Larry Kurtz grew up singing in the church. He started playing harmonica at the age of 15 after hearing Little Walter on the radio. He is a solo artist with his band the Lawbreakers and co-front man in the award winning band Trouble & Strife. They were voted Favourite Blues Band in the Canadian Independant Music Awards and nominated New Artist of the Year at the Maple Blues Awards. Larry is the founder & Artistic Director of The Orangeville Blues Festival. In 2016 he was named Blues Booster of the Year at the Maple Blues Awards in Toronto.

Larry has play hundreds of shows , events and festivals including The Southside Shuffle, Tremblant International Blues Festival, Beaches Jazz Festival, Canal Bank Shuffle, Lighthouse Blues Festival, Wasaga Beach Blues Festival, Collingwood Jazz Festival, Blues at Blue Mountain, and Orangeville Rib Fest.

Over the years Larry has opened for or performed with numerous artists including James Cotton, Lee Oskar, Muddy Waters drummer, Willie ” Big Eyes” Smith, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Texas Blues Legend WC Clark, Jeff Healy’s Blues Band, Downchild, Jimmy D Lane, Jack DeKeyzer, Fathead, David Gogo, Paul Deslauriers and many others.

Downloadable Promo Photos:

Larry Kurtz & The Lawbreakers Stage Plot 2018



Maple Blues Newsletter January 2016

Blues Booster of the Year
Larry Kurtz

If you’ve ever been to the Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival, you probably have some insight into how much effort Larry Kurtz sinks into the Blues. What you see today is the success of his vision to bring the music he loves to Orangeville 13 years ago. It was his visualisation that got the ball started in the beginning, and now, the festival is arguably one of the best the province has to offer. Beyond that effort, Larry is also a musician, dedicated to playing the harmonica and singing, and an artist whose paintings often feature the Blues Greats. It just might be safe to say that Larry Kurtz is living the Blues, in the best possible way. For this edition of Notes & Quotes, Larry Kurtz offers insight on how the Blues found him, the ever-growing Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival, and what it means to be this year’s recipient of the Blues Booster of the Year Award.

When talking about his first introduction to the Blues, Kurtz explains that the process was very organic. He says, “I started my musical journey through the church, singing. It wasn’t a conventional way to get into the Blues, but it was an intro to performing, which got me started. I started playing harp at around 15 years old. My first experience putting the two together was with my wife Norma’s brother’s band, Nighttrain. I got up and played with them, and it went from there.” When discussing what the Blues means to him, Larry says, “Just the way I came into it was very natural. It was a slow realization that it was a really good fit. There’s something about the Blues that keeps me coming back –notjustasamusician,butalsoasalistener.”

Since that first experience, Kurtz has had his hat in the performance ring, continuing to play harp and sing on stages that are friendly to the Blues. He has even been nominated for a Maple Blues Award when his band, Trouble & Strife, was nominated for New Artist/Group of the Year in 2006. One might think that his main stage performances and accolades as an artist might have quenched his thirst for the Blues, however, Kurtz has another vision for the Blues that could just be his piece de resistance: The Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival. When speaking about how the festival first launched 13 years ago, he says “I first got into starting the Blues festival by watching some really great acts in Toronto. My original idea was to bring them out to Orangeville so that they could play here, and the people who are here could hear and enjoy these great acts like I was. The first year did surprisingly well too –there was a lineup out the door of the first place we had it at. It just really grew from there.”

And grow it did. The Orangeville Blues & Jazz festival has virtually doubled every year since its inaugural annual event. By Kurtz’s own account, he says, “That first year, we had two thousand people come out. Last year, we had thirty five thousand come and enjoy the festival, so it’s great to see everything come together and grow over the years. It’s come a long way since the beginning.”. For the first number of years, Kurtz undertook the festival single-handedly, organizing everything from thought to finish, and it wasn’t until 2010 that a board of directors and a lot of volunteers stood alongside Kurtz and stepped in to make the festival a collaborative effort. Kurtz is quick to mention that it is that collaboration that has an instrumental hand in the operation of the festival today.

“It really is great for the organization of the festival to have the board of directors, and so much local involvement. Last year, we even had 120 volunteers who were part of the festival, and I know the support of the area is a big help with keeping things organized the way it is. It really is the whole group of people involved that have helped keep things going with what we are doing today.” With Kurtz at the helm of the festival, and with Orangeville helping to steer the ship, the Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival shows every sign that it will continue to flourish as an event that brings Blues fans and top Blues artists to the area for years to come. When asked about the 2016 event, Kurtz says” The festival is in the midst of assembling itself for 2016. There are lots of new initiatives that have structured the festival for success, so I look forward to it happening, and it being a great year.”

The culmination of Kurtz’s efforts in bringing the Blues to the forefront have been noticed by artists, music lovers and industry professionals alike for years. That’s why this year, Larry Kurtz will be awarded by the Toronto Blues Society with this year’s Blues Booster Award. The coveted Blues Booster Award is a Maple Blues Award honouring outstanding contribution to the Canadian blues music industry, and is held in high regard by those who know its meaning and intention. The most pressing question of the conversation with Kurtz was to ask how it felt to be recognized via the Blues Booster Award. Modestly, he says this; “It is very humbling. This is the last reason why I got into doing this. I never did anything I do with respect to the festival to be noticed, but rather to enjoy it, and share it. This is really great, not just for me, but also for the people involved, and the collective Blues community.” Larry’s reaction to the Blues Booster Award is anticipated to those who know him, or have worked alongside him. It is most likely his ability and willingness to work in tandem with the Blues Community that has opened the door for Kurtz to contribute as plentifully as he has to date, and continues to do today.

A fitting end to the conversation, Larry offers some words of wisdom that coincide with his mandate in boosting the Blues: “Don’t compete – collaborate. Don’t let your ego get in the way, because there is so much knowledge to gain that can be passed on from – and to – others”.

Larry will be awarded the Blues Booster Award at this year’s Maple Blues Award Gala on January 18th, 2016. For more information on the Maple Blues Awards, visit www. torontobluessociety. com. For more information on the Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival, visit www.orangevillebluesandjazz. ca.

Erin McCallum Singer, Songwriter, Guitarist, Bandleader

4 MapleBlues January 2016

Published by Headwaters Tourism

Larry Kurtz




13 years ago, bluesman and craftsman Larry Kurtz put on a free, easy-to-see-it-all, musically eclectic party in Headwaters. Today, he and his staff (and 150 volunteers) present artists from around the world and next door, across the spectrum of jazz and blues styles.

35,000 people in downtown Orangeville?

Not all at once! Over four days, 25 venues get involved. We don’t want to get bigger: we want to stay relevant, constantly improve. Bigger isn’t always better.

I read that many people say it’s their favourite festival, why?

The intimacy. It’s right in the middle of downtown, you’re walking distance to everything, and you’re right up close to the shows. As much as I’d like to go the Air Canada Centre for a show, it’s a totally different experience here, where you could walk right up and talk to the person you just saw playing.

Lots of rising stars, too.

We try to find people who are just about to break big, but are still affordable! We have a pretty good record of picking people who’ve just won the Juno, for example.

How’d it start?

My wife and I used to go to Toronto for the shows, and I thought, why don’t I bring some of those people up here. I’d bring in bands, then I tried a concert at the opera house and that went well… so the next year we went for a festival. 2000 people. With just my own money. I had a beer garden the first year, that’s what saved me.

But you’re not just a musician.

I started as a woodworker. We work on old homes. When people are restoring an old home, like mine which was built in 1875, and they want to match the trim from 100 years ago, we make that.

In fact, there was a mill shop in Orangeville that made all this trim, and it’s kind of interesting that there’s somebody 100 years later, down the street, continuing what they were doing.

In The Hills Magazine 2009

Larry Kurtz: Boogie-Woogie Man

Local Hero: Larry Kurtz is the founder of Orangeville’s highly successful Blues and Jazz Festival.

November 15, 2009 | Jeff Rollings | Larry Kurtz: One of our 2009 Local Heroes

The founder of Orangeville’s highly successful Blues and Jazz Festival, Larry Kurtz is also a craftsman, musician, singer and songwriter; a man of many and varied passions. Somehow, he’s good at all of them.

At his day job, Larry is proprietor of Kurtz Millworks in Orangeville, producing Victorian architectural mouldings, gingerbread, doors and cabinetry. Anyone who owns an old house and has tried to match the trim might want to nominate him as a hero just for that.

Larry says he launched the business in 1990 because he had “grown restless” with work as a renovator. “I was always into old houses, and wanted a shop.” It was while he was working on refurbishing the Dufferin County Courthouse in Orangeville that the light went on: “I thought ‘I know. I could replicate hundred-year-old woodwork.’”

With that in mind, he set up a display for one weekend at the Orangeville Mall and “got enough work for the whole summer. I’ve never run out of work since.”

Reproduction Victorian woodwork was hard to come by at the time, and he says, “There were no mentors, no training programs. You just had to figure it out on your own.” These days he’s still doing that, employing new materials and cutting-edge technology that allows him to replicate historic designs more efficiently and cheaply.

Though it seems almost out of character for the quiet craftsman, Larry’s musical showmanship comes with the same “let’s just figure it out” attitude. A childhood member of the church choir at the Salvation Army in Brampton, he was singing a cappella in front of the congregation at age ten. In high school he sang in a band, and at fifteen began learning how to play the harmonica.

However, music soon took a back seat to more practical concerns. Married the first time at age twenty, a homeowner by twenty-one, Larry didn’t return to the harmonica until he was in his mid-thirties. “We started playing out in the shop once in a while, just for fun. Suddenly, we had a band.” Trouble and Strife was born. They’ve come a long way since. Their latest, self-promoted and self-titled blues CD is receiving airplay on 175 radio stations in forty countries. The band is hoping to record a new album this winter.

We can thank Larry’s wife Norma for switching on the light for his next obsession. “My wife said, ‘It’s crazy that we keep driving all this way to these blues festivals,’ and I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be good to have one here?’”

Starting small, Larry promoted a blues show in Orangeville. “There was a line-up to get in,” he says and, with that demand in mind, his vision for the Orangeville Blues and Jazz festival took shape. “I just decided this was something I wanted to accomplish in life,” he says. And accomplish it he did. Rapidly growing since its first edition in 2003, the free festival now takes over downtown Orangeville on the first weekend in June, drawing over 21,000 people and a wide range of big name performers.

If you’ve ever had trouble picking a dream to follow, you might take a cue from Larry’s answer to the question, why the blues?

“I didn’t choose the blues, the blues chose me. It’s the only thing that comes easy. It was the same with the harmonica, it just seemed natural. If you love something and keep plugging away, you’ll attract the right energy.

About the Author More by Jeff Rollings

Jeff Rollings is a freelance writer living in Orangeville.

ourhomes HOLIDAY/WINTER 2017/18






Kurtz Millworks, Orangeville

What kind of projects do you typically work on over the winter months? We do lots of interior work like fireplace mantels, cabinets and mouldings. We can also make outdoor projects like gingerbread trim and doors in the cold months so they will be ready to install in the spring. People tend to wait until the warm weather, but this is a great time to complete your renovations because we can provide faster turnaround in the winter months.

Describe the variety of products and services that you offer: We custom make interior and exterior wood doors, custom matched baseboards and casings, crown moulding, railings and porch posts. We sell kiln-dried lumber and do planing, sawing, sanding and gluing. Other products include door and cabinet hardware, tin ceilings, polyurethane mouldings and custom kitchens.