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Howard Larman, 73; longtime co-host of folk music radio show

April 26, 2007|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Howard Larman, who helped shape the local folk music landscape as the longtime co-host of the Sunday night public radio show "FolkScene," has died. He was 73.

Larman died Saturday at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center of complications related to a car accident last June, his family said.

The night after his death, co-host Roz Larman -- his wife of 50 years -- returned to the airwaves at KPFK-FM (90.7) and served as the show's interviewer, a job her husband had done with low-key aplomb since 1970.

She plans to continue the radio program.

"Their show has been a stopping-off point for just about every single name in folk music in the last 30 years," Steven Starr, then interim general manager of KPFK, told The Times in 2002.

"They are the folk music radio equivalent of the Grand Ole Opry," Starr said.

Howard Larman had an encyclopedic knowledge of folk music and an elastic definition of the genre. "FolkScene" could feature little-exposed Celtic or roots-rock musicians and such prominent artists as Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Randy Newman and Pete Seeger.

More than 3,000 musicians, often performing live, have appeared on "FolkScene," according to the show's records.

When singer-songwriter Dave Alvin first went on the show with his old band, the Blasters, "it was a huge thing for me," Alvin told The Times. "There were so many artists in the folk music underground that I learned about as a kid from listening to Howard on KPFK in the '70s."

Folk singer-songwriter Richard Thompson told The Times, "Howard had an infectious enthusiasm for the music, and the show had a wonderful, relaxed style. It was like talking to friends."

Larman was a "warm, witty and wise interviewer.... just a great guy," singer-songwriter Peter Case said in an e-mail.

The interview that started it all was conducted in 1970 at the Montecito, Calif., home of Guy Carawan, the folk musician who helped introduce the song "We Shall Overcome" to civil rights protesters.

"And the next one we did was the Don McLean, the Tropicana Motel in 1970. We premiered 'American Pie' on the West Coast," Larman told National Public Radio in 2000.

In the early days, the show was often taped in the Larmans' San Fernando Valley living room "on this little $99 Sony tape deck," Larman told NPR.

Over the years, the Larmans also produced folk and bluegrass festivals and music fairs.

By the 1990s, they had been downsized from their day jobs and retired early to focus even more on folk music, including releasing three CDs of "FolkScene" performances.

They also started broadcasting Internet versions of the show at folkscene.com after leaving KPFK in 2000 in a dispute over control of the program.

When KPFK management changed in 2002, the Larmans returned to the North Hollywood station.

"Both my parents had a great ear for exposing people who ... later became well-known," said their son Allen Larman, who has a classic rock show on KCSN-FM (88.5) and works on "FolkScene" as an engineer. "They had people like Tom Waits or Dwight Yoakam on before they had record deals."

Howard Larman was born in 1933 in Chicago to Robert Larman, who owned several businesses, and his wife, Ethel, an accountant.

During the Korean War, he served in the Marines, then spent 20 years as an electrical technician in the aerospace industry.

He also attended the Don Martin School of Broadcasting in Hollywood.

Larman was a part-time technician for KPFK in the 1960s, and a station manager suggested the show after learning that he loved folk music.

As the "FolkScene" hosts, the Larmans were unpaid volunteers who bore the program's costs.

"We buy our own tape, pay for our phone calls, use our own equipment," Larman told The Times in 1990. "I've spent time with people who go boating or play golf. They spend lots of money on that. This is our recreation."

In addition to his wife, Roz, of West Hills and son, Allen, Larman is survived by another son, Greg; and a sister.

Services were pending.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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