November 17th in Seal Beach History

On this date in 1963, the Long Beach Independent ran a story about the new craze, folk music. In two mid-sized columns, the unnamed reporter covered the growing popularity of folk music on college campuses, Hootenanny, the ABC network’s musical variety show that featured many folk acts, and the perception of folk music as do-it-yourself music. The article quickly covers important figures in traditional folk music such as Leadbelly, John and Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, and The Weavers. The story even touches briefly on folk music’s subversive reputation.

While all that is interesting as a snapshot of folk music’s position in the mainstream culture in late 1963, it doesn’t really have anything to do with Seal Beach history except that the story was accompanied by this photo:

The caption for the photo confirms something about Seal Beach’s musical history that I’ve heard before so I’m going to quote it fully:

JOAN BAEZ, wears the long hair and high-necked female folk singer’s trademark costume. Miss Baez, not the example folk singer purists would point to as authentic, has built up a considerable following since strumming and singing in a Seal Beach coffee house some two and one-half years ago.

The coffee house in question is almost certainly the Rouge et Noir. If we count back that two and one-half years, Baez played on Main Street Seal Beach in May of 1961, give or take a few months.

In September 1963, Vanguard Records released her second LP album, imaginatively titled, “Joan Baez, Volume 2.” Here’s “Old Blue,” a song from that album. Perhaps Baez tested it on a Seal Beach audience in the Rouge et Noir some night over fifty years ago. 

On a unrelated note, I’ve occasionally griped here about how awful microfilm was as a medium for archiving newspapers and magazines. Please note the truly lousy quality of microfilmed photo above the quoted caption and then compare it to the actual image it was taken from:

I hate microfilm.

ADDENDUM: One time Seal Beach resident has shared this on Facebook on November 12th, 2019 in the “You know you grew up in Seal Beach, CA when…” group:

“Saw young Baez there. She sang Silver Dagger – Knocked me out.”

– Michael Dobkins


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6 Responses to November 17th in Seal Beach History

  1. Ron Holmstrom says:

    I saw her there, as our dad was Jerry Nikas’ friend and he made sure I got to see Baez and many other folk singers of the time. The Rouge was a great venue. The Nikas family also owned The Golden Bear and The Prison of Socrates.

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    • Michael Dobkins says:

      There’s a DVD of the Nikas backed film, 1965 Dirty Feet, that stars Tim Morgan and features The Prison of Socrates prominently, but there seems to be very little left to document this era. I’ve heard that all the memorabilia and records that the Nikas brothers had of their coffee houses days was destroyed in a basement flood. There is a hyper-rare Rouge et Noir LP album out there that I saw once on eBay about 15 years ago, a few photos and articles online, and some personal memories like yours, but that’s it.

      Thanks for sharing, Ron.

      Take Care,
      mpd

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  2. Tim says:

    I read your article with interest. It brought back fond memories of nights spent listening with my girlfriend (later wife) and friends to folk music in Seal Beach in the early-mid 1960s. In addition to Joan Baez, singers at the tiny venue over the years included Glenn Yarbrough, John Denver, and the hilarious Smothers Brothers, among others. However, the coffee house wasn’t the “Rouge et Noir;” it was the “Golden Bear.” This was NOT the famous Golden Bear Nightclub in HUNTINGTON BEACH, but a tiny coffee house on the NW corner of Main Street and Central in Seal Beach.

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    • Michael Dobkins says:

      Tim,

      Thanks for adding names to the growing list of performers who appeared on Main Street. I know that Steve Martin performed there in his early comedy days, and I’ve read about Linda Rodstadt hanging out in Seal Beach during her Stone Poney days (no confirmation that she performed on Main Street, though.)

      I hate to differ with you, but the coffee house at the location you describe (143 Main Street) was the Rouge et Noir according to newspaper ads in 1962, and newspapers start mentioning events at the Rouge et Noir without an address as far back as 1960.

      Perhaps the discrepancy comes from the fact that the Rouge et Noir in Seal Beach, The Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, and The Prison of Socrates in Balboa were owned by the same people. The three venues often shared acts, but I’ve never heard any other Seal Beachers from this era remember a Golden Bear on Main Street.

      The Rouge et Noir was renamed as The Cosmos in 1966 and kept that name until it closed a couple years later.

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  3. Ginny Rolston Scott says:

    Thank you so much! I knew Rouge et Noir wasn’t the name of the club where I spent so many happy hours listening to music. Yes, it was the Cosmos. Hoyt Axton played there with some frequency, and would come over to our house afterwards to drink (the Cosmos was a coffee house, with no liquor license). A wonderful raconteur as well as song writer and performer, he’d continue to perform for hours before driving back to LA in one of his collection of classic cars.

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