SLOfolks is an all-volunteer non-profit organization
dedicated to bringing live acoustic, traditional music to the Central Coast since 1985.
As is fitting with anything to do with folk music, the beginnings of the SLO Folk Music Society, aka SLOfolks, are somewhat shrouded in time. It evolved organically from a series of house concerts in the late 70s, many held at Linnaea Phillips’ home, which morphed into concerts and monthly folk music jams at Linnaea’s Cafe. At that time the concerts were largely unamplified, and concentrated on traditional folk music. Despite the relatively small audiences, due to limited space, these concerts drew such performers as Sally Rogers, Al d’Ossché, and Maddie MacNeil.
In the early 80s SLOfolks was formed to manage the logistics inherent in the growing popularity of these concerts. The original group included Carl Neiburger, a columnist at the Telegram-Tribune, Jim Mueller (then a folk music program DJ for KCBX), MaryAnne Vasconcellos, Pete Morin (of Blue Note Music) and Jeanie McDill. In 1984 Jody Ramsland appeared on the scene, as bookkeeper for the Cafe. “I started putting up concert posters,” she was quoted as saying in a New Times article some years ago. “Gradually I got more and more involved with the business end of the shows, including booking the performances.”
When then-president Jim Mueller went on sabbatical, Jody took over his job and her dynamic mix of skills, interest and enthusiasm propelled SLOfolks onto a larger scene, bringing an ever wider selection of traditional performers to the county, and eventually showcasing them in additional venues, such as the Coalesce Bookstore and Blue Note Music.
In 1996, Castoro Cellars offered its tasting room for concerts. It didn’t take long for enthusiastic North County folk music fans to overwhelm the space and a separate, larger building which seats over 150 now houses these events. In 1999 Castoro started the wildly popular summer series of outdoor concerts.
SLOfolks is a nonprofit entity, run entirely by energetic, committed volunteers -- and there is much for them to do: booking artists, maintaining the website, putting up posters, manning the sound equipment, taking tickets, selling artist CDs, even finding places for visiting performers to stay. In 2003 Jody, plagued all her life with MD, passed away, leaving SLOfolks volunteers like Haila Hafley-Kluver scrambling for a while to keep things going. Soon, however, Elisabeth Demongeot and husband Ted Shearer stepped forward to take on the job of joint leaders. Their work producing concerts for the Seattle Folklore Society, and Elisabeth’s extensive folk music programming experience on Washington public radio, made them uniquely qualified for the job.
With the parameters of folk music expanding with every decade, the variety of music offered at SLOfolks concerts continues to evolve. Over the years many famous names have appeared: Utah Phillips, Rosalie Sorrels, Tony Trishka, Kristina Olsen, Patrick Ball, Peppino D'Agostino, Laurence Juber to name a few. Traditional fare is still featured, but it shares the stage now with singer/songwriters, classical and jazz-tinged instrumentalists, and world music.
-SLOfolks history by Nancy Ross