History of the Denver Folklore Center

Ever since Harry Tuft opened the Denver Folklore Center (DFC) on East 17th Avenue in 1962, the store has been the hub of the folk and acoustic music scene in Denver. Modeled after the original Folklore Center in New York City, the Denver version has attracted such well-known artists as Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Utah Phillips, Arlo Guthrie, Elizabeth Cotton, Muddy Waters, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Geoff Muldaur, John Phillips and Leo Kotke.

Over the years the DFC has also been the launching pad for many performers including Hot Rize, Grubstake, Otis Taylor, Tim and Molly O’Brien and Trout Steak Revival, some of whom formed their bands while employed at the store.

The Folklore Center also gave birth to Swallow Hill Music Association, now the largest music school and concert venue dedicated to roots, acoustic and folk music west of Chicago. One of the performance halls at Swallow Hill is appropriately named in honor of Harry Tuft.

After a brief period of being closed during the 1980s while Harry pursued other career opportunities, DFC re-opened at 1893 S. Pearl Street in Denver in 1993.

In 2016 Harry decided to return to his first love of performing on stage and sold DFC to friends and supporters Saul Rosenthal and Claude Brachfeld who plan to honor the legacy Harry created by preserving the spirit of the store and introducing the next generations of musicians and music lovers to the DFC experience and community.

Historic Photo Gallery

Harry Tuft - Our Founder

Harry grew up singing and playing a series of instruments — from the piano to the clarinet, ukulele, baritone uke, and, in college, a six-string guitar.

Philadelphia’s lively folk scene provided the setting for Harry’s first ventures into public singing. From there, friendships with Dick Weissman and Roger Abrahams fostered a growing interest in Anglo-American folk music.

In 1960, needing a break from his studies (preparing for an architectural career), Harry traveled out to the Rocky Mountains for some skiing. He found a job at “The Holy Cat” in Georgetown, as a dishwasher, busboy, waiter, bartender, janitor, and — if there was a lull in the work at night — he could sing in the bar.

There he met Hal Neustaedter — owner of “The Exodus,” a folk club in Denver — who suggested that he look into starting a folklore center in Denver. With further encouragement from Izzy Young, owner of the first and (then) only Folklore Center, in New York’s Greenwich Village, Harry opened the Denver Folklore Center in March 1962.

Putting his energies into the store over the years, Harry has found time for teaching and occasional singing, as time allows.

In 1972, Harry and friends Steve Abbott and Jack Stanesco formed Grubstake — originally named “This Band Is Starving.” Their albums include “What You Do With What You Got” and “Warts and All.”
In his 1976 album “Across the Blue Mountains,” Harry is ably joined by old friends Dick Weissman, Jay Ungar, Ed Trickett, Artie Traum and Laraine Grady Traum.

You can hear song samples and read more about Harry’s recordings on his website.

If and when you find yourself in Denver, we hope you’ll stop by the Folklore Center. If Harry’s not there, he’s probably not far away. We think you’ll enjoy the mixture of people, music and merchandise you’ll find there.