Heart and soul of ‘FolkScene’

She car­ried on a show founded in 1970 even after the 2007 death of her part­ner/spouse.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Randy Lewis

Host Roz Lar­man cham­pi­oned the genre on her ra­dio show.

Tal­ent churn is a given in the tu­mul­tuous world of ra­dio, which made Roz and Howard Lar­man’s weekly “FolkScene” pro­gram in Southern Cal­i­for­nia an ex­cep­tion to the rule as it rolled on decade after decade.

So when the show went off the air for a time in the early 2000s be­cause of a con­tract dis­pute be­tween the Lar­mans and host­ing sta­tion KPFK-FM (90.7) over own­er­ship of “FolkScene,” Roz Lar­man re­mem­bered a warn­ing that she had been given.

“Some­one said to us that ‘after you’ve been gone a year, peo­ple for­get about you,’ ” she told The Times in 2002. “They didn’t. Peo­ple were al­ways ask­ing us when we were com­ing back.”

That loy­alty to­ward the Lar­mans and their folk music show con­tin­ued after Howard Lar­man’s death in 2007 and has been ev­i­dent since Roz Lar­man died this month from com­pli­ca­tions of a re­cent heart at­tack and stroke. She was 83.

“Roz Lar­man and her late hus­band, Howard Lar­man, were sim­ply the heart and soul of West Coast folk, the music, the scene, its very pres­ence,” said Dan Navarro, board mem­ber and for­mer pres­i­dent of the Folk Al­liance In­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Their ra­dio show ran over 40 years and pre­sented prac­ti­cally ev­ery­one in folk­roots-singer-song­writer music,” Navarro said, “from leg­ends like Tom Pax­ton, Loudon Wain­wright, Jack­son Browne, Kate Wolf, Tom Waits and the McGar­rigles, to genre-crossers like Peter Case, Dave Alvin and Lucinda Wil­liams, to rel­a­tive new­com­ers like An­tje Du­vekot, Dar Wil­liams the Dit­tyBops, and hun­dreds more.

“Their bless­ing could, in a sin­gle stroke, en­gen­der un­shak­able cred­i­bil­ity in artists whose ‘folk­i­ness’ could be con­sid­ered mar­ginal or ten­u­ous,” Navarro said. “In­deed, as was ut­tered more than a few times, if Roz liked it, it was folk. Such was her taste and grav­ity.”

The Lar­mans were at the helm of “FolkScene” since they started the show as a la­bor of love in 1970, along the way be­com­ing cham­pi­ons of folk and folk-re­lated mu­si­cians, of­ten be­fore they went on to greater fame and for­tune.

Over the last 46 years the show has spot­lighted thou­sands of other mu­si­cians, from folk ti­tans such as Pete Seeger and Joan Baez to ris­ing tal­ents such as Tom Waits and Dwight Yoakam be­fore they landed record deals.

“When I fi­nally got on the show,” the Blasters’ co­founder, lead gui­tarist and chief song­writer Dave Alvin told The Times in 2000, “I knew I’d made some­thing of my­self.”

After the 17-month-long de­par­ture from KPFK was re­solved, they were wel­comed back by in­terim gen­eral man­ager Steven Starr, who hailed them as “leg­ends in this field. Their show has been a stop­ping-off point for just about ev­ery sin­gle name in folk music in the last 30 years. They are the folk music ra­dio equiv­a­lent of the Grand Ole Opry.”

Ros­alind Med­nick was born April 17, 1933, in Water­bury, Conn., and moved with her fam­ily to Cal­i­for­nia. She and Howard Lar­man met on a blind date set up by a mu­tual friend and were mar­ried for 50 years.

Their son, Allen Lar­man, who has hosted his own ra­dio shows in Los An­ge­les, told The Times in 2007, “Both my par­ents had a great ear for ex­pos­ing peo­ple who ... later be­came well­known.”

She had long served as co-pro­ducer of “FolkScene” while work­ing her day job as a credit-card ar­bi­tra­tion con­sul­tant for banks. She booked guests and usu­ally in­tro­duced record­ings they played, while leav­ing in-stu­dio in­ter­views to her hus­band.

After her hus­band died, Lar­man as­sumed that role as well to keep the show go­ing.

They also pro­duced and hosted con­certs and music fes­ti­vals, and com­piled CDs show­cas­ing music from many of their “FolkScene” guests. They un­der­wrote the cost of pro­duc­ing their show, as Howard Lar­man ex­plained to The Times in 1990.

“We buy our own tape, pay for our phone calls, use our own equip­ment,” Lar­man said. “I’ve spent time with peo­ple who go boat­ing or play golf. They spend lots of money on that. This is our recre­ation.”

Allen Lar­man said his mother con­tin­ued record­ing in­ter­views for “FolkScene,” al­though her pace had slowed be­cause of health is­sues.

He said he would keep “FolkScene” go­ing in its long-stand­ing slot from 6 to 8 p.m. Sun­day evenings with help from his wife, mu­si­cian Kat Grif­fin, host of “Amer­i­cana Mati­nee” on KCSN-FM (88.5), as well as the sup­port of his par­ents’ long­time en­gi­neer, Peter Cut­ler, and his wife, Deb­bie Han Cut­ler.

In ad­di­tion to Allen Lar­man, Roz Lar­man is sur­vived by her other son, Greg.

[email protected]­times.com Twit­ter: @RandyLewis2

PM·Paul Morse Los An­ge­les Times

HOWARD AND ROZ LAR­MAN, above, were “the heart and soul of West Coast folk,” said singer-song­writer Dan Navarro. Roz Lar­man died Oct. 10.

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