The Folklore Center and Fretted Instruments

Israel G. Young, beter known as Izzy Young to all, opened the Folklore Center at 110 MacDougal Street in 1957, a store for books and records and everything related to folk music. It became a focal point for the American folk scene of the time and everyone, and I do mean everyone, who was interested in or a part of it spent time there at one point or another, or more likely much more than one point. Sometime around 1962, Izzy moved the Folklore Center to the second floor of 321 6th Ave (pictured above in 2021 & 1940), in what had originally been a small 19th-century townhouse, where it remained until finally closing for good in 1973. Concurrently, Marc Silber opened a guitar store on the matching second floor of the building next door at 319 6th Ave., in a sort of loose partnership with Izzy, more of a familial thing than anything else. I of course spent time in the Folklore Center soaking up all I could about the music, but it was Marc’s place next door that really got hold of me. Izzy would put on concerts in his place of known and unknown musicians, always wanting to help out everyone he could, and I saw so much great music performed there. Marc, on the other hand, knew all about the instruments that music was played on: the names, the models, how they were made, their history and more. Marc was my true mentor in this business and the guitar store I eventually opened was in emulation of what he had done. Marc closed that store after four or five years and some of his guitar business, Martin guitar dealership included, got transferred next door to Izzy’s place. Izzy had no interest in the instruments but a few of his employees had some, and so it went along in a sort of small way for a bit. Meanwhile, I had been developing my repair business (this was some years before I had a store of my own), moving from one location to another whenever the space I was in became unavailable to me. I went from a couple of places in the East Village (we called it the Lower East Side back then; the “East Village” sobriquet came later, at the behest of the real estate people), to a couple of spots in Chelsea, and for a while in 1967 or so I had my own little repair business set up in the back of the Folklore Center. While my reputation as a top repair person in New York was already set it was a great place to meet lots of new people, both well-known and not so much. I owe Izzy a great deal of gratitude for affording me that place in his store. A few years later Izzy, via powers afforded him by the acquisition of some kind of $5 license that anyone could buy, performed the marriage ceremony, at the Folklore Center, whereby Susan Ruskin, the woman with whom I eventually opened our store, were married. Stay tuned for upcoming chapters of the 319-321 6th Ave. story as important loci for all kinds of musical happenings right here in Greenwich Village, NYC