We were bummed out today to learn that Curley Ennis died on Friday. Ennis, who suffered leukemia, hadn’t played in about the past four years, but he is being remembered by plenty of folks who heard him play and got the chance to hang with him.
A memorial service is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Roanoke, 2015 Grandin Road, S.W.
I heard Ennis play on several occasions, and he always came across as very knowledgeable about the old folk, blues and swing tunes he performed, while at the same time picking them strongly and singing with a Midwestern style that was never so strictly enunciated that the soul was strangled from the lyrics.
But he was maybe at his most impressive with just a small audience on a porch. I saw him picking, grinning and singing one night on a friend’s porch about 10 years ago. He was in his 60s, but a small crowd of young women were hanging on every song. Now that’s charm.
Hear him sing and play with his old friend “Fiddlin’” Robbie Wells on the youtube clip embedded below. Another one, posted by his daughter, Hannah Ennis, at youtube, is very nice as well.
Look for our news obituary in Tuesday’s edition of The Roanoke Times, and feel free to add your thoughts here about this regional folk institution.