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Vintage Photos from the Denver Folklore Center - Harry Tuft Stories


We asked Denver Folklore Center founder Harry Tuft to give us his take on some vintage photos from the store. Here's what he had to say.

harry tuft on bus bench
Harry Tuft on a Bus Bench
“Larry Shirkey took the photo. Rick Kirby must have purchased this sign telling people where to find the Denver Folklore Center – I had left and gave him the name and inventory. Rick moved the store to South Broadway. Once I had vacated the property they tore it down because they made a deal with 7/11 to lease the property and after 25 years the land and the building would revert to the owners. So I got myself down on the bench and Larry took the photo. He’s still around and comes into the store from time to time. He has also taken some photos at Swallow Hill of Reverend Gary Davis, Pete Seeger, Elizabeth Cotton and Taj Mahal. He taught photography at the Colorado Institute of Art until digital superseded the old method.”

taj mahal
Taj Mahal - American Blues Musician, Singer-Songwriter, Multi-Instrumentalist, Actor and Film Composer
“This photo was taken in the original Denver Folklore Center. Taj Mahal played in the Folklore Center hall in the ‘70s - I have a recording of him playing. The shelves are Folklore Center shelves - the original Folklore Center had old wood – I sought out barn wood from a place that sold new and used wood, it was the cheapest to find because the Folklore Center in New York had old barn wood. So what you see is the original barn wood with the different heights at the top.”

hedy west
Hedy West - American Folksinger and Songwriter
“I first met Hedy West in Dick Weissman’s (American singer, composer, banjo player, author and teacher) apartment. She had just come from her home in Georgia. She’s best known for collecting the song “500 Miles” from her family. Don West, her father, was a poet and singer. She went on to become a graduate assistant in the New York State University system. When I first met her, she was playing the banjo and he learned songs from her. She was a lovely person.”

elizabeth cotten
Elizabeth Cotten - American Blues and Folk Musician, Singer and Songwriter
“Larry Shirkey took this photo in the original Denver Folklore Center on a bench, a replica of which exists in the new store. The original store was a concert hall and we had a number of the benches - one of them was bought by Charles Sawtelle (an American bluegrass musician and a member of the band Hot Rize who passed away in 1999) when the original store was dismantled and donated by his family when the store reopened.”

michael cooney 
Michael Cooney - American Folk and Blues Musician
“Michael first found the Denver Folklore Center when he started traveling, around 1964, when the store was open (he may have found out about it from the magazine Sing Out). He slept on my floor for three weeks with a broken leg. He also came to my 50th anniversary that I did. He came out and played even though he was in seclusion. He did a set (his third or fourth at the original concert hall - the old Green Spider). It was a 52-verse rendition of a song called Tam Lin from memory – a Faustian story of a devil that entices a woman. A woman who wrote Hadestown (on Broadway now) came through Denver a number of times and did a version of that at the Folklore Center.”