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Delta couple working to help blues artists, keep heritage alive

Like many small business owners, Albert and Evelyn Folk of Greenville have their hearts and interests wrapped up in their business. But that doesn’t mean they don’t also practice good business habits.

The duo started Folk Enterprises in 2002 which includes G-Town Records and Folk Hair Salon, and the Folk Collection that was launched last year to produce handmade hair attachments, hairpieces and extensions. They are both trained as hairdressers.

However, they are also passionate about music as fans and performers, especially the Delta’s famous blues tradition. Thus, G-Town Records was born as a full-service record production company with a mission to help the area’s blues artists.

“We have publisher’s rights on the CDs we produce. We have to make money, but we don’t have to make all of it,” Albert says. “The blues music is big business, but we have a lot of blues artists dying broke. We are always raising money to bury them. Many of them can’t read or write and don’t understand about signing waivers for their recordings.”

The Folks work a lot with the older blues artists, such as T Model Ford and Mississippi Slim. Always a musician who’s had several bands through the years, Albert also formed the Mississippi Delta Blues Review band to give more artists opportunities to be on stage.

He learned more about Delta culture and the heritage of blues music through his involvement with community development and the Mississippi Action from Community Education (MACE), a non-profit organization based in Greenville. He also attended leadership training at Tougaloo College in Jackson.

“Through MACE, we started educating the blues artists to the importance of blues to our culture,” he said. “We want to keep the heritage alive.”

Toward that goal, Albert Folk also became one of the producers of the hugely popular Delta Blues & Heritage Festival as well as other area festivals.

“People come to the Delta Blues Festival from all over the world,” he said. “It started with local money and talent, but grew so much over the years that it phased out much of the local talent. I became an advocate for the local artists. That’s what people come to see.”

G-Town Records is recording and archiving the music of local performers, all of which is done at the Greenville studio, bringing in employees as needed.

“We are trying to help these artists and give them a chance to smell the roses,” Folk said.

Meanwhile, Evelyn keeps the hair salon going, as she did when Albert returned to school before starting G-Town Records. The Folk Collection is also up and running now, using home-based workers to create the hair pieces. Its Web site will go online in March with instructions for ordering the hair attachments.

“If you want to start a business, you won’t earn money the first few years, so have enough working capital to start and stay in the red,” she says. “It takes a lot of sacrificing. You can’t spend on luxuries.”

She feels she and Albert are over the hump now. They have their furniture and equipment paid for and are planning to acquire more space for their enterprises.

Albert attended counseling sessions with the Small Business Administration’s Delta State University office even though the Folks were not able to get SBA funding. “The counseling was helpful,” he said. “I got a lot of business knowledge from them and learned a lot in class.”

His biggest challenge with G-Town Records is keeping the artists encouraged and being able to promote what the production company does for the artists. “We’re staying above water,” he said. “There are no other record companies around here doing what we do.”

Evelyn says with a hearty laugh, “Getting up out of bed every morning is my biggest challenge. I have to stay positive. There’s no room for negativity.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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