After 17 months in "exile," Roz and Howard Larman are finally returning home Sunday night.
Home in this case is public radio station KPFK-FM (90.7), where the husband-and-wife radio team hosted a folk- and roots-oriented music program for more than 30 years. During their long tenure, the Larmans became an institution in the local folk underground as they helped expose music and artists usually ignored by commercial radio.
The duo's lengthy relationship with the North Hollywood station was severed in October 2000 due to a dispute with management. Station officials claimed the issue was commercial use of material recorded in or with KPFK facilities. The Larmans insisted it was over ownership of "FolkScene's" content.
Recently, control of KPFK changed hands, which prompted the Larmans to approach interim general manager Steven Starr about reviving "FolkScene" at the station. It will return to its old time slot on Sundays between 7 and 10 p.m.
Bringing the Larmans back to KPFK "is an indication of our respect for folk music and our great desire to have the premier proponents of that on the radio," says Starr. "They are 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."
"It's going to be very strange going back to KPFK to do the show," says Roz Larman. "I'll try not to cry on the air. I can lose it pretty easily. There are a lot of listeners out there who have supported us. Someone said to us that after you've been gone a year, people forget about you. They didn't. People were always asking us when we were coming back."
Even though they were never paid to host "FolkScene" and will continue to be unpaid volunteers upon their return, the Larmans poured their hearts into the program. When Howard Larman's technician job with Pacific Bell was moved to Concord, Calif., and Roz's position as a credit card arbitration consultant was shifted to San Diego, the couple chose early retirement in the mid-'90s rather than leave their radio show and the local folk community.
'Folk Scene' Has Been Heard on the Internet
The Larmans took "FolkScene" to the Internet several months after leaving KPFK in 2000. There are three different Internet versions of the program, which can all be accessed through www.folkscene.com. The Internet programs, produced at the Larmans' West Hills home, will continue to exist as separate entities.
Live guest performances have been a trademark of "FolkScene" since it began in 1970, but when the program found a home on the Internet, the Larmans began to prerecord these studio performances. They'll continue with that practice on the new KPFK show (featuring Loudon Wainwright III this week).
"When we brought in guests to KPFK on Sunday nights, we lost opportunities to get a lot of artists involved [because of scheduling conflicts]," Roz Larman explains. "We have much greater flexibility by recording it whenever we choose. That's why we're going to continue to [do these segments] outside of the station."
The Larmans have released three "FolkScene" CDs, featuring these studio performances. As a condition for returning to KPFK, Roz Larman says the couple signed a contract stipulating that 25% of revenues from future CDs be allocated to KPFK. In addition, the station's logo will be included in the CD packaging. She says a quarter of the profits from previous "Folk- Scene" CDs had gone to KPFK; the only difference is that the arrangement is now solidified in writing.
After the Larmans left KPFK, Mary Katherine Aldin was brought in to keep folk music alive during the suddenly vacant 7 to 10 p.m. time slot on Sunday. She expresses no regret at turning it back to them now.
"I always understood that I was to be a caretaker until the difficulties between 'FolkScene' and KPFK were resolved," says Aldin, a veteran musicologist who has written books and album liner notes in the folk and blues genres. "It just ended up taking a lot longer than either the Larmans, the station or I thought would be possible."