Tribute to Richie Shulberg aka Citizen Kafka

Citizen Kafka by kenf225.
(L) Richie Shulberg, aka Citizen Kafka in a recent photo, (R) Kenny Kosek, CK & John Goodman doing “The Citizen Kafka Show” on WBAI, 1980’s.

Its been a hard couple weeks around here.  On Wednesday March 11th Bob Guida of the Otis Brothers passed on, he was 54.  A few days later on Saturday the 14th Richie Shulberg aka Citizen Kafka, age 61, left the physical plain and on Sunday March 22nd Archie Green, the great folklorist, laborlore scholar and advocate of vernacular culture died at his home in San Francisco at the age of 91.  I will be doing tributes to all three of these great people in the next few weeks.

On today’s show I am rebroadcasting a tribute to Citizen Kafka that was done on WBAI this past Saturday on the “Morning Dew” show.  Kenny Kosek, Ed Haber & John Goodman came down to WBAI and put together this broadcast, playing old recordings of Citizen Kafka and “The Citizen Kafka Show” that they hosted together back in the 1980’s, as well as sharing some of their reminiscences. The Citizen Kafka show was really crazy and awesome!

The Citizen (born 1947 in Canarsie, Brooklyn) had a number of talents, he was a great fiddler, top notch – also really spontaneously funny, a talented and funny poet, an accomplished collector of records and many other types of objects, he was also knowledgeable about natural medicine, obscure, local and pop cultures, had driven a cab and had apparently done some mineral prospecting/mining work out West!  He was the leader of the infamous Wretched Refuse String Band, hosted the music/comedy show, “The Citizen Kafka Show” on WBAI and co-hosted the “Secret Museum of the Air” with Pat Conte on WFMU.

I had a great time hanging out with the Citizen, although I only knew him in the past year or two.  He was loud, manic, difficult with many people- he was some kind of genius and a real mensch – incredibly generous and kind.  He would hire me to come to his house and help clean up the place, which was a legendary disaster area.  We’d get a little work done, and then end up killing the rest of the afternoon listening to the crazy records we’d uncovered, or he’d just tell me about whatever objects had come to light as we shuffled the piles and piles of stuff in his collection.

An obit from The Independent (UK)


Citizen Kafka (center with fiddle) with his band, the Wretched Refuse String Band

Peter Stampfel, Sam Shepard, Pat Conte, Citizen Kafka by you.
Citizen Kafka (R) performs with Peter Stampfel, Pat Conte & Sam Shepard at the Jalopy Theater, 2008 (Photo E. Smith)

One Response to “Tribute to Richie Shulberg aka Citizen Kafka”

  1. Bill Hicks Says:

    I met Richie in 1975 when the Red Clay Ramblers were doing “Diamond Studs” in NYC. Refuse was in full swing I think–at any rate, the Ramblers came to NYC pretty frequently for the rest of the time I was in the band (till ’81), and it seems like I’d see Richie on a number of those occasions. He was an inspiration in many ways–most particularly his openness to musical ideas. I’m surprised no one (that I’ve found in looking around the web for mentions of Richic) has said the most appropriate thing–He’s left the wheel. What a great guy. –Bill Hicks

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