shop is closed.

But mind you, Tuft isn’t slacking. He stays late most Mondays and works full days throughout the rest of the week, clocking a significant number of hours for the 77-year-old businessman.

If music weren’t such a lifelong passion for Tuft, his days spent at the Denver Folklore Center might actually seem like more of a job.

“I love music,” said Tuft, sitting in the back office of his beloved South Pearl Street shop dressed in jeans and a casual, well-worn button-up shirt. “I love to sing. I’m more of a singer than a player. I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than having a chance to sing to people who want to hear the songs.”

And Tuft’s six-days-a-week passion is about to hit a major milestone. The influential Denver Folklore Center turns 50 this year, and a weekend-long celebration will take over a number of area venues next weekend to celebrate the legendary, groundbreaking shop.

“The nice thing about what we call folk music: It’s time-tested,” Tuft said, a gentle smile on his face. “It has a way of resonating with all kinds of people. You hear an old folk song like ‘Tom Dooley,’ and in the hands of a young, popular folk group like the Kingston Trio, people who haven’t the slightest idea of the Southern Appalachian mountains — let alone the type of music that’s made there — can relate to it because the song itself has a universal quality to it.”

Tuft is a local businessman, sure, but he’s also a musician. He likes singing ballads more than writing songs, and he’s most passionate when he’s introducing friends and fans to unfamiliar music. And that is part of the spirit that went into the March 1962 opening of the Denver Folklore Center.

So much of the Folklore Center’s history was rooted in great ideas. Izzy Young started the original Folklore Center in Manhattan’s creatively prosperous Greenwich Village, and Tuft admired the storefront’s dedication to acoustic music. Years after Tuft’s storefront was flourishing in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood, he took a cue from Chicago’s vaunted Old Town School of Folk Music and founded a school.

“When I first started, there was nothing like it in Denver,” said Tuft. “There was no such thing as a music store devoted strictly to acoustic music.”

When a neighboring coffee shop shuttered, Tuft took over the space as the Folklore Center Concert Hall, hosting his own shows with Elizabeth Cotton, Furry Lewis, Mike Seeger and Taj Mahal. Cult legend Willis Alan Ramsey played his first concert outside Austin at the hall, according to Tuft. He also did live broadcasts on Denver radio station KFML with artists playing Denver and Boulder at the time, from Bonnie Raitt to Ry Cooder and the Doobie Brothers.

The concert hall was a short-lived endeavor, and even the core business of the Folklore Center started falling off in the recession of the late ’70s. After passing the business to a colleague for three years, Tuft spun the school into an entirely new institution — the now-thriving Swallow Hill — before shutting down the Folklore Center from 1983-93.

“But after 10 years, I realized the only thing I knew how to do was this,” Tuft said. “And in ’93, I opened the store again. By that time, Swallow Hill was down here in south Denver and this place was for rent, and so I opened here.”

Now, as Denver negotiates its own way out of another recession, the scene at the Denver Folklore Center is buzzing. Adult music students are in the showroom testing out guitars with the friendly staff. Professional musicians are bringing their instruments in for repair. And kids are buying ukuleles — so many ukuleles.

“What we’re seeing here is an explosion of ukulele sales,” said Tuft, who credits Swallow Hill’s increasingly popular UkeFest, which closed its fifth (and biggest) event on Saturday, with the boom.

It doesn’t hurt that Mumford & Sons, Taylor Swift, the Avett Brothers and the Civil Wars are making folk music cool again.

“I’m excited not only about those bands but also Paper Bird and Nathaniel Rateliff and Patrick Dethlefs and Laura Goldhamer and Elephant Revival,” said Tuft, showing a potent knowledge of local acts favoring acoustic instrumentation. “These groups are reshaping what this music that started out as a folk-based, acoustic music can be. It’s inspiring to me that that music is being rediscovered.”

Of course, 50 years makes for plenty of interactions with artists, both local and international, and a lot of stories. And Tuft’s stories are the thing of legend — and they’re part of what propelled him into the most recent class of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. (He was inducted with fellow promoter Barry Fey in February.)

Tuft will be happy to share the one about him helping out Dick Lamm’s first campaign for the state House of Representatives. (Lamm profited as a silent partner with Tuft on a Mamas & the Papas show in Denver — a week after the band appeared on the cover of Life magazine. Lamm, who went on to serve three terms as Colorado’s governor, later admitted he’d never heard of the Mamas & the Papas.)

Or the one about his introduction to music promotion — his trial by fire with Joan Baez at the Auditorium Theatre in 1964? He’ll likely tell you that one, too, and how he later got the call that Baez wanted to meet the Beatles, who were playing Red Rocks later that year. Tuft worked out the meeting, first in the dressing room at the Morrison amphitheater and later at the Brown Palace, where both artists were staying. Baez was taken with Bob Dylan at the time and was pushing the Beatles to take the time to meet him later that week in New York.

“And she did get Dylan and the Beatles together that weekend, because they played Forest Hills (Tennis Stadium),” Tuft said. “If there was one memory I had from all that, it was standing in the back of that (Red Rocks) dressing room, watching Baez and the Beatles interact. There was so much respect between them. That was about as good as it gets for me.”

There are more stories, of course. (Ask him about the one that brings together Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and Red Rocks — whew!) But just as important as Tuft’s national relationships are the local friendships he and the Denver Folklore Center have fostered.

“Groups like (bluegrass heroes) Hot Rize started out of the Folklore Center,” he said. “They started as a group that was playing on Thursday nights and eventually formalized themselves as Hot Rize. (Boulder bluesman) Otis Taylor got his start at the shop. Otis started coming to the shop when he was 14.”

Not to mention Tuft’s own catalog — as a solo artist and with his band Grubstake, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary last month. Tuft released his “Treasures Untold” CD earlier this year, and it was produced by his friend Janet Feder, also a Denver musician, and features appearances from Taylor and celebrated folkie Judy Collins.

In fact, the performance of music is an area Tuft would like to spend more time on — especially as he thinks about a future where he’s not responsible for the Folklore Center. He’d like to run it for another five years, he said — but then he’d like to retire, or at least lower his commitment. Again looking to Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, his initial inspiration for the school that became Swallow Hill, it also has an in-house instrument shop.

Hint hint.

“There is an idea, and the conversation is happening with Swallow Hill — particularly around the idea that Swallow Hill is looking to move to a larger location that might have the space for the Folklore Center,” Tuft said. “Hopefully it has some traction. Seeing the Folklore Center reintegrated into Swallow Hill would bring me a great deal of pleasure.”

Listening to Tuft talk about his little shop on South Pearl Street makes it clear: Tuft is a folkie, and he runs his business with that spirit in mind.

“The one thing I’ve tried to promote personally is an atmosphere that is welcoming to people,” Tuft said, “where people feel comfortable, and where there is a sense of honesty and fair dealing and a willingness to help people.”

Folk idealism — it doesn’t often thrive inside businesses, but when the right people make it happen, it creates a special place.

Ricardo Baca: 303-954-1394, or

THE DENVER FOLKLORE CENTER’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION. 50The venerable institution turns 50, and everybody wants to party. 8 p.m. Friday: Hot Rize, the Otis Taylor Band and Harry Tuft & Dick Lamm will perform at the Newman Center, 2344 E. Iliff Ave. 8 p.m. Saturday: Tim O’Brien, Dakota Blonde, Nick & Helen Forster and Dick Weissman will play at the L2 Arts & Culture Center, 1477 Columbine St. 1 p.m. May 27: Jim Kweskin, Geoff Muldaur, Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore, Pete & Joan Wernick, Michael Cooney and Grubstake. For prices and more events:

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Subject: RE: Harry Tuft Sells Denver Folklore Center
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Aug 16 - 12:11 PM

This post shows what kind of guy Harry Tuft is:
    Thread #91569   Message #1744513
    Posted By: kendall
    20-May-06 - 01:21 PM
    Thread Name: Harry Tuft & Dick Weissman in Toledo, Or
    Subject: RE: Folklore: Harry Tuft & Dick Weissman in Toledo, Or
    I got Mrs. Ravoon from Harry.

He's the source of a song that became one of Kendall Morse's Greatest Hits....

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