Oakie Folkies: Our Founder Passes

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By: Bob Chapman

Pictures: (Email Attachments) Please insert where most appropriate in article. It would be great if the pictures could be printed in color. Picture captions: Large group picture: 2009 Oakie Folkies Christmas Party. Taylor Finlay, far right. Other picture: Taylor Finlay, seated, guitar. John Fishburn, Jew’s harp.

Acoustic music, in all its forms, is very popular in Sonoma County. And, nowhere more prevalent than right here in Oakmont. Folk, blues, country, and jazz all have ardent fans – and practitioners – in our village.

The best and easiest way for Oakmonters to be involved with any of those musical genres has been – and still is – the Oakie Folkies. It’s a loosely structured (no dues, meetings, agendas) organization that’s always encouraged musical expression. Just show up on the second and fourth Wednesdays at 7 PM at West Rec, and listen, play, or both. Or, join the “Folkies” at Oakmont Gardens on the first Wednesday of the month from 1 to 3 PM.

The Oakie Folkies was created by one man, Taylor Finlay. I moved here in 2002, and the “Folkies” was then just getting started. Initially, Taylor convened the group at his home. As the jams increased in size, Taylor had the group officially recognized by the OVA, and was granted meeting room access and column space in the Oakmont News. Over time, jams became opportunities to not only share music, but develop friendships that endure to this day. Note the picture showing the 2009 Oakie Folkies Christmas Party: a perfect example of people enjoying each other’s company along with great music! As it was our annual party, attendees contributed food and drink to add to the festivities.

Besides the Oakie Folkies, Taylor participated in, and helped create, other Oakmont musical groups. If you were a visitor to the Saturday morning Oakmont Farmer’s Market, it’s likely you enjoyed the harmonies and musicianship displayed by “Homemade Jam”. He also initiated choir groups, regular sing-along sessions at Mei Don restaurant – always looking for ways to create fun and music with “his rowdy friends”, as he called all of us.

On June 19th, Taylor Finlay passed away at the age of 94. Hopefully, from what’s been written above, it’s clear to the reader that Taylor has been – and will continue to be – important to anyone who enjoys acoustic music in Oakmont. Not only for his musical talent, but also for the warm, genuine affection he readily bestowed on his many friends.

About 5 years ago, Taylor wrote his autobiography: “A Finlay Miscellanea”, and I was fortunate enough to be gifted a copy. In it, he chronicles the key events and memories of his life. These included his youth in Louisiana, his marriage to Charlotte, an MA at the University of Denver, service as a WWII C-47 pilot in Europe, and a 20+ year career with the Sacramento Bee. All are significant, no doubt. But the cover page of his memoirs shows the reader what filled Taylor’s days with joy and hope – music! He’s smiling at the camera, holding his acoustic guitar, and appears ready to break into “The Crawdad Song”!

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready. As Taylor would say: “Let’s do it like Pruitt!”



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