Legacy

The Mother Folkers began during a time when accomplished female musicians were not very common, or recognized. Over the years, the band has represented some of the finest Colorado female songwriters, vocalists, and musicians in a variety of musical styles.

Editor's note: Content is still arriving from photographers, journalists, and “movers and shakers” in the Colorado music scene. Photos of The Mother Folkers from the first year, and various combinations through the current years will appear.

Audience applause:

Mesmerizing!
“When my wife and I attended the Mother Folkers concert we were literally mesmerized by the incredible talent of each and every one of the musicians and the fun they were having as a group! My wife had been to a Mother Folkers' concert in the 1970's and was a fan then. She was delighted to hear them again some 30 years later. They are still excellent! Now I am a fan as well.” — Rusty and Jan
Inspiring!
“Seeing the Mother Folkers in person was one of my most memorable concert musical experiences. Such an eclectic and talented group of musicians, singers and songwriters who have decades of relationship and experience. Truly special. They are a unique and inspiring group!” — Viviane
Intriguing!
“Each time I have seen the Mother Folkers in concert, I enjoy it even more than the previous time. The set lists are different each concert series, which makes the experience feel unique.”
“The talent in this group is amazing! These women switch out lead vocalists, change instruments they play, come in and out of the ensembles, etc…it’s almost as much fun to see who’s part of the next song as it is to listen to the melodies and harmonies of the vocalists and instruments…almost.” — Lee

Effect on Each Other

Kathi DeFrancis:

“I was a Mother Folker for twenty years. It has been one of the most important things my life. Experiencing the sisterhood that the MoFos taught me to be a part of has given me so much strength as a woman. To me, music is the most joyful thing in the world. The Mother Folkers are a celebration of women who come together to make music.”

“Musically, I found myself reaching higher because of the support and encouragement within the group. Any song became possible. I am still so inspired by the incredible abilities within the group. We threw down some serious heat, and had so much fun together!”
Suzy Nelson:
“I joined the Mother Folkers in 1993. So much fun! So challenging. We brought all these different musical styles together and created fantastic acoustic sisterhood music” “I sang and played a little percussion. I enjoyed the collaborative process and of course friendship and good food!”
Ellen Audley:
“Normally when one plays in a band, one or two kinds of music is involved. In this band I learn to understand and create new music in many styles. This creates a sense of mission to listen and explore deeply within each genre, because next year, I’ll need to support someone who is also digging deeper in a style and becoming even more fluent musically.”
“Every Mother Folker has profoundly influenced me musically. The music forges a deep personal connection that lasts a lifetime. All of us are strong at some things, and not as skilled at others. The band environment allows us all to do what we do well in performance, and gradually get better at the things that aren't as easy for us behind the scenes. We are all able to shine!”

Legacy

Gil Asakawa, Journalist – December 8, 2015:

Stories from a Music Critic

I loved the Mother Folkers the moment I heard the name.

I was a rock critic once upon a time, in a former life. I wrote about all sorts of mainstream rock and pop, from Bruce Springsteen to the Jacksons, but I also wrote about the blues, and country music, and folk. I came to folk music through the folk-rock of Peter, Paul and Mary and Simon and Garfunkel, and the country-rock of the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and later, the Eagles. And of course, I learned to play guitar from the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and especially Neil Young.

My introduction to Denver’s rich and lively acoustic music scene was through the Denver Folklore Center (when it was at 17th and Pearl, before that area became yuppie central) and monthly meetings of the now-defunct Denver Friends of Folk Music, a group of earnest folkniks who would convene at a member’s home each month (usually decorated with the requisite Navajo baskets on the wall and Weavers albums leaning against the HiFi), and allow the dozen or more people to swap songs, learn traditional music and hear recordings by new young songwriters.

By the time I became a music critic, I was familiar with the music of seminal folk local groups and musicians like Hot Rize, Grubstake, Ophelia Swing Band, Katy Moffatt and Kathy DeFrancis. I had seen killer local players such as Pat Donohue, Mary Flower, Mary Stribling and Carla Sciaky live at various venues. I had bought my Martin HD-28 from Dave Ferretta at his cool guitar shop on South Broadway. I was a nascent folkie myself.

So I was already a fan when I heard the area’s best women acoustic musicians were forming a band that they described as “The most carefully pronounced name in show business.” I laughed out loud at the balls it took to come up with the concept (pun intended, duh). And, I had to see them

Over the next decade or so, I saw the MoFos on most of their annual get-togethers and they never disappointed. It was like watching the musical mix-and-match of the Band’s “Last Waltz” movie, only live in Denver. Every combination of musicians would leave my mouth hanging with its exquisite beauty and power, and sheer, formidable chops. And when the entire ensemble crowded on stage, it was hard not to break out in a broad grin. The broad-jump of genres was also amazing: Eileen Niehouse would take us to the British Isles, while later member Liz Barnez took audiences romping through her New Orleans roots. There was blues, barrelhouse piano, tender folk and stomp-yer-feet bluegrass. And above it all, a choir or harmonious voices from sexy moaning to pure high angelic notes.

Following the Mother Folkers

The Mother Folkers weren’t really about gender, even while they blast down gender divisions. I guess in a field where women artists held their own in the pantheon of greats (think Mother Maybelle Carter and of course daughter June, Malvina Reynolds, Mary — swoon — Travers and a lot more), it wasn’t so outrageous to attend annual concerts of the some of the best women musicians in the area. But I have to admit, having Ellen Audley tearing it up on the mandolin, Bonnie Phipps finger picking amazing melodies from an autoharp, Mary Flower getting nasty with a slide on an Earthy blues, or Mary Stribling give her many hi-larious asides in between holding down the bass-ment on all the songs, there isn’t that much of a tradition of women instrumentalists. Bonnie Raiit, maybe. She’s the main one who comes to most peoples’ mind.

So the MoFo were special, and that’s what made each year’s shows worth waiting for. I bet planning them and finding the time to rehearse everything was a royal pain in the butt. It’s to their credit that they were able to keep it going so long, and have come back together from time to time in various configurations, with new members alongside founding ones.

Fluffy LaRoux

I missed their last shows a couple years back, in northern Colorado. I hope I can make their next get-together, if they do it again. But if I don’t get to see them again, I’ll have lots of great memories to keep me company. My favorite:

At one show at the Arvada Center, I had asked for comp tickets so I could review the performance for Westword. Much to my surprise, my seat was in the front row, instead of letting me hide out in the back as usual. Then I found out why.

Halfway through the show, when Mary Flower’s outrageous alter-ego Fluffy LeRoux came out in her pink flowery outfit and feather boa, ‘60s horn-rimmed librarian sunglasses perched on her nose, she asked for volunteers to dance with her. Wouldn’t you know it, she made a beeline for me, grabbed my hand and yanked me on stage. I don’t remember much about waltzing around with her giving me a bear hug, except the audience kept laughing loudly and I kept cursing in her ear for doing this.

Years later, I took guitar lessons from Fluffy – er, Mary – herself at Swallow Hill and reminded her of what she’d done. She shrugged, and just made me play, just like she just made me dance that one night. At least this time there was no full house of an audience laughing at me.

I miss her, and Fluffy, and all the MoFos – they represent a big part of my previous life. I've bought some of her recordings since she moved to Portland, but I hope I can see her – and the MoFos – again someday.

Where's Fluffy?

Audience members frequently inquire after Fluffy LaRoux. Fluffy was a frequent guest who performed and sang at some of our concerts. She was soon joined by her younger sister, LouxLoux LaRoux.

Last we heard, Fluffy was working in Atlantic City when she won $250 million dollars in the New York lottery. Fluffy and LouxLoux bought a small island in paradise. We know it's paradise, because no one can hear them sing out of key with rhythm from another ‘time zone’. And, they can pay someone to tune their instruments.

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